The Dolly Sisters: Tragedy

‘One appears as the reflection of the other and just as you could not see a man without his shadow, you could not conceive of how one of the Dolly Sisters could dance and live without the other’ Jazz Magazine 15 June 1927

JAC DS 11

Divorced from their first husbands, they scandalised society with their much publicised liaisons with rich suitors. As Jenny procrastinated over marriage to Gordon Selfridge or Jacques Wittouck, Rosie was betrothed to the French businessman Francois Dupre but sneaked off and attempted to acquire a fortune when she married but then swiftly divorced, Sir Mortimer Davis Jr, the heir to an estate worth $150m and affectionately called ‘The Fat Boy’. Alas gold was not at the end of the rainbow and they were swiftly divorced. The whole episode marked a crucial point in their lives as the idea of the Dolly Sisters as an act would finally end because of marriage. At the end of 1927, after more than twenty years under the footlights they retired from the stage. Jenny bought a fabulous chateau in Fontainebleau, opened a couture establishement and adopted two young girls who she hoped would become the ‘New Dolly Sisters’

Throughout their stay in Europe the Dollies were regarded “as the most inveterate and nonchalant gamblers and most lavish money spenders” in Europe and were very popular at all the French casino’s. They followed the social seasons of the day spending time at St Moritz in January, Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo in February and March, Paris in June for the horse racing, Deauville in August and then Biarritz and Le Touquet in the gaps.

Unfortunately tragedy struck. In the midst of an affair with French avaitor and film star Max Constant, Jenny suffered serious injuries as the result of a car accident in eearly 1933 near Bordeaux. Her financial and emotional condition was already poor and the accident accentuated the need for her to sell her jewellery reputed to be the largest collection in private hands in the world.

Moving back to America without her fortune, Jenny married attorny Bernard Vissinsky but durig a trip to Los Angeles in 1941 she committed suicide, confirming the generally held view that Rosie was regarded as the lucky one and Jenny the less fortunate. In the meantime, Rosie had already settled into the later stages of life with a new, rich, husband – Irving Netcher from Chicago, spending most of her time travelling before her death in 1970.

DS cover 3D copy LR

Check out the webpage for the biography of the Dolly Sisters here

The new book The Dolly Sisters in Pictures

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All images are under licence to the Mary Evans Picture library for commercial re-use.

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