For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at several photos from the Donna Darling Collection. First, Image 0174 is a photo of Donna Darlings Bathing Beauties in a “Beach Promenade.” In most of the advertisement billings, this show was called, “The California Bathing Beauties. The show probably began in July 1920 at Moss’ Broadway at 41st and appears to have played in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Coney Island, Baltimore, Albany, Alexandria (IN), Wilkes-Barre, Reading, New Haven (CT), and Bridgeport (CT).
I have not learned who the other five women are in the photograph, but it is clearly Donna in the top back.
Next, I looked at the Donna Darling Collection Item 194 – a set of seven photographs.
Two of the photos are of Donna holding Russell – one as a baby and one as a toddler with both Donna and Russell in swimming suits. Next are two photos of Russell. In one he is sitting in a walker of some sorts and the other he is standing behind a life ring aboard the SS Virginia out of New York. In 1930 Donna, Sammy, and Russell went to Panama for work. Russell would have been about three, which looks right for this photo. A Wikipedia article[i] indicates that the SS Virginia was built in 1928, was part of the American Line whose route was New York to Havana, to the Panama Canal, then on to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Next is a photo of Sammy Clark Amsterdam standing alongside a car. I don’t know cars well enough to identify what it is. [If anyone that can identify it I’d love to hear from you. – Please, use the comment form below.] The license plate indicates it was in Michigan in 1927.
The final photo is something of a mystery. This is clearly Donna holding a baby, but the baby doesn’t appear to be Russell. I believe the baby is Sylvia and I believe the man is Harvey Knight, Donna’s stepfather. If so, this would be from 1932. [Photo below.]
December (XX) 1924 – The Bathing Beauty Review featuring Donna Darling and Murry Earle played at the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Police Join in a Search, But Press Agent Yarn Theory Advanced
Although a number of stories including a press agent version were afloat concerning a reported kidnapng Sunday night of Helen Dawn, 16-year-old prize beauty of the “Bathing Beauties,” now playing at a Peoria theater, (see ads) police were trying to locate the girl and arrest her alleged kidnapers Monday.
According to reports made police Miss Dawn with Betty Bryant and Donna Darling, companions in the same troupe, came out of the rear of the theater shortly after 10 o’clock, Miss Dawn and Miss Bryant in the lead. As they turned the alley at Jefferson avenue a short stocky built man leaped from the side of a closed Oakland or Hudson car and seized Miss Dawn by the arm. Despite her screams he dragged her to the side of the car and another man inside helped him get the girl into the car. The man who grabbed her leaped into the car and the driver seated alone in the front seat drove away going out Jefferson avenue.
The screams of the girl attracted a large crowd, some of whom picked up several articles and some money which Miss Dawn dropped when she was seized by the man.
“Oh, they got the one with all the diamonds,” one of Miss Dawn’s companions is reported to have said during the “kidnaping,” according to an interested spectator. All press agents refuse to be interviewed about the incident.
Fitz Hugh, 224 North Jefferson avenue, who with a companion, was in a car nearby, started in pursuit of the “kidnaper’s” car but lost sight of it on Jefferson avenue. Police were scattered in riot cars in all directions and Detectives Boyser and Welty were dispatched out the Galena road in search of the girl.
According to Miss Byrant [sic] and Miss Darling, who were eye witnesses Miss Dawn had no time to struggle with her assailant.
“The man grabbed her and had her inside the car so quickly that neither of us could interfere,” Miss Bryant said. Both girls gave the same account of the “kidnaping” to police who quizzed them Monday.
The girls said the car in which Miss Dawn was taken away in was an Oakland or a Hudson car. They said Miss Dawn had joined the troupe at Los Angeles and that at none of the cities they had visited did Miss Dawn make any acquaintances who might injure her.
Annoyed at Decatur.
“The only place where anything happened was at Decatur, Ill., where Miss Dawn was persistently followed by some man who wanted to marry her,” Miss Darling. said. “This man followed her wherever she went and annoyed her frequently. I did not recognize him as the man responsible for the trouble which we met with in this city.”
Miss Dawn carried valuable jewelry and a quantity of costly diamonds on her person. She had these when seized on the street Sunday night. She was attired in a brown fur coat, black satin turbin [sic] hat, black dress and wore white cuffs.
She is especially attractive (and that’s not from the press agent either) and is a decided brunette. She is 16 years old, five feet three inches in height, and weighs 130 pounds.
What happened to Helen? Was Donna part of a publicity stunt? Another article clipping explains what happened.
‘Kidnaping’ Proves Just a Marriage
The life of a bathing beauty is not all water and swimming suits. For Helen Dawn, erstwhile member of a bathing girl troupe playing a local theater life today is made up of orange blossoms and bridal, traveling suits.
Helen, it now develops, after theatrical authorities have carried out a quiet search and investigation on their own part, was kidnaped by her lover, known only as ”Harry,” last Sunday night, just, as she with other girls was leaving the theater. A publicity stunt was suspected at first, but the continued absence of the girl brought home the serious aspect of the event.
Last, night a telegram from Helen Dawn, from Chicago, explained that she had gone to Chicago, to marry “Harry,’ that she was happy, and that impetuous “Harry” had adopted the “kidnaping” stunt as a means of breaking her contract.
They were going east for their honeymoon, the telegram stated.
Donna’s week in Peoria was exciting. Great fun selling tickets for the Legion and an apparent kidnaping right in front of her. (Although, it is possible that she was in on the marriage.)
The Apollo opened in 1914 could seat over 800 in its auditorium, The theater closed in 1958. In 1988 the Apollo was purchased and lovingly restored to its original appearance. Since 2001, it has housed the Apollo International Film Group, which screens foreign, classic and independent movies in an early 20th century setting. Today it is known as the Apollo Fine Arts and Entertainment Center.
I learned that Donna played at the Apollo in Peoria, IL the week 1 February 1925, which is a new venue for Donna. I also learned the cast names for her Bathing Beauties Revue.
I’d like to learn more about the careers of the other cast members. What was Christie Comedies. Did any of the cast become big names in show business? The people for me to research include:
Donna Darling and Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Beauties at the Apollo, 1 Feb 1925 in Peoria, IL
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at clippings from the Donna Darling Collection relating to her playing at the Apollo Theatre in Peoria, IL, in 1925.
Donna’s clippings from her time in Peoria are some of the most interesting clippings that I have. First, there is a list of her Bathing Beauties cast, a never seen before photo of Donna, and a good description of the show and what various individuals are doing. Second, there is something of a mystery for me to solve regarding the date she played in Peoria and the Apollo. Third, there is additional press about Donna and her troupe of beauties supporting the local American Legion. Finally, there is a mystery of the kidnapping of one of her cast members.
The Apollo advertisement provides the names of her entire cast and a claim to fame. They were:
Donna Darling – Mack Sennett’s Prize Winner
Betty Bryant – Miss America from Ziegfeld’s
Mildred O’Brian – From Sennett’s
Clarice Allyn – Christie Comedies
Alyce Louyse – Christie Comedies
Rose Lasgo – Acrobatic Dancing
Florence Rielliso – Spectacular Dancing
[Murray] Earle – Christie Comedies
[Al] Ross – Christie Comedies
Helen Dawn – Hollywood Society Girl
There is also an amazing clipping of Donna, leaning back showing a leg.
Hollywood Revue of
Bathing Beauties Is
Special at Apollo
Bathing beauties from various motion picture studios of California will appear in a special Hollywood revue at the Apollo theater for one week beginning Sunday, February 1. Miss Donna Darling, who features in this revue, is the well-known star from Sennett’s. She is the originator of the principal part of “Chin Chin,” the famous musical play. She has won beauty prizes in Boston, New. York and San Francisco. Her dancing is excellent and her lyrical songs are surpassed only by her clever and pleasing personality. She presents the bathing girls of 1860 and follows them to the present day when Betty Bryant in a crimson bathing suit represents “Miss America of Today.”
Bathers from various famous beaches appear in charming costumes. Clever Clarice Celynn [sic – s/b Allyn] represents the Chinese toe dancer. Allyce Louyse, the Hawaiian bather, and Mildred O’Brien from Christie, dance to snappy music preceding a spectacular balloo [sic] dance in the “Bathers from Mars.”
When Miss Darling left the coast she was followed by two life guards: Murray Earle, formerly a specialty dancer of “George White Scandals,” and Al Ross, late of Christie. These life guards are eccentric dancers who add comedy to the revue.
Special scenic and lighting effects elaborate this unusual attraction. The costumes are elaborate from the opening of the revue to its end, at which time Miss Darling appears in a rhinestone bathing suit.
“Fifth Avenue Models,” a picture completes the program.
Second, I was a bit confused about the date of the show. Several clippings indicate the show began on February 1st, however, the movie that was playing with her show is identified in IMDb and Wikipedia has having been released on April 25, 1925, nearly three months after Donna’s playing.[i], [ii] It is unusual for a silent film to have been playing in a theater nine months after its release, so I was confused. I found that the British Film Institute indicates the film was released in 1924. Finally, the December 3, 1924 issue of Los Angeles Times has a preview of the film released by Universal.[iii] I have also found it playing at several other theaters long before April 25th; so, I’m convinced that both IMDb and Wikipedia are incorrect in their release dates.
Beauties help American Legion
Third, there are two clippings relating to the ‘Bathing Beauties” helping the American Legion.
I just love photos and a photo of the girls from the revue in their bathing suits is fantastic.
“The above is a picture of Donna Darling, Mack Sennett’s prize winner, and eight other Hollywood bathing beauties who will auction tickets to “Buddies,” the American Legion comedy success, next Tuesday, beginning at 12 o’clock noon, in front of The Journal-Transcript building. “Buddies” will be staged by the Gifford Players at the Hippodrome theater all this week. The legion’s proceeds from all advance sale tickets will go toward a home for ex-service men. Donna Darling and her troupe of vamps are appearing at the Apollo theater this week in a song and dance revue.
Although it mentions Donna and eight others, sadly, there is only Donna and six others in the image.
There is also a simple, follow-up article which states:
Sell 224 Tickets
For Legion’s Show
Pedestrians who passed by The Journal office today noon failed to resist the beauty and smiles of the “Bathing Beauties” who are now playing at a Peoria theater, and who proved themselves good saleswomen. During their brief selling campaign today, they sold 224 tickets for “Buddies,” the show now playing at the Hippodrome theater for the benefit of Peoria Post No. 2, American Legion. The position left vacant by Helen Dawn, who is missing from the cast, is being taken by Mildred O’Brien. No trace of the Dawn girl has been found, according to members of the troupe.
I love software that helps digitize documents nicely. Some time ago I added CamScanner by INTSIG Information Co., Ltd to my phone. It allows a person to take a photo of a document with your phone. Once the photo is taken you select the area you desire and the software automagically adjusts the photo to be a flat image. That way you don’t have to be exactly centered over a document. That can really help if a flash is needed or if the pages can’ It is easy to transfer the image to your computer via the internet. The only problem with the software I’ve found is operator error. When my wife and I were visiting my wife’s mother I used CamScanner to “scan” some pages from Margaret Lambe’s Prayer Book. I took the photos, cropped them, then moved on. It wasn’t until I got home and saw the images on a much larger screen that I saw my operator error. I had cropped the photos too close and missed some detail. Not so badly that I can’t use the images, but badly enough to remind myself that it is easy to crop the photos too severely and I need to be more careful.
On the same day that Margaret Lambe received a Bible from she also received “The Book of Common Prayer.” The inscription in the prayer book is much more legible than it was in her Bible and clearly shows it was received from Rev. Wm Cassidi. (I’ve adjusted the person in the post about the Bible to reflect the name more legible in this image.) The bad part is that through operator error, I cut off the “e” in Lambe and the “di” in Cassidi. Oops.
Having a small Bible and a “Book of Common Prayer” was an important part of the religious life of 19th Century parishioners in the Church of England and I’m sure these two books were important gifts to the 17-year-old Margaret.
The Inscription reads:
With the best
The Rev. Wm Cassidi
April 30, 1877.
I am still unclear what “Grindon” is or what it means. Had I seen only this inscription, I would have surmised it was the Reverend’s surname. However, the Bible inscription appears to be something separate from his surname so I’m still confused. have some difficulty making out some of the words, and have tried my best. I’m not confident of Mr. McCassidi’s first name nor of the word below the line.
Like the Bible, on a second inscription page, it shows the book went to
Elizabeth Darling Kemon
Born March 22, 1906
Again, Elizabeth had no children, so she passed it on to the “niece of Betty Kemon.”
I need to be more careful when cropping images using CamScanner.
Sometimes two inscriptions by the same person in two places can help reading and transcribing transcriptions.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at three clippings from the Donna Darling Collection that relate to her playing at the American Theatre in San Jose, California.
Donna Darling Revue – American Theatre, San Jose, CA – Oct 23-25, 1926.
The first clipping is nondescript clipping indicating that Count Berni Vici is completing his run and that five acts of vaudeville, featuring the Donna Darling Revue, is coming Saturday for three days only. It does mention that on the screen is “Fascinating Youth” a 1926 film, which confirms the year of her show. It takes the second clipping to confirm what American Theatre she played. Thanks to a handwritten note, Donna indicates that the clipping came from San Jose, Calif and the three days she was there were October 23, 24, and 25. That is such a great help. I have not been successful in finding any San Jose newspapers available on line from 1926, so I would not have known of this venue without her clippings.
The final clipping is from her last day at the American Theatre. It shows the Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark is finishing and being followed by Frank Silver and his famous Jazz Band; Frank Silver is known as the writer of “Yes We Have No Bananas.”
The American Theatre
The Hippodrome Theatre was constructed in 1919 at 261 South First Street, San Jose in a Spanish Gothic hybrid design. With more than 1,600 seats, it was the largest theater in San Jose at the time. In 1922, the theatre was renamed Beatty’s American Theater. It became the State Theatre in 1938; in 1951 was renamed the United Artists Theatre. It was demolished in 1976. Today the site is a municipal parking lot.
I am sure there are many more venues that Donna played on the West Coast during 1926. I know she was in Alton, Illinois in September and came west to California. I now know that she played in San Jose on October 23-25. I also know she played in Modesto on October 30th. It looks like she continued to Oregon and played in Portland in November, so, most of her 1926 west coast tour is still unknown.
Newspaper clippings – American Theater Advertisements – Donna Darling Collection (Held by author).