“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.
Learn more about Hockey & Green, the writers of “As You Like It.”
For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection.
Delightful screen and vaudeville entertainment will be provided at the South Broad Theatre for three days beginning today when the James Oliver Curwood drama, “Kazan” and a series of new acts will be presented, together with comedy films and other events.
Of course, there is a delightful man and woman romance in this refreshing Curwood story, but its greatest power lies in the parallel drawn between human and animal life, and without a remarkable dog to interpret the role of “Kazan” the production could not have been made. But such a remarkable dog was found, and Director Bertram Bracken was enabled to accomplish the so-called “impossible.” The result is declared to be one of the finest photoplays of the North country.
The new vaudeville will be headed by Doona Montram [sic] and Her Boys in a musical comedy review, called “As You Like,” supported by Thomas Doray and Edna Sarlini in “by Heck,” the Novilions, a comedy acrobatic team, and John and Dave Mills, musical comedy duo.
Tomorrow night will be “Ye Olde Country Store” night, when 25 presents will be given away free to members of the audience.
“Kazan,” written by James Oliver Curwood, was released in October 1921. Additionally, the two other clippings on the same page in Donna’s album related to the Stroud Theatre, Stroudsburg, PA, where she played on November 24th and 25th. See DCC-76
Donna didn’t begin using Darling until 1922, so this clipping is clearly from 1921.
Searching for “Thomas Doray” I found an article at Genealogy Bank that spoke of the delightful vaudeville card composed of Donna Montram [sic] and Her Boys in a musical comedy revue, called “As You Like.” Supported by Thomas Doray and Edna Sarlin, in “By Heck….” It was in the January 11, 1922, Trenton Evening Times.
The venue is the Broad Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey.
The show is the “Donna Montran and Her Boys in “As You Like [It]”
Also, on the bill:
Thomas Doray and Edna Sarlini in “by Heck,”
Novilions, an acrobatic comedy team,
John and Dave Mills, a musical comedy duo.
The movie showing was the James Oliver Curwood story, “Kazan,” staring Jane Novak
I added a new venue for Donna’s vaudeville career:
January 9-11, 1922 – Trenton, NJ – South Broad Theatre – “Donna Montram [sic] and Her Boys in “As You Like” – DDC-80.
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.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at three images from the Donna Darling Collection that relate to the Strand Theater.
MISS DONNA DARLING
Who with her Dancing Boys will be at the Strand first half next week in a dance revue entitled “As You Like It”.
The venue is the Strand. No Location is provided.
Date is not provided.
The show is “As You Like It.”
Although the cropped image doesn’t include any other clues, the original torn out image mentions “William de Mille” and “__ter the Show” is playing somewhere. “After the Show” was released in October 1921.[i] So, it appears that the date for the show is probably October or November 1921.
Donna’s “As you Like It” show began in June 1921 and ran until October 1922. Donna played the Strand theater in Ithaca, New York and played the Strand theater in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, in February 1922. This clipping could be from either of those shows, but it is more likely from an earlier show at a here-to-for unknown Strand theater she played in late 1921.
Circa Oct-Nov 1921 – Strand Theater – (Unknown Location) Donna Darling “As You Like It.” DDC-70.
Second Strand Clipping
Mabel Talliaferro at Strand
The most notable engagement of the present season at the Strand is announced by the management for the first half of this week, in presentation of that charming artist of stage and screen, Mabel Talliaferro, who is appearing in person in “Connie,” a playlet of comedy and romance with Daniel Moyles and Edmund Soraghan. Miss Talliaferro has been secured for a limited engagement in vaudeville and has been brought out of New York city for one week, split between the Strand and Proctor’s Grand Theatre, Albany, and will be a headliner at both theatres. Other big-time stars will be secured and as the big-time acts will not take a booking of less than a week, they will be divided between the Strand and Proctor’s Grand in Albany, which theatre has a ninety-nine cent admission.
Another engagement for the first half of next week at the Strand is Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties in “A Beach Promenade” which is a headliner. This act carries a beautiful setting, stunning costumes, and ten of “California’s selected peaches.”
Other acts on the bill are Fred and Tommy Hayden;” “The American Englishman,” and Wolfred and Stephens, who are billed as “The Boys That Are Different.” “The Ghost in the Garret,” which is Dorothy Gish’s latest starring vehicle, will be screened. The latest Pathe News completes the bill.
The venue is the Strand (somewhere near Albany, New York).
The date is not provided.
The show is “A Beach Promenade.”
The Strand Theatre in Albany opened November 19, 1920. “It was billed as “New York State’s Most Beautiful Theatre.”[ii] “The Ghost in the Garret” was released in February 1921.[iii]
Donna’s “A Beach Promenade” show began in July 1920 and ran until March 1921. Donna played at the Clinton Theatre in Albany during September 22-25. So, this appears to be a new venue for this show. HOWEVER –
Strand Ad Clipping
Largest and Best Theatre Orchestra in Town | Consistently the Best Show in Town.
“When Better Shows Come to Amsterdam, The Strand will Present Them.” | Tonight, Tomorrow & Wednesday
Engagement Extraordinary | Mabel Taliaferro (herself) | Famous Star of Stage and Screen, in | “Connie” | A One Act Playlet of Comedy and Romance.
Fred & Tommy Hayden – The American Englishmen.
Wolfred & Stephens – The Boys That Are Different.
Engagement De Luxe | Donna Montran and her | California Bathing Beauties | With Ten of California’s Selected Peaches.
Photoplay—Paramount Presents | Dorothy Gish | Premier Comedienne of the Screen, in | “The Ghost in the Garret.”
The venue is the Strand, Amsterdam, New York.
Date is not provided.
The show is “California Bathing Beauties.”
This advertisement clipping and the previous “article” were physically on the same page of my grandmother’s scrapbook. They also had the exact same acts, so, my initial thought was they were of the same show. Then I realized that one was for the Strand in Albany and the other was for the Strand in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a small town about 35 miles northwest of Albany. A review of Amsterdam theatres indicated that “The Lyceum Theatre was operating prior to 1914. By 1931, it had been renamed Strand Theatre and was operated by the Schine Circuit.”[iv] So the question arises, when did the Lyceum change its name to Strand? Anyway, I was really confused.
In 1921, the Amsterdam Theatre, managed by Ed. Clapp was the only theater in Amsterdam, New York, listed in Julius Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical guide.[v]
Research at FultonHistory.Com led to the exact ad and article (from above). It ran on page 6 of the January 31, 1921 issue of the Amsterdam Evening Recorder confirming the date and location of the show.
January 31 – February 2, 1921 – Strand Theater (Amsterdam, NY) – Donna Montran and her “California Bathing Beauties.” DDC-70. (New Venue)
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at four clippings about the Palace Theater. from the Donna Darling Collection
Palace Theatre – Port Richmond
The venue is the Palace Theatre – Port Richmond.
The show is the “Donna Darling & Boys” in “As You Like It.”
Also, on the bill:
Bert Lahr & Mercedes in “What’s the Idea?”
Malloy & Cowell – Comedy Sketch “Hogan the Mummy”
Rose Garden – Comedy song & Piano
Coming attractions include:
May 8, 9, 10—Richard Talmadge, Douglas Fairbanks’ only rival, in “The Unknown.”
The first of these clippings relates to the Palace Theatre of Port Richmond. Although it is undated, it mentions the show following, the movie “The Unknown,” will come May 8, 9, and 10. Donna Darling & Boys “As You Like It” appears to have opened in June 1921 and ran until June 1924. “Pay Day” with Charlie Chaplin was released in April 1922. So, I’m confident this ad was from May 4, 5, & 6, 1922. Port Richmond is a section of Philadelphia and there was a Lehigh Palace Theatre it is in Glenwood about three miles from Port Richmond but it doesn’t seem to fit the ad.
Port Richmond is also a neighborhood in Staten Island. Also, it had a Palace Theatre which operated from before 1916 into the 1950s. Additionally, Donna Darling & Boys played at the Crescent Theatre in Perth Amboy, only 17 miles away, immediately following the Palace Theatre gig. As such, I am confident this is evidence that Donna and the Boys, played at the Palace Theatre in Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York May 4-6, 1922.
May 6-8, ?, 1922 – Port Richmond (Staten Island) – Palace Theatre – Donna Darling & Boys in “As you Like It” – DDC-69.
Palace Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
The next two are the cover and inside of a program showing what is coming next week.
The venue is the Palace Theatre – Detroit, Michigan.
The show is the “Donna Darling and her Bathing Girl Revue” and includes the “Comedy Life Guards”
Also on the Program:
Tom Brown Presents “Seven Gifted Chinese Musicians” With their Oriental Stringed Octette.
Meredith and Miller in “Bring ‘em In”
Harry Oliver and Ada Lee in “At the Stage Door” by Jimmy Barry
Fayette and Co. “Spectacular and Comedy Illusions”
Three Runseys in “An Athletic Surprise”
Movie: Emil Jannings in “The Last Laugh”
Date: Unknown (Next Week)
Thanks to Genealogy Bank, I learned previously that Donna Darling’s Bathing Beauties played at the Palace Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 7th & 8tt, 1925. Clearly, this program is from that showing.
I find it interesting that, presumably, Tom Brown and his Saxophone Clowns (from the Chin Chin Days) morphed into a “Chinese Octette.”
The Bathing Beauty on the inside, “One of the Ten Hollywood Bathing Beauties” does not appear to be Donna. It is rare that Donna ever allowed any of the other women in the show to be displayed in advertising.
Add images to existing files I have regarding Donna playing at the Palace Theatre.
Palace Theatre – “Dolly Montrose”
The venue is the Palace – The Home of Supreme Vaudeville (Location unknown)
The show of interest is “Dolly Montrose – Singing Comedienne”
Also on the Program:
Beyer & McNulty in their comedy hit “Hunting”
Bill Browing—The Talkative Man
??? eley and La Rose—Some Team
??? Lone Star & Co. – Songs and Dances
Movie: “Diamonds Adrift” starring Earl Williams
Date: Unknown (Probably early 1921)
This fragment is intriguing. The Big Vitagraph Feature is “Diamonds Adrift” starring Earl Williams which was released in January 1921. The clipping does not mention Donna but does portray a “Dolly Montrose – Singing Comedienne.” Donna occasionally used the name “Dolly” in her early career, but I’ve not seen “Montrose” ever used before. It may have been a typo, but I suspect something else.
Donna’s known career in early 1921 is lacking many venues. I suspect there was a week in February where Donna didn’t have any shows with her Bathing Beauties and wanted to keep working so she got a gig as a “Singing Comedienne” named Dolly Montrose. A name different enough to not be an embarrassment to her Bathing Beauties show.
Although my speculation may be right, unless I find corroborating information, I’m just going to just keep this clipping aside and see if something else comes to light.