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 

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

More about Donna Montran from Genealogy Bank

Miss Donna Montran
Boston Journal
December 12, 1916
Page – 4 

As I mentioned before there are 20 items in the Genealogy Bank regarding “Donna Montran.” After her, now famous, airplane ride she applied to represent Boston at  New York’s Crystal Palace Preparedness Bazaar.  It is amazing that in those days, the newspapers printed the names and addresses of all the applicants.  Imagine what would happen today if a newspaper published the home addresses of 49 contestants for a beauty contest. Wow.  Anyway, thanks to the policies of the time, we now know that in December if 1916, Donna was living at 64 Bennett in Brighton (Boston), MA. The house at that address today was built in 1920, so we don’t know what 64 Bennett was like back in 1916.  It is interesting to note that there were two Holdsworth girls who also applied to represent Boston.  Holdsworth was the name of one of Donna’s mother’s husbands — I wonder if there is a relationship.

By the way, Preparedness Bazaar referred to actions to prepare the United States to enter into World War I, which the US Didn’t do until the following year.

Donna doesn’t show up in the Genealogy Bank papers again until 1919 when she was in the play “Chin Chin” where she played at the Pinney Theater (Demolished) in Boise, Idaho where she received accolades for her role as the “good fairy”. She continued that role at the Powers Theater in Grand Rapids, and the Saginaw Auditorium in February, 1920.
Donna played at the Garden in Baltimore in March 1921
Donna then began a run of “The California Bathing Beauties” with Donna Montran. In September and October of 1920, she played the Garden in Baltimore, the Cosmos in Washington, DC, and the Capitol Theatre in Wilkes-Barre, PA. 

In the spring of 1921 she played at the State Theater in Trenton, NJ, again at both the Cosmos in Washington, DC and the Garden in Baltimore. 
The Genealogy Bank newspaper articles added a substantial number of new and exciting details to our understanding of Donna’s life.