Donna Montran stayed at the Owyhee Hotel in Boise, Idaho December 4-8, 1919.
Sometimes I just come across cool things. Recently I found an article on Chronicling America that spoke of “Hotel Arrivals” in Boise, ID, Dec 5, 1919. I have long known that Donna and the cast of “Chin Chin” were in Boise for four days, from the 4th to the 7th performing at the Pinney Theatre. This article might be the first time I’ve known exactly where Donna stayed during her many nights on the road – the Owyhee Hotel. The Owyhee is still standing; no longer a hotel, it was completely renovated and made into luxury apartments with office space – Hwyhee Place.
The other thing the article does, which is really cool, is that it tells where many of the cast are from. Of course, I knew that Donna hailed from New York at that time, but not Ethel Lawrence. If I decide to follow some of Donna’s fellow performers, a listing of names and their hometowns, or 1919 residences could be invaluable. Also, if I can find another such list I might be able to determine much of the cast’s names. A great find; I will definitely look for Hotel Arrivals in other newspapers in the future.
Chin Chin played the Burley Theater, Burley, Idaho, on December 2, 1919.
Beauties of Chin Chin
Burley Bulletin – 28 Nov 1919 – Page 11
I was able to view the microfilm of the Burley Bulletin and the Burley Herald thanks to the University of Idaho Library and WorldCat– Interlibrary loan is awesome! What this exercise really did show me was that the Chin Chin company probably didn’t have many, if any nights off and that it is because of the lack of newspaper resources that I am unable to track every action of the company.
I looked pretty carefully, the print is small, the projection is dim, and the neck begins to hurt looking up to read the text through my bifocals, but I was unable to find any articles, press releases, or reviews of the “Chin Chin” show in Burley. I did find that they played there on December 2nd and there were some really nice ads in both the Herald and the Bulletin.
The ad in the Burley Herald included a great photo of the four principal with fans covering their faces. I’ve seen the photo before but this microfilm version was higher quality than others that I have seen. The ad mentions:
Beauties of Chin Chin
Burley Herald – 29 Nov 1919
With Its Wealth of Novel Effects
And Wonder Scenes
Including The Flight of
THE PAGODA AND AIRSHIP
Caravans of Pretty girls – Company of 65
Tingling – Jingling Numbers – Quaint Toy Bazaar
The Famous Clown Saxophone Band (Tom Brown’s)
I had not heard of “the Flight of the Pagoda and Airship” before. Sounds interesting.
In the theaters I’ve followed regarding “Chin Chin” performances, the Burley Theater is the first building I’ve come across that is still in use as a theater, albeit a motion picture theater. Stanley J. Osika was the proprietor and manager of the theater during the “Chin Chin” show. It is not clear to me when it was built, but it appears to have been about 1917. Apparently the original stage is intact. [I would love to find a photo if it.]
By the 1930’s it had vertical signage added that allowed the theater name to be seen from up the street and a marquee added. The theater’s facade was restored in 1991 and is mostly original.
Donna’s next stop with the company of Chin Chin was in Boise, Idaho on December 4th to the 7th. The Idaho Statesman ran many agent supplied articles and advertising for the show. Articles began in the “What Boise Theatre Managers Say About Coming Attractions” on November 23rd. It begins with a photo of the Famous Clown Band and continues with a short article.
“To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are 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 hit 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.
In the November 27th paper we learn that Ethel Lawrence plays, “Violet Bond,” the rich American girl.
mn ad. The ad reminds us of just how big the show was, particularly for a road show. At the Pinney Theater, Boise, this was “the biggest show in years.” The show had “two car loads of scenery.” We need to remember in 1919 they were referring to railroad cars. The company was huge, 65, including 40 girls. Repeat 40 girls and 35 men back of the scenes. I don’t know if they just couldn’t count or what, because 40 plus 35 is 75 in my world. We knew there was a circus in the show with a horse that Mademoiselle Fallofski tried to ride. We also learn of a ventriloquist show. A list of some of the songs in the production is also included.
Good-bye Girls I’m Through
The Pekin Patrol
The Chinese Honeymoon
We are reminded that ticket prices were low, from $.50 to $2.00, there was a whopping 10% war tax added to the ticket sales.
War Tax (aside)
World War I economics were staggering. Federal Expenditures increased from 1.3 billion in 1916 to almost 16 billion, over 1000%, in two years. (1) To pay for the war the government enacted many new taxes. I think that calling it a “war tax” was really good. I wish taxes today were as clear. Certainly, we know how much our social security and medicare taxes are, but everything else is sort lost in the general economy. I wonder if we had a “war tax” today, would we have quite so many wars.
Back to the Show
On page 10 there was an interesting picture of Marie Cavanaugh and Margie Taylor, whom we haven’t see mentioned in advertising before.
Because of the grainy nature of the image I could find, I just can’t tell exactly what they are doing. I have been unable to find a higher quality photo of it elsewhere. It would be interesting to find a better photograph of them in this role.
The text elsewhere on the same page let us know:
“Not for years has there been such a riot of artistically harmonized, faultlessly blended color upon any stage as Charles Dillingham’s production of ‘Chin Chin,” coming to the Pinney four days, December 4, 5, 6 and 7, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“A flash of burnt orange trailing off into crimson, and we have a tea shop in Pekin. A splendor of apple-green, bronze-green, dull blues and bright blues, and a Chinese Bazaar filled with quaint toys and curious idol images, swings into view. A shimmer of moonlight on porcelain walls and among cherry branches at bloom-time and a place terrace rises slowly into sight. Presto! and we are on the outside of the dressing-tent of a great circus. All flapping canvases and posters of gaudy hue. Presto! and we smell the sawdust. A beam from Aladdin’s ‘lamp’ and all is romance again, the romances of trees and flowers and vistas of a park.
“Nor does the shifting scene contain all there is of color. There are costumes of every primary tint and every pastel shade, flaunting vermillions, lurid yellows, vitreous greens, great splashes of purple, subtle lengths and ripples of pink and azure and violet — an iridescence, a play of pigments that astonishes the eye.
“The vibrations of sound, too, are no less vivid. The tinkle of bells, the blare of horns, the fanfare of trumpets, the bravura of the orchestra, the melody of the singing voice. Sounds musical and sound unmusical, rhythmic sounds and sounds that confuse the ear, sounds sweet, dulcet, silver-toned symphonies, and sounds harsh, croaking, discordant — the who marching, waltzing, syncopating as such sound will, a musical babel of humor and delight — such is ‘Chin Chin.’”
“Chin Chin” dancers at the American Legion
The Idaho Statesman has an interesting article on page 8 of the December 2nd paper. We knew from other papers that the Chin Chin group played in Twin Falls, Idaho on December 1st. We don’t know where the company was on December 2nd. But, on December 3rd, part of the show was 20 miles west of Boise in Nampa, ID. The Joseph Murray Post of the American Legion, which was 70 members strong, put on a smoker (boxing match) that also included, “vaudeville from the Orpheum circuit, and dancing by the girls playing in Chin Chin.” We don’t know if Donna was with that group, but I would like to think she supported the Legion and their promotional activities. Another article, this time published on December 5th, indicated that the program was a success with approximately 200 returned soldiers, sailors and marines attending.
The newspaper had a very interesting release on December 4th.
“In the chorus of “Chin Chin,” to be seen at the Pinney on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there are 30 girls. More than two-thirds of these girls have never been seen either here or in New York.
“By an arrangement that was made with a talking machine Company, out of town applicants for positions in the chorus who were unable to go to New York, where the engagements were made, had their voices recorded on disk records at the various agencies, and the same were sent to Manager Charles Dillingham for consideration. All of the applicants wrote that they were anxious to begin their stage career under his direction.
“The competition lasted for two months, and those selected were given contracts and were notified to be ready for rehearsal.
“By this means Charles Dillingham believes that he has secured a unique chorus, well chosen for voice and beauty, the engagements being unprejudiced by any personal reasons.
Review mentions Donna
A very positive review published on December 5th regarding of “Chin Chin” says that,
“The conventional leads of the show were eclipsed by the specialities. Donna Montran, the good fairy who appears when Aladdin’s lamp is rubbed, has the best voice in the company.”
Way to go Donna!
There is an interesting note in the Society pages on December 14th. Under “Burley” it mentions that:
“Mrs. C. A. Sunderlin has been much entertained during the last two weeks. Mr. and Mrs. S. Grover Rich have a dinner, followed by a box party for ‘Chin Chin,’ Tuesday [which would be 12/9/1919], in honor of the Sunderlins.”
From that note, it appears that “Chin Chin” may have played in Burley on the 9th. I was able to find the Burley newspapers from that period are available via interlibrary loan. I’ve ordered it and will see what it show. This is important because I am not finding the Chin Chin show anywhere until into February 1920.
The Pinney Theater
In 1892, James A. Pinney build the Columbia Theatre. In 1908 the Pinney theater was built on the same site. It was an ornate theatre designed for stage. In the 1920s it began the shift to primarily movies. On February 20th, 1940 they hosted the world premiere of “Northwest Passage” which was filmed at McCall, Idaho, which is about 100 miles north of Boise.
The Pinney was demolished in 1969 and is a parking lot today.