“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspapers articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). I am always excited when I learn of a new venue for my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s.
Three New Venues discovered.
Another great week of Donna in the News with three new venues discovered and an intriguing note about Donna having been in a train crash.
The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois) newspaper dated 29 March 1924 shows that Donna Darling and company played in a song and dance revue at the Fort Armstrong theatre. In another article, from March 31st, the paper indicated that she missed her first show at the Fort Armstrong because of a train crash. I wonder how bad of a crash was it? The crash has the potential of making another great story. I’m looking forward to additional research.
Next, is an ad from the News Record (Neehah, WI) newspaper dated 5 December 1924. The ad shows that the California Motion Picture Bathing Beauties, featuring Donna Darling played at the Neehah theatre on December 8 & 9.
Finally, from the The Record (Hackensack, NJ) dated 23 February, I learned that Donna Darling and Company played at the Lyric Theatre in Hackensack, for three days beginning February 24th.
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 monitor several newspaper services watching for new venues that the show played at while she a was a cast member.
This week I found an article in the Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) dated Jan 1, 1920 (via Newspapers.Com).
BY PRESS AGENTS
CHIN CHIN AT EMPIRE
There appears to be no doubt that Mr. Charles Dillingham’s stupendous production of “Chin Chin” with Walter Willis and Roy Binder in the lead, will duplicate its record of absolute capacity audiences at the Empire theatre where it will open a three-day engagement with a holiday matinee today.
Though the title of “Chin Chin” suggests a Chinese setting, it appears that the scenes are not laid anywhere near the Celestial Land.
There is no leading lady in this organization, although a number of beautiful women, principals and otherwise, song birds and actresses are in the cast, it appears that the who is to enjoy the place of honor as first favorite is left to the choice of the public.
Tom Brown of the Six Brown Brothers’ famous Saxaphone clown band, composed “That Moaning Saxophone Rag” which is one of the hits of the play.
It is estimated that 250,000 people all from points more than one hundred miles from New York have already seen “Chin Chin” while it was presented at the Globe theatre in New York, and not Mr. Dillingham is actually bringing this his only company in its entirety to the Empire theatre.
New Venue Added:
Jan 1-3 – Edmonton, Alberta Canada, Empire Theatre – “Chin-Chin”
The New York Clipper for February 13, 1918 reported
JEROME SONGS IN VAUDEVILLE
Montran and Daly, who are now appearing on the United time, are featuring a number of the songs from the William Jerome catalogue. The best are “The Irish Will Be There,” “When It’s Cotton Pickin’ Time In Alabam’,” “When You Were The World To Me,” and “When the Yanks Come Marching Home.” Arthur Daly, the male member of the team is the composer of the first three numbers.
The “United Time” appears to have been a vaudeville circuit that many vaudeville houses were affiliated. I can’t find out anything else about Arthur Daly and his songs don’t seem to have any information associated with them. I have not been successful in determining any specific theaters that they played at.
The association of Donna and Arthur Daly appears to have been very short lived. In January 1918, she was apparently still in Boston and appeared in the January 27th article, “Play With Dolls To Banish Fatigue?” and by April 10th, she was forming an act with George Kinnier for the Moss and Loew Circuits.
I added the following to Donna’s experiences.
Feb 13 – Began appearing on the “United Time” with Arthur Daly in New York.
Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Rex Theater in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, on 11 February 1920
We know that “Chin Chin” played at the Metropolitan Opera House in Minneapolis from February 1st through the 7th. I do not have any known venues the 8th, 9th, or 10th, but on the 11th, “Chin Chin” played at the Rex Theater in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
Newspapers Mentioned “Chin Chin” was arriving on the 4th of February.[i] A standard full column ad played on February 6th, as did the familiar Wills, Binder, and Girls looking like Brussel sprouts on the stars’ queues.
An article the day before the show said
“Chin Chin” a Show of Good Music
The music of Ivan Caryll, which serves to illustrate the story of “Chin Chin” which comes to the Rex tomorrow and in which Walter Wills and Roy Binder demonstrate their wonderful powers of drollery, to say nothing of their skill in dancing, is a demonstration of the wisdom of serving the best kind of music even to an extravaganza. “Chin Chin” is one more proof that good music pays. Music and dancing are so closely allied in these latter days.
Ethel Lawrence as “Violet Bond” the American girl in “Chin Chin,” is a charming little actress and always succeeds in winning the good graces of the audience. Her rendition of the duet, “Love Moon,” with the aid of George Usher as Aladdin, is one of the particular bright spots of the show. We advise that you procure your tickest now. The sale is heavy and the theatre management cannot guarantee to hold any reservations after 6 p. m. Wednesday.
The day after the show, the Chippewa Herald reported that:
“Chin Chin” proves Fine Attraction.
Capacity House Pleased with Production at Rex Theatre Last Evening.
Chin Chin came up fully to all expectations….
The Rex Theatre was originally built in 1906 and named the Victor Theatre. The Victor was a modest theater with a seating capacity of 900 people. The theatre changed its name to the Rex Theater sometime between 1918 and 1920, when “Chin Chin” played there.
In 1930, the theater was renovated for motion pictures, and was reopened as the “Ravoli Theater.” The Ravoli closed sometime before 1960. The building was demolished by 1962.[ii] Today, the location is a Holiday Gas Station.
[i] Chippewa Herald (Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin) · 04 Feb 1920, Wed · Page 3