The Dolly Sisters
‘It must be admitted that the chief fascination of the twin Dollies lies not so much in the grace of their dancing, nor in the charm of their personalities, nor in the naiveté of this manner, nor yet the quaintness of their accents – sufficient as are all of these – but rather in the amazing duplicity of Nature’ Margaret Burr in Theatre Magazine May 1916
The Dolly Sisters were legends in their own time on both sides of the Atlantic. Born in Budapest, Hungary 25 October 1892, Janszieka (Jenny) and Roszicka (Rosie) were keen dancers but their father did not like the idea of his daughters becoming entertainers. Due to the unfortunate deterioration of his business he moved to America and the girls arrived with their mother in 1905, followed by their younger brother Edward (later to be a successful stage and screen choreographer). In New York they began making their living as entertainers to help make ends meet. From their rather humble origins they swiftly danced their way to fame and fortune on Broadway before conquering London and Paris. Although they were not the first sister act to appear on the stage, they were certainly the most famous and paved the way for so many later duos and trios that proliferated in their wake. Even the Gabor sisters followed in the Dollies dainty footsteps.
Earning incredible salaries and having the benefit of wealthy admirers, the Dollies invested in property and vast collections of jewellry and ‘behung with baubles like a couple of Christmas trees’ became recognised as the most extravagant gamblers in Europe. When they retired in late 1927 numerous imitators followed in their wake. but none were more outrageous than the Norwegian Rocky Twins, two boys who dressed up in drag as the Dollies and parodied their routines. Living close to the rhythm of the time the Dollies were adept at always being in the right time at the right place with the right people which maximised their success. Their lives also mirrored the incredibly luxurious existence of ‘society’ on both sides of the Atlantic and provides a fascinating glimpse of this privileged world that was eventually swept away by the Second World War.
All images and content must not be reproduced without prior consent.
All images are under licence to the Mary Evans Picture library for commercial re-use.