Donna Darling Collection – Part 16

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

(Continued from Part 15)

Bathing Girl Is Kidnaped or Just Kidding

Police Join in a Search, But Press Agent Yarn Theory Advanced

newspaper clipping: Bathing Girl Is Kidnaped or Just KiddingAlthough a number of stories including a press agent version were afloat concerning a reported kidnapng Sunday night of Helen Dawn, 16-year-old prize beauty of the “Bathing Beauties,” now playing at a Peoria theater, (see ads) police were trying to locate the girl and arrest her alleged kidnapers Monday.

According to reports made police Miss Dawn with Betty Bryant and Donna Darling, companions in the same troupe, came out of the rear of the theater shortly after 10 o’clock, Miss Dawn and Miss Bryant in the lead. As they turned the alley at Jefferson avenue a short stocky built man leaped from the side of a closed Oakland or Hudson car and seized Miss Dawn by the arm. Despite her screams he dragged her to the side of the car and another man inside helped him get the girl into the car. The man who grabbed her leaped into the car and the driver seated alone in the front seat drove away going out Jefferson avenue.

The screams of the girl attracted a large crowd, some of whom picked up several articles and some money which Miss Dawn dropped when she was seized by the man.

“Oh, they got the one with all the diamonds,” one of Miss Dawn’s companions is reported to have said during the “kidnaping,” according to an interested spectator. All press agents refuse to be interviewed about the incident.

Fitz Hugh, 224 North Jefferson avenue, who with a companion, was in a car nearby, started in pursuit of the “kidnaper’s” car but lost sight of it on Jefferson avenue. Police were scattered in riot cars in all directions and Detectives Boyser and Welty were dispatched out the Galena road in search of the girl.

According to Miss Byrant [sic] and Miss Darling, who were eye witnesses Miss Dawn had no time to struggle with her assailant.

“The man grabbed her and had her inside the car so quickly that neither of us could interfere,” Miss Bryant said. Both girls gave the same account of the “kidnaping” to police who quizzed them Monday.

The girls said the car in which Miss Dawn was taken away in was an Oakland or a Hudson car. They said Miss Dawn had joined the troupe at Los Angeles and that at none of the cities they had visited did Miss Dawn make any acquaintances who might injure her.

Annoyed at Decatur.

Clipping "Annoyed at Decatur"“The only place where anything happened was at Decatur, Ill., where Miss Dawn was persistently followed by some man who wanted to marry her,” Miss Darling. said. “This man followed her wherever she went and annoyed her frequently. I did not recognize him as the man responsible for the trouble which we met with in this city.”

Miss Dawn carried valuable jewelry and a quantity of costly diamonds on her person. She had these when seized on the street Sunday night. She was attired in a brown fur coat, black satin turbin [sic] hat, black dress and wore white cuffs.

She is especially attractive (and that’s not from the press agent either) and is a decided brunette. She is 16 years old, five feet three inches in height, and weighs 130 pounds.

What happened to Helen?  Was Donna part of a publicity stunt?  Another article clipping explains what happened.

‘Kidnaping’ Proves Just a Marriage

clipping: "Kidnapping" proves Just a MarriageThe life of a bathing beauty is not all water and swimming suits. For Helen Dawn, erstwhile member of a bathing girl troupe playing a local theater life today is made up of orange blossoms and bridal, traveling suits.

Helen, it now develops, after theatrical authorities have carried out a quiet search and investigation on their own part, was kidnaped by her lover, known only as ”Harry,” last Sunday night, just, as she with other girls was leaving the theater. A publicity stunt was suspected at first, but the continued absence of the girl brought home the serious aspect of the event.

Last, night a telegram from Helen Dawn, from Chicago, explained that she had gone to Chicago, to marry “Harry,’ that she was happy, and that impetuous “Harry” had adopted the “kidnaping” stunt as a means of breaking her contract.

They were going east for their honeymoon, the telegram stated.

Donna’s week in Peoria was exciting. Great fun selling tickets for the Legion and an apparent kidnaping right in front of her. (Although, it is possible that she was in on the marriage.)

Apollo Theater

Photo of the Apollo Theater, Peoria, IL
Apollo Theater, Peoria, IL – Photo courtesy “Granola” via Cinema Treasurers.

The Apollo opened in 1914 could seat over 800 in its auditorium, The theater closed in 1958. In 1988 the Apollo was purchased and lovingly restored to its original appearance. Since 2001, it has housed the Apollo International Film Group, which screens foreign, classic and independent movies in an early 20th century setting. Today it is known as the Apollo Fine Arts and Entertainment Center.

Conclusion

I learned that Donna played at the Apollo in Peoria, IL the week 1 February 1925, which is a new venue for Donna.  I also learned the cast names for her Bathing Beauties Revue.

Actions

I’d like to learn more about the careers of the other cast members. What was Christie Comedies. Did any of the cast become big names in show business? The people for me to research include:

  • Betty Bryant – Miss America from Ziegfeld’s
  • Mildred O’Brian – From Sennett’s
  • Clarice Allyn – Christie Comedies
  • Alyce Louyse – Christie Comedies
  • Rose Lasgo – Acrobatic Dancing
  • Florence Rielliso – Spectacular Dancing
  • [Murray] Earle – Christie Comedies
  • [Al] Ross – Christie Comedies
  • Helen Dawn – Hollywood Society Girl

Donna – A “Cabaret Girl” in Panama.

We know that Grandpa Dick (Clifford/Richard Brown/Durand) was in the Army in the late 1920s and early 1930s and was stationed in Panama where he and Donna met. We don’t know exactly when Donna and her husband Sammy Amsterdam went to Panama, but we do know they left Panama and headed for the States in April of 1930. We are also fairly certain that they were estranged at the time. Donna and her three-year-old son, Russell, indicate their address was her mother’s in Detroit, while Sammy indicated that his address was his mother’s address in Brooklyn[i]. Family oral history has long held that Dick and Donna met in Panama and that Sammy and Donna split up because of Dick.
Donna Montran Darling
on Right
While I was researching Dick’s activity in Panama I encountered An American Legacy in Panama: a brief history of the Department of Defense installations and properties, the former Panama Canal Zone, Republic of Panama by Suzanne P Johnson; United States; Department of Defense; Legacy Resources Management Program; U.S. Army Garrison (Panama)[ii]. In An American Legacy… there is a photo of two “Cabaret Girls,” one of whom looks just like Donna. I talked with Russell and he agrees, it looks like Donna to him. The photo is also from the correct time and place that Donna would have been in Panama, and finally, it shows here in a bathing suit, something that Donna started being photographed in when she was eighteen. She also starred in several Bathing Suit Revues over the ensuing years (See Donna Montran).  
Family oral history also says that when Dick saw Donna in Panama, he told an army buddy that he was, “going to marry that girl.” Dick and Donna never married but they did have a child in January 1932. In any event, I consider this another photo of Donna. When I have a chance to visit the National Archives, I’ll do some more searching and see what additional information they may have about the “Cabaret Girls” of Panama

[i] Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Original data – Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, R), iOS Application, http://www.iOS Application, Year: 1930; Arrival: , ; Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll: T715_4710; Line: 1; List number:.
[ii] University of Florida Digital Collections; http::///uffdca.uflL.edu/i/AA00022175/00001

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