Donna Montran – Moss’s Broadway Theater, July-August 1920

Donna in New York City at Moss’s Broadway Theater, July 25 through August 29th, 1920

Donna finished her cross-country tour with “Chin Chin” in May of 1920. In early July, the New York Clipper reported that Donna had been engaged for a part in a Louise Huff – Albert Capellani picture.[i] It doesn’t appear that the film was ever made. That year, Louise Huff starred in What Women Want (1920) and The Dangerous Paradise (1920). Albert Capellani produced two films, “The Fortune Teller” (which he also directed) and “In Walked Mary” in 1920. It doesn’t appear that either film involved both of them. Also, I can find no other evidence that Donna was involved with any of the four movies involving those two that year.

It does appear that during the summer she and her husband at that time, Tom Rooney, put together a show that dovetailed with the movie, “Up in Mary’s Attic.” In the early 1920s, it was common for a vaudeville show to accompany a silent film to round out an evening’s entertainment and Donna’s “California Bathing Girls: A Beach Promonade”was such a show.

It was easily the longest running show Donna ever had at one theater — from July 24th until August 29th.

The July 17th, 1920, “Wid’s Daily” (page 2) reported:

Garsson Film at B’way
Bathing girls from “Up in Mary’s Attic” will appear in person at the premier showing of the picture at the Broadway Theater commencing Sunday, July 24th.
The length of the showing has not been decided upon.

The following week (July 25th), The Sun and New York Herald, on page 4, that:

MANY NOVELTIES OFFERED IN MOTION PICTURE THEATRES
“… There will be girls a-plenty at Moss’s Broadway, when the theatre will present “The California Bathing Girls” on both screen and state. In the film the girls will be seen in a Fine Art production, offered by Murray Garson, called “Up in Mary’s Attic.” With Miss Eva Novak. It is a five part farce comedy. The orchestra will play under Enrico Leide.”[ii]

Finally, on the 27th, after opening we see a couple paragraphs about the show. It was a show that, “by no stretch of the imagination could it be conceived that the crowd piled into the Broadway to see the girls in mere black and white in the picture.”[iii]

On August 1st, the “Wid’s Daily” aka “Film Daily” mentions that, “Up in Mary’s Attic” was turning ‘em away at the Broadway theater where it is running along with a bathing girl revue. The latter is doing the pulling however….”[iv]


The August 11th issue of the New York Clipper reported, under “NEW ACTS AND REAPPEARANCES”,[v]

CALIFORNIA BATHING GIRLS
New York Clipper – Aug 11 1920

TheatreBroadway.
StyleRevue.
TimerTwenty minutes.
SettingSpecial.

With a lot of shapely girls in one-piece bathing suits and featuring Donna Montran, this new revue, produced by Tom Rooney and Earl Lindsay, with the assistance of Harry Walker, succeeds in packing them in at the Broadway.

Prominently featured is a scene showing changes in bathing costumes which have occurred from 1860 up to the present day and Walker certainly knew how to pick the girls for the present day costumes, – for the figures displayed are worthy of Max Sennet’s selection.

The revue consisted chiefly of poses and songs, with a few dances for good measure. An Oriental dance was the recipient of applause and the costumes and lighting effects added to the’ attractiveness of the production, in which the girls are above the average.

The music, by Charles George, was tuneful, and the song “India, My Own,” with words and music written by Donna Montran, was sung by the author with good effect. Miss Montran is pretty, possessed of a fine figure and has a smile and personality that count.
 

Others in the cast were Adrian Wally, Lola St. Clair, Marie Thompson, Alice Eldridge, Bobby Tremaine, Helen Travis, Dorothy Smith and Alie Dean.

H. W. M.

On the 26th of August there was an ad for Kassel Studios “Artistic Paintings of Film Stars and Features” in Wid’s Daily that indicated there were seven paintings at the Broadway Theatre of “California Bathing Girls.” This tantalizing ad suggests there may be paintings of the California Bathing Girls. If they still exist, it could be an amazing find.

Broadway Theatre

1445 Broadway New York, NY
(SW corner of Broadway and 41st St.)
Seating: 1680 (744 main floor, 448 balcony, 488 gallery)[vi]
Plus standing room for 500 more.[vii]

Moss’s Broadway Theater – 1918
Photo Courtesy: dallasmovietheaters
CC BY 3.0 via Cinema Treasures

In 1888, James Bailey (of “Barnum and Bailey” fame) rebuilt the Metropolitan Concert Hall as the Broadway Theatre. The theater opened on March 3, 1888. The theater was acquired by B.S. Moss in 1908. It showed films and vaudeville until it was demolished in 1929.[viii]

The theater was elegantly decorated, with a large proscenium arch, six sets of boxes and twin balconies. It featured such touches as antique copper chandeliers, gilded plasterwork around the proscenium, the box and balcony fronts and murals on the ceiling and balcony walls.[ix]

In the late 1920’s, competition from newer and larger movie houses nearby spelled the end for the B.S. Moss Broadway Theatre. It was closed January 2, 1929 and was demolished later that year.[x]

[Note: Do Not confuse the B.S. Moss Broadway Theater at 41st with the Broadway Theater at 53rd. The latter was originally named the Colony Theatre, but was renamed in 1930 the Broadway Theatre.]

The site of the B.S. Moss Broadway Theater is now occupied by the 33-story Bricken-Textile Building, which was built in 1929.[xi]

Further Research

Search for posters of the California Bathing Girls by Kassel Studios.

Endnotes

[i] New York Clipper, 7 July, 1920, page 17 via Old Fulton NY Post Cards, www.fultonhistory.com.
[ii] The Sun and New York Herald, 25 JULY 1920, Page 4.
[iii] The Sun and New York Herald, 27 July 1920, Page 9. “Bathing Girls At Broadway”
[iv] Wid’s Daily, 1 August, 1920, page 13, “Good Chance to Put This Over With a Bathing Girl Revue.” (aka Film Daily, Volume 11314, Page 261).
[v] New York Clipper, 11 Aug 1920, Page 21. Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections, http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=d&d=NYC19200811.2.203
[vi] The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914.
[vii] Internet: Wikipedia – Article: Broadway Theatre (41st Street) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_Theatre_(41st_Street)
[viii] Internet: Internet Broadway Database – Broadway Theatre. http://www.ibdb.com/Venue/View/1078#
[ix] Internet: Cinema Treasures, B.S. Moss Broadway Theatre. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/4426
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Internet: Wikipedia – Article: Broadway Theatre (41st Street) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_Theatre_(41st_Street)

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Donna at Pacy’s Garden Theatre – September 14-17, 1920

Donna in Baltimore, MD, at Pacy’s Garden Theatre – September 13-17, 1920

We know that Donna played at Henderson’s Theater on Coney Island On September 6th through the 13th. She then came to Pacy’s Garden Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland.

Advertising for the California Bathing Girls shows up in both “The Sun”(Baltimore) and the “Baltimore American” newspapers. The ads are very plain. “The  Sun also ran a short mention on September 14th, in their “Amusements Of The Week” about attractions which open the previous night.[i] It read

GARDEN

The “California Bathing Girls,” a group of eight from filmland, feature the bill in a costume and song sketch, “A Beach Promenade.” Other acts are….

We know the show moves on to Washington D.C., and the Cosmos Theater the following week.

Pacy’s Garden Theater

Not much is known about Pacy’s Garden Theater. Although the theater opened in 1912, it is not listed in The Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide 1913-1914. The Yearbook of Motion Pictures – 1926 indicates that the theater seated 600. Cinema Treasures indicate that the theater closed in 1960 and was demolished.[ii] Today it is a parking lot.

Across the street from Pacy’s Garden Theatre was the Cross Street Market, which had a lunch counter. The market never closed until after the last show at the Garden Theater let out. After the last show, people crossed the street for milkshakes and hot dogs. The Market closed in 1990.[iii]

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Endnotes

[i] The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland – September 14, 1920,1920-09-14 – Page 8 – Garden ad.
[ii] Cinema Treasures: Garden Theatre .
[iii] The Baltimore Sun, 24 September 1990, “Chrisikos clan bids a sweet farewell to Cross Street

Donna in Bridgeport, CT, at Poli’s – June 30-July 2, 1927

Donna in Bridgeport, CT, at Poli’s – June 30-July 2, 1927.

We know Donna played in Warren, PA, in early May, but don’t know where she, Sammy, and Hal Dixon were until the played at Poli’s Theater in Bridgeport, CT from June 30 until July 2, 1927.[i] [ii]

From the advertising it is clear that the movies had taken over. Irene Rich in a Warner Bros. silent feature, “The Climbers” was top billing. Even for the opening night, the “Donna Darling Revue” was promoted after “Amateur Night” in the “Amusements” article regarding what was playing at the Poli, which read:

AMATEURS TONIGHT AT POLI’S VAUDEVILLE 

In addition to the amateur presentations tonight, Poli’s Vaudeville theater offers a splendid new program today. 

Irene Rich leads an all-star cast through the screen version of the stage success “The climbers.” Commander Byrd’s start over the Atlantic is in Pathe News and a short Mack Sennett comedy completes the photoplay bill.

Heading the vaudeville contingent is Stan Stanley and company in a bit of farce, hokum and burlesque. The captain Boys present their six beautiful fashionettes in an elaborate dance act. Modern Vaudeville Frolics includes Donna Darling, Sammy Clark and Hal Dixon; Watts and Reingold in “Their Own Way,” and William Moore as “The Chef” contribute entertainment of high caliber.[iii] 
I’m still searching for other Donna Darling showings during 1927. This may have been her last show in 1927 as her son, Russell, was born less than two months later. I do know she played in Mount Carmel, PA in April 1928.

Poli’s Theater
Cinema Treasures photo of
the Palace Theater shows the
glory the theater once had.[vi]
Poli’s was, in some ways, kind of an early multiplex. Built in 1922 by Sylvester Z Poli, the Palace and Majestic Theaters were separate theaters within the same building complex separated by the Savoy Hotel. The Poli Palace was the larger of the two theaters and was the largest theater in Connecticut until 1975[iv]. According to Historic Buildings of Connecticut, Mae West also played the Poli Palace in 1927.[v] The Majestic Theater closed in 1971 and the Palace Theater closed in 1975. The theater has been vacant for 40 years and the city is hoping to redevelop the property.

Google Maps view of the Palace/Majestic Theater
Endnotes


[i] Bridgeport Telegram, 29 Jun 1927, Pg 10 – via Newspapers.com
[ii] Bridgeport Telegram, 2 Jul 1927 – Bridgeport (CT) Telegram – Via Newspaper Arvhives.com.
[iii] Bridgeport Telegram, 30 Jun 1927, Donna Darling Revue at Poli’s via Newspaperarchive.com
[iv] Web: Historic Buildings of Connecticutt: http://historicbuildingsct.com/?p=19817
[v] Web: Historic Buildings of Connecticutt: http://historicbuildingsct.com/?p=19817 
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Babcock Theatre, Billings, MT – May 17-18, 1924 – Donna Darling & Company

Donna Darling and Boys
Billings Gazette, 18 May 1924
Courtesy: Newspapers.Com

I’m still looking to find more about Donna’s time in the Spring of 1924. I know she was in Bridgeport, CT in early February but have nothing on her whereabouts until she appears in Billings, Montana, at the Babcock Theater on May 17th and 18th. There is a lot of time and there are many places between the two shows. More to research.

I know very little (yet) about Donna’s “Novel Song and Dance Romance.” We do know that the Babcock Theater advertised it as a headline act within its vaudeville offering for the day Featuring “Donna Darling” in their “Five Big Acts” for the day. [i]

The Billings Gazette of May 18th shows a photo of “Donna and the Boys” on Page 16. [ii]

Unfortunately, all the copies I could find of the paper, both Newspapers.Com and Newspaper Archive.Com, have really poor quality images of the paper. If anyone has access to the original papers and would do a photo image of the paper I’d really love it. In the meantime, I’ll put trying to find a copy of it on my “want to do list.”
I also know on June 2nd she is in Oakland, California. Although it is only two weeks later, I doubt she went that distance without a few shows along the way. So much more to research.

Babcock Theatre

Babcock Theater c. 1913
Courtesy: Puget Sound Pipeline

In 1896, A. L. Babcock opened the Billings Opera House. Mr. Babcock operated that theater until September 22, 1906 when the building burned. Mr. Babcock built a new theater, the Babcock, a few blocks away and opened it just over a year later, on December 23, 1907.[iii]

At the time it was built, at the time was considered the largest theater between Minneapolis and Seattle.

The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, 1922 Supplement, reports that the Babcock Theatre seated 1200 people and the stage was 36×32 feet.

On February 21, 1935, the Babcock Theatre was rented out for a prize fight. It was a real “smoker.” The fire chief ask there be no smoking in the theatre, however, the patrons didn’t listen and a fire broke out under the boxing ring. The theatre entrance lobby and 13 rows of seating under the balcony were all that survived. The roof collapsed during the night, the proscenium

Babcock Theater Today
Photo: By Sara goth [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
arch failed, the stage was ruined and the amazing pipe organ demolished. The owner at the time considered rebuilding as entirely apartments or hotel, but decided to rebuild as a theatre. Within six months it was rebuilt. The reopening was a huge affair with the street being closed to handle the crowds, bands playing, and telegrams from Hollywood celebrities including Katherine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, Mae West, and Bette Davis [iv].

Today, after extensive renovations from 2008 through 2012, it houses 14 apartment units, retail shopping, and again operates a theatre for live performances.[v] The next live show scheduled at the Babcock is D. L. Hughley[vi], stand-up comedian, the original host of “Comic View”, and the eponymous character of The Hughleys.

Ninety years after Donna Darling and Company performed, comedy is still alive at the Babcock.

Further Research

Find a better quality image of The Billings
Gazette
, 18 May  1924, Page 16.


Endnotes

Note: This post was reformatted on 27 April 2018. 

[i] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 17 May 1924, Sat • Page 3 – Advertisement: Babcock Theatre – “Donna Darling and Company “ Source: Newspapers.Com, et al.
[ii] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 18 May 1924, Sun • Page 16 – Feature Vaudeville_Act. Source: Newspapers.Com, et al.
[iii] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 13: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf
[iv] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 22: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf
[v] Wikipedia: Billings, Montana; the historic Babcock Theater http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billings,_Montana
[vi] Babcock Theater website – http://www.babcocktheater.com/

Donna wishes a Merry Christmas

On December 24th, 1919, Donna joined 139 other people in wishing Roehm and Richards a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year via an ad taken out in the New York Clipper. They all hoped that Health and Prosperity will be with them always.

New York Clipper – 24 December 1919
My thanks to Fulton History

I wish all my friends and blog readers a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with health, prosperity, and happiness.

– Don Taylor

Sources:

The New York Clipper, December 24, 1919, Page 42 – Via Fulton History