Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor
For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection
The venue is the Allegheny Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.
The show is “Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties”
Also on bill
“The Idol Dancer”
Featuring in Lights
(The Prima Donna With the Million Dollar Personality)
And Her Bathing Beauties
Bringing herself into Everyone’s Heart
Watch for her Return to New York
It is not clear where this clipping came from, probably from a promotional item in something like Variety, as it doesn’t mention her playing in Philadelphia. Rather, it reminds readers to “Watch for Her Return to New York.” (Which she doesn’t appear to do for several months.)
Donna in Philadelphia, PA, at the Allegheny Theatre – Sep 27, 1920
Of particular interest is a program of the show the week of September 27th, 1920. For the Allegheny Theatre. It shows us that the Allegheny claimed to be “The largest Vaudeville Theatre in the World.” It also provided a list of the acts. A musical overture started the show followed by a “review of current events.” I’m sure that was really important as in 1920 America so many people didn’t read and write. Current Events was followed by four different Vaudeville acts before the main live act. Tom Rooney presents “The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in ‘A Beach Promenade’ in 6 gasps and 3 shocks. Conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.” The show was followed by “The Idle Dancer”[sic] directed by D. W. Griffith. It was a 1 hour, 44-minute silent film “The Idol Dancer.” Following the film was an “Exit March” performed by the orchestra.
A musical overture started the show followed by a “review of current events.” I’m sure that was really important as in 1920 America so many people didn’t read and write, so learning the Current Events of the Day was a great feature.
Current Events was followed by four Vaudeville acts before the main live act. They were:
- Rose Revue
- Alexander and Mack
- Una Clayton & Co.
- Tappen and Armstrong
Then the main show:
Tom Rooney presents “The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in ‘A Beach Promenade’ in 6 gasps and 3 shocks. Conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.”
The live show was followed by “The Idle Dancer”[sic] directed by D. W. Griffith. It was a 1 hour, 44-minute silent film “The Idol Dancer.” Following the film was an “Exit March” performed by the orchestra.
An advertising clipping relating to Donna’s Allegheny Theatre appearance. It let us know that her California Bathing Beauties show included a cast of 12. The ad also mentioned that “You were taken in the movies last week, see yourself in the picture this week.” According to an article in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” (Sep. 26, 1920) pictures taken at the theatre the previous week including many residents entire audience. Those photos were going to be shown on the screen this week. How fun. A great promotion for the theatre.
B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre
F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was located at 3139-3149 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
- F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was designed by the firm of Magaziner & Potter; it opened in 1912.
- In 1926, it was remodeled by the firm of Hoffman-Henon Co.
- By 1941, the theater became part of Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.
- In 1942, the theater underwent renovation by Golder Construction, Co.
- The theatre lasted until 1956 and has since been torn down.
B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre size is confusing. Certainly, in 1920 it billed itself as “the largest vaudeville theater in the world.” Also in 1920, Anthony F. Dumas did an architectural drawing of B.F. Keith’s Allegheny theater and his drawing indicated it was the “World Largest Vaudeville Theater seating 4000.”
However, people on Cinema Treasures indicate the theater seated 2,858 in 1936. Likewise, Joel Frykholm, in his essay, “Framing the Feature Film,” found B. F. Keith’s Allegheny theater to seat 2,855 individuals in 1914.
Sadly, the theatre is not listed in the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914, (the edition I have and use) as it must have been too new for inclusion. Also, the 1921 Guide doesn’t list the Allegheny Theatre either, but it does list the B. F. Keith Theatre which had a seating capacity of 2,300.
How the theater could have gone from 2,855 in 1914 to 4,000 in 1920 and back to 2,858 in 1936 is beyond. I suspect the 4,000 number to be in error.
Today the site is the location of “Friendly Plaza” the home of a Family Dollar Store and Friendly Wholesalers Inc. Furniture store. See Google Map.
It is clear that B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was new in 1920, being about eight years old. It was also one of the largest theaters of its time. Donna played there for a week, but she and the California Bathing Beauties played several other Philadelphia theaters during the fall of 1920. I’ll write more about them later.
It will take some additional research to determine the actual seating of B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre in 1920 while Donna was there.
ACTA UNIVERSITATIS STOCKHOLMIENSIS – Stockholm Cinema Studies 9 – “Framing the Feature Film: Multi-Reel Feature Film and American Film Culture in the 1910s” by Joel Frykholm citing: Advertisement for B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre, Inquirer, March 1, 1914:17; and “Allegheny,” In Vaudeville’s Realm, Inquirer, March 1, 1914:16. http://manualzz.com/doc/17494960/stockholm-cinema-studies-9.
Cinema Treasures: Allegheny Theatre. 3139-3149 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19134. See: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/9065
Don Taylor: Donna Darling Digital Collection – Contact Author.
Genealogy Bank – Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) – September 26, 1920, (Volume 183, Issue 88) Section Feature, Page 1 – Changes in Vaudeville – Allegheny.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania: Digital Library, Frank McGlinn collection, Record Number 14401. Item: Anthony F. Dumas architectural drawing of Allegheny Theatre, 1921. http://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/13982
Hathi Trust Digital Library – The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide And Moving Picture Directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill, 1921. Page 61 – https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009794580