Chin-Chin in the News – Kankakee, IL

Date: 2 Nov 1919 – Kankakee, IL, Majestic Theatre

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.[My grandmother was a vaudeville star and I am following her career, trying to learn of her many performances. In October 1919, she joined the cast of the Charles Dillingham production of “Chin-Chin” “Chin-Chin” played in the US and Canada until June 1920. I recently researched “Chin-Chin” playing at the Chatterton Opera House in Bloomington, IL. As I searched, I came across a small mention of the show playing somewhere I didn’t have a record for.]

This week’s entry is from The St. Anne Record (St. Anne, Illinois), dated November 6, 1919, via the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.

 Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Sprimont Russell Dumontell and Ruth Paradis drove to Kankakee last Sunday and saw Chin Chin at the Majestic. 

November 6th, 1919, was a Thursday, so “last Sunday” would have been 2 November. The venue fits nicely between November 1st, at the Chatterton Opera house, and Streator, at the Plumb theater. Cinema Treasures confirms that the Majestic Theater operated in Kankakee from 1915 to 1957.

New Venue Added: 

Nov 2, 1919 – Kankakee, IL – Majestic Theater “Chin-Chin”

Donna Darling Collection – Part 85

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection with Donna in her fashion coat.

Donna Darling.

Bathing Beauties of Movies Here in Revue at the Lincoln.

Bathing girls from various California motion picture studios will make a personal appearance in a colorful Hollywood revue at the Lincoln. This revue is a clever musical and dancing number which will show patrons that these versatile girls can do other things than merely making poses before the camera. Miss Donna Darling, who comes direct from the Mack Sennet studios, is the charming star who introduces the bathing beauties dressed in bathing costumes dating from 1860 to the present day. Bettl [sic] Bryant is the “Miss America of 1925.’’ Bathing costumes of various countries and fashionable seashore centers are introduced. Chief among these number is Mildred O’Brian, who appears as the beauty from Palm Beach. Miss Darling’s life guards, Murry Earl and Al Ross, add comedy to the Egyptian dance, while Petite Clarice Allyn as the Chinese bathing girl enhances the program with clever toe dancing.

Elaborate costumes have been selected for this sparkling revue. The music is snappy and the production has brilliant scenic and lighting effects.

Key features:

  • The venue is the Lincoln; however, neither a city nor state is provided.
  • No date is provided; however, Betty Bryant is “Miss America of 1925” indicating that the show was in 1925.
  • Other cast members included
    • Betty Bryant
    • Mildred O’Brian
    • Murry Earl
    • Al Ross
    • Clarice Allyn


Donna Darling and Girls is known to have played at the Lincoln Theatre in Belleville, Illinois, on 6 October 1925. She also played there in 1924 and 1926 with different shows, so the Lincoln Theatre in Belleville was well known to her.

The Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, IL) paper dated 6 October 1925, Page 9[i], mentions Donna Darling and girls in their “Song and Dance Revue” were at the Lincoln.

A further review of Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archives, Elephind, Chronicling America, and the Byron Public Library District at Advantage Preservation failed to provide any additional potential venues for Donna at “the Lincoln” during 1925.


Tentatively, I ascribe this clipping to her playing at the Lincoln in Belleville, IL, on 6 October 1925.


[i] The Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois) 06 Oct 1925, TuePage 9 – Via

Donna Darling Collection – Part 84

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.This week, for Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at a page from the Donna Darling Collection. The page includes three clippings, all relating to the Grand Theater.

The Grand

This is the first week of the Grand’s new and permanent policy of offering a program of pictures and vaudeville at popular prices and judging from the reception accorded the entertainment yesterday by the patrons it should develop Into a successful institution. The Hollywood motion picture bathing girls present the variety entertainment, while the screen’s chief feature is a Monty Banks full length comedy, “Racing Luck.”

“The Evolution of the Bathing Suit” is what the Hollywood organization, of which Donna Darling is the star, calls its revue. The schedule is opened by a magnetic little miss who calls herself the poet or the show. She introduces Miss- Darling, who sings a song about the girl of 1860, to be followed by three girls who dance in bathing costumes of that period. Betty Bryant dances as the modern girl, Alice Louise is the Bowery type, Clarice Allyn the Chinese bather, Jerry Jean the Atlantic City model, Nattie Norine the Palm Beach stroller and Tom Watson and Al Ross as the life guards.

There are few slow moments in the production, the dancing is varied and pleasing and the singing of Miss Darling, who wears some beautiful costumes, is well worth the applause it receives. There is a hula dancer who is the most interesting hula dancer we have seen in front of the footlights of a Terre Haute theater this season, and the team of Watson and Ross is excellent in its eccentric creations. The show, as a whole, is a well-balanced piece.

The Grand orchestra, under the direction of George Jacob, violinist, who has Cliff Lowe, his pianist, as his trusty right-hand man, surprises one with its skill in handling the musical score of the show.

Along with the article is an advertisement and a photo of Donna with her beautiful cloak.  Both of the clippings also mention she is at the Grand Theatre.

Key features:

    • Venue: Grand Theatre in Terre Haute.
    • Cast: Betty Bryant, Alice Louise, Clarice Allyn, Jerry Jean, Nattie Norine Tom Watson, and Al Ross.
    • Also on bill:
      • The movie: “Racing Luck” with Monty Banks.


According to Wikipedia[i], Racing Luck with Monty Banks was released on 11 May 1924, so the show needed to be after that.

Donna began her Bathing Girl Review in the fall of 1924 and played at Indiana theatres from February through May of 1925. My uncle Russell’s research indicated that Donna played in Terre Haute, IN, on 18 April 1925. I do not know where he got this information; however, this date fits in nicely with Donna’s itinerary being in Rushville, IN, on 26 March and Vincennes, IN, on 27 April.

Cinema Treasures indicates the Grand Opera House opened in 1907 and changed its name to the Grand Theatre when movies replaced live entertainment. This clipping shows that the name had changed by 1925 when it switched to having a film and vaudeville mix.

Terre Haute Saturday Spectator, 11 April 1925, Page 10. (via Newspaper Archives)

The 11 April Saturday Spectator[ii] ran an ad for The Grand Theatre showing the “Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Girls featuring Donna Darling” to run all week starting Sunday. That ad suggests her show ran from 12 April to the 18th. Really interesting is that the Saturday Spectator of 18 April says that, “The Donna Darling Company will continue on the bill the remainder of the week. A change in songs, dances and costumes was made Thursday.” I had no idea that the show changed during the middle of a run.


During the week of 12-18 April 1925, Donna’s “Evolution of the Bathing Suit” played at the Grand Theatre in Terre Haute, Indiana.


[i] Wikipedia: Racing Luck (1924 film)

[ii] Terre Haute Saturday Spectator, April 11, 1925, Page 10 (Via Newspaper Archives).

Was Grace Darling Donna’s sister? (Part 1)

Madonna Mae Montran Issue

Donna Montran Research
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.During my analysis of the Donna Darling Collection (Part 83), I learned that the actress Grace Darling could be the sister-in-law of my grandmother, Madonna Montran, stage name Donna Darling) married Thomas Valentine Rooney in 1915. Grace Foster, stage name Grace Darling, married Pat Rooney in 1908. Could Thomas and Pat have been brothers, thus making Donna and Grace sisters (in-law)?

My first step in investigating the possibility is to look at the life and relationships of Donna’s second husband, Thomas Rooney.

Donna’s first marriage to Chester Fenyvessey in 1911 was short-lived. By 1914, Donna and Chester separated, and Donna headed to California. Out there, she was with Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties and was a dancer in the silent film “Birth of a Nation.” In 1915, Donna relocated to Boston, MA. Then, on 24 November 1915, Donna married Thomas Valentine Rooney in Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

Marriage Record os Thomas Valentine Rooney and Donna Mae Montran – 24 Nov 1915 – Click to enlarge.

Thomas Valentine Rooney (1887-1960)

Thomas is a step-grandfather—the second husband of my grandmother: Madonna Mae Montran.

      • Thomas’ father: Neil H. Rooney (1865-1910)

Thomas Valentine Rooney was born on 29 January 1887 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He was the second of five children of Neil H and Mary E (Fahey) Rooney.

The 1900 Census indicates that Neil and Mary Rooney had five children; John, Thomas, Neil (Jr.), James, and Mary. Neil immigrated in 1883 and married Mary about 1885. That suggests they couldn’t have had any children older than John.

In the 1910 Census, Mary is widowed, and there are no additional children. The Census provides middle initials for the children; none of them have the middle initial of “P,” suggesting that Pat Rooney is unlikely a brother of Thomas.

Thomas was the producer of the “California Bathing Girls,” starring Donna Montran, during 1920 and 1921, so they were together then. However, by the summer of 1921, Donna had moved on to a new show, “Donna Darling & Boys,” that wasn’t produced by Thomas, so I’m pretty sure they separated by then.

After Donna

Thomas married Daisy Elizabeth Ford on 13 April 1928. The couple moved to California about 1930, where Thomas worked as an “Actors Agent” for 40 years with the Michael J. Hamieburg Agency.

Daisy died on 14 December 1959, and Thomas died four months later on 29 April 1960, in Los Angeles.


It does not appear that Thomas Rooney had a brother named Pat, so it is unlikely Grace Foster (stage Grace Darling) was a sister-in-law of Donna’s.

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Find Grace (Foster) Darling Knieling and Pat Rooney in various records and determine if Pat Rooney and Tom Rooney were otherwise related.

Donna 100 Years ago – The Stroud – Stroudsburg, PA

A Great Thanksgiving Program.

100 Years Ago
Donna Montran & Co.
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting events relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.

The Donna Darling Collection (See Part 76) yielded two articles that put Donna at the Stroud Theater in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, for Thanksgiving 1921. A review of, Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archives, and Chronicling America failed to reveal any newspapers from Stroudsburg for that period. Likewise, The Ancestor Hunt was unable to indicate any Stroudsburg papers online for 1921. As such, the only evidence I have that Donna played at the Stroud Theater in Pennsylvania is her clippings.

The Stroud

Great Thanksgiving Week Program

Today and Tomorrow
5—Big Vaudeville Acts—5  

Special Thanksgiving Engagement – The Barry Jazzers
Three Walceys – Acrobatic Novelty
Whynot & Brady – Musical Act
Phil Davis – Southern Songster
Dona Montrim & Co – Singing and Dancing.

Another Clipping Donna had said

Holiday Week Program at Stroud is a Sure Fire Winner

The article goes on the say that:

“Dora Montrim & Co. have a dance and song revue with very special stage settings and costumes of Miss Montrim that are pleasing.”

We don’t know much about her show, but we know she was at the Stroud Theatre in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on November 24th and 25th, 1921 – One Hundred Years ago today.