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.
New York Star
Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor
In the Donna Darling collection was an absolutely gorgeous magazine image of Donna as a young woman. Sadly, the image was larger than the scrapbook it was in and was pasted across two pages and split in two. Also, a portion of the photo was lost. I’m not a photoshop expert, but I did the best I could with the photo, first I joined the two images as best as I could. Then I touched up some of the lines and creases. I tried to blend where the two images come together, but I wasn’t very successful with that.
Donna, always the promoter, had a professionally done photo of herself made at the Ira L. Hills Studio in New York. Then she used that photo to promote her headlining “Bathing Beauties” show and to wish everyone “Christmas Greetings.”
I’ve spent considerable time trying to find a copy of the New York Star, Volume XXV, No. 15, to no avail. I have additionally contacted an archive that is holding many of the photographic images of Ira L. Hills in hopes they might have a high-quality image of Donna.
If someone good with photoshop can do a better job of joining the two halves together then I did, I’d be happy to send the two original 3440 x 2496 image scans to work with. (This web version is only 500 x 668 pixels in size.)
I found an article in the Boston Globe (via Newspapers.com) about the contest. That article was on the front page of the 11 December 1916 issue of the Boston Globe, Page 1. The quality of the image is a little clearer than the image from the Boston Post (via Newspaper Archives). I updated the post with both images side by side.
Got to love the vocabulary used in old newspapers. “Pulchritude” is the kind of word that if you Google it, you can see how many on-line dictionaries there are. It is a big word for a common thing. Check it out for yourself.
Boston Post, 12 Dec 1916
Via Newspaper Archive
Boston Globe, 12 Dec 1916
In a previous article, I mentioned that Donna tried out to become the “Miss Boston” representative at the big preparedness bazaar to be held at the Grand Central Palace in New York. Well, I found another article about the contest Donna was involved in. According to the “Boston Post” of December 12, 1916, more than 50 girls had already tried out for Miss Boston and a “big rush” of over 100 more girls was expected. The Post’s article included photos of ten of the girls vying for Miss Boston. You never guess who the first girl shown in the article was? One of two girls on page one was grandma, Donna Montran. This newspaper photo is one of the earliest photos we have of Donna as a closeup. The article goes on to say that Donna is a blonde even though the photo doesn’t look that way.
The paper printed the names and addresses of the applicants. Imagine what would happen today if a newspaper published the home addresses of 49 pulchritude contestants. In December 1916, Donna was living at 64 Bennett in Brighton (Boston), MA.
By the way, “preparedness bazaar” referred to actions to prepare the United States for entry into World War I. The United States didn’t enter the war until four months later, on 6 April 1917. However, in December 1916, businessmen, intent on making money on the war, promoted military preparedness and the beauty contests were part of their strategy to create hype to encourage the US to enter the war.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at several clippings from the Donna Darling Collection that relate to her playing at the Capital Theater.[i]
The first clipping is an article about “New Entertainment Feature is Popular,” which mentions Donna and her show “Little Jewel Revue.” Beneath the clipping, Donna wrote “Lansing week Mar 7th.” When I compared Donna’s note and the article I was confused for a moment. The article mentions DeLano Dell developing a following while in Jackson; I thought of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. Further investigation indicated there is a Jackson, MI about 39 miles south of Lansing. Also, Cinema Treasures indicates there was a Capitol Theatre in Lansing[ii] and does not indicate there was a Capitol Theater in Jackson, MS.[iii]
NEW ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE IS POPULAR
Each week the Capital Theater’s “Presentations” are growing in popularity and Manager McLaren’s latest in entertainment is finding a ready welcome at the hands of Capitol patrons.
Delano Dell, who has become a regular fixture at the Capitol as a sort of “Master of Ceremonies,” has developed a large following during his short stay in Jackson and this week will offer some brand new comedy Songs and dances in addition to his usual comedy chatter. “Clem” and his Merry Gang will play a couple of red hot jazzy selections of the “Gang” will be assisted by that scintillating beauty, Donna Darling, and her “Little Jewel Revue.” Miss Darling who has appeared at the Capitol before is known as one of the most beautiful girls in vaudeville today and her assisting artists are also eye easy. They will offer a combination of singing, dancing and comedy numbers with elaborate costumes and the whole presentation will be given in a very attractive stage setting.
Then there were two clippings showing the programs. The first one showed her Program running Sunday through Wednesday, March 7th through the 10th. Only 1920 and 1926 included Sunday, March 7th. The cartoon, “Felix Baffled by Banjos,” was released in 1924,[v] which dated the event as not 1920. Additionally, another clipping indicated Donna playing the 4th, 5th, and 6th with the same type and layout of the program. The second clipping show some of the same people playing and some new items. Additionally, the film “Cupid a la Carte” was released in January 1926[vi] further fixing the date of this show as 1926.
Finally, on the same page as the clippings regarding the Capitol Theater, there was a photo of Donna. From its appearance, I think it is probably taken at the back door to the theater in March 1926. Donna is wearing a fur coat and there is snow on the ground.
The venue is the Capital Theater in Lansing, Michigan.
The date is March 4-10, 1926.
The show is the “Little Jewel Revue”
Also showing attractions included:
“Clem” and his Merry Gang
Al J. Amato and his Singing Band
Alvin and Alvin European Clowns and Fun Makers
Bert Chadwick – The Eccentric Ethiopian
Cecile Forbes, Dorothy Clyne, and Jand Sadler
DeLano Dell – Comedian
Frazier Bros. Athletic Artistry
Mahon and Scott with their Aguinaldo Serenaders “America’s Foremost Apache Sensation:
Miller, Packer, and Seltz “The Yaps”
It is not clear from the March 4th, 5th, and 6th, ad if Cecile Forbes, Dorothy Clyne, and Jane Sadler were part of Donna Darling’s “Little Jewel Review” or not.
Added: March 4-10, 1926 – Donna Darling and “Little Jewel Review” played at the Capital Theater in Lansing, Michigan.
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.