Hotel Metropole – Panama City, Panama – 20 Feb 1930
Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at a menu from the Donna Darling Collection.
According to my memories of talks with Donna, immediately after the 1929 stock market crash, many people stopped going to the theatres for vaudeville shows. Basically, they started canceling the shows they had booked, and the performers were left high and dry. Donna and Sammy decided to go to Panama City, Panama, where the depression hadn’t come to.
While in Panama City, Donna had a birthday. To celebrate, Donna had a birthday dinner at the Hotel Metropole, Santa Ana Plaza, in Panama City, Panama. The menu for that dinner survived. Guests had options of Baked Hallibot [sic], Tenderloin Steak, and Broiled Spring Chicken.
What I found most interesting was that she was celebrating her “25th birthday.” Donna commonly lied about her age. However, the 37-year-old must have been a real beauty (or deluding herself) to have pulled of saying she was only 25.
I suspect that Grandpa Dick was at the dinner and that something happened that Sammy didn’t like. In any event, it was only five weeks after this dinner that Sammy and Donna returned to the States. When they returned, they were estranged. They were in separate cabins, and each was heading “home.” Sammy to his mother’s house in New York City and Donna to her mother’s house in Detroit.
To my knowledge, Donna’s return from Panama signaled the end of Donna’s show business career.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at three clippings from the Donna Darling Collection.
The first article is a short paragraph about “Dancing Girls at Orpheum”
DANCING GIRLS AT ORPHEUM
Donna Darling and her dancing girls headline the Orpheum bill for the first half of the week. “Songs and Steps” is the title of Donna’s act.
The Golden Bird, a trained canary….
Interesting. I had never heard of that act, and there are so many Orpheum theatres, it is impossible to know where, or even when, this show was playing.
Next, is an ad for the Orpheum Theatre with The Golden Bird headlining the ad with Donna Darling and Girls being the finale act. Donna’s show is billed as “The Musical Comedy Beauty Assisted by a Bevy of Bewitching Enchantresses in Songs and Steps.” I’ve seen “Donna Darling and Girls” before. She began that show sometime between August and September 1924. The movie Another Scandal was released in June 1924, so the show had to have been after that.
Finally, a third article for the show provides all of the remaining desired information. It was the Orpheum Theatre, Oklahoma City, Okla., for the week of September 6th (Sunday through Wednesday). The program played Sunday thru Wednesday – September 6th thru September 9th 1925.
The venue was the Orpheum Theatre in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It is “The World’s Best Vaudeville”
The show was the “Donna Darling and Girls, The Musical Comedy Beauty in Songs in “Songs and Steps”
Also on the Bill
Fox News “Modern Whaling” an Educational.
“Another Scandal” featuring Lois Wilson and an all star cast.
Althea Lucas and Co. in “An Artistic Triumph.”
Chad and Monte Huber, Late of So Long Letty” co. in “Dance Divertisements.”
THE GOLDEN BIRD, The Canary of Almost Human Intelligence, presented by LORRAINE EVON, The Charming Violinist.
Pat Barrett and Nora Cunneen in “Looking for Fun.”
My schedule of Donna’s shows had a huge gap before this clipping. She played July 26th in Decatur Illinois and September 20th in Sedalia, Missouri. Now, it appears that she did a Great Plains tour that summer.
September 6th thru September 9th 1925 – Orpheum Theatre, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Donna Darling and Girls.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at two pages from the Donna Darling Collection because two of the four clippings are related.
The first one (#1464) is a tiny clipping that filled in a memory gap I just couldn’t fill. I’ve seen photos of Donna with her little Pekingese dog many times and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the dog’s name. On this page is part of an article which says,
“On the Country club links tomorrow early golfers will see Donna Darling and Sammy Clark doing 18 holes. A little pekingese most likely will be in tow. It is “Gypsy,” the prima donna’s pet,
Reading it, I said to myself, “that’s it. The dog was Gypsy. I remember now.”
The second clipping on the page is for the Monache Theatre playing the “Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark.” What is great about this clipping is that Donna hand wrote “Porterville, Calif. Oct 19” on it.
I knew Donna and Sammy played the Yost Broadway Theater in Santa Ana on October 7-9 and played at the American Theater in San Jose on October 23-26, 1926. Porterville is about halfway between Santa Ana and San Jose. This clipping provides information about a new venue for the show.
The second page consisted of two clippings. The first clipping was for the Burns Theatre in Colorado Springs, Co. I wrote about that clipping earlier in Part 21 of this series.
The second clipping “Vaudeville to Boast Plenty of Diversity” has a note handwritten across the top which says “Porterville, Calif.” The article also mentions the Monache Theatre, so it clearly belongs with the ad from 1464. The article reads, in part:
Recollections of famous beauty contests are revived with the presentation of the Donna Darling Revue, the headline act. Miss Darling was the winner of the Madison Square Garden beauty competition in New York city a few years ago, and was afterwards featured with “Chin Chin” and also with George White and Flo Ziegfeld. With Sammy Clark, “The Juvenile Komik” Rarring and Lazur, and Hal Dixon she will present a routine of songs and dances, garnished with comedy. Special stage setting and appropriate costumes enhance the beauty of the act making it worthy of more than passing potice.[sic]
Donna’s dog’s name was “Gypsy.”
The Donna Darling Review played at the Monache Theatre in Porterville, California, on 19 Oct 1926.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at page “DSCN1452” from the Donna Darling Collection, which consists of two newspaper clippings and one photograph.
The first clipping is an ad for
VAUDEVILLE A Dazzling Dance Fantasy. “THE DONNA DARLING REVUE” in 5—Scenes—5 With Donna Darling, Sammy Clark and three stars. In a super song and dance revue with a dash of comedy.
Luckily, Donna wrote on the upper left corner, “La Cross | Dec 4-5.” From Newspaper Archive, I had previously learned that Donna had played at the Majestic Theater in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on December 4 & 5, 1926.
The second clipping is a bit more problematic. It has a nice photo of Donna and says:
Donna began doing the “Donna Darling Review” with Sammy in April 1926, so the show must have taken place after then. The problem is that the two of them played:
The Grand Theater in Great Falls, Montana on Nov 26-27, 1926.
The Grand Theater in Macon, Georgia, on March 14-18, 1927.
The Grand Theater in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 1-3, 1927.
Plus, I have many open dates that she could have played at a “Grand Theater.”
For the clipping in question, other acts on the bill include:
Zehn and Dreis in “Dementus Americanos Habitat North America.”
Billy Curtis and Lou Lawrence in “Is That the Custom.”
Morell and Elynor (roller skating)
The Reginald Denny picture “Rolling Home.”
Luckily this bill was short-lived, only about two months. At every showing there was a different picture show. On November 26 & 27, the bill of these vaudeville acts played at the Grand Theater in Great Falls Montana along with the picture “Rolling Home.” I am confident that this clipping comes from this date and place.
Finally, there is a new photograph of Donna with Russell. Russell appears, to me, to be about two years old. Russell was born in 1927, so I’m fairly sure that the photo come from 1929 or so. This is a case where I wish I knew how to fix photos with Photoshop. I’d love to pluck out the white and have a nicer photo.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at image DSCN1422 from the Donna Darling Collection. The image consists of four items. Two are articles and two photographs.
1. Keeney’s Livingston, Brooklyn, N. Y.
(Reviewed Thursday Evening, April 8)
… Donna Darling Company., four shapely, pretty misses, in songs and dances in full stage with special drapes, brings the show to a bang-up close. The act opens with three girls dancing, followed by Miss Darling in a song, then a gypsy dance by one of the girls, followed by a toe dance by another of them, and then two of them in a wooden shoe Dutch characterization dance, Miss Darling returning for a Hawaiian dance. A trio then puts over a song after which much applause and a brief announcement preceding a change of costume, Miss Darling presents what she calls Lightening Up the Charleston, done by all four members of the act Garbed in Luminous Costumes that glow when the lights are out. It’s a tricky bit.
JACK F. MURRAY.
April 8th was a Thursday in 1926, so the date is definite. The location and the theater are also given. Hopefully, future research will provide answers for the duration.
I added a new venue added to Donna’s Career: April 8 – Keeney’s Livingston Theater, Brooklyn, NY – Donna Darling Revue.
2. Darling Revue Has Top Place on State Bill
Perhaps it is because this happens to be the season of Lent. Anyway, the vaudeville programs at the State Theater these days are very good and increasing size of audiences at the matinee and evening performances is proof of this assertation.
The Bill this week is no exception. Lead the fine array of talent is the act in which the Darling Revue strive to keep patrons interested. That they succeed was demonstrated in the liberal applause they received yesterday afternoon. Their specialty is singing and dancing. The numbers containing much that is original and enjoyable. The dances include the clog, toe and gypsy steps and the songs are of a varied nature….
I note that the other acts on the bill include the “Metropolitan Trio,” “Love and King,” “Chick & Dog,” and “William & Perry.” “Queen O’ Diamonds” with Evelyn Brent is the feature picture.
“Queen O’ Diamonds” was released on 24 January 1926, which places the show in 1926.[i] Lent runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter. In 1926 this was from February 17th to April 4th. Easter was on April 4, 1926.
I haven’t previously found a date for Donna to have been at a State Theater during Lent of 1926.[ii]
New Venue Added: Between 17 Feb 1926 and 4 April 1926 – Unknown Location – State Theater – Darling Revue – DDC-48.
Interestingly the two articles from this page of the Donna Darling Collection were from 1926; however, neither of the photographs are. Both photos are clearly of Donna’s son, Russell. Russell was born in August 1927. In both cases, he appears to be about three years old, so I estimate the photos to be ca. 1930.