Donna Montran & “Chin Chin” at the Empire Theatre, Saskatoon, SK

Donna Montran & “Chin Chin” at the Empire Theatre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on January 12th thru 14th, 1920

Vaudeville – Chin Chin – Donna Montran

It was a hectic week before. The “Chin Chin” company played in Medicine Hat on the 5th and 6th, in Lethbridge on the 7th, and Calgary the 8th through the 10th.  After seven days of shows in three cities, I hope the cast received the 11th off, because the crew would do three days at the Empire Theatre in Saskatoon[i] before continuing on to another three days (the 15th thru the 17th) in Regina. Saskatoon was bitter cold that week.  When the cast arrived on the 12th the high temperature for that day was a balmy 28 degrees Fahrenheit. That night the temperature dropped to two degrees and continued to drop to five degrees below the night of the 13th. When the cast left on the morning of the 15th, the temperature was still below zero.[ii]

The first newspaper advertising I’ve found was 9 days before the show. On January 3rd, 1920, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, on page 10, column 3, the last article reported that the “Dreams of Arabian Nights Realized in ‘Chin Chin.’”

DREAMS OF ARABIAN NIGHTS
      REALIZED IN “CHIN CHIN”

Star-Phoenix – Jan 3, 1920

Coming to the Empire theatre on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 12, 13 and 14, is Charles Dillingham’s “Chin Chin” the musical comedy which is one of those tales of love and wishing common to the Arabian Nights. All impossibilities are crowded into it, jumbled together like the figures in a dream, and in the end it resolves itself into a vehicle for the display of the clever grotesqueries of the two clever “turn” artist, Walter Wills and Roy Binder. Mr. Binder gives us a rapid succession Chin Hop Low, the widow, a Coolie, and the Ring Master, lightning changes of mood, manner and get-up that provoke the audience to mirth. No more diverting and entertaining “comics” have come this way for many seasons.

In the same paper, on page 3, was a display ad for the coming show. On the 5th was another display ad and on the 7th was another text story about “CHIN CHIN” COMING. The 10th and the 12th had similar articles and displays.

Reviews

On the 13th, the day after the show’s opening, both the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Saskatoon Star Phoenix had articles that included callouts about Donna.

The Daily Star wrote, “Outstand among the other principals were Donna Montran as the goddess of the lamp, Neva Larry….”

The Star Phoenix wrote, “Donna Montran has a nice voice and puts two very pretty songs across to advantage. Star Dunham.…”

Theater

Empire Hotel & Theatre c. 1918.

The Empire Theatre opened in 1910 as a live stage venue. It was built as an addition to the existing Empire Hotel. In 1914, the theatre was equipped with screen films, keeping it current. In 1930, the theater was sold, converted to full-time motion pictures, and renamed the Victory Theatre.[iii]

Specifications for the Empire Theatre

Seating Capacity: 1,154 Total — 442 on the floor, 276 in the balcony, 400 in the gallery, and 36 in boxes.[iv]

Proscenium opening: 27×32 ft
Front to back wall: 22 ft

Nearby info

Map of Saskatoon from “Vaudeville Trails” (c) 1919 by Herbert Lloyd

Nearby, the Elite Café (#2 on map), which was a block from the theatre, advertised that they catered to performers. About two blocks away was the Hub Café (#1 on map) which touted Yankee Coffee and that “All the Acts Ate Here Last Week.” The Canadian National Railway station was about two blocks from the venue and the Canadian Pacific Railway station was another block or so further.[v]

What happened to theater

During the 1960s the brick exterior was clad in marble. Today, the theatre building is part of “The Lighthouse,” which provides long-term housing for 68 people.[vi]

Empire Hotel & Theatre building is now the Dubé Lighthouse

Endnotes

[i] I learned that Donna played Saskatoon last January and wrote about that in a “Donna in the News” post.

[ii] Internet:  Government of Canada Environment and natural resourcesWeather, Climate and HazardPast weather and climateHistorical Data for Saskatoon, SK in January 1920.

[iii] Internet: Cinema Treasures – Victory Theatre, 221 20th Street East, Saskatoon, SK S6V 1K7. cinematreasures.org/theaters/29392 accessed 14 May 2019.

[iv] Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide – Volume XVII – 1913-1914. (via Google Books)

[v] Vaudeville Trails – Thru the West – © 1919 by Herbert Lloyd, (AKA: Herbert Lloyd’s Vaudeville Guide) pages 179 and 180

[vi] Internet: The Lighthouse Supported Living – The History of The Lighthouse. https://www.lighthousesaskatoon.org/about/history/  – Accessed 14 May 2019.

Donna in the News – “Chin Chin” is Well Liked… in Saskatoon

“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 find a new venue for my grandmothers exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s.

This week two articles from two newspapers in Saskatoon.

  • Saskatoon Daily Star (Saskatoon, Canada) dated January 13, 1920.
  • Star Phoenix (Saskatoon, Canada) dated January 13, 1920.

“Chin Chin” in Saskatoon – January 1920

I have long known that Donna and the cast of “Chin Chin” played in Calgary on January 8th through the 10th and in Regina on January 15th through the 17th.  I suspected that the show played in Saskatoon, SK, in between the two shows but had no evidence of it. Sure enough, newly digitized newspaper pages at Newspapers.Com showed two callouts for Donna among some 18 articles and advertisements for “Chin Chin” playing in Saskatoon on January 12, 13, and 14.

On January 13th, the Daily Star wrote, “Outstand among the other principals were Donna Montran as the goddess of the lamp, Neva Larry….”

Also, on January 13th, the Star Phoenix wrote, “Donna Montran has a nice voice and puts two very pretty songs across to advantage. Star Dunham.…”

New information added to the Madonna Montran career list:

Jan 12-14, 1920 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada – Empire Theatre (Newspapers.com)

 

“Chin-Chin” – Regina Theatre – Regina, Saskatchewan – April 15-17, 1920

Donna Montran
Chin-Chin
Vaudeville

We know that Chin-Chin played in Calgary, Alberta on January 8th through the 10th, but don’t know where it played on the 11th thru the 14th.  Possibly Saskatoon, they probably played in another city or two as well on their way to Regina.

A full twelve days before opening in Regina the first advertising began for “Chin-Chin.”

“CHIN-CHIN” HAS MELODIOUS AND ARTISTIC SETTINGS

Melodious, artistic and diverting is “Chin Chin,” scheduled for the Regina theatre for three days, commencing Thursday, January 15. To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are entrusted the principal parts, supported by a company of clever comedians and a beautiful chorus. In their songs “The Chinese Honeymoon, “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue” and “Temple Bells,” the two clever comedians, Wills and Binder, make a decided bit and are always recalled again and again. In this charming fantasy with a Chinese atmosphere there are also a score of other songs that are the fascinating, whistling kind, and several unique dances that carry the snappy comedy along delightfully.

On January 9th, there was a standard “to the General Public” announcement similar to many of the “Chin-Chin” shows. On the 10th was a “What the Press Agents Say” article plus the first regular advertisements.

On January 14th, the day before the show, the Regina “Leader-Post” newspaper had a very interesting article containing background information regarding the Arabian Nights tales.

CHIN CHIN’ FANTASY
COMEDY KNOCKS’EM
ALL COLD AT REGINA

Charles Dillingham’s only company of “Chin Chin,” which comes to the Regina theatre tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, with a matinee on the latter day, with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the leading roles is founded upon the most popular tale in the immortall eastern Saga book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Aladdin or the Wonderful Lamp.” In fact it is frankly called a modern Aladdin, in which the two drolls disport themselves as a couple of Chinamen. Chin Hop Lo and Chin Chop Hi. Outside of the Holy Bible there is perhaps existant no more universally popular book than this same Arabian Nights, one of the best known English versions of which, is by the late John Payne, well known to scholars for his powers in English Verse. His translation of the poems of Mas­ter Francois Villon remain a monu­ment to his genius.

The wonderful collection of Mos­lem folklore translated into every language known to civilization is
read with eagerness by each successive generation, but nowhere are the tales read or listened to with greater delight than in the Arabian desert itself, where travelers record as a common sight, Sheiks and white-beards sitting gravely in their places at evening around the camp fire, women and children motionless as silhouettes outside the ring, all breathless with attention as they drink in the words with eyes and mouths as well as ears. while the Rawi or reciter. to whose wit the task of supplying details is left, entertains the groups with picturesque and oriental effect.

In spite of the fact that Thomas Carlye called the Arabian Nights a pack of downright lies, it is incontrovertible that the general tone of The Nights is exceptionally high and pure and devotional fervor often rises to the boiling point of fanaticism. They have pathos, sweet, deep, and genuine; tender, simple and true. They depict life as strong and splendid, though everywhere flavored with that unaffected pessimism and constitutional melancholy which strikes its deepest root under the brightest skies.

The whole of the stories are dominated everywhere by that marvelous oriental fancy wherein the spiritual and the supernatural are so common as the material and natural

“Chin-Chin” continued east to play the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on January 19-24.

Once again, Donna played “The Goddess of the Lamp” in “Chin-Chin.” She was not mentioned by name in any of the Regina newspaper articles that I found, however, her role in the production was mentioned.

Regina Theater

Regina Theatre, Regina, SK (ca 1939)

The Regina Theatre was built in 1909 and opened on February 7, 1910. Some references indicate it a capacity of 870 seats[i], but according to the “Cahn-Leighton Theater Guide[ii] for 1913-1914” it had a seating capacity of 809.  The theatre closed in 1929 after a fire and was demolished in 1939.[iii]

Theater Statistics

Seating Capacity: 809 Total
Lower Floor: 445
Balcony:         258
Gallery:          60
Boxes:            46

Proscenium opening was 30×20
Footlights to back wall: 28ft
Between the sidewalls: 55 ft
Apron: 3 ft
Rigging Loft: 34 feet
Fly Gallery: 17 feet

There were 9 dressing rooms
Barney Groves was the manager

Further Research:

Determine the activities of the Chin-Chin cast immediately before and immediately after playing at the Regina Theatre.

Article Sources:

The Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) · Sat, Jan 3, 1920 · Page 17 via Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/image/495428769

The Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) · Sat, Jan 3, 1920 · Page 17 via Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/image/495430011


Endnotes:

[i] Internet: Wikipedia – Regina Theatre (Saskatchewan) – Wikipedia, et al – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regina_Theatre_(Saskatchewan)

[ii] Source: The Cahn-Leighton official theatrical guide. (1913). New York, N.Y: Publication Office, New Amsterdam Theatre Building.

[iii] See note i above.

“Chin Chin” in Regina, January 15, 1920

Donna In the News
Montran Monday
 

“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 find a new venue of my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s.

 Article

I discovered several articles in the “Leader-Post” (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) that are newly available at Newspapers.com. The articles showed that “Chin Chin” played at the Regina Theatre for 3 days starting January 15, 1920. Because of those newly available online articles, I was able to add another venue for Donna’s “Chin Chin” tour.

New information added to her career list:

Jan 15-17, 1920 – Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada – Regina Theater

Chin-Chin starts the new year at the Empire Theatre, Edmonton

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Empire Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 1 – 3 January 1920

 Vaudeville/Chin-Chin

We know Donna and “Chin-Chin” played at the Avenue Theater in Vancouver for three days beginning Christmas Day. There are still four days that we don’t know where the company was and it is unlikely that they would travel the 750 miles between Vancouver and Edmonton with no stops between. However, I was able to find “Chin-Chin” at the Empire Theater in Edmonton starting New Year’s Day.

Article transcription:

Edmonton Journal, Thu, Jan 1, 1920, Page 9.

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.


CLEVER FANTASY
     “CHIN CHIN” HAS
           MANY BIG SCENES

Musical Comedy at Empire
Says Farewell
Today

Do you remember when you were just a tiny chap, how you would read the “Thousand and One Nights,” or the wonderful adventures of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and “Sinbad, the Sailor,” and all the rest of those fasci­nating characters, and how from out of them all emerged “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp’* as the prime adven­ture of them all? And now Aladdin—a very modern Aladdin—very much in love with on American girl, appears in Charles Dillingham’s “Chin Chin,” which closes its engagement at the Em­pire theatre with matinee and evening performances today. In this musical concoction, everything comes Aladdin’s way upon wishing and rubbing the won­derful lamp, thereby causing many strange and wonderful situations.

Walter Wills and Roy Binder, as the two slaves of the lamp, keep the audience in constant laughter through seven scenes and the three acts that cover one hundred and fifty minutes of the most enjoyable fun.

Among the many features in this gigantic show are also the Teddy Bear Dance, Tom Brown’s Clown Saxophone Band, a real circus tent with an “honest-to-goodness” big white circus horse circling around the ring, while Mlle. Falloffski performs the most daring and screamingly funny bareback stunts.

Empire Theatre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914 indicates there were three theatres in Edmonton in 1913. All three were managed by W. B. Sherman. Bert Russell was the Res. Manager at the three theaters also. The theaters were the 1700 customer Sherman Theatre, the 1200 customer Empire Theatre, and the 900 customer Lyceum Theatre. Of the three, the Empire had the smallest stage, only 27×27 and 25 feet front to the back wall.[i]

History of Theater

Empire Theatre ca. 1919. Photo from the Glenbow Archives via LostYEG
(The Country Cousin was released in November, 1919.)

There were three different Empire Theatres in Edmonton.

The first Empire opened in 1906 at McDougal Avenue & Cristabelle Street (100th Street and 101st A Avenue. Three years later the building was abandoned and later demolished.

The second Empire was built as the Edmonton Opera House on 103rd Street north of Jasper and changed its name to The Empire about 1909. This was the theater that “Chin-Chin” played at in January 1920.

A third Empire was built in 1920 and opened in late December 1920.

Further Research

Learn the final disposition of the (second) Empire Theatre

Endnotes & Sources

[i] The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914; Page 695

Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) Jan 1, 1920, Page 9 via Newspapers.com.

Today’s History Lesson – Pantages Vaudeville Theatre – Connect to Edmonton (Powered by Yeg Tel)