Donna Darling Collection – Part 15

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Donna Darling and Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Beauties at the Apollo, 1 Feb 1925 in Peoria, IL

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at clippings from the Donna Darling Collection relating to her playing at the Apollo Theatre in Peoria, IL, in 1925.

Newspaper clipping - Ad - Apollo Theater showing Hollywood Motion Picture Bathing Beauties.Donna’s clippings from her time in Peoria are some of the most interesting clippings that I have. First, there is a list of her Bathing Beauties cast, a never seen before photo of Donna, and a good description of the show and what various individuals are doing. Second, there is something of a mystery for me to solve regarding the date she played in Peoria and the Apollo. Third, there is additional press about Donna and her troupe of beauties supporting the local American Legion. Finally, there is a mystery of the kidnapping of one of her cast members.

The Apollo advertisement provides the names of her entire cast and a claim to fame. They were:

  • Donna Darling – Mack Sennett’s Prize Winner
  • Betty Bryant – Miss America from Ziegfeld’s
  • Mildred O’Brian – From Sennett’s
  • Clarice Allyn – Christie Comedies
  • Alyce Louyse – Christie Comedies
  • Rose Lasgo – Acrobatic Dancing
  • Florence Rielliso – Spectacular Dancing
  • [Murray] Earle – Christie Comedies
  • [Al] Ross – Christie Comedies
  • Helen Dawn – Hollywood Society Girl

There is also an amazing clipping of Donna, leaning back showing a leg.

Hollywood Revue of
Bathing Beauties Is
Special at Apollo

Bathing beauties from various motion picture studios of California will appear in a special Hollywood revue at the Apollo theater for one week beginning Sunday, February 1. Miss Donna Darling, who features in this revue, is the well-known star from Sennett’s. She is the originator of the principal part of “Chin Chin,” the famous musical play. She has won beauty prizes in Boston, New. York and San Francisco. Her dancing is excellent and her lyrical songs are surpassed only by her clever and pleasing personality. She presents the bathing girls of 1860 and follows them to the present day when Betty Bryant in a crimson bathing suit represents “Miss America of Today.”

Bathers from various famous beaches appear in charming costumes. Clever Clarice Celynn [sic – s/b Allyn] represents the Chinese toe dancer. Allyce Louyse, the Hawaiian bather, and Mildred O’Brien from Christie, dance to snappy music preceding a spectacular balloo [sic] dance in the “Bathers from Mars.”

When Miss Darling left the coast she was followed by two life guards: Murray Earle, formerly a specialty dancer of “George White Scandals,” and Al Ross, late of Christie. These life guards are eccentric dancers who add comedy to the revue.

Special scenic and lighting effects elaborate this unusual attraction. The costumes are elaborate from the opening of the revue to its end, at which time Miss Darling appears in a rhinestone bathing suit.

“Fifth Avenue Models,” a picture completes the program.

Date Problem?

Second, I was a bit confused about the date of the show. Several clippings indicate the show began on February 1st, however, the movie that was playing with her show is identified in IMDb and Wikipedia has having been released on April 25, 1925, nearly three months after Donna’s playing.[i], [ii] It is unusual for a silent film to have been playing in a theater nine months after its release, so I was confused. I found that the British Film Institute indicates the film was released in 1924.  Finally, the December 3, 1924 issue of Los Angeles Times has a preview of the film released by Universal.[iii] I have also found it playing at several other theaters long before April 25th; so, I’m convinced that both IMDb and Wikipedia are incorrect in their release dates.

Beauties help American Legion

Third, there are two clippings relating to the ‘Bathing Beauties” helping the American Legion.

I just love photos and a photo of the girls from the revue in their bathing suits is fantastic.

“The above is a picture of Donna Darling, Mack Sennett’s prize winner, and eight other Hollywood bathing beauties who will auction tickets to “Buddies,” the American Legion comedy success, next Tuesday, beginning at 12 o’clock noon, in front of The Journal-Transcript building. “Buddies” will be staged by the Gifford Players at the Hippodrome theater all this week. The legion’s proceeds from all advance sale tickets will go toward a home for ex-service men. Donna Darling and her troupe of vamps are appearing at the Apollo theater this week in a song and dance revue.

Although it mentions Donna and eight others, sadly, there is only Donna and six others in the image.

There is also a simple, follow-up article which states:

Bathing Beauties
Sell 224 Tickets
For Legion’s Show

Pedestrians who passed by The Journal office today noon failed to resist the beauty and smiles of the “Bathing Beauties” who are now playing at a Peoria theater, and who proved themselves good saleswomen. During their brief selling campaign today, they sold 224 tickets for “Buddies,” the show now playing at the Hippodrome theater for the benefit of Peoria Post No. 2, American Legion. The position left vacant by Helen Dawn, who is missing from the cast, is being taken by Mildred O’Brien. No trace of the Dawn girl has been found, according to members of the troupe.

The last sentence of the above article brings me to the kidnapping of Helen Dawn. I’ll post about that next week in Part 16 of the Donna Darling Collection.


[i] Internet: IMDb – Fifth Avenue Models (1925)

[ii] Internet: Wikipedia – Fifth Avenue Models

[iii] The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) · Wed, Dec 3, 1924 · Page 58 (Pre-view section page 11) – Accessed via –

Donna Darling and Earle

Donna Darling Collection – Part 3

We know that Donna had a show advertised as “Donna Darling and Earle in a Song and Dance Romance” in 1924. The Standiford Studio in Louisville, Kentucky took this photo entitled, “Donna Darling and Earle.”

Photo of Donna Darling & Murray Earle c. 1924
Donna Darling & Murray Earle c. 1924

Donna and Earl played in Oakland California in June 1924, and at the Melba Theatre in Dallas, TX in July 1924.  Seemingly like an easterly movement, I extrapolate they could have been in Louisville in August 1924.  Of course,  I could be entirely wrong.  As a matter of fact, I would expect a photo like this to be taken towards the beginning of a tour rather than the end. In either event, the photograph is likely taken in 1924.


Continue research and find dates when Donna and Earle played in Louisville, KY.




Donna in Dallas, TX, at the Melba Theatre – July 20-26, 1924

I was cleaning up my computer files and came across an old directory, “/From old Compaq.” I switched to Mac in 2008, so I didn’t hold much hope that anything I found there would be of help. Was I ever wrong! Apparently, I found some interesting things about Donna back in 2007, downloaded them for future analysis, and then forgot about them when I changed computers. Two of the files were clippings from “The Dallas Review” which showed Donna playing at the Melba Theatre in Dallas Texas in 1924. I may have wondered, at the time if it was really my Donna as there was so much wrong in the person’s history. I know a lot more about Donna’s career and know it is the right person, but there are still many items that will require additional research.

Although I don’t recall where I downloaded “The Dallas Review” from, I was able to find the exact same articles in the Dallas Morning News from Genealogy Bank.  
Another set of files, that I’ll write about later, indicate Donna and Earl probably came to Dallas from Nebraska. Certainly, we know she was in Oakland, CA in early June and in Sheboygan, WI in the fall so this is a newly discovered venue for Donna to be at. In fact, this is the first venue I’ve found for Donna in the South.
The only advertising I’ve found was a large ad showing Donna Darling and Earle as an Extra Added Attraction in a “Song and Dance Romance” (See below).
An article on the 21st indicates, “Donna Darling and Earle in a song and dance revue have pep and good appearance. They seemed to enjoy doing their bit and deserved hearty applause.”[i]
The following day, 22 July 1924, has a very interesting article, which says:
– – – – –
Donna Darling, who is one or the bright spots on the vaudeville stage at the Melba Theater this week, was the 1919 winner of the beauty contest conducted at the New York Hippodrome. This was at the time she was engaged as the prima donna of Charles Dillingham’s notable musical comedy, “Chin Chin.” Prior to this honor Miss Darling had been judged first in the Boston beauty contest
The famous screen star, Grace Darling, is a sister of Miss Darling, who was herself a movie actress at one time. Her vaudeville act is a song and dance revue and she is assisted by Murray Earle, late or George White’s “Scandals,” and is properly called a “dancing fool.”
Of course, the “Chin Chin” promotional materials were always careful to not say there were any leading ladies, let alone a “prima donna.”  I, of course, still wonder about her winning any contests.  I know of one contest in Boston that she entered and didn’t win.  I suppose there may be another contest I don’t know about yet, but I definitely can do more research there.  Also, I’m yet to find confirmation that she actually won a contest in New York. I’ve only found press releases for Donna that indicate she won.
I originally thought that it was just craziness that Donna’s sister was the actress Grace Darling.  Donna didn’t have any siblings (except for a half brother that died as an infant). Then I thought I’d look into Grace Darling’s biography. Wow.  Grace Darling was married to Patrick Rooney.  ROONEY?  Just last year, I learned that Donna married Thomas Valentine Rooney in 1915.  She didn’t marry Sammy until 1926, so it is possible that she was still married to Thomas in 1924, that Thomas’ brother was the Patrick who married Grace Darling.   That would mean that the occasional references to Grace Darling being Donna’s was, in part, true. It could be that Grace Darling was the wife of Donna’s brother-in-law — a “sister” of sorts.  Again, more interesting research is necessary.
Melba Theater
The Melba Theater opened in 1921 as the Hope Theater[ii] ; however, the Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide – 1922 Supplement does not list the theater.  According to Cinema Treasures, it was taken over by the Interstate Theatre Circuit and renamed the Melba[iii]. This had to occur  sometime before July of 1924 when Donna played there[iv].  About 1960 it was renamed the Capri Theatre and remained so until its closing in the 1970s and its later demolition.
Further Research

Confirm if Donna won a beauty contest at the New York Hippodrome in 1919.
Confirm if Donna was judged first in a Boston beauty contest (before she joined “Chin Chin.”)
Research Murray Earle and determine any relationship.
Determine if the Patrick Rooney that Grace Darling married is related to the Thomas Rooney that Donna married.


[i] Dallas Morning News (Dallas, TX) July 21, 1924, Part 1, Page 4 – Via Genealogy Bank.
[ii] Cinema Treasures – Entry for Capri Theatre, 1913 Elm Street,  Dallas, TX 75201. See:
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Dallas Morning News (Dallas, TX) July 20, 1924, Part 3, Page 6 –  Via Genealogy Bank.
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