Donna in New Philadelphia, OH, at the Union Theatre – 10 April, 1920

Vaudeville

It had been a busy week. We now know “Chin Chin” played at the Park Theatre in Youngstown on Thursday[i] and the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville on Friday. It was back to the train and headed west about an hour to New Philadelphia for a one-night show at the Union Opera House on Saturday, April 10th.

The Daily Times 3 April 1920
The Daily Times
3 April 1920 Source: Newspapers.com

The initial notice for the show appeared in The Daily Times (New Philadelphia) on April 3, 1920, which was the Saturday before the Saturday show. The Daily Times was the major newspaper of the area with a circulation of 2,575 per the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide of 1914. Advertising during the subsequent days let folks know many of the particulars of the show, including two car loads of scenery, seven sets, indoor circus, and, of course, the Clown Saxophone Band would be there. Besides the stars, Walter Wills and Roy Binder, Ethel Lawrence and George Usher are mentioned in articles.

1920-04-08-TheDailyTimes-Page5
The Daily Times (New Philadelphia, OH) April 8, 1920, Page 5 Source: Newspapers.com

On April 8th, the Daily Times did run a photo showing 16 of “Chin Chinners.”  I don’t see Donna in this group, but with 65 women in the show that is understandable.

The show itself appears to have gone off without a hitch. According to the “Daily Times” of April 12th, the show had the “biggest crowd of the season.” However, across the street, three men robbed the Union Restaurant at gunpoint during the show. I’ll bet that disrupted theatregoers from having a bite after the show.  Three gunmen — $19.00 taken. They apparently didn’t know what they were doing as they left $40 in silver in the cash register and just took the folding money.

Union Opera Theater – New Philadelphia, OH

(This article was updated.  See: Update – Union Opera Theater – New Philadelphia, OH.)

The Hotel Reeves (New Philadelphia, OH)
Crop of card00072_fr.
Source: Card Cow

I have not been successful determining the exact location of the Union Opera House. Some articles indicate that it was “near the courthouse.” A review of the 1921 City Directory for New Philadelphia indicates that it was “at rear of Hotel Reeves Building.” That same directory indicates that the Hotel Reeves was at 133-135 North Broadway[ii], which seems to be where the county courthouse is.

The Union Opera House had a capacity of 1,057 – 502 on the main floor, 230 in the balcony, 300 in the gallery, and 24 in box seats. The US Census indicates that the population of New Philadelphia, OH was 10,718,[iii] so the venue could hold nearly 10% of the population of the city. However, the city of Dover is adjacent to New Philadelphia and contributed another 8,000 to the population.

The Union Opera House was probably built in 1863[iv].

The Union Opera House was destroyed by fire in November 1893. Rebuild date is not known.

The Union Opera House operated until at least 1940.[v]

Specifications for the Union Opera House[vi]

  • Proscenium opening: 32×22 ft
  • Front to back wall: 42 ft
  • Between side walls: 66 ft
  • Apron 5 ft
  • Between fly girders: 43 ft
  • To rigging loft: 40 ft
  • To fly gallery: 23 ft
  • 11 Dressing rooms

Further Research

I have contacted the Tuscarawas Historical Society regarding information about the Union Opera House (Theatre) regarding the history and the disposition of the theatre.

According to the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide, there were four newspapers associated New Philadelphia at the time; the “Times,” “Tribune,” the “Democrat,” and the “Reporter” (at Canal Dover). I have been unable to find copies of those papers. Find sources for the three papers and see if they have any articles regarding the show.

Endnotes

[i] I just learned of this performance this week
[ii] Ancestry.Com – U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 – New Philadelphia, Ohio, City Directory, 1921, pages 136 and 219.
[iv] Web: Cinema Treasurers, Quaker Cinema, Comments, Comment by Joe Vogel on January 5, 2010, See http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/6619
[v] Web: Times-Reporter Article posted March 16, 2014, “Local History: Night spots aplenty in the late 1930s” by Jon Baker, TimesReporter.com staff writer. http://www.timesreporter.com/article/20140316/News/140319340
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Donna in Hamilton, OH, at the Palace Theater – March 22-25, 1925

Photo of the Palace Theatre with a wagon in front advertising "Down on the Farm" - about 1920.
Wagon Advertisement for the Palace Theatre
In front of the Palace Theatre, 1920 *
Photo via Photobucket 

I haven’t figured out exactly where Donna was before she played at the Palace Theater in Hamilton, Ohio, on March 22nd to March 25th, 1925. We know that in February she played in Kokomo, Indiana, however, I have a lot more research to do to fill in the gaps.


The first advertising I found for her show was in the March 17th Hamilton Daily News. Under the Movies heading, it read:


BATHING GIRLS BE AT PALACE

According to announcement just made known, the Palace management has succeeded in obtaining a most unusual and decidedly high-class bit of entertainment to be offered to its patrons starting Sunday next. It is known as The Hollywood Bathing Girls Revue, and presents an exceptionally interesting half hour of pleasure. Miss Donna Darling, a winner of numerous beauty prizes is the star of this spectacular Revue. She played the principal role in the late musical comedy success Chin Chin, and is a talented singer and dancer as well as possessor of pulchritudinous charms. Before Miss Darling left the California studios, she selected several accomplished motion picture bathing girls to accompany here on her brief tour of the Eastern states. Each of them will do a specialty number, singing, dancing and comedy. And there will be a fashion display of different styles of bathing suits from Grandmother’s day on down to the present. Betty Bryant, who was selected as “Miss America,” in a recent Atlantic City contest has an important part in the presentation of this Bathing Girls Revue; and others included in the cast are Alyce Louyse, Mildred O’Brian, tiny Anita Walker, Todd Watson, Clarice Allyn, Al Ross and Gerry Gene, all of whom have won recognition in the “movies.”[i]
The following day, the exact same “article” appeared in The Hamilton Evening Journal. There was also a small ad indicating the show was coming “Next Sunday.” [ii]

It is interesting to note that Betty Bryant isn’t in the list of Miss Americas. The first Miss America was Margaret Gorman who won in 1921. Her title was “The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America.” It wasn’t until the following year, when she defended her title, that the title “Miss America” was used. So, Betty Bryant must have been a contestant either before 1921 or in another pageant.

March 21st was a big day for the show. There were ads on both page 2 and on page 27. Additionally, there were two articles about the show on Page 27[iii]. That longer of the two articles reads:

Bathing Girls at The Palace

The Journal News (Hamilton, OH)
March 21, 1925 – Page 27

Bathing Girls from the Western motion picture studios will make a personal appearance at the Palace theatre starting tomorrow. The star of this spectacular Hollywood Revue is Miss Donna Darling, a winner of numerous beauty prizes, and portrayer of the principal role in the late musical comedy success “Chin Chin.” Miss Darling is not only beautiful, but can sing and dance with unusual ability. Her presentations are so charming that she has been justly called “The Girl with the million dollar personality.”

Miss Darling selected several accomplished motion picture bathers to accompany her on her brief tour of the Eastern states. Tiny Anita Walker sings as well as she wears a stunning black and white satin bathing suit. Todd Watson and Clarice Allyn, as gypsy dancers, entertain with a difficult and spectacular number, which is followed by an aerobatic novelty by the talented movie star, Gerry Gene. Al Ross, one of the life-guards, is an eccentric dancer who also appears with Alyce Louyse in the comedy number, “1000 Bathers.” Alice Lenyse is at her best in the Hawaiian dance. Mildred O’Bryan as a beach flirt does a nifty song and dance.

This revue displays the different styles of bathing suits from mother’s day, in which Miss Darling appears in an elaborate silver and orchid gown—a comedy number of 1900—on to the present day bather, when Betty Bryant, late of the Ziegfeld Follies, appears in a scarlet bathing suit as “Miss America of today.” Miss Darling as the “Globe-trotter” presents bathers of various beaches of other nations as well as the fashionable bathing centers of our own country. These include the Chinese, Spanish, Egyptian, Hawaiian, and Palm Beach bathers.

The gowns of this revue are elaborate, special interest centers about the rhinestone bathing suit, which Miss Darling wears in the finale. Much time and effort has been spent in selecting the stage setting and the elaborate lighting effects of this revue. The management of the Place theatre is to be congratulated for succeeding in procuring such clean and enjoyable entertainment as is “The Bathing Girls Revue.”

In addition to this unusual attraction a picture of rare merit—“Forty Winks” – Featuring Viola Dana, Raymond Griffith and Theodore Roberts, will be offered as the feature film. And the regular run of short subjects will also be offered.

Owing to the enormous cost of this big double bill, the Palace Management finds it necessary to slightly increase the price of admission, but it is said that this presentation will well be worth the increase in price.

The Bathing Girls revue will be presented four times tomorrow—at about 2:30, 4:30, 1:10 and 9:15 p. m. During the remaining three days of its run at the Palace theatre it will be presented three times. [iv]

One additional thing about the Newspaper ad of March 21st.  It had a disclaimer which read:

To the Public:– 

   All rumours and reports in the contrary notwithstanding, we hereby guarantee this Bathing Girl Revue to be absolutely CLEAN, free from all vulgarity or suggestiveness and suited to the tastes of the whole family. It conforms in every respect to the Palace Theatre standard of presentation, and once again bears out why the Palice is known as

HAMILTON’S FOREMOST THEATRE

Newspapers articles and advertising also ran on the 24th and 25th in all three papers, Hamilton Evening Journal, the Hamilton Daily News, and the Journal News

They performed 13 shows in 4 days and headed on to their next stop, Rushville, Indiana, performing the next day.

Palace Theatre — 215 South Third Street, Hamilton, OH

The Palace Theatre was built in 1919 with the exclusive intent of showing movies. It was an opulently appointed silent movie theater. A newspaper of the time said that the $100,000 facility was “a replica of the famous Rivoli Theater in New York City.” The theater was designed by the managing director of the theater, Fred S. Meyer, and a renowned Hamilton architect, Frederick G. Mueller.

The theater’s ornate columns and windows were covered over in the in the 1960s, when the theater was “modernized.” In 2003, Greater
Hamilton Civic Theatre (CHCT) purchased the building and restored the original, rather striking, 1919 facade. Today, the Palace Theatre is used for GHCT theatrical support need.

Further Research
Research the other cast members of the show:

Anita May Walker 
Todd Watson 
Clarice Allyn 
Gerry Gene
Al Ross
Alyce Louyse 
Mildred O’Brien
Betty Bryant

Endnotes

*  Source info for the 1920 photo of the Palace Theater indicates that the photo is from 1928, however, the billboard movie “Down on the Farm” was released in 1920 and is unlikely playing at the Palace in 1928.

[i] Hamilton
Daily News (Hamilton, OH) 17 March 1925, Page 2 – “Bathing Girls Be At Palace.”
Source: Heritage Microfilm, Inc. and Newspaperarchive.com.
[ii] Hamilton
Evening Journal (Hamilton, OH) 18 March 1925, Page 11 – “Hollywood Bathing
Girls Will Appear in Person at the Palace.” Source: Heritage Microfilm, Inc.
and Newspaperarchive.com.
[iii]
The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) · Sat, Mar 21,
1925 · Page 27 – Source: Newspapers.com.[iv]
The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) · Sat, Mar 21,
1925 · Page 27 – “Bathing Girls At the Palace.” Source: Newspapers.com.

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