“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:
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
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
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.
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]
“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.
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
Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Empire Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 1 – 3 January 1920
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.
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
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
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.
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.
It is always great when I can add a new venue to Donna’s show list and today’s collection item did just that. It was another Capitol Theater clipping, but this time from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Kitchener is about 110km (70 miles) west of Toronto. Luckily, Donna wrote the dates of her playing there next to the clippings – June 21, 22, 23. The silent movie “Beverly of Graustark” is playing at the same time which dates the show in 1926.
AT THE CAPITOL
The Revue Different as presented by The Darling and Clark Metropolitan Revue is one of the most pleasing acts seen in Kitchener in some time. Miss Darling puts over her songs in a wonderful manner and her costumes are gorgeous. Mr. Clark is a comedian of no mean ability, and the dancing artists and the whistling soloist were the recipients of rounds of applause last evening. All in all it can trustfully be called a “bang up” show.
I have cropped, edited, and sized the photo for the web.
The venue is the Capitol Theater. One of the articles confirms it is Kitchener.
The show is the “Darling and Clark – Metropolitan Revue” staring [Donna] Darling and [Sammy] Clark.
Also on bill
Movie: “Beverly of Graustark” starring Marion Davies & Antonio Moreno also played.
According to IMDB, “Beverly of Graustark” was released in April 1926[i] indicating that the show occurred after that.
Donna & Sammy played at the Capitol Theater, Kitchener, Ontario on June 21, 22, 23, 1926.