Jenny Dolly

All posts tagged Jenny Dolly

The Dolly Sisters ‘marvellous birds of paradise’

Published July 2, 2013 by Gary Chapman

When you write a book it is annoying when years later you find a very interesting piece that would have been wonderful to include but was missed. So the other day checking a reference for something else I looked at The Glass Ladder an autobiography by the actress and dancer June and there was a page all about the Dolly Sisters. I was well miffed that I had not seen it before..

June has met the Dolly Sisters at parties in London when they were performing in League of Notions during 1921 and said ‘to me they appeared to be marvellous birds of paradise.’

She described that from the moment of their London debut in Jigsaw in 1920, the town rang with extravagant tales of their wealth, jewels and amorous conquests. ‘If one could believe the tales, thrones were about to crumble and multi-millionaires willing to go broke for love of them.’

There was one suitor who was a ‘certain duke’ who was enamoured with Rosie and held out a case containing a fabulous emerald and diamond necklace to dismissed because she ‘did not care for men with red hair.’

She related that when the Dolly Sisters were working at the Casino de Paris in Paris during the period 1925-1926, a private train would take them to Deauville after their Saturday night performance. Cavier and champagne would be served in its drawing room and after playing chemin de fer or baccarat until daylight, they would board the train and sleep their way back to Paris arriving in time for the Sunday matinee.

 ‘In London under Cochran they were lionised. No Mayfair party seemed complete until they arrived, chattering like magpies, one taking up when the other paused for breath and trailing chinchilla or foxes or sables as if they were dish rags.’

The Dolly Sisters: Icons of the Jazz Age out now in paperback and e-book versions


March 1921 The Dolly Sisters Meet David, Prince of Wales

Published March 20, 2013 by Gary Chapman

It was in early March 1921 that the Dolly Sisters first met David, Prince of Wales during the run of Jigsaw at the London Hippodrome. They declined to simply appear as entertainers and dance at a party Sir Philip Sassoon was giving and intrigued he went to see them. He appreciated their point of view and as a mark of his appreciation he invited them to his Park Lane home and the party as guests. The Prince of Wales was there with Prince Henry and they both engaged the Dolly Sisters in conversation and danced with them.

‘Pinch me, I’m dreaming,’ Jenny said during a break; ‘it’s like a fairy book.’

This was the beginning of a long friendship that endured into the 30s with a more serious entanglement between Jenny and David, Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) in 1924.

The Dolly Sisters: Icons of the Jazz Age out now in paperback and e-book versions

The Plantation Club, The Acacias and One Dolly Sister

Published February 15, 2013 by Gary Chapman

The Plantation, a Broadway cabaret–restaurant formerly known as the Folies Bergère was located in the Winter Garden building and opened on 15 February 1922, with an all-coloured show in a Southern plantation setting staged and conceived by Lew Leslie.

This was the inspiration behind the creation of the Southern Plantation setting at the Acacias nightclub in Paris in June 1922 with a show that featured Jenny Dolly and Clifton Webb.

At the New York Plantation, you went  through a gate at the entrance and were immediately inside a big room where there was a log cabin with a big black Mammy cooking waffles. The 45-minute show had a Mississippi river set and was called Night-time Frolics in Dixieland, starring Florence Mills from Shuffle Along and other featured performers and six chorus girls. The music was by the Red Devils’ Jazz Band, who looked as if they came straight from a farm in Virginia playing Southern melodies. Variety observed that the New York night-going public did not mind the $2 cover charge, because it was a novelty and well worth watching. The Plantation was a huge success and anticipated the rise of the Harlem nightclubs that were soon to proliferate, and Lew Leslie became the pre-eminent figure in their development.

The Dolly Sisters: Icons of the Jazz Age out now in paperback and e-book versions

Jenny Dolly in Honeymoon Express, February 1913

Published February 6, 2013 by Gary Chapman

The Shubert show, The Honeymoon Express, was launched on 6 February 1913 at the Winter Garden Theatre, New York starring Gaby Deslys, Harry Pilcer, Al Jolson and also featured Jenny Dolly and Harry Fox (who she would later marry). It also had some catchy, bright music by Jean Schwartz, Rosie Dolly’s future husband.

According to Sime of Variety Jenny Dolly ‘looked really sweet’ in her two gowns designed by Melville Ellis ‘and showed up the overdressed Gaby, who came after.’

Finally, after a performance comprised entirely of the understudies, Sime decided that Jenny in Gaby’s role was better and observed slyly: ‘to state she was good would be putting it mildly . . . should Miss Deslys ever, through illness or other causes, miss a performance, there is a treat in store.’


The Dolly Sisters: Icons of the Jazz Age out now in paperback and e-book versions

Jenny Dolly and the Speedway star Harry Knight

Published January 30, 2013 by Gary Chapman

Gasoline and love – Jenny Dolly and the Speedway star Harry Knight.

I bought a rather lovely postcard showing the Dolly Sisters early in their career, signed by them (the ‘Sisters Dolly’) to a H. C. Knight. It is most likely that the card was given to Harry Knight, the speedway driver of Indianopolis in about 1911.

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Mr Selfridge and the Dolly Sisters

Published January 28, 2013 by Gary Chapman

Mr Selfridge and the Dolly Sisters

DS.Collars024 with WMLet’s get a few things straight immediately. Selfridge was obsessed with all things beautiful, this included glamorous women. He also had a passion for gambling and was quite reckless. Thankfully, all of these traits are vividily portrayed in the TV show Mr Selfridge.  So why is his demise and eventually downfall blamed on others, specifically the beautiful Dolly Sisters?

I have noticed in the press and online continued misleading headlines such as the latest ‘The saucy sisters who ruined Selfridge’ with the added bite of ‘they helped bring about his eventual downfall’.  Let’s face it, such headlines do sell papers and make people read but they are not totally accurate or fair.

Put simply Selfridge’s fall from grace and his ruination must be attributed to himself, no other.

Prior to the death of his wife he was known to have several ‘affairs’ with glamorous women, most notably Ann Pavlova, Isadora Duncan, Elinor Glyn and Gaby Deslys. But when his wife died in 1918 and then his mother in 1924, he became even more reckless with his affection and money.

On meeting the Dolly Sisters when they were performing at the Kit-Kat Club in London in the summer of 1925 he was entranced and thus began a nearly ten-year romance with Jenny.  No, he did not have a relationship with both twins, since Rosie was already engaged a wealthy French socialite and businessman. Jenny was the object of his affection and he did shower her with expensive gifts, property, shares and aid her in a business venture. Their attraction was also re-enforced by their mutual love of gambling.

This is the best description of their relationship ‘’I should say that he saw at least part of his own daring and acquisitive image reflective in her tingling absorption in games of chance. She may have seen in him the father image, approving her daring.’

As Selfridge grew older his passion for gambling became more intense and was in fact a substitute sexual life. At the gambling tables, Selfridge, the business genius with the coolest head and the strongest nerves, had a unique system of betting when he was with Jenny. Whether they won or lost made a great difference to him financially. He always covered the losses, while Jenny kept any winnings, and the stakes sometimes ran into four figures. At the same time he also hosted parties in France that surpassed anything he had ever staged in London; to some the lavishness verged on the vulgar, with too much food and too much champagne. No wonder, as the years rolled past, his debts increased.

For the full story of the Dolly Sisters and Mr Selfridge read The Dolly Sisters: Icons of the Jazz Age out now in paperback and e-book editions. e-book

paperback (from marketplace sellers on e-book

paperback (from marketplace sellers on

Apple i-tunes e-book (search for the title)

The Daily Mail feature 28th January 2013