For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at two pages from the Donna Darling Collection[i]. On the pages were eight photos that I’ll look at and hopefully identify during this article.
The first photo is an easy one. It is me, from the summer when I was turning one. Sadly, the person with me was cut out. It was probably my grandmother Donna. My stepfather cut Donna out of many photos. In 1951, I had the surname of “Larson” as my mother had married a Larson, and using the same surname as a stepfather was common in those days as it made things easier.
Russell Kees, Age 1
This is clearly my uncle Russell Kees, probably when he probably about one. He is clearly standing, but he looks like he needs the chair’s aid to do so. Russell was born in August 1927, so this photo appears to be from the summer of 1928.
Next is a photo of Gypsie, Donna’s Pekinese, as a puppy of 5 weeks. With her is a littermate. We’ve seen Donna and Gypsie before. When Donna and her show were in Canada, having pictures taken while scantily clad in the snow, Donna had Gypsie with her. (See the Donna Darling Collection Part 9[ii].)
Donna & Gypsie
We also see Donna holding Gypsie in what appears to be a beach on a cold day. Donna is wearing a stylish hat and coat.
Donna & Friend
In this photo, Donna is with an unknown woman. I’ve seen this woman in enough pictures that I’m sure she is a regular in Donna’s show. Donna was always keen to keep other people’s names out of her acts, so determining who this is for sure may be difficult. For now, I’ll call her “Woman Alpha.”
Friends of Donna
The next photo is of Woman Alpha with a man. For the sake of keeping track of them, I’m going to call him Man Alpha and the two of them Couple Alpha. I suspect this is probably a ferry.
Donna, Sammy, and Friends
Next is a photo of four people in swimsuits. Sammy is on the left; Donna is on the right. I’m confident the other woman is “Woman Bravo.” As such, I’m going to call the man with her “Man Bravo” and the two of them “Couple Bravo.”
Donna, Sammy, and the Gang (c. 1926)
This group of six includes an unknown young man, Donna “Darling,? “Man Bravo,” Sammy Clark, “Woman Bravo,” and a final unidentified man in a shirt, tie, suit, and hat.
I suspect that Couple Alpha and Couple Bravo are the same couple, but I can’t tell for sure. I’ll be looking for more evidence regarding their identification in future research.
Besides this blog post, I’ve added metadata of this information to the photo images using Vivid Restore. More about that in a later blog.
Over the past few months, I’ve begun to improve my skills in photo identification. Clearly, there are two couples that should be identified. Are they the same couple? I’ll try to do so in the coming months.
[i] The originals images were: DSCN1473 (original).tiff, DSCN1523 (original).tiff, and SCAN0188 (original).tiff. Additionally, I have a tiff of each of these photos.
[ii] I didn’t learn that “the Peke” was actually Gypsie, the Pekinese dog until much later.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I looked at several clippings from the same page of the Donna Darling Collection. Two of them relate to the 23rd Street Theater, One to the 125th Street theater and three mini-clippings that seem unrelated.
DONNA DARLING and CO. (2) Songs and Dances 22 Mins.; Full Stage (Special Hanging) 23rd St.
Donna Darling is a blond miss of fair voice supported by two male dancers in a neatly devised offering enhanced by colorful hangings.
The opening in “one” before a gold and black drop includes “Tell Me Pretty Maiden” and Silver Lining,” followed by a Pat Rooney impersonation by one of the boys. The parting of the curtains discloses attractive full stage hangings following the gold and black color scheme, the featured member appearing in a crinoline gown, for bits of old-fashioned numbers, including piano playing.
The turn drags at the point, especially with the first old-time songs. The boys return in Colonial costumes for a minuet by the trio, followed by a soft shoe and jazz stepping by the male team. Miss Darling then offers a light operatic number followed by a solo stepping hit by one of the boys and a triple tin soldier and doll specialty. A wedding number with one of the chaps as the minister tops off the turn.
The act is a flash for the three-a-day. At times chances for the bigger houses are displayed. The male dancers display ability with Miss Darling, securing fair returns vocally. The turn is running over time at present. With some pruning should improve materially.
The next clipping is an encapsulation of the entire show. There were seven vaudeville acts
The first hall bill….
… Donna Darling and Co. (New Acts) were the proper kind of a flash for the closing position, holding the audience and securing applause returns.
There was nothing in either article that suggested where the 23RD St. theater is nor when the show played. At the bottom of the scrapbook page was a small ad for F.F.Proctor’s. It shows that the 23rd St. theater is near 6th Ave. It also shows that Donna Darling & Co. was at the 125th St. Theater between Park and Lexington.
I was a bit confused, because of the differences between the 23rd St. and 125th St. theaters, but from the ads I knew they were New York. Also, Donna Darling & Co. was a 1922 production.
I began searching Newspapers.Com and quickly found the identical ad, in “The Evening World” (New York, New York) · Fri, May 26, 1922 · Page 26, which showed her playing at the 125th St Theater. This ad is really significant. Family oral history says that once upon a time, Donna was proposed to by Bert Lahr, later famous for his role as the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” This ad, suggests that Donna and Bert Lahr at least knew each other as they played at the same theater at the same time.
Then, using Elephind, I found, on the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection (UIUC), The New York Clipper which on May 24, 1922, page 21, reported that Dona [sic] Darling Co. played at 23rd St, the first half of the week of May 22nd . The Clipper also reported that Donna played at B. F. Keith Vaudeville in Jersey City the first half of the following week (May 29th thru 31st).
The New York Clipper, on May 31, 1922, page 11, reported that Donna Darling and Company played at 125th Street theater the last half of the week (June 1, 2, & 3) at Proctor’s 125th Street. That issue had a nice write-up saying:
Donna Darling and Company had a neat offering. Miss Darling is dainty in looks, manners and voice and in her routine of songs showed herself thoroughly conversant. In the “My Hero” number she evidently lacked confidence but regained her composure in short order for the rest of the act. In old fashioned crinoline costume, she sang portions of old song favorites and finished with a brief session at the piano. The company, consisting of two clever young men dancers and singers were dressed appropriate to the period. Miss Darling looked best in pink, and in the wedding ceremony showed clever footwork in eccentric dancing, also in the mechanical toy dance, in which Miss Darling was a lively doll.
The June 7th Clipper adds a lot to the story. It includes a picture of Donna, Murray Walker, and Jack Finney and a caption that they closed Proctor’s 58th Street and are taking a 5-week vacation. The newspaper copy image isn’t very good, but it is something. It suggests that Donna Darling & Company played Proctor’s 58th Street from June 4th to June 6th.
Finally, there were three little clippings in Donna’s scrapbook. They too came from the June 7th, Clipper. One said:
Donna Darling left for Detroit, her home town, this week, where she will undergo an operation for the removal of tonsils.
The second clip says
Murray Walker is leaving for Canada this week for a month’s rest.
And the third,
Jack Finney is going to Philadelphia this week to visit his folks for a month before reopening with Donna Darling.
When I was young, I was often plagued with tonsillitis. Removal or keeping tonsils seems to have undergone sweeps each way. Some years they were kept if at all possible, other years they yanked them out. I recall talking with Donna and my mother about my tonsils and I remember Donna saying hers had been removed and it was no big thing. But we were poor and had no health insurance, so I kept mine. But back in 1922, Donna was 29 years old, and doing well. So, even though she was older than typical, she had her tonsils removed — maybe they were affecting her singing.
Discovering four more venues for Donna’s career is a good week for research. Being reminded of her tonsillectomy and learning that she actually did take vacations during her vaudeville years was good to find out. And finally, confirming that she actually would have known Bert Lahr, and the story of his proposal to Donna might be true, is priceless.
May 22-24, 1922 – F.F. Proctor’s 23rd Street Theater (at 6th Avenue) New York, NY – Donna Darling & Co.
May 29-31, 1922 – B.F. Keith’s Vaudeville, Jersey City, NJ – Donna & Co.
June 1-3, 1922 – F. F. Proctor’s 125th Street (Park & Lex) New York, NY – Donna Darling & Company.
June 4-6, 1922 – F.F. Proctor’s 58th Street Theater, New York – Donna Darling & Company.
June 7 until about July 10, 1922 – Vacation. Donna has tonsils removed.
Oh, and while searching I found one more venue for Donna’s show. From March 30th to April 5th, 1922 – she played in Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
I’ll bet, when I have a chance to research more, I’ll find that Donna played at the 5th Avenue Theater. Probably May 25th thru the 27th. Just guessing, but it would fit the pattern.
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.
For Treasure Chest Thursday, I looked at three clippings from the Donna Darling Collection which mention The Burns Theater. I love it when there are handwritten notes with photos and Donna’s notes made analyzing these clippings quite easy. One clipping mentions “Colorado Springs” and the other says Barnes Theatre – Colo. Springs Sept 17-18.
I have cropped, edited, and sized these images for the web.
The venue is the Barnes Theatre, Colorado Springs, Co. The theatre was part of the Western Vaudeville Managers’ Association.
The show is the “Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark”
Seven other acts were on the bill and also had three shows daily.
Billy Curtis and Lou Lawrence in “Is That The Custom?”
Bozo Fox & Company – Vaudeville’s Latest Surprise
Morrell and Blynor – Beauty, Grace, Speed
Nick Pallizi – The Wizard of the Accordeon [sic]
O’Brien Sisters and Mack – Bits of Musical Comedy Hits
Princess Winona – Indian Prima Donna
Zuhn and Dreis – Dementus Americanos Habitat North America
From other research, I know that the “Donna Darling Review [sic] with Sammy Clark” was a 1926 show. On September 7th, 1926, the show played in Alton, IL and on October 9, 1926, the show played in Santa Ana, California so its playing in Colorado Springs on September 17 and 18 makes sense.
Sept 17, 18, 1926 – Colorado Springs, CO – Burns Theatre – Donna Darling Review
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at clippings from the Donna Darling Collection that relate to the Bijou Theater. The problem is, of course, there are many theaters named Bijou and none of the clippings indicate both location and date. What I do have is:
Ad clipping – Bijou – Mon – Tues – Wed – California Bathing Girls (0065)
Ad, Article, and Photo – Bijou – Thur, Fri, Sat Donia Darling & Co. “Modern Vaudeville Frolics – Savannah (0155)
Ad – Bijou – Hollywood Revue Motion Picture Bathing Beauties (1403)
Ad – Dacatur’s Favorite – The Bijou – Donna Darling and Sammy Clare Revue – “A Modern Vaudeville Frolic” (1428) (Might be June 24, 25, 26)
Ad – 5 Days – Bijou – Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Beauties – (1504 – two parts)
Cinema Treasurers indicates there are 204 theaters in the United States named “Bijou.” Twenty-two of them are still open and 182 are now closed.[i] Consequently, determining which of the many Bijou theatres Donna played at and when will be a challenge, but here goes.
DDC Bijou Image 1 (0065)
Bijou Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday – California Bathing Girls.
Write-up Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties – in a Beach Promenade in Six Gasps and Three Shocks.
Also playing was Geo. Walsh in The Plunger.
Also on stage, Billy Bowman, Ca?pas Brothers,
Bo-peep and Jack Horner – Harry Sykes.
I recalled seeing Donna Playing with “The Plunger” previously. I wrote about it in “Donna at the Bijou – New Haven, CT – Donna Darling Collection – Part 8. She played there sometime in November or December 1920.
I searched the James Blackstone Memorial Library for New Haven newspapers for Bijou and was not successful finding a match.
DDC Bijou Image 2 (0155)
The page includes an ad, an article, and a photo. The ad says:
Coming – Thur.—Fri. – Sat. Donia [sic] Darling & Company – Modern Vaudeville Frolics
5 big acts direct from the Broadway Theaters.
Also playing at the time is “Baldwin & Blair – A Real Comedy Skit.”
Also, there is a great newspaper photo of Donna with a small “Savannah Morning” pasted to the front. Below the photo the caption reads, “Donna Darling of the Donna Darling Revue, coming to the Bijou Theater Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.”
Another headline says “[F]ive Clever Acts at Bijou… Week’s beginning – [Da]rling revue is Feature of Second Half.
In so far as Darling beans beloved, a pet and a favorite, the attractive young person called Donna Darling has been well named. She has been a beloved favorite of theater-goers in musical comedy ??? in vaudeville, and well she sl?????? Be as she has all of those things which go to make a theatrical popularity. She is pretty to the extreme that not long ago she won first prize in a beauty contest. She has ability which is proven by the fact that she was the prima donna in the spectacular production “Chin Chin” and one of the Vitagraph screen Stars.
Miss Darling believes in be timely and so for her present sojourn in vaudeville she presents a revue – The Donna Darling Revue. This is described as a Dazzling Fantasy. Featured in the company is Sammy Clark, a juvenile comedian of repute. The company, including Miss Darling, is a trio—three clever versatile artists who work with unction to put over this new act of hers and they succeed in making it everything this type of entertainment is supposed to be.
The venue is the Bijou Theatre.
The show is the “Donna Darling Revue” with Sammy Clark.
The location is Savannah—probably Savannah, GA.
The show ran Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Also on bill
Baldwin & Blair in “A Real Comedy Skit”
Cinema Treasures confirmed there was a Bijou theater in Savannah Georgia. Chronicling America (LOC) also confirms that Savannah has a morning paper called the “Savannah Morning News.”
The Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark was one of the last shows that she did. We know she was doing “Donna Darling and Girls” in September 1925 and was doing the Donna Darling Revue in 1926. By June 1927, she was doing Modern Vaudeville Frolics. From that, I surmise that this show was sometime between September 1925 and June 1927.
DDC Bijou Image 3 (1403)
This is a small ad showing Donna Darling, a Mack Sennett Prize Winner, in a tidal wave of unique dancing, blue singing, clean comedy. Everything about this ad indicates it is a smaller version of DDC Bijou Image 5. I will address this image with image 5 below.
DCC Bijou Image 4 (1428)
Decatur’s Favorite – The Bijou
3 Vaudeville Acts Donna Darling and Sammy Clare [sic] Revue “A Modern Vaudeville Frolic”
Paul & Darling “Two Broadway Rounders”
Billy De Armo – Comedy Novelty.
Event found – Need to document – See below.
DCC Bijou Image 5 (1504)
This is a great ad that shows a photo of Donna but also lists many of the other individuals in the show including
Al Ross – Christie Comedies – Eccentric Dancing Life Guards
Alyce Louyse – Hawaiian Dancer and Bather from Mars.
Murray Earle – George White Scandals – Eccentric Dancing Life Guards
Rose Lasgo – Christie Comedies Acrobatic Dancer
Again, the Donna Darling Collection provided insights into Donna’s vaudeville career. With the Bijou pages, I gained additional information regarding three of her venues. I also learned of a show she did in Savannah that was heretofore unknown.
Future Article: Donna at the Bijou in New Haven, CT, Nov/Dec 1920 – California Bathing Girls.
Research later. Donna at Bijou in Savannah, GA, between Sep 1925 and June 1927 – Donia [sic] Darling & Company – Modern Vaudeville Frolics
.No further Action. (See 5 below)
Future Article: Donna at Bijou in Decatur, IL on July 25, 1925- Donna Darling and Sammy Clare [sic] Revue “A Modern Vaudeville Frolic”
Future Article – Donna at the Bijou in Decatur, IL on January 25, 1925 – California Bathing Beauties – Donna Darling.