Donna 100 Years ago – Palace Theatre, Cincinnati, Ohio.

September 4-9, 1922
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna 100 years ago” reviews my grandmother’s vaudeville life. Madonna Montran, aka “Donna Montran” & “Donna Darling,” had an exciting career during the 1920s. A definite headliner, she crisscrossed the country with her many shows.

The Cincinnati Enquirer · 3 Sep 1922 – Page 61.

Donna performed in the Keith Vaudeville Circuit. She had just finished a week in Louisville, Kentucky, and arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, to play six days at the Palace Theater from the 4th to the 9th.

The Cincinnati Enquirer Friday, September 1st, 1922, issue, Page 5, in their “Cincinnati Theaters and Parks” feature, included three paragraphs about what would be showing at the Palace Theatre. The article included, “Donna Darling of musical comedy fame, assisted by Murray Walker and Jack Finney, in a Melange of song and dance, styled “As You Like It;” The Sunday paper also promoted the show with “Donna Darling in ‘As You Like It,’ a musical playlet in which the former musical comedy favorite is assisted with Murray Walker and Jack Finney.” There was also an ad on the same page that listed seven vaudeville shows and one photoplay starting Monday. The playbill included:

The Cincinnati Post 4 Sep 1922. Page 6?
    • Burke Morgan & DeForest Wooley
    • Burke, Larry & Clifford
    • Donna Darling
    • Naie & Rizzo
    • Harry Bussey
    • Nadje & Co.
    • Don Lanning
    • Photoplay: “The Top of New York” with May McAvoy

Donna always wanted to be the headliner, and sure enough, the Monday paper put her as the first show in subsequent advertisements. The Tuesday paper wrote that the show was “worthy of headline honors.”

One hundred years ago, Donna played in the vaudeville act “As You Like It” at the Palace Theater in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Palace Theater

Palace Theatre, 1924.

The Palace Theater opened on December 6th, 1919, as a B. F. Keith vaudeville house, across the street from the world-famous Cincinnatian Hotel. By the time Donna played there in 1922, the theatre was a mixed theater playing vaudeville and photoplays. An eight-piece orchestra, led by William Heege provided music during the silent films and as needed for the vaudeville shows. The theater converted to all movies in 1928. It was renamed the RKO Palace Theater. It was renamed TKO International 70 in 1964 and closed in 1976. It reopened as the International Music House in 1978. It closed again in 1982 when it was demolished.

Specifications for the Palace Theatre[i]

  • Seating Capacity: 2,619.
  • Stage Dimensions: 70’ wide x 60’ high and 35’ deep.

Today, the location includes the high-rise office, “Center at 600 Vine[ii],[iii].


[i]  The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory, Volume XX (1921), Page 74 – Palace Theatre.

[ii] Cinema Treasures – International Music House –

[iii] Google –

Donna Darling – Strand Theatre, Dayton, Ohio – 28-30 Aug 1922.

Donna 100 Years Ago
“As You Like It”
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna 100 years ago” reviews my grandmother’s vaudeville life. Madonna Montran, aka “Donna Montran” & “Donna Darling,” had an exciting career during the 1920s. A definite headliner, she crisscrossed the country with her many shows.

Donna took a break from June 7th until about July 10th, 1922, to have her tonsils removed and take a vacation. I suspect it took a couple of months for her throat to heal because I haven’t found any venues from then until this show at B. F. Keith’s Strand Theatre in Dayton, Ohio.

She arrived in Dayton to play three days at the Strand Theatre from August 28th to the 30th, 1922.

Preshow Advertising

An article in the Dayton Herald, on August 26th, 1922, Page 5, foretold her show arrival;


Russell’s Minstrels Open Monday; Jean Sothern Coming Thursday.

Russell’s Minstrels scheduled as headline attraction for the first half of the week at the Keith -Strand carries patrons back to the days when minstrelsy was “the thing” and the offering with its spicy, speedy, jazzing feast of syncopation will bring much applause and much cheer to the heart.

Donna Darling the musical comedy favorite assisted by Murray Walker and Jack Finney in “As You Like It” will star in this little “cocktail” in which the ingredients and tasty and completely satisfying. Miss Darling and her clever co-workers are all excellent songsters.

The following day, the Dayton Daily News, August 27th, 1922, on Page 17, wrote:

Donna Darling, the musical comedy favorite, whose voice is as charming as her personality and her adaptability equivalent to the most favored star, will be assisted by Murray Walker and Jack Finney and the trio will present melody of that is of particular interest and influence….

Ad – The Dayton Herald – 29 August 1922.

On the 29th, the day after the show began, the Dayton Herald reported (on page 12):

Donna Darling and Murray Walker present a little skit replete with song and dance which has many brief moments of excellence. Especially noteworthy in this act is the singing of Miss Darling and the dancing of Walker.

And finally, on the 30th, the last day of the show, the Dayton Daily News reported;

“Donna Darling, who is blonde and beautiful, has a great deal of talent. She is assisted in her act by Murray Walker, another excellent dancer.”

B. F. Keith’s Strand Theatre

Dayton’s RKO Strand Theatre – Photo Courtesy Gary Smith via Cinema

The Theatre opened in 1904 as the National Theatre. It became the Lyceum Theatre in 1913 and changed its name to the B. F. Keith Theatre the following year. A fire damaged the Theatre in 1916, and it reopened as the Strand Theatre later in 1916 and showed movies only.[i] Sometime between then and 1922, the Theatre began showing Vaudeville shows again. It was destroyed by fire in 1943 and never rebuilt. Today, the Convention Center sits on the site.

The 1921 Julius Chan—Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory lists B. F. Keith’s as a 1,841-seat capacity theatre that plays both Vaudeville and Pictures, managed by James L. Weed. As you might guess, it is part of the Keith’s Theatre Circuit.

Today the site appears to be a street underpass under the railroad tracks near the Dayton Convention Center.


[i] Internet: Cinema Treasures dot org – “RKO Strand Theatre” 214 Maine Street, Dayton, Ohio.