Donna at the Bijou – New Haven, CT

Donna Darling Collection – Part 8

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

This week’s Treasure Chest Thursday is clipping regarding Donna and her Bathing Beauties playing at the Bijou. The accompanying clipping indicates that the article was in “THE NEW HAVEN JOU,” so it appears to be the Bijou of New Haven, Connecticut. A quick check of Cinema Treasures indicated that there was a Bijou Theater in New Haven at that time.[1]

The next question is when did she play there.  There is no date with the clipping. A search of the newspapers available online did not provide any help.  However, IMDb to the rescue. They indicate the movie was released on 7 November 1920.  Consequently, I would expect that this showing would have occurred sometime within two months of the release date. We also know that Donna played in Bridgeport, CT on December 29th & 30th and possibly on December 20th.  With that in mind, it fits that Donna and her Bathing Beauties played the Bijou in New Haven, CT sometime in November or December, 1920.

All attendance records were broken at the Bijou theater yesterday during the initial appearance of that bib combined all star vaudeville and moving picture bill, which is headed by Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties, and George Walsh in “The Plunger.” There isn’t a dull moment on the bill and yesterday’s audiences showed their appreciation by prolonged applause throughout the entire performance.

Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties lived up to all the good things that had been said about them and presented a production that was a delight to the eye.

Also on the bill:

  • Katheyn Arnold and George L. Cohan.
  • Henry Sykes
  • Billy Bowman
  • The Carpas Bros.

New Engagement Added:

Unknown Date: [Nov-Dec] 1920 – New Haven, CT – Bijou – Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties.


References:

  1. Cinema Treasurers – Bijou Theater – 28 Church Street, New Haven, CT 06510
  2. IMDb – The Plunger Release Date: 7 November 1920.

Donna Darling and the Boys

Donna Darling Collection – Part 7

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Donna Darling with Murray Walker & Jack Finney, circa 1922
Donna Darling with Murray Walker & Jack Finney – 1922

The searching, the hunt to understand a page, a photo from the Donna Darling Collection is always fun. Item #7 of the collection is a photograph of Donna with two men. Accompanying newspaper clippings suggest that the photo is of her with Murray Walker and Jack Finney. Donna did a show with Walker and Finney in 1922 called, “As You Like It” although I have also seen it referred to as “Donna Darling and The Boys.”

With just a little touching up, it provided a great photo of Donna and one showing Murray Walker and Jack Finney. Also, with it is a clipping of an ad showing them as the headliner at the Majestic. Sadly, the ad doesn’t show which Majestic theater it was – and there are several.

So, I searched for shows where Donna where and when this Majestic show might have taken place. I quickly found where Donna and the Boys played the Majestic in Harrisburg, PA on April 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1822. Then I realized the accompanying acts weren’t the same as the clipping from the Donna Collection.  I continued searching but still haven’t found the Majestic and show from Donna’s scrapbook.

Majestic (Keith Vaudeville) ad - Unknown date or locationThe two new venues I did find for Donna and the Boys are:

March 27, 28, 29, 1922 – Pittsburgh, PA – Sheridan Square – Donna Darling assisted by Murray Walker & Jack Finney in “As You Like It.”[i]

April 6, 7, 8, 1922 – Harrisburg, PA – Majestic ([ii]Keith Vaudeville) with Murray Walker & Jack Finney in “As You Like It.”

Also, I found a brief note in the New York Clipper about Donna playing

July 1, 2, 1923- Keokuk, IA – Regent – Donna Darling & Co.[iii]

So, three new venues for Donna and a great photo touched up.  It is a great day.

FOLLOWUP

Search further for the Donna and the Boys show at another Majestic Theater that included the accompanying acts above.

Research the show in March 1922, in Pittsburgh, PA and research the Sheridan Square theater

Research the show in April 1922 in Harrisburg, PA and the Majestic Theater.

Research the show in July 1923 in Keokuk, IA and the Regent Theater.


ENDNOTES

[i] 1922-03-26 – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA) Page 44 “Sheridan Square.”

[ii] 1922-04-07 – The Evening News (Harrisburg, PA) – Page 22 “Best Show at Majestic.”

[iii] 1923-06-27 – New York Clipper – Page 21 – “Vaudeville Bills Next Week.”

Donna in a Roland West sketch at Keeney’s

February, March, and April, 1919.

Records about Donna’s early vaudeville years are sparse. For example, I know that the January 31,, 1919, issue of Variety, under New Acts mentions, “Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler in a new sketch by Roland West.”[i] We also see an ad for them in the same issue of “Variety.” From that issue of Variety, we have no idea what the show was about, where it played, nor who Trixie Bressler and Roland West are.

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Weekly, Jan 31, 1919, Page 59

In the February 28th issue, we learn that Donna and Trixie are “Two Girls with a Single Thought: TO ENTERTAIN YOU. [ii]

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Magazine, Feb 28, 1919, Page 67

Two weeks later, we learn that Trixie appears to have been replaced. Donna Montran and Jessie Kennison are now the “Two Girls with a Single Thought: To ENTERTAIN YOU.” We also learn the show is playing at Keeney’s, Newark, and Keeney’s Brooklyn for the week beginning March 17th.[iii]

Crop of Montran and Kennison ad
Variety Magazine, March 14, 1919

A month later, things seem confusing because Trixie is back. They are still playing at Keeney’s Newark but only doing four shows.[iv]  Was Trixie gone for a couple weeks or was the ad showing Jessie Kennison a mistake.

Crop of ad Montran and Bressler
Variety Magazine, April 14, 1919

Finally, a week later, on April 21, Variety runs one final ad for Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler that doesn’t have any dates or places for the two.

Roland West

Roland West became known as a Hollywood director. Born in 1885, he began acting in vaudeville productions as a teenager. In his early 20s, he was writing and directing Vaudeville productions. He went to California and in 1925 he directed the classic silent film, The Monster, with Lon Chaney, Sr.[v] He also directed the 1929 film Alibi which was nominated for three Academy Awards.[vi]

Trixie Bressler

I know very little about Trixie. I do know that she was a young dancer. In May 1918, she presented a dance revue at the Ithaca Star[vii]. Trixie was probably either 19 or 20 years old. Omaha Marriages indicates that Trixie Bressler married George D. Schwartz on 20 Jul 1919. [viii] and that Trixie was 20 when they married. Trixie’s vaudeville career appears to end with her marriage.

Jessie Kennison

I have been unsuccessful learning anything about Jessie Kennison.

Further Research

Find Trixie Bressler Schwartz’s descendants and see if they have any memorabilia from Trixie’s vaudeville days.

Find advertisements and write-ups about the shows at Keeney’s Newark and Keeney’s Brooklyn and determine if I can learn more about the “Roland West” show with Donna and Trixie.

Learn more about Jessie Kennison.


Endnotes

[i] 1919-01-31 – Variety Weekly, New York, NY, Vol 53-Page 20.jpg

[ii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, March 14, 1919.

[iii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, 1919, March 14, 1919.

[iv] 1919-04-14 – Variety Magazine (New York, NY) Page 75.

[v] Wikipedia – Roland West entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_West

[vi] Wikipedia – Alibi (1929 Film) entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alibi_(1929_film)

[vii] Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY) 4 May 1918, Page Six, Advertising Bottom right of page – via Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/254416940

[viii] Omaha Area Marriages – Schm-Sci – https://omahamarriages.wordpress.com/schm-sci/ – SCHWARTZ, George D.

Grandma Donna’s Chili Rice

Donna Darling Collection – Part 4

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.My grandmother, Donna, was a good cook. My mom says that Donna didn’t let her into the kitchen much and Donna never taught my mother how to cook. Consequently, I am sad to say, my mom is one of the worst cooks I’ve ever known.  She cooked a turkey once and didn’t remove the giblets bag before cooking.

However, Donna was a good cook and generally cooked “comfort food.” I remember eating a lot of “hot dish” as a kid. Even if it wasn’t in a casserole bowl, the meat, vegetables, and starch were all cooked together into a single dish – Things like chicken & dumplings, Hungarian goulash, and, of course, chili-rice. No recipes were passed down that I know of.  However, the recently found Donna Darling collection had one handwritten recipe for her chili rice.

I forgot that she used tomato juice often when cooking. She cooked rice and elbow macaroni in a mix of tomatoes and tomato juice often. I hadn’t heard of the “Mexene chili powder” used in this recipe until I looked it up and found that it is a brand name and is still available.

I think it is interesting that her recipe calls for a tablespoon of fat. They must have had really lean hamburger in those days. Anyway here is Donna’s recipe:

Grandma Donna’s Chili Rice

  • Handwritten Recipe of Donna's Chili Rice
    Recipe – Grandma Donna’s Chili-Rice

    2# Hamburger

  • 1 Tablespoon fat
  • ¾ cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup        “        onions
  • 1 cup        “        gr peppers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • ¾ cup rice
  • Mexene chili powder
  • 1 can tomato juice
  • Kidney beans

No directions were with the note, but I think it is just a put it all together and cook until the rice is eatable. I guess use the Mexene Chili Powder to your personal taste.

Anyway, I’m going to have to make up some of Grandma Donna’s Chili Rice and see if taste memories kick in.

Please, if you makes some, I’d love to see a picture of your finished product and your comments about it.

The Donna Darling Collection – Part 2

 

Donna Montran

Vaudeville
By Don Taylor

The first newspaper clipping in the collection is one that screams in big print, “DONNA MONTRAN.”

Newspaper ad promoting Donna Montran
Scanned image from the Donna Darling Collection. Originally: From August 20, 1920, edition of “Variety,” New York City, page 40 (back cover) via the Donna Darling Collection.

It then speaks of her as “BROADWAY’S NEWEST FIND – Under Personal Direction of Tom Rooney.” The advertising also acknowledges her vocal instructor, Louis Howard Croxson, and her dancing master Alexis Kosloff.  The clipping also shows that she is playing at B. S. Moss’ Broadway Theatre.  Knowing that made it easier to find the paper and issue that the item ran in. (Emphasis mine.)

The clipping is a paid advertisement she took out promoting herself. I was able to find it in “Variety” newspaper, dated August 20, 1920, it was a half-page ad on the back cover of the trade newspaper. The ad also includes a collection of quotes about Donna that we will see many more times.

The Quotes:

VARIETY, July 30

“Donna Montran ha an undeniable million dollar smile, oodles of personality and an elastic voice that hits the high registers smoothly and effectively—wood make ideal $4 musical comedy stuff.”

Abel

“MORNING TELEGRAPH”

“Donna Montran is here. Take leading part well in beach promenade.”

“EVE. WORLD”

“Donna Montran was the bathing girl prima donna and had as pleasing a voice as any girl should need.”

“N. Y. CLIPPER”

“The music 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.”

“EVE. MAIL” (July 26)

“There is the pretty, dainty Donna Montran, whose swimming hasn’t destroyed her voice.”

“EVE. SUN”

“Donna Montran. A blo/??
young lady who contributes /??
explanatory singing, manage /???
part well and exhibited some /????
pretty costumes.”[i]

The People

Thomas Rooney

Donna married Thomas Rooney on November 24, 1915, in Waltham, MA. So, it is clear that she and Tom were together for quite a few years. I am a little surprised that the very independent Donna would go for the phrase, “Under Personal Direction of Tom Rooney.”  (I definitely need to do more research about him.)

Lewis Howard Croxson

Louis Howard Croxson was a vocal teacher who had a studio in the Metropolitan Opera House building. Apparently, he was well known in New York stage circles. Among those he had instructed were Miss Tossa Kosta of “The Chocolate Soldier,” Miss Dorothy South of the “Wild Cat,” Miss Patricia Ryan, Carl Hayden, the Australian concert singer, Misses Irene Castle, Josie Colline and Bertha Shalek, his sister in law.[ii]  Through this ad we learn he also instructed vaudeville star, Donna Montran.[iii]

Alexis Kosloff

Photo of Alexis Kosloff 1917.
Alexis Kosloff c. 1917

Alexis Kosloff taught Russian Ballot and was very well known in New York. He danced in the imperial Russian Ballet before coming to America and was a writer, choreographer, and dance instructor. His book, Russian ballet technique, as taught by Alexis Kosloff: Method of practising foundation steps, potpourri of exercises, suite of dances, with descriptions and music, is a classic. He taught Donna how to dance. No wonder reviews of her shows often praised her dance ability. She was trained by the best and she gave him credit in this advertisement.

Conclusion

Clearly, it was important for Donna to promote herself. During a time when women were typically demure, she stood up and promoted herself. Showing herself as being personally managed by Tom Rooney, taught voice by Louis Howard Croxson, and taught Dance by Alexis Kosloff was her way of saying she was the “real deal.” Advertising in “Variety” was a way to gain prestige exposure with theater agents and others who could book her act.


Follow-up / Future Research

Thomas Valentine Rooney, Donna’s 2nd husband.

Endnotes & Sources

[i] The Donna Montran Collection news-clipping is torn and the last words on each line of this quote are missing.  Unfortunately, the Archives.Org image of that paper also is cut off on the right causing the words on the right to be missing.
[ii] The New York herald. (New York, N.Y.), 14 Dec. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045774/1921-12-14/ed-1/seq-11/>
[iii] Variety (New York, N. Y.), 20 Aug. 1920, Page 40 (Back page), Internet Archive: <https://archive.org/details/variety59-1920-08>