Dolly Sisters

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Rose Dolly
Born Roszika Deutsch
(1892-10-25)October 25, 1892
Budapest, Hungary
Died February 1, 1970(1970-02-01) (aged 77)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Occupation Dancer, actress
Years active 1907–1929
Spouse(s) Jean Schwartz (m. 1913; div. 1921)
Mortimer Davis, Jr. (m. 1927; div. 1931)
Irving Netcher (m. 1928; died 1943)
Jenny Dolly
Born Janszieka Deutsch
(1892-10-25)October 25, 1892
Budapest, Hungary
Died June 1, 1941(1941-06-01) (aged 48)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Suicide by hanging
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other names Jennie Dolly
Yansci Dolly
Occupation Dancer, actress
Years active 1907–1929
Spouse(s) Harry Fox (m. 1912; div. 1921)
Bernard Winissky (m. 1935–41)
Children 2

Rose "Rosie" Dolly (October 25, 1892 – February 1, 1970) and Jenny Dolly (October 25, 1892 – June 1, 1941), known professionally as The Dolly Sisters, were Hungarian-American identical twin dancers and actresses.

Early lives and careers[edit]

The sisters, Roszika (later known as Rose or Rosie) and Janszieka (later known as Yansci or Jenny) Deutsch, were born on October 25, 1892 in Budapest, Hungary.[1] Their parents, Julius and Margaet Deutsch, emigrated to the United States in 1905. As children, the sisters trained as dancers and began earning money in beer halls as early as 1907. Barred for being under age by the New York City stage, they toured the Orpheum Circuit until 1909 when they debuted on the Keith Vaudeville Circuit. The following year, they appeared in the stage production of The Echo. In 1911, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. signed them to appear in his Ziegfeld Follies for two seasons.[2] Their act was a hit with audiences who enjoyed their glamorous personas.[3]

The Dolly Sisters onstage

In 1913, the Dolly Sisters decided to try to forge separate careers. Rosie appeared in The Whirl of the World on stage while Jenny teamed up with dancer Harry Fox (whom she married in 1912) in Honeymoon Express.[3] Jenny and Fox also toured the vaudeville circuit as a dance duo.[4] Both sister made their film debuts in 1915: Jenny in The Call of the Dance and Rose in Lily and the Rose. The sisters re-teamed in 1916 to appear in Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic and returned to the vaudeville where the commanded $2,000 a week. In 1918, the appeared in their only film together, the semi-autobiographical The Million Dollar Dollies.[3]

After World War I ended, the Dolly Sisters moved to France where they bought a chateau. They toured the theatres and dance halls of Europe and were courted by numerous wealthy men and royalty including Carol II of Romania, Christian X of Denmark and Alfonso XIII of Spain.[5] On several occasions, the sisters would team up with male dance partners and sell tickets to the performances on the same night in order to create rivalry that would boost ticket sales.[2] As their success continued throughout the early 1920s, they were able to command high salaries. During one engagement at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, the sisters were paid $1,200 a night.[6]

Their billing was "Rosie and Jenny Dolly" so presumably it was in that order they posed for photographs.

While in Europe, the sisters became well known for gambling excursion at casinos and horse tracks which were usually financed by wealthy admirers. They won $850,000 in one season at Deauville.[2] Of the two, Jenny Dolly became legendary for her winnings. She won 4 million francs one evening in Cannes, Jenny won 4 million francs, which she converted to a collection of jewellery; she then went on to win another $11 million.[2] On other occasions, she won $100,000 at the horse track, $500,000 at baccarat and $200,000 at roulette. With her winnings, Jenny Dolly indulged in her passion - buying expensive jewelry. Jenny's collection of jewelry, which she acquired through her winnings and from numerous suitors, also became legendary. While Jenny was gambling in Cannes one evening, Thelma Furness, Viscountess Furness saw her and remarked, "I have never seen so many jewels on any one person in my life. Her bracelets reached almost to her elbows. The necklace she wore must have cost a king's ransom, and the ring on her right was the size of an ice cube."[7]

By early 1927, the Dolly Sisters' popularity began to decline. Their highly publicized Paris show A vol d'oiseau, closed after eight weeks.[7] The sisters spent more time gambling than performing and eventually retired by 1929.

Personal lives[edit]

Onstage (center) at the Ziegfeld Follies. Their friend Olive Thomas can be seen just above the leftmost Dolly Sister

The Dolly Sisters' private lives were as melodramatic as their public life was stellar. Rose Dolly was married three times while Jenny Dolly was married twice and had a string of highly publicized affairs with wealthy men. Their reputation for dating wealthy men earned them the nickname "The Million Dollar Dollies".[8]

In 1913, Rosie married songwriter Jean Schwartz. They divorced in 1921. Her second marriage was to Mortimer Davis, Jr., whom she married in 1927. Davis was the son of Mortimer Davis, the president of the Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada Limited. The senior Davis disapproved of the marriage and cut Davis, Jr. off. Rosie and Davis divorced in 1931. Rosie's final marriage was to merchant Irving Netcher in 1928. They remained married until Netcher's death in 1943.[5]

Jenny's first marriage was to her dancing partner Harry Fox in 1912. They too divorced in 1921. In 1925, the sisters met retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge while they were performing in London. Jenny began an affair with Selfridge (Rosie also reportedly had an affair with him). Selfridge lavished Jenny with expensive gifts and funded both sisters' gambling habit. The Dolly Sisters reportedly gambled approximately $4 million of Selfridge's money away.[9] While she was still involved with Selfridge, Jenny Dolly began seeing French pilot Max Constant. In 1933, Selfridge offered Jenny $10 million to marry him. Before she gave Selfridge an answer, she decided to go on one last holiday with Constant.[5] While the two were returning to Paris, Constant crashed the sports car in which they were traveling near Bordeaux. Jenny sustained serious injuries (her stomach had been displaced into her lung chamber) that required dozens of operations and plastic surgeries to reconstruct her face.[10] To pay her medical expenses, Jenny sold off a portion of her jewelry collection. After the majority of Jenny's financial earnings were wiped out, Selfridge paid for Jenny's medical treatments although the two were never married.[5]

Later years and deaths[edit]

After the car accident, Jenny Dolly developed depression.[5] Her depression furthered when she was forced to sell the remainder of her jewelry at auction in 1936.[6] After living abroad for nine years, Jenny returned to the United States after her sister invited her to live with her and her husband Irving Netcher in Chicago. It was there that Jenny met Bernard Winissky, a wealthy lawyer.[5] They were married on June 29, 1935. Winissky later adopted the two Hungarian war orphans, Klari and Manzi, that Jenny adopted in 1929.[10] The marriage did little to alleviate Jenny's depression and the couple separated.[11] Jenny took an apartment in Hollywood with her two daughters.[10] On May 1, 1941, she hanged herself from a curtain rod in her apartment.[12]

In the years following their retirement and her sister's death, Rosie Dolly retreated from public life. She spent her remaining years doing charitable work for children in her native Hungary.[5] She attempted suicide in 1962.[2] On February 1, 1970, Rosie Dolly died of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 77.[13] Both sisters are interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.[14]

Cultural references[edit]

In 1945, 20th Century Fox released the biographical film The Dolly Sisters. June Haver portrayed Rosie and Betty Grable portrayed Jenny.[15]

Author Terry Pratchett chose to name a part of his fictional city Ankh-Morpork on the Discworld "Dolly Sisters".

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Green, Stanley (2009). Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. Da Capo Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-786-74684-X. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Knowles, Mark (2009). The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances: Outrage at Couple Dancing in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries. McFarland. p. 316. ISBN 0-786-45360-5. 
  3. ^ a b c Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2004). Vaudeville Old & New: An Encyclopedia Of Variety Performances in America, Volume 1. Psychology Press. p. 316. ISBN 0-415-93853-8. 
  4. ^ Frasier, David K. (2002). Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 87. ISBN 0-786-41038-8. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Cullen 2004 p.317
  6. ^ a b Phillips, Alastair (June 2, 1941). "Jenny Dolly Of Dancing Team Suicide". San Jose News. p. 8. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Woodhead, Lindy (2013). Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge. Random House LLC. p. 223. ISBN 0-812-98505-2. 
  8. ^ Woodhead 2013 p.202
  9. ^ Phillips, Alastair (January 13, 1990). "Shuffling off temptation to shorten odds". The Glasgow Herald. p. 23. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c "Jenny Dolly Found Hanged; Illness Cited". The Pittsburgh Press. June 2, 1941. p. 6. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Jenny Dolly, Once-Famous Dancer, Commits Suicide". The Toledo Blade. June 2, 1941. p. 2. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Jenny Dolly of Sister Team Dead". The Milwaukee Sentinel. June 2, 1941. p. 8-B. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  13. ^ Vazzana, Eugene Michael (2001). Silent Film Necrology. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 139. ISBN 0-786-41059-0. 
  14. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 46. ISBN 0-786-40983-5. 
  15. ^ "When Dolly Sisters Were Toast of Two Continents". The Sydney Morning Herald. November 27, 1945. p. 11. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 

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