“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly discovered newspaper articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka 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’s article is from page 4 of the Kenosha News (Kenosha, WI), dated 25 November 1925.
VAUDEVILLE ON THANKSGIVING. ——- Special Act to Accompany Feature Picture, “The Pony Express.”
A special vaudeville act will be given on Thanksgiving Day at the Orpheum theater in conjunction with the feature picture, “The Pony Express.” The act will be Donna Darling and girls in “Her Little Jewel Revue.” There will be singing, dancing and special scenery.
The picture which starts Thursday for the rest of the week has one scene on the mammoth location set near Cheyenne, Wyoming, that was directed by Vice-President Charles G. Dawes. The vice-president extended the range of his versatility when he assumed the role of motion picture director. Aided by an occasional word from James Cruse, the producer, and Betty Compson, who has the featured feminine role in this epic production, the general appeared to enjoy the experience, shouting “Camera” like a veteran.
Thanks to this new posting at Newspapers.com, I learned that on Nov 26, 1925, in Kenosha, Wisconsin at the Orpheum Theater, Donna Darling and girls presented the “Little Jewel Revue.” I was able to add another venue for Donna’s “Little Jewel Revue” tour.
Donna and “Chin Chin” play at the Hippodrome in Pottsville, Pennsylvania on 24 & 25 April 1920.
My grandmother, Donna Montran, joined the cast of the vaudeville show “Chin Chin” on October 30, 1919, and toured with the production until the production ended playing on May 31, 1920.
Before the cast of “Chin-Chin” arrived at Pottsville, they had had a tough series of one-night shows and were probably pleased to have off on Sunday, April 25th before playing at the Hippodrome in Pottsville, PA. Also pleasing to the cast had to have been they would play at Pottsville for two days in a row.
“The Hippodrome” that must be the place where Hippo’s roam. That sounds good but isn’t right. The word “Hippodrome” comes from a Greek word, hippos, which means horse, and dremon, meaning path or way.[i] I doubt very much that horses ever raced at the Hippodrome in Pottsville, however, Mademoiselle Falloffski surly rode her horse in circles on stage during the production of “Chin-Chin” at the Hippodrome.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at a page from the Donna Darling Collection that includes two clippings.
“Leon The Great” Pleases Orpheum
The mystery act of “Leon the Great,” advertised as the headline stunt on the bill current at the Orpheum, went over with a bang, but is forced to share honors with Primrose Semon and the Donna Darling revue.
The former is the snappiest and hardest working redhead to appear here in several months. Shad had a stock of clever songs and with her partner got across some original quips.
Donna’s singing, two comely toe dancers, and a comedian who was actually funny at times constitute the Donna Darling revue.
Stone and Leever get some good stuff across, but should get together with the comedian in Donna’s revue and flip coins for a couple of comic songs that both acts use.
“Leon the Great” is mysterious enough….
This clipping comes without any date or location information.
Donna played the Orpheum in Clinton, IA on December 9th thru the 11th, 1926.
Donna Played the Orpheum in Des Moines on 2nd thru the 5th of January 1927.
Donna had a return engagement to the Orpheum in Clinton, IA on January 16th thru 19th, 1927.
According to the advertisement, Donna played at the Orpheum in Des Moines with The Great Leon, Miss Primrose Seamon, Stone & Leever, and Hartley and Patterson on January 2nd 1927. I have been unable to find any ads or articles for Donna in Clinton (either date) so far. However, it is unlikely that the same 5 acts played in both Des Moines and Clinton. As such, I’m confident this article relates to Donna’s show in Des Moines.
Majestic Theatre Program
DONNA DARLING REVUE
Assisted by Hal Dixon & Co.
A Super Song Revue—A Dazzling dance fantasy—A Novel
Comedy Oddity in Five Scenes
Handwritten on the clipping are the words “Dubuque Iowa.” From previous work I know that Donna performed the Donna Darling Review at the Majestic Theater in Dubuque, Iowa from December 12th through December 15th. I wrote about some other clippings from that show in the Donna Darling Collection #55. I added DDC-57 to the listing for that show.
December 12-15, 1926 – Dubuque, IA – Majestic Theatre – Donna Darling Revue – Newspaper Archive – DDC-55, DDC-57.
 “1 Jan 1927, 8 – Des Moines Tribune At Newspapers.Com”. 2019. Newspapers.Com. Accessed October 24 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/324007959/?terms=%22Donna%2BDarling%2BRevue%22.
Majestic (Harrisburg, PA) and York Opera House (York, PA)
Treasure Chest Thursday
Donna Darling & Boys
By Don Taylor
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at three clippings from one page (0110) of the Donna Darling Collection.
The first two clippings relate to Donna’s playing at the Majestic Theatre.
The first is a simple ad.
MAJESTIC The Talk of the Town Frederick V. Bowers Popular Musical Comedy Star and Song Writer, In His The first is a simple ad. With a Bevy of Pretty Girls — — — COMING THURSDAY Another Musical ComedFavorite DONNA DARLING & BOYS
Sadly, nothing in this ad indicates which of the many Majestic Theatres this was nor does it indicate when. Luckily, an accompanying clipping on the same page provides a likely location and date for the show.
Week of April 3, 1922
MAXINE & BOGGY
The Comedy Dog
STEIFF PIANOS used in this Theatre
Spencer—CASE & MAYNE—Edith
“I WOULDN’T DO THAT”
Beautiful Musical Comedy Favorite MISS DONNA DARLING & CO.
Assisted by Murry Walker and Jack Finney
In a Song and Dance Cocktail
“AS YOU LIKE IT”
MORGAN & MORGAN
“Making you Laugh”
A Cycle Of
Songs and Dances
White and Mills
Martha Conwell …… Saxophonist
Verna Dorn …………… Drummer
Scenery by Robert Law Studio
Staged by Douglas Royce
Newspaper articles, found at Genealogy Bank, confirmed that Donna played at the Majestic in Harrisburg on April 6th, 7th, and 8th. Also, in the Harrisburg Patriot on April 4th was the same ad in the clippings.
York Opera House
The third clipping is part of a York Opera House show. No date is provided, but articles at Newspapers.Com confirmed that Donna played at the York Opera House in York, Pennsylvania, on April 3rd to 5th. The clipping shows many of the same acts seen in the Majestic clipping.
In place of Case & Mayne is:
Ralph Jim KITNER AND REANEY In “An Ocean Episode”
And in place of Morgan & Morgan was:
Lorraine Verna HOWARD & SADLER Presenting their Harmonious Comedy Songalogue “Wedding Belles”
Program items A and B are missing in both the clippings, it appears that all other filler films started the two showings. For example, at the York Opera House, instead of “Case & Mayne” and “Morgan and Morgan” was the last chapter of “Breaking Through” and “Aesop’s Fables.”
Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” played at the Rajah Theatre in Reading, PA, on 24 April 1920
By Don Taylor
We know that April, 1920, was a grueling month for the “Chin Chin” cast. On April 22nd they played Frederick, MD. On the 23rd they traveled the 65 miles north to Carlisle, played there one night then on the 80 miles to Reading for another two shows – a matinee and an evening show.
The first advertising I found was in the Reading Eagle, starting on April 18th. There was a standard ad on page 16, along with a lengthy article about the show.[i]
Coming to the Rajah Theatre matinee and night, Saturday, April 24, Charles Dillinghan’s “Chin Chin,” the musical comedy which is one of those tales of love and wishing common to the Arabian Nights.
All impossibilities are crowded into it, jumbled together like the figures in a dream in the end it resolves itself into a vehicle for the display of the clever grotesqueries of the two clever “turn” artists, Walter Wills and Roy Binder. Mr Wills, whose body seems made of rubber, and whose facial expressions change as quickly as the wheel of fortune gives Chin Hop It Paderewsky, Mlle Falloffski, a gendarme and a ventriloquist, transformations accompanied by such curious tricks and poses such tumbling, dancing, imitating such a running fire of jokes and fun-making that the audience fairly screams with laughter. Mr. Binder gives in rapid succession Chin Hop Lo, the widow, a coolie, and the ringmaster, lightning changes of mood, manner and get-up that provide the audience to mirth. George Usher makes an aggregable and picturesque Aladdin.
The danseuse is Irene McKay, and astonishing acrobatic and step performer whose twinkling feet are full of speed and syncopation. Her number with Mr. Willis entitled “Dance Poetic,” is a remarkable performance ending with a surprise to the audience.
The favorite songs are “The Chinese Honeymoon,” “Good-bye Girls,” “I’m Through” “Volet,” “The Gray Dove,” and “Love Moon.” The most recalled dance and song numbers are the “Teddy Bear Dance,” (without words), “Go Gar Sing Gong-Jue,” “Temple Bells,” The Rag of Rags,” and “Bally Moony.”
The clever saxophone sextette by Tom Brown’s Clown Band is one of the most amusing and delightful bits of the play. The company is one of the largest organizations presenting a musical comedy on the road today. There girls and girls.
There were adds and articles daily in the Reading Eagle or the Reading Times from the 18th through the 23rd. I did not see any that called out Donna directly, but a couple mentioned “Love Moon” being sung, which was a song sung by the Goddess of the Lamp (Donna’s role).
It is likely that the “Chin Chin” cast had off on Sunday, April 26th. However, the show must go on and it played at the Hippodrome in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
The Rajah Theatre was initially built in the 1800s as a market with a Masonic Temple on its upper floors. It was built on a potter’s field of a cemetery. Although the cemetery interred were supposed to be reinterred at another location, in the early 1800s there were still 30 uncovered during the building during 1873.[ii] It was converted to a theatre in 1886 and became the Academy of Music.
The 1913 Theatrical Guide indicates that the Academy of Music had a seating capacity of 1,341 – 795 on the Main Floor, 341 in the Balcony, and 206 in the Gallery. Besides the Academy, there were four other theaters in Reading at the time, the Orpheum, Hippodrome, Lyric, and Palace Theatres.
In 1917, The Academy of Music was purchased by the Rajah Shriners, renamed the Rajah Theatre, and became the vaudeville house that “Chin Chin” played at.
In May 1921[iv] the Rajah burned and underwent substantial rebuilding. The theatre reopened on September 10, 1922.
The theater had two more fires, both in 1935, but recovered quickly from them.[v]
In 2000, the building received a $7 million facelift and became the Sovereign Performing Arts Center (named for Sovereign Bank). Today, it is the Santander Performing Arts Center (for the Santander Bank) and is home for the Reading Symphony Orchestra, the Reading Civic Opera Society, and hosts a variety of events.[vi]
Specifications for the Academy of Music (Rajah Theatre)[vii]
Proscenium opening: 35.5×32 ft
Front to back wall: 32 ft
Between side walls: 76 ft
Apron 2 ft
Between fly girders: 45 ft
To rigging loft: 55 ft
To fly gallery: 30 ft
10 Dressing rooms
Today, the Rajah Theatre is the Santander Performing Arts Center.