Donna Darling Collection – Part 82

Two photos of the Bathing Beauties

Treasure Chest Thursday
Hollywood Bathing Beauties
By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at two photographs from the Donna Darling Collection.

Stage – Donna Darling Revue – 6 women on stage – with “India My Own” sign

This first photo has six women on stage. One of the girls is holding a sign that says, “INDIA My Own.” The back of the photo says “Donna Darling Revue.”

In the 1920s, Donna had a show, California Bathing Girls. During that show she sang the song, “India, My Own,” which she wrote. So, this photo is clearly from that time. Donna always needed to be the center of attention and this photo really exemplifies that with two girls on their knees with incense bowls. Additionally, this appears to be Donna in the same hat and dress she wore during her Christmas wishes. (See: Donna Darling Collection – Part 32.) This photo is clearly from that time.

Donna Darling – “California Bathing Girls” – 8 women on stage

This second photo shows all eight of the bathing girls, including Donna, who were part of the “Beach Promenade.” Besides Donna, there were seven other women in the show; Lola St. Clair, Marie Thompson, Alice Eldridge, Bobby Tremaine, Helen Travis, Dorothy Smith, and Alie Dean[i]. Sadly, I have not been able to identify which woman is which in the photo. If you have other photos of any of these women, I’d love to see them.

Conclusion

Two photos of The California Bathing Girls from Donna Darling’s 1920 Vaudeville show.

Future Actions

Try to better identify the seven supporting California Bathing Beauties.


Endnotes

[i] See:  Donna Montran – Moss’s Broadway Theater, July-August 1920

Donna in the News – Princess Theatre – Kirksville, MO – 1924

In The News
Bathing Beauty Revue
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspaper articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (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’s article is from the Kirksville Daily Express & Daily News (Kirksville, MO) dated September 7, 8, & 9, 1924.

I didn’t find any write-ups for the vaudeville shows, but an ad for the Princess Theatre indicates that:

Donna Darling presents
Her Moving Picture Bathing Girls
and
The Life Guard
in a Beach Promenade. 3 Shocks and 2 Gasps!!
“The Evolution of a Bathing Suit”
It’s a real vaudeville treat!
Don’t Miss It!

The advertisements over the three days indicate that it played at the Princess on Monday and Tuesday, September 8th and 9th. The display ad on Sunday spelled the name of the feature film correctly, but the text ad on Monday misspelled the feature film as “The Excitors.”

On Monday, besides the feature film “The Exciters,” a Mack Sennett short, The Hollywood Kid also played. It appears that Donna’s show was the only vaudeville at the theater Monday and Tuesday.

Because of those newly available online articles, I was able to add another venue for Donna’s 1924 Bathing Girls show:

1924-09-08 – Kirksville, MO – Princess Theatre – Moving Picture Bathing Girls.


Endnotes

  • Kirksville Daily Express and Kirksville Daily News (Kirksville, Missouri) Sun, Sep 7, 1924 · Page 2
  • Kirksville Daily Express and Kirksville Daily News (Kirksville, Missouri) Mon, Sep 8, 1924 · Page 2
  • Kirksville Daily Express and Kirksville Daily News (Kirksville, Missouri) Tue, Sep 9, 1924 · Page 2

Donna in the News – Mission Theatre, Santa Barbara, 1926

In the News
Donna Darling Revue
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspaper articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (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’s article is from the Santa Barbara Daily News (Santa Barbara, CA), dated October 15th, 1926[i].

The ad doesn’t mention Donna, but Page 13 does have a brief mention of the shows at the Mission; it says:

The Mission will offer a very entertaining and jazzy program today and Saturday, headed by “The Donna Darling Review.”

Other acts mentioned include:

  • Herbert Cagger (Balancing Act)
  • Kostner and Vivian (Old-time rube act)
  • Curtis and Lawrence (Skit)
  • “Those Who Dare” (Screen Feature) (IMDB)

The fifth vaudeville act isn’t mentioned either.

Donna played in Santa Ana on October 7-9 and Porterville on October 19th, so her playing at Santa Ana on the 15th and 16th makes sense.

Thanks to this newly available online article, I was able to add another venue for Donna and the “Donna Darling Review.”

October 15-16, 1926 – Santa Barbara. CA – Mission Theatre – Donna Darling Review


Endnotes

[i] Newspapers by Ancestry – Santa Barbara Daily News (Santa Barbara, California) · Fri, Oct 15, 1926 · Page 13 “MISSION” – Accessed on Oct 7, 2021

Donna’s Leaving Hollywood

Donna Montran
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I often talk about my Don Taylor Genealogy Blog as “cousin bait,” but a chiropractor who knew Donna in the sixties and seventies contacted me because of the blog. He was an intern at N.W. Chiropractic college in Minneapolis and a “little old lady” named Donna Kees came to see him in 1961. After he graduated, she transferred her records to his office, and he continued to treat her for many years. Donna told him stories of her being a Hollywood performer known as “Donna Darling” and that she had lived the big ostentatious life of fancy clothes, convertibles, and long-haired dogs. Although there was a considerable age difference, he and Donna had become very good friends, and she told him many stories.

Through several correspondences, we confirmed it was the same Donna Darling. His Donna had two children and donated her body to the University of Minnesota Medical School. She used to say she “didn’t know why they would want this old body of [hers].” And in fact, her body was in rough shape. She had arthritic changes and some kyphosis (“Dowager’s Hump). She walked with a cane, and on her bad days, she was pretty feeble. However, he said that Donna was always mentally as sharp as a tack.

Donna “Darling” and her dog Gypsie circa 1926

He writes, “Donna described her life in Hollywood just as you would picture it in the 1920s; she rode around in a large convertible with handsome men, beautiful women, and her long-haired silky dogs [Gypsy and apparently others]. She dined at expensive popular restaurants, drank champagne, etc.  She made it sound like a privileged and exciting life.”

John goes on to say, “Donna indicated there were only a few “top” girls in Hollywood, and she wanted to be one of them. She was offered the opportunity to tour the country with an entertainment group she thought it would help her become more well-known and famous. [“Chin-Chin?”] She didn’t realize it at the time, but she told John the reason she left for the tour was that there was only so much room at the top, and she was at the top with some women – one of whom was Mary Pickford. Unfortunately, when she returned, Mary Pickford was “Hollywood’s Sweetheart,” had married

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks – Photo courtesy Kate Gabrielle via Flickr.

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. She and Douglas were the undisputed top couple of Hollywood. They had incredible power among the studios. Donna said that she then realized that she was tricked into leaving and was eased out of the public eye so the studios could make Pickford the top star with no competition.

John’s memories somewhat explain the gap in Donna’s career and her shift from Hollywood, Mack Sennett, and public appearances to vaudeville. Donna joined the “Chin Chin” cast in 1919, shortly after Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith[i]formed United Artists and before Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks married.

Donna was known for her fantastic voice, great dancing, and stage presence, so I’ve often wondered why she hadn’t made the transition from vaudeville to talkies. John’s memories shed some light on possible reasons.

[I would like to thank John Rapacz for sharing his memories and the stories that Donna told him so long ago.]

Endnotes

[i] Donna worked with D. W. Griffith on “Birth of a Nation” in 1915.

Donna 100 Years ago – 10 August 1921

Asbury Park, New Jersey
by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting of events relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling) 100 years ago. Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country several times with her many shows.

In the 10 August 1921 edition, the New York Clipper, Page 15, top of column 3, gave a short and straightforward mention of Donna. 

Donna Montran in the vaudeville act, “As You Like It,” by Hockey and Green, opens at Asbury Park this week; direction of Lee Stewart.

 The first mention of “As You Like It” I have found was when she played at the State Theatre in Beacon, New York, from 30 June to 2 July.

Ashbury Park is a small coastal town on the Jersey shore, about 25 miles, as the crow flies, south of New York City (about 50 miles driving). At the time, there were five theaters, Lyric, St. James, Reade’s Savoy, Shubert, and Reade’s Rialto. The “Asbury Park Press was the newspaper at the time.

A review of the Asbury Park Press, August 1921[i], failed to yield any results for “Montran,” “As You Like It,” “Stewart,” or “Hockey.” The Lyric Theater mentioned they had “2 Other Big Acts – 7 acts in all.” The other theaters (Realto, Main Street, Saint James, and Savoy) all seem to have mentioned all of the shows at those theaters. Consequently, I suspect she was one of the unmentioned shows at the Lyric.

One hundred years ago, Donna played in her vaudeville act, “As you Like It” in Asbury Park, New Jersey, probably at the Lyric Theatre.

Future Actions

  • Learn more about Hockey & Green, the writers of “As You Like It.”
  • Who was Lee Stewart?

Endnotes

[i] Thanks to Newspapers.Com.