Donna Darling Collection – Part 20

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I am looking at three clippings from the Donna Darling Collection that indicate she played at three different Broadway Theaters; B.S. Moss’ Broadway theater in New York, The Broadway theater in Butte, (MT?), and the Broadway theater in Long Branch, NJ. None of the clippings have dates.

B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater, New York, NY

The first clipping is a rare playbill for The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in “A Beach Promenade.” Previous research found that this show ran over a month, from July 26 to August 29, 1920 at B.S. Moss’ Broadway Theater.

The playbill provides much new information about the show. One of the most exciting things is that it provides names for the cast.

Besides Donna Montran, the Bathing Beauties included Alice Dean, Alice Eldridge, Dorothy Smith, Lola St. Clair, Helen Travisand, and Marie Thompson. I was surprised to see what appears to be two men in the cast, Adrian Wally and Bobby Tremaine. Also, credit is given to Behrens for costumes, Shoes by Miller, One Piece Bathing suits by Asbury Mills and the scenery was painted by Jack Klein. Tom Rooney and Earl Lindsay were the producers and the show was conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.

For more information about the show see Moss’ Broadway at 41st – California Bathing Girls in “A Beach Promenade” and The Donna Darling Collection – Part 2

Broadway Theater, Butte, MT

The second clipping is an advertisement showing “An Outstanding Vaudeville Feature Act – DONNA DARLING REVUE With Sammy Clark and Company.

Showing with the Donna Darling Revue was a silent film, “Fig Leaves” starring George O’Brien and Olive Borden. According to IMDB, that film was released on 22 August 1926, so the show had to occur after that. Also, through other research I have found that the Donna Darling Review played on 27 November 1926. Butte and Helena are only 80 miles apart. With the schedule the show had, I’m sure that the Butte performance would have been within a day or two of the Helena performance.

This clipping allowed me to add another venue for Donna’s performances with an approximate date.

Broadway Theater, Long Branch, NJ

The final clipping that I am looking at this week relates to Donna and Sammy playing at the Broadway Theater in Long Branch, NJ. The program indicates that the “Darling Clark Revue” played Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, May 3-4-5. Donna and Sammy got together about 1925 and separated about 1930.  The only year on which May 3rd, 4th, and 5th, was on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday was 1926.

It is interesting to see the show called “Terpsichore Personified” and “A Novel Dance Melange.” My memory of Donna is that she had an incredible vocabulary. My mom used to say that Donna could cut you down with words and you’d never know you had been cut. I have to admit I needed to look up “Terpsichore.” Terpsichore is one of the nine Greek Muses and is the goddess of dance and chorus. That is a description that I’m sure Donna liked. I suspect she probably wrote the portrayal.

This is another new venue and date for Donna’s career. I will add it to my projects.

Actions

  • Research The Donna Darling Revue at the Broadway Theater, Butte, MT, between 24 and 30 November 1926.
  • Research “Darling Clark Revue” at the Broadway Theater, Long Branch, NJ, on 3, 4, & 5 May 1926.
  • Research Alice Dean, Alice Eldridge, Dorothy Smith, Lola St. Clair, Helen Travisand, Marie Thompson, Adrian Wally, Bobby Tremaine, Tom Rooney, and Earl Lindsay.

Babcock Theatre, Billings, MT – May 17-18, 1924 – Donna Darling & Company

Donna Darling and Boys
Billings Gazette, 18 May 1924
Courtesy: Newspapers.Com

I’m still looking to find more about Donna’s time in the Spring of 1924. I know she was in Bridgeport, CT in early February but have nothing on her whereabouts until she appears in Billings, Montana, at the Babcock Theater on May 17th and 18th. There is a lot of time and there are many places between the two shows. More to research.

I know very little (yet) about Donna’s “Novel Song and Dance Romance.” We do know that the Babcock Theater advertised it as a headline act within its vaudeville offering for the day Featuring “Donna Darling” in their “Five Big Acts” for the day. [i]

The Billings Gazette of May 18th shows a photo of “Donna and the Boys” on Page 16. [ii]

Unfortunately, all the copies I could find of the paper, both Newspapers.Com and Newspaper Archive.Com, have really poor quality images of the paper. If anyone has access to the original papers and would do a photo image of the paper I’d really love it. In the meantime, I’ll put trying to find a copy of it on my “want to do list.”
I also know on June 2nd she is in Oakland, California. Although it is only two weeks later, I doubt she went that distance without a few shows along the way. So much more to research.

Babcock Theatre

Babcock Theater c. 1913
Courtesy: Puget Sound Pipeline

In 1896, A. L. Babcock opened the Billings Opera House. Mr. Babcock operated that theater until September 22, 1906 when the building burned. Mr. Babcock built a new theater, the Babcock, a few blocks away and opened it just over a year later, on December 23, 1907.[iii]

At the time it was built, at the time was considered the largest theater between Minneapolis and Seattle.

The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, 1922 Supplement, reports that the Babcock Theatre seated 1200 people and the stage was 36×32 feet.

On February 21, 1935, the Babcock Theatre was rented out for a prize fight. It was a real “smoker.” The fire chief ask there be no smoking in the theatre, however, the patrons didn’t listen and a fire broke out under the boxing ring. The theatre entrance lobby and 13 rows of seating under the balcony were all that survived. The roof collapsed during the night, the proscenium

Babcock Theater Today
Photo: By Sara goth [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
arch failed, the stage was ruined and the amazing pipe organ demolished. The owner at the time considered rebuilding as entirely apartments or hotel, but decided to rebuild as a theatre. Within six months it was rebuilt. The reopening was a huge affair with the street being closed to handle the crowds, bands playing, and telegrams from Hollywood celebrities including Katherine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, Mae West, and Bette Davis [iv].

Today, after extensive renovations from 2008 through 2012, it houses 14 apartment units, retail shopping, and again operates a theatre for live performances.[v] The next live show scheduled at the Babcock is D. L. Hughley[vi], stand-up comedian, the original host of “Comic View”, and the eponymous character of The Hughleys.

Ninety years after Donna Darling and Company performed, comedy is still alive at the Babcock.

Further Research

Find a better quality image of The Billings
Gazette
, 18 May  1924, Page 16.


Endnotes

Note: This post was reformatted on 27 April 2018. 

[i] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 17 May 1924, Sat • Page 3 – Advertisement: Babcock Theatre – “Donna Darling and Company “ Source: Newspapers.Com, et al.
[ii] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 18 May 1924, Sun • Page 16 – Feature Vaudeville_Act. Source: Newspapers.Com, et al.
[iii] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 13: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf
[iv] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 22: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf
[v] Wikipedia: Billings, Montana; the historic Babcock Theater http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billings,_Montana
[vi] Babcock Theater website – http://www.babcocktheater.com/