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.
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.
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.
Two photos of The California Bathing Girls from Donna Darling’s 1920 Vaudeville show.
Try to better identify the seven supporting California Bathing Beauties.
“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:
We know Donna played in Amsterdam, NY, in early February but have no shows for her from then until she played at the State Street Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey, from March 3rd through the 5th. The Trenton Evening Times published two brief writeups. The first one, March 3rd, under Theatres and Movies, read:
The last half of Banner wee opens today at the State Street Theatre with a complete change of program, embracing six star vaudeville acts and the famous Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle in Brewster’s Millions.”
Manager Wahn has also booked Tom Rooney’s and Earl Lindsay’s California Bathing Girls, an attraction of high character, including the noted Donna Montran. “Fatty” Arbuckle in the role….
The California Bathing Girls is a miniature musical comedy, “A Beach Promenade,” and is replete with brilliant songs and appealing musical numbers. There is fun aplenty and a fashion show of 1921 bathing costumes, including the one-piece suits in vogue at the prominent winter resorts. Other vaudeville star acts are….
Interestingly, the article cites Tom Rooney[i] and Earl Linsay as owning the show “their California Bathing Girls.” I’m sure Donna didn’t like that much. That might be why it was changed in the second listing. which read:
The last half of Banner Week at the State Street Theatre opened yesterday with capacity crowds. The show in its entirety is a round of riotous laughter, in which the noted Rosco (“Fatty”) Arbuckle is presented in “Brewster’s Millions,” six all-star vaudeville acts and comedy films….
The California Bathing Girls proved a combination of beauty and 1921 bathing suit style show, reflecting those to be worn this season at the popular bathing resorts. The American girl, in a snappy one-piece suit, made a distinct hit. Blair & Crystal appeared….
The other shows on the bill included:
Martin Goodwin in “The Union Man”
Josephine Lenhardt, diminutive comedienne
Harry and Ruth Sullivan in “The Love Nest”
Blair Crystal comedy skit
Comedy Martinetti in “The Silent Fool.”
The movie playing that week was the 1921 edition of “Brewster’s Millions.” (Not to be confused with 1914, 1935, 1945, or 1985 versions of the film – Or the future “Brewster’s Billions” currently in development.)
State Street Theater, Trenton, New Jersey
The State Street Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey, opened on December 9th, 1903.[ii]
Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide for 1910-1911 reports that the seating capacity was 2,025. Interestingly the Guide for 1913-1914 indicated that vaudeville and movies played at the theatre but that the theater management ignored repeated requests for corrected details. And the guide for 1921 did not include the theatre.
“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspapers 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, from Newspapers.com, I learned of five new venues for Donna.
From the Brooklyn Times Union (Brooklyn, NY) dated 25 January 1921, I learned that Donna Montran and her “California Bathing Beauties” were booked into the Keeney Theatre. The dates and length of the booking is unclear but I now know she was there in late January 1921.
The York Daily Record (York, PA) dated 4 April 1922, indicates that Donna Darling played at the York Opera House. The dates suggested are April 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Those dates are in conflict with other items I’ve found indicating that on April 3rd, 4th, and 5th Donna played in Johnstown, PA. Further investigation is needed on this topic.
From the Morning Call (Paterson, NJ)) dated 4 December 1922, I learned that Dona [sic] Darling and Boys played the Majestic Theatre on the 4th, 5th, and 6th, of December 1922.
Of particular interest, the Winona (MN) Daily News indicated that “Donna Darling and Earle” played at the Strand Theatre on May 12th and 13th 1923. This booking fits into a large gap I’ve had in her work.
Back to the Brooklyn (NY) Times Union, this time dated 5 May 1928. In that issue, I learned that Donna Darling and Somory [sic] Clark played at the Majestic Theatre in Brooklyn. Again, it is unclear what the exact dates were, but I know it was in May 1928.
Additions to Donna’s Career History
Jan 25-?, 1921 – Brooklyn, New York – Keeney Theatre – Donna Montran and her “California Bathing Beauties.”
April 3-5, 1922 – York, PA – York Opera House – Donna Darling & Boys – Conflict.
December 3-5, 1922 – Paterson, NJ – Majestic Theatre – Donna and Boys.
May 12-13, 1923 – Winona, Minnesota – Strand Theatre – “Donna Darling and Earle.”
May 5, 1928 – Brooklyn, New York – Majestic Theatre – Donna Darling and Sammy Clark.
I will further research these performances and theatres in future postings. I currently have 110 performance events to still write about and research.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at clippings from the Donna Darling Collection that relate to the Bijou Theater. The problem is, of course, there are many theaters named Bijou and none of the clippings indicate both location and date. What I do have is:
Ad clipping – Bijou – Mon – Tues – Wed – California Bathing Girls (0065)
Ad, Article, and Photo – Bijou – Thur, Fri, Sat Donia Darling & Co. “Modern Vaudeville Frolics – Savannah (0155)
Ad – Bijou – Hollywood Revue Motion Picture Bathing Beauties (1403)
Ad – Dacatur’s Favorite – The Bijou – Donna Darling and Sammy Clare Revue – “A Modern Vaudeville Frolic” (1428) (Might be June 24, 25, 26)
Ad – 5 Days – Bijou – Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Beauties – (1504 – two parts)
Cinema Treasurers indicates there are 204 theaters in the United States named “Bijou.” Twenty-two of them are still open and 182 are now closed.[i] Consequently, determining which of the many Bijou theatres Donna played at and when will be a challenge, but here goes.
DDC Bijou Image 1 (0065)
Bijou Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday – California Bathing Girls.
Write-up Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties – in a Beach Promenade in Six Gasps and Three Shocks.
Also playing was Geo. Walsh in The Plunger.
Also on stage, Billy Bowman, Ca?pas Brothers,
Bo-peep and Jack Horner – Harry Sykes.
I recalled seeing Donna Playing with “The Plunger” previously. I wrote about it in “Donna at the Bijou – New Haven, CT – Donna Darling Collection – Part 8. She played there sometime in November or December 1920.
I searched the James Blackstone Memorial Library for New Haven newspapers for Bijou and was not successful finding a match.
DDC Bijou Image 2 (0155)
The page includes an ad, an article, and a photo. The ad says:
Coming – Thur.—Fri. – Sat. Donia [sic] Darling & Company – Modern Vaudeville Frolics
5 big acts direct from the Broadway Theaters.
Also playing at the time is “Baldwin & Blair – A Real Comedy Skit.”
Also, there is a great newspaper photo of Donna with a small “Savannah Morning” pasted to the front. Below the photo the caption reads, “Donna Darling of the Donna Darling Revue, coming to the Bijou Theater Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.”
Another headline says “[F]ive Clever Acts at Bijou… Week’s beginning – [Da]rling revue is Feature of Second Half.
In so far as Darling beans beloved, a pet and a favorite, the attractive young person called Donna Darling has been well named. She has been a beloved favorite of theater-goers in musical comedy ??? in vaudeville, and well she sl?????? Be as she has all of those things which go to make a theatrical popularity. She is pretty to the extreme that not long ago she won first prize in a beauty contest. She has ability which is proven by the fact that she was the prima donna in the spectacular production “Chin Chin” and one of the Vitagraph screen Stars.
Miss Darling believes in be timely and so for her present sojourn in vaudeville she presents a revue – The Donna Darling Revue. This is described as a Dazzling Fantasy. Featured in the company is Sammy Clark, a juvenile comedian of repute. The company, including Miss Darling, is a trio—three clever versatile artists who work with unction to put over this new act of hers and they succeed in making it everything this type of entertainment is supposed to be.
The venue is the Bijou Theatre.
The show is the “Donna Darling Revue” with Sammy Clark.
The location is Savannah—probably Savannah, GA.
The show ran Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Also on bill
Baldwin & Blair in “A Real Comedy Skit”
Cinema Treasures confirmed there was a Bijou theater in Savannah Georgia. Chronicling America (LOC) also confirms that Savannah has a morning paper called the “Savannah Morning News.”
The Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark was one of the last shows that she did. We know she was doing “Donna Darling and Girls” in September 1925 and was doing the Donna Darling Revue in 1926. By June 1927, she was doing Modern Vaudeville Frolics. From that, I surmise that this show was sometime between September 1925 and June 1927.
DDC Bijou Image 3 (1403)
This is a small ad showing Donna Darling, a Mack Sennett Prize Winner, in a tidal wave of unique dancing, blue singing, clean comedy. Everything about this ad indicates it is a smaller version of DDC Bijou Image 5. I will address this image with image 5 below.
DCC Bijou Image 4 (1428)
Decatur’s Favorite – The Bijou
3 Vaudeville Acts Donna Darling and Sammy Clare [sic] Revue “A Modern Vaudeville Frolic”
Paul & Darling “Two Broadway Rounders”
Billy De Armo – Comedy Novelty.
Event found – Need to document – See below.
DCC Bijou Image 5 (1504)
This is a great ad that shows a photo of Donna but also lists many of the other individuals in the show including
Al Ross – Christie Comedies – Eccentric Dancing Life Guards
Alyce Louyse – Hawaiian Dancer and Bather from Mars.
Murray Earle – George White Scandals – Eccentric Dancing Life Guards
Rose Lasgo – Christie Comedies Acrobatic Dancer
Again, the Donna Darling Collection provided insights into Donna’s vaudeville career. With the Bijou pages, I gained additional information regarding three of her venues. I also learned of a show she did in Savannah that was heretofore unknown.
Future Article: Donna at the Bijou in New Haven, CT, Nov/Dec 1920 – California Bathing Girls.
Research later. Donna at Bijou in Savannah, GA, between Sep 1925 and June 1927 – Donia [sic] Darling & Company – Modern Vaudeville Frolics
.No further Action. (See 5 below)
Future Article: Donna at Bijou in Decatur, IL on July 25, 1925- Donna Darling and Sammy Clare [sic] Revue “A Modern Vaudeville Frolic”
Future Article – Donna at the Bijou in Decatur, IL on January 25, 1925 – California Bathing Beauties – Donna Darling.