Donna in a Roland West sketch at Keeney’s

February, March, and April, 1919.

Records about Donna’s early vaudeville years are sparse. For example, I know that the January 31,, 1919, issue of Variety, under New Acts mentions, “Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler in a new sketch by Roland West.”[i] We also see an ad for them in the same issue of “Variety.” From that issue of Variety, we have no idea what the show was about, where it played, nor who Trixie Bressler and Roland West are.

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Weekly, Jan 31, 1919, Page 59

In the February 28th issue, we learn that Donna and Trixie are “Two Girls with a Single Thought: TO ENTERTAIN YOU. [ii]

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Magazine, Feb 28, 1919, Page 67

Two weeks later, we learn that Trixie appears to have been replaced. Donna Montran and Jessie Kennison are now the “Two Girls with a Single Thought: To ENTERTAIN YOU.” We also learn the show is playing at Keeney’s, Newark, and Keeney’s Brooklyn for the week beginning March 17th.[iii]

Crop of Montran and Kennison ad
Variety Magazine, March 14, 1919

A month later, things seem confusing because Trixie is back. They are still playing at Keeney’s Newark but only doing four shows.[iv]  Was Trixie gone for a couple weeks or was the ad showing Jessie Kennison a mistake.

Crop of ad Montran and Bressler
Variety Magazine, April 14, 1919

Finally, a week later, on April 21, Variety runs one final ad for Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler that doesn’t have any dates or places for the two.

Roland West

Roland West became known as a Hollywood director. Born in 1885, he began acting in vaudeville productions as a teenager. In his early 20s, he was writing and directing Vaudeville productions. He went to California and in 1925 he directed the classic silent film, The Monster, with Lon Chaney, Sr.[v] He also directed the 1929 film Alibi which was nominated for three Academy Awards.[vi]

Trixie Bressler

I know very little about Trixie. I do know that she was a young dancer. In May 1918, she presented a dance revue at the Ithaca Star[vii]. Trixie was probably either 19 or 20 years old. Omaha Marriages indicates that Trixie Bressler married George D. Schwartz on 20 Jul 1919. [viii] and that Trixie was 20 when they married. Trixie’s vaudeville career appears to end with her marriage.

Jessie Kennison

I have been unsuccessful learning anything about Jessie Kennison.

Further Research

Find Trixie Bressler Schwartz’s descendants and see if they have any memorabilia from Trixie’s vaudeville days.

Find advertisements and write-ups about the shows at Keeney’s Newark and Keeney’s Brooklyn and determine if I can learn more about the “Roland West” show with Donna and Trixie.

Learn more about Jessie Kennison.


Endnotes

[i] 1919-01-31 – Variety Weekly, New York, NY, Vol 53-Page 20.jpg

[ii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, March 14, 1919.

[iii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, 1919, March 14, 1919.

[iv] 1919-04-14 – Variety Magazine (New York, NY) Page 75.

[v] Wikipedia – Roland West entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_West

[vi] Wikipedia – Alibi (1929 Film) entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alibi_(1929_film)

[vii] Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY) 4 May 1918, Page Six, Advertising Bottom right of page – via Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/254416940

[viii] Omaha Area Marriages – Schm-Sci – https://omahamarriages.wordpress.com/schm-sci/ – SCHWARTZ, George D.

Donna Darling at B.F. Keith’s Greenpoint

Donna Darling Collection – Part 6

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

This photo of Donna Darling up in lights had no accompanying descriptions in the Donna Darling Collection. So, let the detective process begin.

Photo of B.F. Keith's Greenpoint - Donna Darling - May 1922
B.F. Keith’s Greenpoint – Donna Darling – May 1922

First, I determined that this was the B.F. Keith’s Greenpoint Theater located at 825 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, NY. Cinema Treasures had several photos of this theater at various times. From the architecture, it is evident this is the same theater, also known as the RKO Greenpoint theater that was at 825 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY.

 

Next, I was interested in when this photo was taken. According to Wikipedia, The silent film “For the Defense” was released in 1922. For more detail, I needed to zoom in. The play board in front of the theater indicates that the movie. In vaudeville, typically any live shows ended the same date that a silent movie ended. So, I’m pretty sure that Donna played B.F. Keiths the week preceding May 18th.

Donna Darling and Company played B.F. Keith’s Greenpoint Theater the week of 11-17 May 1922.

[I posted this a full-sized image of this photo of B. F. Keith’s Greenpoint to Cinema Treasures.]

Followup

I need to do more research for the specific dates Donna was at this theater. I also need to research what happened to the theater.

 

 

Donna and the Balalaika – 1926

Donna Darling Collection – Part 5

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Item #5 of the Donna Darling Collection is a photograph. Actually, it is two photographs of Donna with a stringed instrument that I consider one item. One of the images was torn badly. The other had some sticky gunk on it. One had writing and printing on the back; the other one did not. For the image below, I set the color to black and white then auto-set the contrast and brightness. Finally, I brought the sepia up and saved it as a web-sized image.  I did not touch it up.

Photo of Donna Darling with Balalaika
Donna Darling with Balalaika – Donna Donna Revue: Princess and the King – 1926

The back of the picture was stamped, “DONNA DARLING & SAMMY CLARK” as well as (in smaller block print, it is stamped “THE PRINCESS AND THE KING.” Handwritten on the back is “Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark.”  The front of one of the photos says “DAVIES – PORTLAND, ORE.” This one does not.  So between the two photos, I have two stories.

Newspaper photo of Donna (Montran) Darline.
Source: The Independent Record (Helena, MT)  28 Nov 1926, Page 6.

The photo shows Donna playing what appears to be a six-string prima balalaika. The prima balalaika is a Russian instrument.  That fits with Donna’s costume of what looks to me as a “shabby sheik” Eastern European looking outfit. (Hopefully, someone will comment and provide me with exactly what kind of clothing she is wearing.)

I had seen this image before. It was in several newspaper articles during late 1926 associated with “The Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark.”  In 1925, Donna was still performing “Donna Darling and Girls,” So, I am sure this photo was taken in 1926 sometime before the picture was used in advertising in Helena, Montana in November 1926.

FOLLOWUP

The University of Oregon, UO Libraries, Knight Library, 2nd floor North, has several photographic collections.

See: https://library.uoregon.edu/speccoll/photo/abstracts.html

Among those collections is one containing photographs of George W. Davis, who operated the Davies Studio from 1901 until 1925.

I should see if my sister, one of her kids, or my cousin who lives in Oregon, might be interested in stopping at the library and see if they have any photographs from 1926 showing Donna or Sammy in their collection.

Grandma Donna’s Chili Rice

Donna Darling Collection – Part 4

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.My grandmother, Donna, was a good cook. My mom says that Donna didn’t let her into the kitchen much and Donna never taught my mother how to cook. Consequently, I am sad to say, my mom is one of the worst cooks I’ve ever known.  She cooked a turkey once and didn’t remove the giblets bag before cooking.

However, Donna was a good cook and generally cooked “comfort food.” I remember eating a lot of “hot dish” as a kid. Even if it wasn’t in a casserole bowl, the meat, vegetables, and starch were all cooked together into a single dish – Things like chicken & dumplings, Hungarian goulash, and, of course, chili-rice. No recipes were passed down that I know of.  However, the recently found Donna Darling collection had one handwritten recipe for her chili rice.

I forgot that she used tomato juice often when cooking. She cooked rice and elbow macaroni in a mix of tomatoes and tomato juice often. I hadn’t heard of the “Mexene chili powder” used in this recipe until I looked it up and found that it is a brand name and is still available.

I think it is interesting that her recipe calls for a tablespoon of fat. They must have had really lean hamburger in those days. Anyway here is Donna’s recipe:

Grandma Donna’s Chili Rice

  • Handwritten Recipe of Donna's Chili Rice
    Recipe – Grandma Donna’s Chili-Rice

    2# Hamburger

  • 1 Tablespoon fat
  • ¾ cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup        “        onions
  • 1 cup        “        gr peppers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • ¾ cup rice
  • Mexene chili powder
  • 1 can tomato juice
  • Kidney beans

No directions were with the note, but I think it is just a put it all together and cook until the rice is eatable. I guess use the Mexene Chili Powder to your personal taste.

Anyway, I’m going to have to make up some of Grandma Donna’s Chili Rice and see if taste memories kick in.

Please, if you makes some, I’d love to see a picture of your finished product and your comments about it.

Donna Darling and Earle

Donna Darling Collection – Part 3

We know that Donna had a show advertised as “Donna Darling and Earle in a Song and Dance Romance” in 1924. The Standiford Studio in Louisville, Kentucky took this photo entitled, “Donna Darling and Earle.”

Photo of Donna Darling & Murray Earle c. 1924
Donna Darling & Murray Earle c. 1924

Donna and Earl played in Oakland California in June 1924, and at the Melba Theatre in Dallas, TX in July 1924.  Seemingly like an easterly movement, I extrapolate they could have been in Louisville in August 1924.  Of course,  I could be entirely wrong.  As a matter of fact, I would expect a photo like this to be taken towards the beginning of a tour rather than the end. In either event, the photograph is likely taken in 1924.

Follow-up

Continue research and find dates when Donna and Earle played in Louisville, KY.