Donna at the Henderson Theater, Coney Island

Henderson’s Theater, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York – Week of 6 September 1920. 

We know that Donna had finished a 5-week showing at B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater on August 29th. We know she performed in that show because she was called out by name, Donna Montran, in one of the ads and in a promotion in the New York Clipper. I believe that after five weeks of solid shows, Donna took off a week before she began again at a new theater.

“California Bathing Girls” opened at Henderson’s Theater in Coney Island on September 6th for one week. Advertising included a short article and a small ad.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle – September 5, 1920

Ad for Henderson's Theater showing California Bathing Girls.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), Sep 5, 1920 – Page 31 – Henderson’t Theater Ad.

At the Seaside Amusement Places
– – –
Henderson’s Theater.

At Henderson’s Theater a holiday week bill will be headed by Loney Haskell, character comedian, in a monologue. “Dream Stars,” a mixture of tunes and fun, will share the headline honors. Harry Murray heads the cast and is assisted b y Gladys Joye, Bernice La Rue and Julie Steger. Other acts on the bill are the Bathing Girls, Harry and Anna Seymour, Ed Furman and Bill Nash, Sully and Mack, Ed Hill in Hattie’s Creation”: Guy J. Samuel and Lily Leonhard and the Thames Brothers complete the bill.

Variety – September 10, 1920 – Page 5, Vaudeville – Column 4.

Luckily, an article in Variety on September 10, confirmed it was Donna Montran in the Henderson’s production. It is confusing because the article says “Now” and she was there “Now September 10th” however, the text says July 30th and then she was apparently between gigs. In any event, the article shows a photo of Donna sitting wearing a really beautiful hat and confirms that it was her in the California Bathing Girls at Henderson’s Coney Island.

The Variety article indicates that, “Donna Montran has an undeniable million dollar smile, oodles of personality and an elastic voice that hits the high registers smoothly and effectively – would make ideal $4 musical comedy stuff.” (I believe that “$4 musical comedy” refers to the price of a Victrola record.)

Remember that Donna played from July 26th until August 29th at the B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater. Sometimes that show was called “Bathing Girls,” and sometimes it was called “California Bathing Girls.” However, at the same time (From August 9th until August 21st) there was another show, “Original California Bathing Girls,” playing in Philadelphia. So the question arises, was this another show or did Donna and the troupe make the 1-1/2 to 2-hour commute to Philadelphia every day. I don’t know. Certainly, it is possible.  The newspaper articles I have found for the Broadway Theater engagement are clear; Donna played it.  The Philadelphia engagement is not clear as it never identifies the bathing girls by name.

Again, documents show that Donna played at Henderson’s Theater in Coney Island and that show was California Bathing Girls. I think more research will be needed to determine if Donna played in two shows simultaneously.

Further Research

  • Try to find further evidence if Donna played in the Original California Bathing Girls in Philadelphia from 9 until 21 August 1920 to resolve the conflict

Sources

  1. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Sun, Sep 5, 1920 · Page 31 – Henderson’s Theater – Via Newspapers.Com http://www.newspapers.com/image/60005902
  2. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Sun, Sep 5, 1920 · Page 30 – Via Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/image/60005892
  3. Variety – September 10, 1920 – Page 5, Vaudeville – Column 4 (bottom) – Donna Montran

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“Chin Chin” plays at the City Opera House, Frederick, Maryland, on 22 April 1920

We know that the Chin Chin company played in Cumberland, Maryland on April 20th.  We do not know if they played anywhere on the 21st.  But, on the 22nd they played a one-nighter at the City Opera House in Frederick, Maryland.

Preshow Advertising

I have not been successful in finding any articles about the show in the newspapers before the show. Standard advertising seems to have been used exclusively. First, there was a standard “To the General Public” announcement on April 16th, six days before the show. Then regular advertisements ran during the week.

There was a short article and photo about Walter Wills and Roy Binder which ran a couple days before the one-night engagement.  There were no post engagement reviews or stories regarding the show.

City Opera House

Frederick City Opera House

The Frederick City Opera House open in 1891 and was operated by the City of Frederick.[i]  According to the Cahn-Leighton Theatrical Guide of 1913, the Frederick City Opera House seated 1253 — 657 on the main floor, 272 in the balcony, 300 in the gallery and 24 in box seats.[ii] The stage was only 30×30. Shortly after “Chin Chin” played here, the theater was renovated with sound equipment in 1922.

The City Opera House closed in 1961. The stage, opera boxes, balcony, and orchestra pit were demolished; however, the façade of the building was left.

Today, the building is “Brewer’s Alley – Frederick County’s original Brewpub.” They have worked to preserve the elegance and glory of the old Opera House by faux decoration of some of the original ceiling panels and columns to mimic the original Italian Sienna marble.[iii] I definitely will stop and have a drink at Brewer’s Alley and see what they’ve done with the place the next time I drive through the area.

Brewers’ Alley – Old Frederick City Opera House Today

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Endnotes

[i] Internet – Cinema Treasures: City Opera House in Frederick, MD – http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/17170  – Accessed: 1/13/2017

[ii] The Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide 1913-1914. https://books.google.com/books?id=SBg7AQAAIAAJ&dq=editions%3Aou_zzJuUN5sC&pg=PA9#v=onepage&q&f=false

[iii] Internet – Brewer’s Alley: About Brewer’s – http://www.brewers-alley.com/about/ – Accessed: 1/13/2017.

“Chin Chin” at Maryland Theatre, Cumberland, MD, 20 April 1920

We know that Chin Chin played in Coshocton, Ohio, on April 11th. However, we don’t know yet where else the company played between there and Cumberland.

Stage of the Maryland Theater, Cumberland, MD
Stage of the Maryland Theater, Cumberland, MD via Kidstuff.com

What we do know is from the April 14, 1920, edition of the Cumberland Evening Times – Page 10 – Column 1.

Maryland Theatre

 “Chin Chin” Coming to the Maryland Theatre, Tuesday, April 20

The Production of Charles Dillingham’s “Chin Chin” has rivaled even “Floradora” in its popularity. Walter Wills and Roy Binder are featured members of the organization. They are slim young men, masters of the eccentric dance and comedians of more than ordinary ability.

“Chin Chin is a musical comedy, or extravaganza, or fantasy, whatever it may please one to call it; but it is saturated with the comic spirit and abounds in delightful pantomime.

The notices accorded the company this year prove that the aggregation of players is exceptional and that the production as a whole is a real “Top Notch” Dillingham show, and that even in war times “Chin Chin” has been doing a record business on the road, near army camps and elsewhere.

The book of the play is by Anne Caldwell and R. H. Bernside, Lyrics by Miss Caldwell and James O’Dea, and music by Ivan Caryll, remembered for the melodies of “The Pink Lady” and “The Little Cafe.”

Of its songs, “Violets,” “The Gray Moon,” “Love Moon,” “Good Bye” and “Go Gar Sig Gong Jute” are not likely to be forgotten for some seasons to come. There is also saxaphone music by the renowned Tom Brown’s Clown Sextette. In fact, “Chin Chin” is one of those fortunate shows that is clean and wholesome fun, offending no one.


Maryland Theatre

Drawing - Maryland Theatre, Cumberland, MD c. 1907
Drawing – Maryland Theatre, Cumberland, MD c. 1907

The Maryland Theater was built for about $70,000 based upon plans by John D. Allen, Philadelphia, PA. It opened on 21 November, 1907 with a seating capacity of nearly 1800. It closed on 9 October, 1963 and was demolished in December, 1966.[i]

The 1920 Census indicates that Cumberland was a city of nearly 30,000 people.  The Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914 indicates that the theatre had a capacity of 1,696, 600 on the main floor, 340 in the balcony, 600 in the gallery, and 56 box seats. The Stage was a large 38×33 feet and the front to back wall was 41 feet.  There were four stage pockets.  For newspapers, besides the “Times,” whose afternoon circulation was 7,179, there was the “News” with a morning circulation of 4,000.[ii]

 

Further Research

Obtain a subscription to Newspaper Archives and look for additional information about “Chin Chin” playing in the Cumberland Times.

Find a source for the Cumberland News and see if they have any articles regarding the show.


 Endnotes

[i] Internet: Cinema Treasurers – Maryland Theater in Cumberland, MD – http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/28957

[ii] The Julius Cahn – Gus Hill – Theatrical Guide 1913-1914: Page 290 – Cumberland, MD, via Google Books

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Donna in New Philadelphia, OH, at the Union Theatre – 10 April, 1920

Vaudeville

It had been a busy week. We now know “Chin Chin” played at the Park Theatre in Youngstown on Thursday[i] and the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville on Friday. It was back to the train and headed west about an hour to New Philadelphia for a one-night show at the Union Opera House on Saturday, April 10th.

The Daily Times 3 April 1920
The Daily Times
3 April 1920 Source: Newspapers.com

The initial notice for the show appeared in The Daily Times (New Philadelphia) on April 3, 1920, which was the Saturday before the Saturday show. The Daily Times was the major newspaper of the area with a circulation of 2,575 per the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide of 1914. Advertising during the subsequent days let folks know many of the particulars of the show, including two car loads of scenery, seven sets, indoor circus, and, of course, the Clown Saxophone Band would be there. Besides the stars, Walter Wills and Roy Binder, Ethel Lawrence and George Usher are mentioned in articles.

1920-04-08-TheDailyTimes-Page5
The Daily Times (New Philadelphia, OH) April 8, 1920, Page 5 Source: Newspapers.com

On April 8th, the Daily Times did run a photo showing 16 of “Chin Chinners.”  I don’t see Donna in this group, but with 65 women in the show that is understandable.

The show itself appears to have gone off without a hitch. According to the “Daily Times” of April 12th, the show had the “biggest crowd of the season.” However, across the street, three men robbed the Union Restaurant at gunpoint during the show. I’ll bet that disrupted theatregoers from having a bite after the show.  Three gunmen — $19.00 taken. They apparently didn’t know what they were doing as they left $40 in silver in the cash register and just took the folding money.

Union Opera Theater – New Philadelphia, OH

(This article was updated.  See: Update – Union Opera Theater – New Philadelphia, OH.)

The Hotel Reeves (New Philadelphia, OH)
Crop of card00072_fr.
Source: Card Cow

I have not been successful determining the exact location of the Union Opera House. Some articles indicate that it was “near the courthouse.” A review of the 1921 City Directory for New Philadelphia indicates that it was “at rear of Hotel Reeves Building.” That same directory indicates that the Hotel Reeves was at 133-135 North Broadway[ii], which seems to be where the county courthouse is.

The Union Opera House had a capacity of 1,057 – 502 on the main floor, 230 in the balcony, 300 in the gallery, and 24 in box seats. The US Census indicates that the population of New Philadelphia, OH was 10,718,[iii] so the venue could hold nearly 10% of the population of the city. However, the city of Dover is adjacent to New Philadelphia and contributed another 8,000 to the population.

The Union Opera House was probably built in 1863[iv].

The Union Opera House was destroyed by fire in November 1893. Rebuild date is not known.

The Union Opera House operated until at least 1940.[v]

Specifications for the Union Opera House[vi]

  • Proscenium opening: 32×22 ft
  • Front to back wall: 42 ft
  • Between side walls: 66 ft
  • Apron 5 ft
  • Between fly girders: 43 ft
  • To rigging loft: 40 ft
  • To fly gallery: 23 ft
  • 11 Dressing rooms

Further Research

I have contacted the Tuscarawas Historical Society regarding information about the Union Opera House (Theatre) regarding the history and the disposition of the theatre.

According to the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide, there were four newspapers associated New Philadelphia at the time; the “Times,” “Tribune,” the “Democrat,” and the “Reporter” (at Canal Dover). I have been unable to find copies of those papers. Find sources for the three papers and see if they have any articles regarding the show.

Endnotes

[i] I just learned of this performance this week
[ii] Ancestry.Com – U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 – New Philadelphia, Ohio, City Directory, 1921, pages 136 and 219.
[iv] Web: Cinema Treasurers, Quaker Cinema, Comments, Comment by Joe Vogel on January 5, 2010, See http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/6619
[v] Web: Times-Reporter Article posted March 16, 2014, “Local History: Night spots aplenty in the late 1930s” by Jon Baker, TimesReporter.com staff writer. http://www.timesreporter.com/article/20140316/News/140319340
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Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville, Ohio on 9 April 1920

“Chin Chin” at the Victoria Theatre, Steubenville, Ohio

By Don Taylor

 We know that Chin Chin played on April 5 at the Sandusky Theatre in Sandusky, OH on April 5th and played at the Faurot Opera House in Lima, OH on April 6th. We don’t know if the show was on holiday Wednesday and Thursday, or not, but they resumed playing Friday, April 9th at the Victoria Theatre.

The Steubenville Herald-Star began speaking about the coming attraction on April 3 in their “AT THE THEATRE” Column on Page 5. They wrote:

1920-04-03-SteubenvilleHeraldStarApril32C1920-ChinChinAdCROPMelodious, artistic and diverting is “Chin Chin”, scheduled for the Victoria theatre Friday night, April 9th. To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are entrusted the principal parts, supported by a company of clever comedians and a beautiful chorus. In their songs, “The Chinese Honeymoon”, “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue” and “Temple Bells’, the two clever comedians Wills and Binder make a decided hit and are always recalled again and again. In this charming fantasy with a Chinese atmosphere there are also a score of other songs that are the fascinating, whistling kind, and several unique dances that carry the snappy comedy along delightfully.[i][ii]

On April 4th was one of the most interesting articles about the show “Chin Chin” I have come across. Sadly, parts of the article are not legible, but what is readable in my version is fascinating. It said:

AT THE THEATRE

The Importance of Women Choristers in “Chin Chin”
It was not the custom for women to appear publicly in the theatres of Europe either on stage or in the auditorium until many years after the death of William Shakespeare. The women who did venture to the theatre always were masked. Most of Shakespeare’s heroines were acted in his days by boys. There are no records of women acting on the English stage until after the Restoration, when the floodgates of licenses were let down ________________ of owmen choristers in opera is of comparative recent ________ tribute in such entertainments as those which managers like Mr. Charles Dillingham presents __ which “Chin Chin” to be offered at the Victoria Theatre Friday night, April 9 is a notable example.
The bare thought of only a male chorus of twenty-four voices in “Chin Chin”, no matter how attractive these voices might be, would be likely to have a very disastrous effect upon the box office receipts. Undoubtedly audiences of today would not be so easily satisfied as were the ancient Greek audiences, truthfully speaking it is the great number of really youthful and vivacious girls that prove the biggest drawing card for the most interesting of Musical Comedies “Chin Chin” Order seats now.[iii]

I agree that having fifty plus attractive women added to the success of “Chin Chin” at the box office and have seen advertising articles highlighting that fact before, but I had never seen anyone tie it to Shakespeare and Greek plays before.

Again, on April 7th, the Steubenville Herald-Star newspaper had another article on page three. I can’t tell if it is fact or show business fiction nor if it gives insight into the life of Walter Wills or only insight into the culture of the time, but it is an interesting story.

AT THE THEATRE
“Chin Chin” at the Victoria Theatre….

1920-04-09-SteubenvilleHeraldStar-Steubenville2COhio-Apr91920-ChinChinad-NA-CROP
Same Day Ad for “Chin Chin” at the Victoria Theatre Steubenville Herald-Star, April 9, 1920

Walter Wills and Roy Binder in this fantasy have become a couple of Chinamen who have more or less thrilling adventures in the pursit of the Lam which brought to its possessor all manner of happiness.

Both of the comedians have studied closely in the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of Chines personality, and one of them had least has a more than casual acquaintance with the Chinese Language.

Wills once had a Chinese Servant from whom he picked up a great deal of useful knowledge. Wills is very fond of fruit, of which he was in the habit of eating a quantity every evening. One day he happened to say to his servant that he was not feeling very well. The Chinaman grumbled and then said, “You eat too much fruit—makes belly ache!” Wills took the tip and cut down on his fruit allowance….[iv]

Victoria Theatre

For those of you who follow my Blog, I normally have a short history of the theater. I have about a half a dozen sources I typically go to find information including Julius Cahn Theatrical Reports and several “go to” websites such as Cinema Treasures. But, in the case of the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville I found virtually nothing. I even messaged the Jefferson County Historical Society asking about the theatre but received no response from them.

I know the theater existed in 1919, 1920, and 1921, but I know nothing more. Not when it was built, not its size, not is current status. If I learn more, I will post it. If you know more about the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville, please add it to the comments below. Thank you.

Further Research

Keep researching to determine if “Chin Chin” played on April 7th or 8th 1920.
Learn more about the Victoria Theatre of Steubenville, Ohio.

Endnotes

[i] Note: This newspaper has an unusually high number of errors. For the sake of readability, I have corrected most of the spelling and typesetter errors rather than creating a verbatim transcript.
[ii] Steubenville Herald-Star – Steubenville, Ohio – Apr 3 1920 – Chin Chin – via NewspaperArchive.com
[iii] Steubenville Herald-Star April 5, 1920, Page 3 via Find-my-Past.
[iv] Steubenville Herald-Star – Steubenville, Ohio – Apr 7 1920 – Page 3 – NewspaperArchive.com

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