Donna at the Henderson Theater, Coney Island

Henderson’s Theater, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York – Week of 6 September 1920. 

We know that Donna had finished a 5-week showing at B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater on August 29th. We know she performed in that show because she was called out by name, Donna Montran, in one of the ads and in a promotion in the New York Clipper. I believe that after five weeks of solid shows, Donna took off a week before she began again at a new theater.

“California Bathing Girls” opened at Henderson’s Theater in Coney Island on September 6th for one week. Advertising included a short article and a small ad.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle – September 5, 1920

Ad for Henderson's Theater showing California Bathing Girls.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), Sep 5, 1920 – Page 31 – Henderson’t Theater Ad.

At the Seaside Amusement Places
– – –
Henderson’s Theater.

At Henderson’s Theater a holiday week bill will be headed by Loney Haskell, character comedian, in a monologue. “Dream Stars,” a mixture of tunes and fun, will share the headline honors. Harry Murray heads the cast and is assisted b y Gladys Joye, Bernice La Rue and Julie Steger. Other acts on the bill are the Bathing Girls, Harry and Anna Seymour, Ed Furman and Bill Nash, Sully and Mack, Ed Hill in Hattie’s Creation”: Guy J. Samuel and Lily Leonhard and the Thames Brothers complete the bill.

Variety – September 10, 1920 – Page 5, Vaudeville – Column 4.

Luckily, an article in Variety on September 10, confirmed it was Donna Montran in the Henderson’s production. It is confusing because the article says “Now” and she was there “Now September 10th” however, the text says July 30th and then she was apparently between gigs. In any event, the article shows a photo of Donna sitting wearing a really beautiful hat and confirms that it was her in the California Bathing Girls at Henderson’s Coney Island.

The Variety article indicates that, “Donna Montran has an undeniable million dollar smile, oodles of personality and an elastic voice that hits the high registers smoothly and effectively – would make ideal $4 musical comedy stuff.” (I believe that “$4 musical comedy” refers to the price of a Victrola record.)

Remember that Donna played from July 26th until August 29th at the B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater. Sometimes that show was called “Bathing Girls,” and sometimes it was called “California Bathing Girls.” However, at the same time (From August 9th until August 21st) there was another show, “Original California Bathing Girls,” playing in Philadelphia. So the question arises, was this another show or did Donna and the troupe make the 1-1/2 to 2-hour commute to Philadelphia every day. I don’t know. Certainly, it is possible.  The newspaper articles I have found for the Broadway Theater engagement are clear; Donna played it.  The Philadelphia engagement is not clear as it never identifies the bathing girls by name.

Again, documents show that Donna played at Henderson’s Theater in Coney Island and that show was California Bathing Girls. I think more research will be needed to determine if Donna played in two shows simultaneously.

Further Research

  • Try to find further evidence if Donna played in the Original California Bathing Girls in Philadelphia from 9 until 21 August 1920 to resolve the conflict

Sources

  1. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Sun, Sep 5, 1920 · Page 31 – Henderson’s Theater – Via Newspapers.Com http://www.newspapers.com/image/60005902
  2. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Sun, Sep 5, 1920 · Page 30 – Via Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/image/60005892
  3. Variety – September 10, 1920 – Page 5, Vaudeville – Column 4 (bottom) – Donna Montran

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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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Albany Awakens to the Benefits of Exploitation

Donna in Albany, NY, at the Clinton Theater – Sep 20-26, 1920

Albany Awakens to the Benefits of Exploitation

I was watching the live stream from RootsTech Friday.  Lisa Louise Cooke gave an awesome presentation on “Proven Methodology for Using Google for Genealogy.” I use Google all the time and use many advanced techniques, but Lisa’s talk reminded me of some ways to use Google I haven’t used in ages, and should.
I went back to my current research topic, my grandmother’s vaudeville career. Based upon Lisa’s suggestions, I thought about Donna’s 1920 show,  “The California Bathing Girls in a Beach Promenade.” I searched using both phrases and the year of interest, 1920. Also, I eliminated my blog site from the results Googling this:
“California Bathing Girls” “beach promenade” 1920
-site:http://blog.dtaylorgenealogy.com
Amazingly, the search returned 5 results. Two of the results I had seen before. One was to a missing/parked domain. But two of them went to magazines that referenced Donna’s show. One of the articles was an absolute gem in the “Motion Picture News” about how Albany, NY was awakening to a multi-focused advertising campaign.[i] The movie “Up in Mary’s Attic” was the foundation of the advertising, which promoted the “California Bathing Girls.”  The ‘Girls were used to promote going to California. And a great way to get to California and see the girls was to enlist in the Army. They had large displays of the Attic with silhouettes of the girls in bathing suits, motor cycles cruising the streets advertising both the movie and joining the Army. Last, but not least, they used aeroplanes to drop advertisements of the show over the city. Say what?  Yes, the Army dropped flyers about the movie, the girls, and joining the Army. With Donna’s experience back in 1915 dropping flyers about “Birth of a Nation,” I wonder if she was involved with the idea of using air-drops as a means of advertising.  I would like to think she was.
Article: Albany Awakens to the Benefits of Exploitation - Not in Copyright.
Motion Picture News, October 2, 1920, Page 2601
Finally, I set up a Google Alert of that query to learn if anything new is added to the Internet in the future. Thanks again to Lisa Louise Cooke and RootsTech for reminding me of ways to better utilize Google and find genealogical gems. (pun intended).

Sources:

[i] Motion Picture News (Aug-Oct 1920)
Volume 22.2; October 2, 1920, Page 2601; Publisher Motion Picture News, Inc.; The Library of Congress has determined that this item is not in copyright.
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturenew222unse
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Donna at Pacy’s Garden Theatre – September 13-17, 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 earlier in the month. 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 milk shakes and hot dogs. The Market closed in 1990.[iii]

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

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