Donna Darling Collection – Part 13

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection

News clipping of Donna Montran's name in lights at the Allegheny Theater - September 1920.
I have cropped, edited, and sized the newspaper clipping for the web. – From the Donna Darling Digital Collection

Key features:

The venue is the Allegheny Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.

The show is “Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties”

Also on bill

“The Idol Dancer”

Photo Caption:

Featuring in Lights

Donna Montran 

(The Prima Donna With the Million Dollar Personality)

And Her Bathing Beauties

Bringing herself into Everyone’s Heart

Watch for her Return to New York

It is not clear where this clipping came from, probably from a promotional item in something like Variety, as it doesn’t mention her playing in Philadelphia. Rather, it reminds readers to “Watch for Her Return to New York.” (Which she doesn’t appear to do for several months.)

Donna in Philadelphia, PA, at the Allegheny Theatre – Sep 27, 1920

Allegheny Theater Program from 1927 showing the California Bathing Girls with Donna Montran
Program – Allegheny Theatre – September 27, 1920.

Of particular interest is a program of the show the week of September 27th, 1920. For the Allegheny Theatre.  It shows us that the Allegheny claimed to be “The largest Vaudeville Theatre in the World.”  It also provided a list of the acts. A musical overture started the show followed by a “review of current events.”  I’m sure that was really important as in 1920 America so many people didn’t read and write. Current Events was followed by four different Vaudeville acts before the main live act. Tom Rooney presents “The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in ‘A Beach Promenade’ in 6 gasps and 3 shocks. Conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.”  The show was followed by “The Idle Dancer”[sic] directed by D. W. Griffith. It was a 1 hour, 44-minute silent film “The Idol Dancer.” Following the film was an “Exit March” performed by the orchestra.

A musical overture started the show followed by a “review of current events.”  I’m sure that was really important as in 1920 America so many people didn’t read and write, so learning the Current Events of the Day was a great feature.

Current Events was followed by four  Vaudeville acts before the main live act. They were:

  • Rose Revue
  • Alexander and Mack
  • Una Clayton & Co.
  • Tappen and Armstrong

Then the main show:

Tom Rooney presents “The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in ‘A Beach Promenade’ in 6 gasps and 3 shocks. Conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.”

The live show was followed by “The Idle Dancer”[sic] directed by D. W. Griffith. It was a 1 hour, 44-minute silent film “The Idol Dancer.” Following the film was an “Exit March” performed by the orchestra.

Clipping Allegheny Theater - - Philadelphia, PA Sep 27 1920An advertising clipping relating to Donna’s Allegheny Theatre appearance. It let us know that her California Bathing Beauties show included a cast of 12. The ad also mentioned that “You were taken in the movies last week, see yourself in the picture this week.” According to an article in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” (Sep. 26, 1920) pictures taken at the theatre the previous week including many residents entire audience. Those photos were going to be shown on the screen this week.  How fun. A great promotion for the theatre.

B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre

  • Allegheny Theatre by Anthony F. Dumas, 1920.
    Allegheny Theatre by Anthony F. Dumas, 1920.

    F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was located at 3139-3149 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA

  • F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was designed by the firm of Magaziner & Potter; it opened in 1912.
  • In 1926, it was remodeled by the firm of Hoffman-Henon Co.
  • By 1941, the theater became part of Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.
  • In 1942, the theater underwent renovation by Golder Construction, Co.
  • The theatre lasted until 1956 and has since been torn down.

Theater size

B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre size is confusing. Certainly, in 1920 it billed itself as “the largest vaudeville theater in the world.” Also in 1920, Anthony F. Dumas did an architectural drawing of B.F. Keith’s Allegheny theater and his drawing indicated it was the “World Largest Vaudeville Theater seating 4000.”

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at Newspapers.com
However, people on Cinema Treasures indicate the theater seated 2,858 in 1936. Likewise, Joel Frykholm, in his essay, “Framing the Feature Film,” found B. F. Keith’s Allegheny theater to seat 2,855 individuals in 1914.

Sadly, the theatre is not listed in the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914, (the edition I have and use) as it must have been too new for inclusion. Also, the 1921 Guide doesn’t list the Allegheny Theatre either, but it does list the B. F. Keith Theatre which had a seating capacity of 2,300.

How the theater could have gone from 2,855 in 1914 to 4,000 in 1920 and back to 2,858 in 1936 is beyond.  I suspect the 4,000 number to be in error.

Today the site is the location of “Friendly Plaza” the home of a Family Dollar Store and Friendly Wholesalers Inc. Furniture store. See Google Map.

Conclusion

It is clear that B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was new in 1920, being about eight years old. It was also one of the largest theaters of its time. Donna played there for a week, but she and the California Bathing Beauties played several other Philadelphia theaters during the fall of 1920.  I’ll write more about them later.

Actions

It will take some additional research to determine the actual seating of B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre in 1920 while Donna was there.

Sources

ACTA UNIVERSITATIS STOCKHOLMIENSIS – Stockholm Cinema Studies 9 – “Framing the Feature Film: Multi-Reel Feature Film and American Film Culture in the 1910s” by Joel Frykholm citing: Advertisement for B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre, Inquirer, March 1, 1914:17; and “Allegheny,” In Vaudeville’s Realm, Inquirer, March 1, 1914:16. http://manualzz.com/doc/17494960/stockholm-cinema-studies-9.

Cinema Treasures: Allegheny Theatre. 3139-3149 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19134. See: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/9065

Don Taylor: Donna Darling Digital Collection – Contact Author.

Genealogy Bank – Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) – September 26, 1920, (Volume 183, Issue 88) Section Feature, Page 1 – Changes in Vaudeville – Allegheny.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania: Digital Library, Frank McGlinn collection, Record Number 14401. Item: Anthony F. Dumas architectural drawing of Allegheny Theatre, 1921. http://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/13982

Hathi Trust Digital Library – The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide And Moving Picture Directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill, 1921. Page 61 – https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009794580

Newspapers.com – The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – Sunday, Feb 8, 1942, Page 60, Column 5, Bottom “Will Improve Theatre.” https://www.newspapers.com/image/172126197

 

Donna Darling Collection – Part 12

Family Photos #1 – Russell, Donna, & Sammy

Treasure Chest Thursday

by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.This week I took a look at ten photos from the Donna Darling Collection. Unfortunately, three of the photos were blurry or otherwise unusable. Of the remaining seven photos, five included uncle Russ as a child. One showed Russell and Donna and one showed Russ with Sammy.  One photo showed all three. There were also two additional photos of Donna but both were family type photos and not part of her vaudeville life.

Some of the photos were badly damaged but I was able to clean them up significantly. For each of the photos, I have:

  • Original scanned image.
  • Original cropped image.
  • Edited PSD (Adobe Photoshop Elements) image
  • Edited JPG image

With each edited version of the photo, I added a caption.  I am certain about the individuals shown, however, the dates are by guess and by golly.

Names:

Sammy, Russell, & Donna at the Beach, circa 1928.
Sammy, Russell, & Donna at the Beach, circa 1928.

Donna was born Madonna Montran. She used Donna Montran in her early vaudeville days. She then used Donna Darling as her stage name. I don’t believe that she ever used the surname Amsterdam.  Sometime after 1935, Donna lived with a man named Russell Kees. Although I don’t believe that Donna and Russell were ever married, Donna and her two children, Russell and Sylvia began using the Kees surname.  Sammy was born Samson Amsterdam. He used the stage name of Sammy Clark for many years. If the names aren’t confusing to you, you are good.

I have uploaded the seven photos to Google Photos. The downloads from Google Photos are generally of sufficient quality to work for most situations.  However, if you need a higher quality image of any of the photos let me know and I’ll send you one.

 

Alhambra Theatre – Milwauke

Donna Darling Collection – Part 11

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at two clippings from the Donna Darling Collection, both dealing with her playing at the Alhambra Theatre.

Newspaper Clipping - Alhambra showing Bathing Beauty Revue
Alhambra Clipping – From the Donna Darling Collection

I have cropped, edited, and sized the photos for the web.

Key features:

  • The venue is the Alhambra.
  • The show is the “Bathing Beauty Revue” featuring Donna Darling and Murray Earle.
  • Also on bill
    • Richard Dix in “A Man Must Live”
  • Coming attractions include:
    • Gloria Swanson

Analysis

Cinema Treasures indicates there were over 100 theaters named Alhambra in the United States.[i]

Newspaper Clipping of Alhambra Theatre showing Richard Dix movie & the Bathing Beauty Revue
Clipping – Alhambra

“A Man Must Live” was released on 19 January 1925.[ii]

A search of Newspapers.Com yielded no articles or advertisements that showed an Alhambra Theatre showing “A Man Must Live” with a bathing beauty revue. However, a search of Genealogy Bank was successful in finding such an article that published on 21 January 1925 in the Milwaukee Journal.[iii] The article mentions speaks at length about the movie, “A Man Must Live” and ends with the following:

            “In addition, there’s the Bathing Beauty revue which may or may not amuse you.”

Milwaukee Alhambra Theatre Logo - 1925
Milwaukee Alhambra Theatre Logo – 1925

A further search of the Milwaukee Journal found an advertisement of the Milwaukee Alhambra Theatre using the very distinctive logo which was used in the advertisements that Donna had in her collection. (Larger first and last A’s in the logo.)  The January 21st was a Wednesday and Donna’s scrapbook ad indicates that Gloria Swanson was coming on Saturday, so I believe she probably played at Alhambra 21, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (January 12, 22, and 23, 1925.

Conclusion

January 21-23, 1925 – The Bathing Beauty Revue featuring Donna Darling (Mack Sennett’s Prize Winner) and Murray Earle (From Geo. White’s Scandals) as well as “her 10 bathing beauties from the Hollywood Studios” played at the Alhambra Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Actions

Standard: Research the Milwaukee Alhambra Theatre and write about Donna’s show there.

Sources

[i] Cinema Treasures – Search for theaters named Alhambra http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/united-states?q=Alhambra&status=all NOTE: There is a problem with the search function on Cinema Treasures. When searching “All Theaters” it only searches Open and Closed theaters. It does not include “Demolished” which must be searched separately.

[ii] IMDB “A Man Must Live” (1925) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0016073/

[iii] The Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, WI) 21 Jan 1925, Page 13, Column 6, A Man Must Live – Via Genealogy Bank.

Al Ringling Theatre – Bathing Beauty Revue

Donna Darling Collection – Part 10

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection

Newspaper Clipping of Bathing Beauty Revue - Al Ringling Theatre
This image was cropped, edited, and resized for the web.

Bathing Beauty Revue
Al Ringling Theatre

Key features:

  • The venue is the Al Ringling Theatre. It is “America’s Prettiest Playhouse.”
  • The show is the “Bathing Beauty Revue” staring Donna Darling and Murry Earl.
  • Also on bill
    • Poli Negri in “Forbidden Paradise”
  • Coming attractions include:
    • Bebe Daniels in “Dangerous Money”
    • “The Signal Tower”
    • “The City that Never Sleeps”

Analysis

It appears that the only theatre known as “America’s Prettiest Playhouse” is the Al Ringling Theatre. It was built in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1915 and is in use today.

“Forbidden Paradise” was released on 30 November 1924.[i] The other three movies were released before “Forbidden Paradise.[ii][iii][iv] indicating that the Bathing Beauty Review occurred after that. Probably in December of 1924.

Donna’s known schedule indicates that she played three other Wisconsin venues in November and December of 1924, so she was definitely in Wisconsin at the time.

Finally, a review of the newspapers of the time yielded none currently available online. A search at Chronicling America indicated two newspapers published in Baraboo during 1924.

  1. The Baraboo daily republic. : (Baraboo, Wis.) 1892-1929 – Current Holdings do not indicate any holdings from 1924.[v]
  2. Baraboo daily news. : (Baraboo, Wis.) 1913-1929 – Current holdings indicate that the Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project in Madison, Wisconsin may hold issues from that period.[vi]

Conclusion

December (XX) 1924 – The Bathing Beauty Review featuring Donna Darling and Murry Earle played at the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Actions

  • Visit the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison to view their Newspaper Project holdings, particularly the Baraboo Daily News from December 1924 and January 1925 looking for what played at the Al Ringling Theatre.
  • Research the Al Ringling Theatre and write about Donna’s show there.

Sources

[i] IMDB Forbidden Paradise (1924) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0014925

[ii] IMDB Dangerous Money (1924) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0014825

[iii] IMDB The Signal Tower (1924)  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0015331

[iv] IMDB The City That Never Sleeps (1924) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0014777

[v] Chronicling America – About Baraboo Daily Republic – Holdings –   http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85041148/holdings/

[vi] Chronicling America – About Baraboo Daily News – Holdings –  http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87082039/holdings/

Donna Darling Revue

Donna Darling Collection – Part 9

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.

This week on the Donna Darling “Treasure Chest” I have pulled three photos. Again, they were badly damaged. I have cropped and touched them up using Photoshop Elements to remove creases and tears as much as I could and still maintain the integrity of the photos.

The Donna Darling Review

Photo of the vaudeville act, "Donna Darling Review" c. 1927
Donna Darling Review c. 1927

The first photo shows the Donna Darling Review on stage. It appears that Sammy Clark is on the left and Donna in the middle. There is an unknown man on the right.  The photo is probably about 1927 and the location is unknown. There is no indication of the photographer. The back of the photo is stamped with “To Be Returned to Photographic & Press Bureau, Inc. Palace Theatre Bldg, New York City.”

Photo of Vaudeville act, "Donna Darling Revue" showing Donna, Sammy Clark, and two unknown women.
Donna Darling Revue c. 1927 – Photo by Theatrical ????

Next is another of the photo of the Donna Darling Review showing who appears to be Sammy on the left, Donna center stage wearing what looks to be a halo. With her are two “ladies in waiting” wearing elaborate costumes. Again, the photo was taken about 1927 and the location is unknown. The studio is cut off on the bottom right of the image, but clearly sans “Theatrical” something. The back says, “Donna Darling Review” in handwriting.

In the snow in Montreal

Fox News Photographs Donna Darling and the Girls circa 1927 in the snow
Fox News photographs Donna Darling and the girls in the snow – c. 1927

Finally, is a photo of Donna at a photo shoot with three other women. Donna is wearing her mink coat and is holding her Pekingese dog, “Peke.” There is no mention of the photographer nor of the date, although I suspect it was about 1926 or 1927. On the back, she wrote:

Montreal Canada

Fox News Cameras girls not afraid to dance in snow (was scared plenty) I took my mink off (sparely) hot toddy kept us from freezing-
My “Peke” was along.

I haven’t uncovered a show date for Donna to be in Montreal, yet but will continue researching her shows.

These three photos provide an interesting glimpse into the 1920s vaudeville world. The photos here were sized for printing (300 DPI) and are available from me at a higher quality if needed.

Subsequent to this research, I looked further for an image of this photo shoot. I found a copy on Tumbir.

http://back-then.tumblr.com/post/133355772251/dancing-in-the-snow-1926