The Dolly Sisters

Siamese twins. Twice the fame. Double the trouble.

The Dolly Sisters were not quite joined at the hip, but they shared the same dance moves, the same stage and possibly the same men. Arriving in New York as immigrants from Budapest in 1905, it didn’t take long for their precocious talents to get noticed. When the nuns at their convent school expelled them for doing the splits, the identical twins must have known they had a gift for scandal.

By the time Rosie (Roszika) and Jenny (Yansci) Dolly were eighteen, they were performing on Broadway in New York City, mesmerizing audiences with their perfectly synced double-act, often performed in front of a giant mirror to add to the illusion. Could this be really happening or was it a trick of light? Men were especially spellbound by The Dolly Sisters and the most cashed-up Donald Trumps of the day spent their fortunes trying to pry them apart.

They wore the most lavish jewel-encrusted costumes as they performed exotic Persian dances, often accompanied by a troop of prancing poodles in a segment titled, ‘The Dollies and their Collies’. While the sisters briefly moved from stage to screen for ‘The Million Dollar Dollies’ – which earned them plaudits and Hollywood friends like Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin – their live performances remained their crowning glory.

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As their fame increased throughout the world, so did the number of husbands. Between them, they were married five times and left a trail of broken hearts across Europe and America. A number of invincibly rich men nearly went broke trying to out-do each other with outlandish gifts. Such was the life of a Dolly Sister. They were lucky with money, glamour and men, so it’s no surprise they were lucky with gambling as well. At the ritzy casinos of the French Riviera, they almost doubled their vast fortunes with wayward nights of gambling. On one good night, at the Chemin de Fer table alongside the Aga Khan, the ex-King of Portugal and Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, they raked in the equivalent of $1.5 million dollars, most of which was immediately spent on jewelry.

But this is where the Dolly Sisters’ luck runs out and their story becomes all-too-familiar. Their glittering careers came to an end and so did their youthful looks. They lost a large chunk of their fortunes in the Wall St crash. They got involved with even dodgier men. The dodgier men lead to car accidents. The car accidents lead to facial scars and depression. When it came to tragedy, it seemed the fabulous Dolly Sisters were also joined at the hip. That said, at least they got to share their extraordinary lives with someone they loved, even if it was a mirror image. A Hollywood film titled, ‘The Dolly Sisters’ was made in 1945, staring Betty Grable and June Haver.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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