The Dolly Sisters

Any blog regarding the art deco era is not complete without a brief introduction to the famous and very beautiful Dolly Sisters who appeared in many guises during the period – obviously film and magazine but also including ceramic, spelter and bronze and ivory figures.

They were identical twins of Hungarian descent who emigrated with their Mother to the USA in 1905. 

Rozsika Deutsch and Janke Deutsch became known as – Rosie Dolly (1892 – 1970) and Jenny Dolly (1892 – 1941). They were stars of the silver screen and performed in some of the silent movies of the 1920s.

Famous not only for their beauty but also as dancers, singers, actresses and vaudeville stars. Also notorious for a hedonistic and lavish lifestyle of gambling and affairs with many famous men including royalty. They also almost financially destroyed Harry Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges store, London.

As children they were trained as dancers. 

Their adult careers started in 1911 when they were signed by Florenz Ziegfeld Jnr to appear in the Ziegfel Follies for two seasons.

For a while they had independent careers and then teamed up again in 1916 when they made a semi autobiographical film called the Million Dollar Dollies.

After the First World War they moved to France and lived together. 

Not only famous for their good looks and talent, they were also famous for their extravagant life styles. They had many famous and royal lovers who included the king of Denmark and the king of Spain. They nearly broke Harry Selfridge who took both of them as lovers. Mr Selfridge met them in 1925 when they were performing in London. He lavished them with expensive gifts of jewellery. They apparently spent $4 million of his money on gambling. He also paid for much of Jenny’s treatments after she had a car accident in 1933. Prior to the accident he had offered her $10 million to marry him.

The sisters frequented the top casinos of the world and attended race courses where they gambled with high stakes – often with the money of their many lovers.

Their performances earned them top money, sometimes as much as $1200 a night – a lot of money in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Jenny had a serious car accident in 1933 and spent a small fortune on surgery and plastic surgery. She had to sell most of her jewellery collection to pay medical bills, with the help of Mr Selfridge.

In latter years she suffered from depression. On June the 4th 1941 she committed suicide by hanging herself from a curtain rail in the apartment in Hollywood that she shared with her two daughters.

Rosie Dolly who in 1962 had also attempted suicide spent the rest of her days in charity work for a children’s charity in her native Hungary. She died in 1970 at the age of 77 from a heart attack.

Both sisters are interned in the great mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

Influence on Artists and Artwork

Many Art Deco statues were modelled on the then famous Dolly Sisters, which were produced by various companies including, but not limited to, Chiparus, Goldscheider and Royal Dux

Next Blog: Josephine Baker – Unseen Photographs

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