Donna in Denver, Nov 9-15, 1919 at the Broadway Theater


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Donna in Denver, Nov 9-15, 1919 at the Broadway Theater

Donna must have been amazed by the organized chaos that followed the show’s end in Omaha.  It was pack up everything, the trunks of show clothing, as well as the elaborate scenery.  Get it to the train station and head for Denver to be ready to perform there the next day. It was a tight venue change, but the company had done it before. 
Chin Chin ad – 6 Nov 1919 – Denver Post

The Denver pre-show buzz had begun. On November 2nd, a week before the show, the Denver Post reported in “ATTRACTIONS” that, “In the not very far distance there are several big attractions booked for the theaters and picture palaces of Denver. The Dillingham musical comedy, “Chin Chin,” will follow “Seven Days Leave” at the Broadway. On November 6th, ads began to run for “Charles Dillingham’s greatest musical comedy production, ‘CHIN CHIN’. Company of 65 mostly girls, Tom Brown’s famous clown saxophone band.”

Nov. 9th ad.

The “ATTRACTIONS” section of the paper, reported on November 9th, opening night, that “The first Musical Show of the season comes when “Chin Chin” opens at the Broadway Sunday night. This is a bright and gay conglomeration of fun and music that has been one of Dillingham’s most lucrative attractions for several seasons. The promise is that it will be played by a very capable company and that the production is in splendid condition.”

On page 46 of the paper, a large photo of Tom Brown’s famous “Clown Saxaphone Band as a part of “Chin Chin” was displayed. On page 48, we were reminded the show would be there all week with matinees Tuesday and Saturday, 9 shows in all.  With all the whoop-la the patrons must have been unhappy.  The paper on November 10th told us what happened.

“CHIN CHIN” DETAINED
“The storm in western Nebraska and eastern Colorado delayed the Union Pacific rain [sic] carrying the “Chin Chin” company for several hours and it did not arrive until 8 oclock. It was impossible then to have the scenery hung in time for a performance of that Dillingham musical comedy at the Broadway Sunday night. A crowd that would have filled the theater was turned away disappointed. The opening is deferred until Monday night.”

After opening on the 10th, the Denver Post reported on the 11th, in “AMUSEMENTS”:

“CHIN CHIN”
“Delayed but undaunted, “Chin Chin” thrust its musical comedy presence on an anticipating public at the Broadway Monday Night — Just before the fire. 

“Chin Chin” is a real old-fashion later-day musical comedy. It has a plot as thin as the ham in a 10-cent sandwich but that does not need bother. It shows itself only at fleeting and infrequent intervals. “Chin Chin” gives employment to a large bevy of merry, merry, chorus girls. Luxuriantly blonde leading ladies, hard working comedians, cabaret voiced tenors, nimble dancers, a quintette of saxophone players and other entertainers of the same sort. 

Stage at Denver’s Broadway Theater

“It is the duty of these people to furnish simple pleasure to that vast percentage of theatergoers who check their intelligence with their wraps and accept whatover tinkling mirth and melody is passed out to them. The offerings of the many entertainers in “Chin Chin” seemed most acceptable and were accorded more than perfunctory approbation in the way of applause. The greatest hit was scored by the Tom Browne Saxophone Clown band. “Chin Chin” will be played through the remainder of the week and it being the first girl and and music show of the season, will doubtless attract many capacity crowds such as was present at the opening. As for its merits — one will go farther and fair worse.

F. E. W.
The 11th of November 1919 was the first Armistice Day holiday. (WW I ended on 11 AM on 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918.) Denver, like most cities, was busy with various celebrations to celebrate the Armistice.  The Broadway Theater, along with the cast of “Chin Chin” celebrated by having a special Armistice Day matinee on a Tuesday.
Saturday was a particularly busy day for Walter Wills, the cast’s headliner and leading comedian. Besides an afternoon matinee and an evening performance, he was married in the morning.  The Denver Post reported the wedding

CHIN-CHIN COMEDIAN WEDS CHORUS GIRL
‘The tinseled pretenses of the footlights were abandoned for romantic reality Saturday morning, when Walter S. Wills, leading comedian with the Chin-Chin company at the Broadway, appeared at the court house with Miss Nora Seiler on his arm and asked to be united in wedlock. Magistrate W. A. Rice married them. Miss Seiler is a member of the Chin-Chin chorus.”

The Broadway Theater


The Broadway Theater was one of the most respected theaters of its time. It opened in 1890, and had a stage forty feet deep and seventy-five feet high. According to Cinema Treasures, the theater hosted everything from grand opera to musicals and high drama, lectures, concerts, vaudeville, benefits, and school pageants.
The theater was converted to a movie theater in 1935.  A few years later it was converted to a Trader Vic’s, which was a popular tavern. 
The Broadway Theater was demolished in 1956 to make way for the Mile High Center and a Wells Fargo branch building. 

Today the site looks like.

Next, Donna and the Chin Chin company go to Pueblo.

Sources: 
Denver Post (Denver, CO) November 2, 1919, Page 51 via Genealogy Bank
Denver Post (Denver, CO) November 6, 1919, Page 14 via Genealogy Bank
Denver Post (Denver, CO) November 9, 1919, Pages 45, 46, & 48 via Genealogy Bank
Denver Post (Denver, CO) November 10, 1919, Page 4 via Genealogy Bank
Denver Post (Denver, CO) November 11, 1919, Page 6 & 15 via Genealogy Bank
Denver Post (Denver, CO) November 12, 1919, Page 18 via Genealogy Bank
Denver Post (Denver, CO) November 15, 1919, Page 12 via Genealogy Bank
Cinema Treasurers – Broadway Theater 
Google Maps 

McAllister Murder – Expect Arrest Soon – Jan 19, 1925

EXPECT ARREST IN MURDER CASE SOON

The county police continued to work on the McAllister murder case today. An arrest is expected soon.

Relatives Here.
Joseph McAllister, brother of the dead than, and H. Lane, a brother-in-law, are in Savannah from Pittsburgh. They attended Mr. McAllister’s funeral yesterday.

Mr. Mcallister said he did not that his brother had been murdered until he arrived here on Saturday afternoon. Messages sent him had simply stated his brother had been found dead In his rooms. Edward L. McAllister was found murdered with a hatchet on last Tuesday.

Heard from Him.
Mr. McAllister had been away from Pittsburgh about two and one-half years, his brother, and he had been hearing from him in Savannah since last summer. His letters indicated that everything was “lovely” in Savannah, he stated when asked if hls brother had ever indicated he had enemies here.

County Administrable Wade is looking after the estate of the late Mr. McAllister.

Donna Montran joins company of “Chin Chin” – November 1919

On November 7th, 1919, Variety, mentions that Donna
Montran received a production engagement for “Chin Chin.” It must have been
extremely exciting for Donna.  Chin Chin
was a Broadway production which opened at the Globe Theater on October 20th,
1914, and ran until July 3rd, 1915 (295 performances). 
On March 5th,
1915, Victor Light Opera Company made a recording of “The Gems from Chin
Chin”.  Below is a link to that recording. 

Music courtesy of the Library of Congress.
In 1919, Chin Chin was on the road as a comedy extravaganza
on a nationwide tour.  The performance
company consisted of over 60 people, which we will later see caused its own
problems.
We can’t tell exactly when Donna joined the company,
but for simplicity, I assume she was on her way by the 7th when Varity reported her
engagement and joined the company while it was in Omaha.
Chin Chin was playing at the Brandeis Theatre in
Omaha when I believe she probably joined the company on November 7th
and 8th, 1919 with a matinee on Saturday, the 8th as
well.
The Omaha World Herald, on November 8th, in
their regular series Plays and Players, reported:

“Brandeis – ‘Chin Chin.’

Omaha World Herald – Saturday, November 8, 1919
Courtesy GenealogyBank.com 

The boys and girls who went to Chin Chin” last night had a good
time. It was the kind of a show that appeals to boys and girls. There was
plenty of downright foolishness, plenty of slap-stick comedy, plenty of lively
gingles. But if anybody expected more than that – Well anybody who did was
disappointed.

The biggest hit of the evening was the saxophone sextet, otherwise
known as Tom Brown’s clown band. It was a vaudeville “scream.” “Chin Chin,” in
fact, was more nearly a series of vaudeville acts than a comedy unit; the plot,
such as it was, was so loosely hung that it gave opportunity for almost any
sort of stunt, and stunts of most varied sort accepted the opportunity.
Walter Wills and Roy Binder were, of course, far and away the ablest
of the cast. Each held five separate and distinct parts at one or another
period of the three acts and both deserved the applause of those who care for
rough comedy.
Marian Sleeman, as the “Lady of the Lamp” in the “Chin Chin” version
of the old fairy story of Aladdi, [sic] easily outranked the other feminine voices in
the company, but Violet Tree, in the minor part of “Fan-Tan” won real
recognition by her cute sprightliness.

[Donna will later play the “Lady of the Lamp” but more on that in a later Blog.]

“Chin Chin” is playing a returning engagement  which ends tonight after a matinee and
evening performance.

New Brandeis Theatre Building (c. 1910-1920)
From the collections of the Omaha Public Library

The Brandeis Theatre was the premier theater in Omaha at the time. The seven story building was built in 1910 on Douglas street between 17th & 18th Streets. According to Nebraska Memories, it was dubbed “the most beautiful theater in America.” It first featured stage attractions and later converted to movies. The building was demolished in 1959 for a parking garage.

Next – Donna has delays on the way to Denver.

Sources: 
Omaha World Herald (Omaha, NE) November 8, 1919, Page 20 via Genealogy Bank
Omaha World Herald (Omaha, NE) November 8, 1919, Page 25 via Genealogy Bank
Nebraska Memories – Collections of the Omaha Public Library – New Brandeis Theatre Building
Cinema Treasures: Brandeis Theater

Donna Montran – 1919 – Charles Smith & Able Green

Variety – April 1919

By April of 1919, Donna had relocated from Boston, MA to New York. She and Trixie Bressler took out an ad in Variety. Trixie had, in 1918, led Max Roger’s Review at Perry’s in Brooklyn and was one of the “Four Chicks” in 1917 that traveled through the east.

Variety – Aug 1919

In August 1919, Donna found work in a vaudeville show “Bonnets” by Charles Smith and Abel Green. Abel Green also worked as a cub reporter for Variety in 1919. Abel continued with Variety for many years and became the editor in 1935. He was the editor of Variety until his death in 1973.  Able was one of the great driving forces of Variety for nearly 40 years.

According to Sime’s Site, there are a myriad of stories about Abel Green, about how he knew everybody who was anyone in show business.  It is certain that he knew Donna from his early days when he was only 19 years old.

Charles Smith and Donna were probably “very close.”  They show up living in the same household in the 1920 census.  The 1920 census shows Sarah (Blackhurst) Barber as head of household living with granddaughter Madonna Montram [sic] and Charles Smith as a “Boarder.” You may notice that Madonna is reported to be only 23 years old when she is actually 27. This is the first of many times we see her age progression slow down.

US Census 1920 – Manhattan District
Variety – 15 Sep 1919

From Variety we know that she is playing at the Colonial Theater in Lancaster on September 15th.  However, Variety doesn’t tell us what show she was in.  Presumably, it was still “Bonnets” but her next show will be a huge break for her.

The Colonial Theater was quite new at the time Donna played there.

The Boyd Theater (formerly the Colonial) circa 1962 prior to closure in the mid-1960s

According to Cinema Treasures, The Colonial Theatre, which seated 1,250 people, was open in 1914. It was later acquired by Boyd Theatres and was renamed the Boyd Theatre.

Of interest, Abel Green shows up on a 1943 film reel regarding “Show Business at War.” Abel is the businessman clearly leading a group of people in an office setting.  Thanks to nicoley132 for posting the video to YouTube

For Further Research:

Lancaster newspaper for 15 Sep 1919 – See what is playing at the Colonial Theater.

Abel Green wrote several books including Inside Stuff on Popular Songs (1927), Show Biz, From Vaude to Video (1951), and The Spice of Variety (1952).  It will be interesting to research them and see if any of them have material on Donna, Charles Smith, or “Bonnets.”

Clifford and Luella (Bean) Brown

My mother and I received the results of our 23 & Me autosomal testing.  My mother’s closest match, according to 23 & Me, is a second-third cousin with whom she shares 2.30%, 11 segments.  I contacted the individual. We quickly determined that our common ancestors were Henry & Marion (Sanford) Brown and that our great-grandfathers were brothers.  Arthur and Clifford Brown.  It was very interesting to learn that my grandfather’s birth name was the same first name as her great-grandfather. Also, one of her g-grandfather’s children was named William Sanford Brown, clearly honoring Marion Sanford Brown’s family. It was also interesting to note that both brothers homesteaded land in Kidder County, North Dakota about the same time.  My g-grandfather left North Dakota and returned to Minnesota about 1917.  It appears that her g-grand father left North Dakota and returned to Minnesota between 1935 and 1940.  He then moved out to Eugene Oregon, about 1949, and remained there until his death in 1958.  She also sent a wonderful newspaper clipping from 1954 where her great-grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Clifford and Luella Brown with their 8 children
Date unknown (before 1954)

She also sent a wonderful photo of the family. I’ve extracted their faces and will be applying them to my Brown/Montran family tree on Ancestry.

It was great to add additional information regarding this line of Browns.