Donna & the Columbia Theater – In the News

Prima Donna Tells Reasons Why Girls Seek the Bright Lights

Donna in the News
by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.

“Donna in the News” reports newly found newspaper articles and advertisements regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). I am always excited when I find a new venue for my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s. 

This week from the Columbia Missourian (Columbia, MO) dated Sep 6, 1924, I learned that Donna played at the Columbia Theater in Columbia, MO. I also learned Donna may have won additional beauty contests. The article also contains known fabrications.

September 6, 1924

Prima Donna Tells Reasons Why
                       Girls Seek the Bright Lights

Image of Article From the Columbia_Missourian Sat, Sep 6, 1924.
Columbia_Missourian Sat, Sep 6, 1924.

“Girls leave home because of some sheik, usually, and they are often content, for a time at least, to [??]ve quietly away from the world,” says Miss Donna Darling, prima donna, whose bathing beauties troupe played at the Columbia Theater the last two nights.

“Why do bathing beauties leave the beach to go on the stage?” and Miss Darling’s eyes twinkled brightly. “Do you want the real reason, or just some press agent stuff?

“Well, the reason bathing -beauties leave, the silver sheet for the stage is because they like to hear the applause and see their audiences. They get tired of the dull silence and absolute quiet which, on the beach, greet their efforts to do their best. In the movies, every scene is ‘shot’ ten times at least, and the best selected. When we start out the applause seems too good to be true.”

Miss Darling and her girls left Los Angeles just six weeks ago. They are working toward Chicago, where, beginning October 1, they will start a seven months’ opening with the Orpheum circuit and work back to the Pacific Coast.

Miss Darling is the winner of several beauty prizes, one conducted by Mayor Curley of Boston in 1921 and another at Madison Square Garden, New York City, a short time later. In 1919 she had also won another such contest, conducted by a New York theater.

It was the winning of the beauty prizes which really paved the way for Miss Darling to enter the movies. She has been with Vitagraph in New York and Universal in California and has spent eight years in vaudeville and on the screen. She is a sister of Miss Grace Darling. During the staging of “Chin Chin,” which was written and directed by her sister, she played the leading role.

Miss Darling and Mr. Earle also did a song and dance act Monday and Tuesday, which was very popular. Miss Darling’s rendition of one of the operas on the violin was a masterpiece.

Mr. Earle, her dancing partner, is the originator of two or three dance steps but says it does not pay to spend time working them up, as someone always steals them. One of his steps, however, “Over the Top,” has won him fame.

“Most dances now,” he said, “are combinations of the old steps done in such a way that the actor is able to put them over with the aid of his personality and acting.”


Because of those newly available online articles, I was able to add another venue for Donna’s exciting vaudeville career.

I added New information to her career list. On September 4 & 5, 1924, she was in Columbia, MO, at the Columbia Theater.

  • I also learned that Donna left LA about Jul 25.
  • I learned Donna would be working in Chicago on Oct 1.
  • I learned that Donna would be working in the Orpheum circuit and would travel back to the Pacific Coast.

The article suggests Donna won three different beauty contests:

  • 1919 – Conducted by a New York theater.
  • 1921 – Conducted by Mayor Curley of Boston.
  • 1921 – Held at Madison Square Garden shortly after Mayor Curley’s contest.

The article suggests she worked with Vitagraph in New York and Universal in California. I’ve long known about her being in “Birth of a Nation.” That she worked with Vitagraph and Universal is new to me and can lead to some more research areas.

I have proven previously that Grace Darling was not Donna’s biological sister[i] , although she may have been “stage sisters.”

“Chin Chin” was written by Anne Caldwell and directed by William E MacQuinn during its 1914 Globe Theatre run. Also, “Chin Chin” did not have a leading female role, although Donna did play the Lady of the Lamp for the latter part of the show’s road tour.


[i] See Was Grace Darling Donna’s sister?

My thanks to for providing access to this clipping.

This entry was posted in 1924 - Donna Darling & Earle, In the news, Vaudeville and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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