“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspaper articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). I am always excited when I find new information regarding my grandmother’s exciting show business career during the 1910s and 1920s.
This week’s article is from the Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Mass.) dated 22 July 1915.
ROUTE OF FLIGHT CHANGED
City Officials Refuse to Allow Miss Montran to Drop Pennants on Boston Common
Because of inability to secure a permit to drop the “Birth of a Nation” pennants on the Boston Common, the route of the biplane carrying Miss Donna Montran had to be suddenly changed. Miss Montran, one of the “belles of 1861” in the moving picture at the Tremont Theatre, expected to make two round trips with Captain J. Chauncey Redding, in his aeroplane, from Saugus to Boston, dropping from the machine, while over the Common, one hundred pennants advertising the “Birth of a Nation, twenty-five of which had free ticket attached.
City officials would not allow this to be done, so that instead of coming to Boston Miss Montran flew over Lynn and Revere, where the pennants were dropped. She was attired similar to the lobby girls at the Tremont Theatre, with the exception of the hoop skirt. It is doubtful if the flight over Boston could have been made even if a permit had been granted, for the weather conditions today would not allow for the altitude necessary to insure safety.
This article provided additional detail regarding Donna’s biplane flight in 1915 over Lynn and Revere and how come she didn’t fly over Boston Common and drop the pennants there.
Originally Published: Oct 29, 2015 UPDATED: May 20, 2021
The Boston Glove – July 22, 1915, Page 8
TO FLY OVER COMMON
Miss Donna Montran Expects to Drop Pennants and Tickets for Show From Biplane,
Miss Donna Montran, one of the pretty “belles of 1861” in “The Birth of a Nation,” at the Tremont Theatre, is anticipating the time of her life this afternoon, when she expects to make two round trips between Saugus and Boston Common with Capt J. Chauncey Redding in his biplane, incidentally showering “Birth of a Nation” pennants and free tickets for the Tremont Theatre on the heads of the crowd that will witness the flight from the Common. The two flights over the Common in the vicinity of the Tremont Theatre are scheduled, one for about 1:30, or not long after, the other a short time before the matinee performance is over, probably about 4:30. During the first flight the biplane will circle about above the State House dome.
Miss Montran will be attired similarly to the lobby girls at the Tremont Theatre, though without the hoopskirt. She will drop 100 pennants on the Common, 25 of which will have tickets for the theatre attached to them. The distribution will take place during both flights, and those who capture the tickets will be able to see “The Birth of a Nation” free of cost.
Sadly, she wasn’t able to make that flight. The theatre was unable to get approval for the flight over Boston Common and the State House. They did, however, get approval to drop the pennants over Revere Beach the following Day. This was a really big deal and the Boston Globe covered it with a photo article on July 23rd.
According to the article, rather than wearing a Tremont Theatre lobby girl’s outfit as reported she would the day before, she wore an aviator’s trim costume. Also, the article says, “On the descent of the machine Miss Montran expressed herself as delighted with her 50 minutes in the air.”
There were articles in other papers including The Boston Herald, 23 July 1915.
“Actress Make Two Flights in Biplane.” She flew in Capt. J. Chauncey Redding biplane on July 22nd.
A google search for J. Chauncey Redding yielded a photo of the plane. The photo was taken the week of 6 September, just six weeks after Donna’s flights. If you wonder how dangerous was it to fly in a biplane in 1915, the pilot, Capt. J. Chauncey Redding, died on October 21st when his biplane collapsed while in midair while over the Lynn, MA, marshes.
Another article appeared in the Washington Herald a few weeks later. That article indicates that the plane was a Burgess-Wright aeroplane as reported in Aerial Age Weekly. It also mentions that Miss Montran was, “delighted with her fifty minutes in the air.”
I was able to find Aerial Age Weekly online at Google Books. The Washington Herald article is a reprint of the same article and provides no additional information..
Finally, I was able to find a photo on Wikimedia photo of the Wright Model B which was licensed to Burgess to make the Burgess-Wright Model F. This was the exact type of aircraft J. Chauncey Redding used during Donna’s flight.
Update 20 May 2021
Donna’s stunt not only made the local newspapers, it was also reported in both Moving Picture World and in Pictures and the Picturegoer.
We do not like to realize that there is anyone in the Hub who has not seen “The Birth of a Nation,” which I have had the good fortune to see several times, always finding something new and wonderful to fill the eye. The last weeks are announced. A novelty in the way of advertising this picture was put forth the other day when one of the pretty girls of ’61, gowned as in the play, went up in an aeroplane and scattered pennants, some of them having free tickets. She was dainty Donna Montran.
Donna Montran. a player in The Birth of a Nation (a picture we all hope to see) has been making aeroplane-flights and dropping pennants bearing the sign, The Birth of a Nation, to which were attached free passes, and worth picking up.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at two pages from the Donna Darling Collection[i]. On the pages were eight photos that I’ll look at and hopefully identify during this article.
The first photo is an easy one. It is me, from the summer when I was turning one. Sadly, the person with me was cut out. It was probably my grandmother Donna. My stepfather cut Donna out of many photos. In 1951, I had the surname of “Larson” as my mother had married a Larson, and using the same surname as a stepfather was common in those days as it made things easier.
Russell Kees, Age 1
This is clearly my uncle Russell Kees, probably when he probably about one. He is clearly standing, but he looks like he needs the chair’s aid to do so. Russell was born in August 1927, so this photo appears to be from the summer of 1928.
Next is a photo of Gypsie, Donna’s Pekinese, as a puppy of 5 weeks. With her is a littermate. We’ve seen Donna and Gypsie before. When Donna and her show were in Canada, having pictures taken while scantily clad in the snow, Donna had Gypsie with her. (See the Donna Darling Collection Part 9[ii].)
Donna & Gypsie
We also see Donna holding Gypsie in what appears to be a beach on a cold day. Donna is wearing a stylish hat and coat.
Donna & Friend
In this photo, Donna is with an unknown woman. I’ve seen this woman in enough pictures that I’m sure she is a regular in Donna’s show. Donna was always keen to keep other people’s names out of her acts, so determining who this is for sure may be difficult. For now, I’ll call her “Woman Alpha.”
Friends of Donna
The next photo is of Woman Alpha with a man. For the sake of keeping track of them, I’m going to call him Man Alpha and the two of them Couple Alpha. I suspect this is probably a ferry.
Donna, Sammy, and Friends
Next is a photo of four people in swimsuits. Sammy is on the left; Donna is on the right. I’m confident the other woman is “Woman Bravo.” As such, I’m going to call the man with her “Man Bravo” and the two of them “Couple Bravo.”
Donna, Sammy, and the Gang (c. 1926)
This group of six includes an unknown young man, Donna “Darling,? “Man Bravo,” Sammy Clark, “Woman Bravo,” and a final unidentified man in a shirt, tie, suit, and hat.
I suspect that Couple Alpha and Couple Bravo are the same couple, but I can’t tell for sure. I’ll be looking for more evidence regarding their identification in future research.
Besides this blog post, I’ve added metadata of this information to the photo images using Vivid Restore. More about that in a later blog.
Over the past few months, I’ve begun to improve my skills in photo identification. Clearly, there are two couples that should be identified. Are they the same couple? I’ll try to do so in the coming months.
[i] The originals images were: DSCN1473 (original).tiff, DSCN1523 (original).tiff, and SCAN0188 (original).tiff. Additionally, I have a tiff of each of these photos.
[ii] I didn’t learn that “the Peke” was actually Gypsie, the Pekinese dog until much later.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at another clipping from the Donna Darling Collection
First, we know the show took place during Thanksgiving week at the Stroud.
1919 We know Donna was part of the “Chin Chin” company and played in Salt Lake City during Thanksgiving, so it can’t be 1919.
1920 Donna played as Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties, so we know it can’t be 1920.
1921 Donna was playing with Murray Walker and Walter Davis as Donna Montran. By January 1922, her shows all featured “Donna Darling,” never Donna Montran. So it makes sense that “Dona Montrim” could be 1921.
1922 – However, in November 1922, Donna was showing as Donna Darling and Company. It is possible Donna could have done some kind of throwback to using Montrim (Montran) in 1922.
1923 – Thanksgiving Donna was appearing in the Donna Darling Revue during November 1923.
1924 – In 1924, Donna’s show was again a Bathing Beauty show.
1925 – In 1925, Donna was doing the “Little Jewel Revue.”
1926 – Donna was showing with Sammy in 1926.
1927 – Donna appears to have dropped out of show business during the summer of 1927. I have no record of her appearing in 1927 or 1928.
A search for the Stroud Theatre at Cinetreasures found only one Stroud Theatre open during the 1920s. That was in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Likewise, the 1921 The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide And Moving Picture Directory. Indicates there was only one Stroud Theatre, and it was in Stroudsburg.
I know very little about Donna’s shows in the fall of 1921. Indeed, she played in New York in October and played in Philadelphia in December, so her playing in Stroudsburg, PA in November 1921 makes sense. On the other hand, Donna played in Elmira, New York, in November 1922 and Paterson, NJ, in December, so 1922 is possible.
The critical fact that illuminates the date is an accompanying article that mentions the feature “Inside the Cup” adapted from the story of Winston Churchill was also playing. Wikipedia indicates that the film adaptation of Churchill’s book was titled “Inside of the Cup” and was released in January of 1921. As such, I’m confident that the show had to have played at the Stroud Theater in Stroudsburg, PA in 1921. Thanksgiving in 1921 was November 24th.
Additionally, a Newspapers.Com search for “Dona Montrim” yielded a match to her playing at Reade’s Savoy Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on October 13th and October 14th. That confirms her playing in the area using that unusual spelling. Thanks to Newspapers.Com, I was able to add another venue to her schedule.
The venue is the Stroud Theatre in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
At least two days between November 24th and November 25th, 1921.
The show is “Dona Montrim & Co. – Singing and Dancing.”
Also, on the bill
The Barry Jazzers
Three Walceys – Acrobatic Novelty
Whynot & Brady – Musical Act
Phil Davis – Southern Songster
Features: “Inside the Cup”
Another note is her name in the article is “Dora Montrim.” A search for “Dora Montrim” at Newspapers.Com, Genealogy Bank, and Chronicling America did not yield any results. This show should be added to Donna’s Schedule:
November 24-25, 1921 – Stroud Theatre – Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania – Dona Montrim & Co. – DDC-76.
October 13-14, 1921 – Reade’s Savoy Theatre – Asbury Park, New Jersey – Dona Montrim & Co.
Treasure Chest Thursday
As You Like It
By Don Taylor
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at two clippings from the Donna Darling Collection relating to the Stratton Theatre.
| WN DAILY TIMES-PRESS, FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 19 |
Stratton Offers Big Program
The acts at the Stratton are all wonderful. To pick the headline act would be quite a task but after one looks at beautiful Donna Darling and her dancing boys he will begin to sit up and take real notice. Her presentation is a miniature musical comedy which might be styled “An Act a Minute.” Murray Walker in his imitation of Pat Rooney was very good. Jack Finney the other boy with Miss Darling proved himself a dancing demon. The Rising Generation might be classed as one of the best child acts on the American stage today. Credit for this splendid offering goes to Miss Maude Daniels who has arranged this very pretty offering and the training of the children. James (Fat) Thompson and Al Petrie appear in a comedy barrage entitled “The Comoufleures.” James Valdare comes along with something new in the line of comedy cycling. Piasno and Bingham in “At the Barber Pole” have a very novelty skit which proves to be a choice bit of amusement. A big time act, “Yachting,” presented by Tom Brown, with Harry Voltaire and Arline Lloyd. This act might be styled as a musical cruise with oceans of melody. Sheehan and Richards present a |
Very bright offering of chatter and song that pleases all.
The big feature photoplay is Pola Negri in “The Last Payment.” The scenes are thrilling and the production as a whole, is massive and superb. Tomorrow’s big feature will be Bebe Daniels in “One Wild Week.”
The second clipping is a reminder to me to double-check and triple-check scans before I return material to its source. In this case the very left edge of the scan was cut off which resulted in losing the first letter (or two) of each line. It is one of the items I wish I could get back and rescan.
Seven New Acts at the Stratton
Opening today with an all new Keith Program of seven sterling vaudeville acts the Stratton Theatre will present for the last half of the week and attraction for the local theatergoers that will outdo anything ever before attempted. James Valdare in a comedy cycling novelty, who has just toured Europe with Harry Lander’s famous troupe, opens the program with a whirl of daring deeds on a bicycle. Sheehan and Richards then follow in a bright and snappy offering of chatter and song. The Rising Generation, a sensational juvenile attraction which presents nine of the most talented children on the American Stage. Pisano and Bingham in a choice bit of amusement entitled “At the Barber Pole” Mr. Pisano as an Italian, and Mr. Bingham as an Irishman, and the dialogue of the two is productive of much fun. Miss Donna Darling, musical comedy favorite, and winner of the Madison Square Garden beauty contest assisted by Murray Walker and Jack Finney, her dancing boys, presents an unusually interesting revue entitles “As You Like It.” James Thompson and Company in a screamingly funny ??ckface comedy brimming over with >>n, will add to your amusement. Tom Brown, of the famous Brown Brown Brothers, send the feature act to close the ???. It is Harry Voltaire and company in “Yachting,” described as a musical cruise with oceans of melody. The act embraces five saxophones a….
The venue is the Stratton Theatre.
The date is the 2nd half of the week that includes April 14th (Apr 13-15)
The show is “As You Like It” staring Donna Darling and Murray Walker and Jack Finney.
Also on bill
James (Fat) Thompson & Al Petrie in “The Comoufleures”
James Valdare in a bicycle show
Piasno & Bingham in “At the Barber Pole”
Rising Generation. (A children’s act)
Sheehan & Richards
Tom Brown, with Harry Voltaire & Arline Lloyd in “Yachting”
Photoplay: Poli Negri in “The Last Payment”
Coming attractions include:
Bebe Daniels in “One Wild Week.”
This first article has a banner that has a paper name and date of “wn Daily Times-Press dated Friday, April 14, 19.” No year and no city. The good news is that Cinema Treasures indicates there were only two theaters with the name “Stratton” and one of them was in Middletown, New York.[i] Next, the clipping mentions that the photoplay showing was Pola Negri in “The Last Payment.” That movie was released in Germany in 1919.[ii] However, a review of newspaper mentions of the movie indicated that it didn’t come to the United States until the fall of 1921 and was playing through the Spring of 1922. Additionally, in 1922, April 14th was a Friday, proving the show was in 1922. The second half of the week would have been April 13, 14, & 15.
I added the following:
April 13-15, 1922 – Middletown, New York – Stratton Theatre – Donna Darling “As You Like It,” with Murray Walker and Jack Finney. – DDC-71.