Posts Tagged ‘the Roaring twenties’

The Dolly Sisters Biography

The Dolly Sisters Biography

The Dolly Sisters: Icons of the Jazz Age
DS NEW COVER copy 3 A revised edition of my biography about the glamorous Dolly Sisters with many more photographs is now ready in paperback and ebook versions.  Check out the webpage for the book here The e-book versions and the paperback are now live and available from: e-book paperback (from marketplace sellers on e-book paperback (from marketplace sellers on Apple i-tunes e-book (search for the title) Praise for The Delectable Dollies (published in hardback, 2006) ‘They seduced tycoons, Kings and even the Prince of Wales with their exotic dance routines. But… the Dolly Sisters’ quest for fame and fortune had devastating consequences.’ Daily Mail ‘Forget Kylie Minogue for pure unadulterated glamour because two sisters held that crown before she shook her derriere at audiences around the World.’ Sunday Express ‘The Queens of Twenties and Thirties cafe society, with more diamante than you could shake a feather at.’ Tatler ‘A potent cocktail given due weight in Chapman’s effervescent biography.’ The Good Book Guide ‘A well-researched, informative biography.’ Gay Times ‘A captivating cocktail of Hollywood glamour, sisterly devotion and personal tragedy.’ The Bookseller ‘A labour of love…. Chapman is scrupulous in not presenting speculation as fact… By not probing too deeply, (he) is at least consonant with the period, for the Dollies inhabited a curiously innocent, pre-freudian world.’ Sunday Telegraph ‘A thoroughly researched story of the beautiful twenties twins, as remarkable for their social as their theatrical life.’ The Stage ‘Jenny and Rosie outshone everyone in exuberance and high living. If celebrity is a devalued currency these days, then they were the gold standard. But their glittering lives also reflect the potentially tragic nature of the pursuit of fame and fortune.’ Daily Mail

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The Dolly Sisters: The Legend

The Dolly Sisters: The Legend

‘In more than one way the Dolly Sisters were original Glamor Girls of Cafe Society – even though theirs was an era -that fabulous period of the Roarin’ twenties – when the term Cafe Society had not yet been coined.’ Cholly Knickerbocker c.1945
JAC DS 3 What was it that made the Dollies so successful and popular? For a start they were unusually beautiful. They did not conform to the full bloomed figure that was the accepted vision of beauty of the time with pink and white skin. Instead they were small and dark with an oriental grace that made them exotic. Their dancing delighted audiences and critics alike with the sheer flamboyance of their elaborate and identical costumes and perfectly matched routines. They also had extraordinarily vibrant personalities that made them quite simply irresistible. But most importantly they were not just sisters but identical twins, one the mirror image of the other – and this was the real secret of their allure. At their peak in Paris during the 1920s they were continually in the news for their extravagant living, gambling, predilection for jewellery and high profile love affairs with the rich and famous, as much as for their talent as entertainers. Although they were completely devoted to one another, a degree of tension emerged between them as they reached adulthood often seen as an on-going game of rivalry. This could be explained by the fact that although they were identical in appearance they were completely different in personality. Over the years many myths have developed about the Dolly Sisters, myths that were accentuated by the 1945 musical The Dolly Sisters released by Twentieth Century Fox and starring Betty Grable and June Haver which was not an accurate representation of their lives but merely a musical loosely based on their career. Some of the myths were reflected by Robert Wennersten who interviewed Rosie before her death and decided that the Dollies didn’t live to dance but used their talent as a calling card and entree to good times. Author Meredith Etherington-Smith believed rather caustically that all they did was walk on and off stage in a succession of superbly extravagant clothes and were kept by a series of rich protectors. Yet it was undeniable that they loved their career and loved performing. They clearly had talent otherwise they wouldn’t have been as successful as they were. The fact that rich suitors besieged them with requests of marriage and showered them with gifts was simply a reflection of the fact in those days every young actress aspired to marrying a millionaire and every young millionaire aspired to marrying a gorgeous actress! Even in recent years the magic of the Dollies is undimmed. After Rosie’s death in 1970 there were rumours that a TV musical based on their lives was in production and in the 80s a play was staged about them in New York. Angela Carter’s Wise Children was undoubtedly influenced by the story of the Dolly Sisters and even Bill Bryson fell under their spell by explaining in Notes From a Small Island that Gordon Selfridge fell into rakish ways with a Dolly Sister on each arm. Their legend continues. ‘Perfect Mirror Images – whose Gold Sister Fever during the Scott Fitzgerald days infected an already dizzy, reeling generation. The sisters’ plumed fans, fabulous diamond headdresses and reckless nights at Monte Carlo’s casino underscore a bitter showbusiness tango that fatally seduced the beautiful bodies who danced it.’ Press Release for Yesterday is Over, a play inspired by the Dolly Sisters, staged June 1980 in New York. 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 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.

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The Dolly Sisters: Tragedy

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 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.

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The Dolly Sisters: London

The Dolly Sisters: London

‘Two more electric personalities it has never been my fate to meet. They radiated personal magnetism, vibrant energy or whatever you like to call it and any revue benefited enormously by their presence on the stage… On the stage and off the Dolly sisters were unique.’ Charles B. Cochran JAC DS 12 The Dolly Sisters arrived in London in 1920 to star in Albert de Courville’s revue Jigsaw at the Hippodrome becoming an instant hit. They didn’t particularly like De Courville or the parts alloted them and were elated when Charles B. Cochran took them under his wing and starred them in League of Notions (1921), a fleeting appearance in Fun of the Fayre (1922) and Babes in the Wood (1921/22). Cochran understood them. The London trip was also an excuse to escape marital discord and by 1922 they were both divorced and immediately used their new found freedom to great advantage. Their popularity in a social sense blossomed in Europe and they genuinely believed that they were the first show business personalities to be accepted socially by English and European society. This ‘acceptance’ was largely measured by the fact that their beauty and effervescent personalities, not to mention their novelty value as identical twins, enabled them to become the objects of affection of numerous rich and successful men. Each vied with the other in an elaborate game of falling in love, engagement, rumours of marriage and then cold feet. They were linked romantically with dozens of named and unnamed men of title or wealth. However, Jenny’s liaison with the famous London Department Store owner Gordon Selfridge and Rosie’s elopement with the Canadian multi-millionnaire Mortimer Davis Jr were the most widely publicised although they were also both chased around Europe by David the Prince of Wales later to become Edward V111. Check out the webpage for the biography of the Dolly Sisters here The new book The Dolly Sisters in Pictures 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.

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The Dolly Sisters: New York

The Dolly Sisters: New York

‘You can’t tell one apart from the other. In conversational ability they are as entertaining as they are with their tootsies. No prettier, smarter, clever people were born than these two girls… the most charming tots on the American stage…. they have proven themselves a box office asset… greater things will be heard…’ Unidentified 1916
JAC DS 6 It is generally claimed that the Dolly Sisters made their debut at Keith’s Union Square Theatre in 1909. In fact they had already made a splash elsewhere touring with Gertrude Hoffman and then on their own in Cuba in 1906. This was followed by a show in Madison Square Roof Garden (1907) and regional vaudeville tours. They were spotted one night by Lee Shubert who gave them their first big Broadway break putting them into his show Midnight Sons (1909). Some critics said they could not sing and rarely changed their dance routines but nevertheless they had a certain tantilising sparkle that ensured stardom. The great Florenz Ziegfeld saw them and hired them for his 1911 Follies in which they made their mark in New York. Further successes continued with The Winsome Widow (1912) and The Merry Countess (1912). But with their 20th birthday in October 1912 change was in the air. It was decided that they should perform separately. The official reason was professional neccessity, but significantly, within two years both married, we are told, for love. Rosie to songwriter Jean Schwartz (1913) and then Jenny to comedian and entertainer Harry Fox (1914). Separation was difficult but individual appearances followed in legitimate stage productions, vaudeville acts and the movies. They were re-united on the stage in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic (1916), His Bridal Night (1916) and Oh Look (1918) and also appeared together in the aptly titled movie The Million Dollar Dollies (1918). During this time they were close friends with the elite of Broadway and Hollywood and became the essential prerequisite for any Broadway festivity. However, none of their friends was more important than the millionaire Diamond Jim Brady who indulged their every whim and taught them the art of a flutter with the horses. Despite their poor husbands they had begun to learn why a man with a cheque book was such a necessity. 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 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.

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Charles Gesmar by Angelo Luerti

Charles Ges(i)mar, simply known as Gesmar, was one of the greatest designers of costumes and posters during the golden age of the Paris music hall during the Jazz Age and was primarily renowned for his work for the great Parisian star Mistinguett. Although his tenure was short, his output was prolific and his creativity and talent unrivalled. (more…)

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Welcome to the Cabaret

Welcome to the Cabaret

Cabaret was one of the defining features of the Jazz Age and these supper entertainments were staged in a venue other than a theatre all over the world. Besides providing food, drink, jazz music and an entertainment, customers could also dance. Indeed dancing was the key to the 20th century cabaret craze. (more…)

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Einer Nerman

The artist simply known as Nerman rose to stardom creating charming caricatures of theatrical and musical celebrities in the Jazz Age of the 1920s and Hollywood stars in the 1930s. But Einer Nerman also did much advertising work, book illustration and was an accomplished painter. (more…)

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Dolly Tree’s Jazz Age illustrations

Before she became an international renowned costume designer for stage and screen in the early 1920s, Dolly Tree excelled as an illustrator. (more…)

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Welcome to the Jazz Age Club

I have had a passion about the Jazz Age of the 1920s and 1930s for a long time, especially anything relating to film, stage, cabaret, fashion and art. But, I have found that although there is a wealth of information about this period online, there is no general portal that encompasses all aspects of the period. I also want to introduce new topics and views not explored elsewhere to bring the period alive in a more diverse way instead of just focusing on the usual suspects such as Al Capone, Fitzgerald, the Bright Young Things and fancy dress parties. Although my main focus is about art, culture and entertainment, this website is designed to become a central resource and open forum for all news, views, reviews and stories about anything relating to the period of the 20s and 30s but in reality will span 1900-1940 which can loosely be described as the Jazz Age. It will also be international in flavour covering both American and European subjects. All pages/posts are arranged thematically by subject in the headings in the navigation bar at the top of the page. If you would like to contribute a piece for these pages please contact me. Equally, please feel free to leave your comments. All images and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent

Gary Chapman

The Jazz Age Club Contact Gary Chapman by email here Gary Chapman's Website Edditt Publishing The Jazz Age Club is now represented at Mary Evans Picture Library (, the UK's leading source for historical imagery. Follow JazzAgeClub on Twitter Join Our Facebook Page Jazz Age Club piniterest board

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