The Dolly Sisters, the Hungarian twins who conquered the variety scene of the 1920s
Hollywood is full of Hungarian talents and colourful personalities who have engraved their names in stone as far as the show business is concerned. It is not just Zsazsa Gábor who had the whole world lying at her feet, but the Dolly Sisters too, who performed in front of royalties and millionaires. Újságmúzeum tells the story of the Hungarian twin sisters who rose from poverty to worldwide fame.
The twins had a rough childhood, characterised by severe poverty. They were born in 1892 in Balassagyarmat, from where their monger father had the family move to Budapest when the girls were three years old. The father’s motive behind this was to save the family from starving and to provide the twins with a good education. However, he could not make ends meet, so the family moved to New York when Janka and Rózsi were thirteen.
Their story is like a true fairy-tale: two little girls arriving in the USA, famished, exhausted and afraid of the new world, eventually growing up to become the most famous dancers of the time.
People desperately trying to make a living usually take up all sorts of jobs that they have the slightest knowledge about or affinity to. Dancing was quite an important part of little girls’ education in those decades, so Janka and Rózsi took dance classes back in Budapest. Making use of their skills, the girls started performing at cafés, clubs to support their family.
What started off as making a decent living, became a story of riches and fame, as the girls became more and more popular thanks to their astonishing performance. At the age of eighteen, they were already performing in Broadway productions and silent films.
Not much later, Harry Fox, the father of foxtrot fell in love with Janka, married her, and became the duo’s manager. It was at that time when they started using the ‘Dolly Sisters’ stage name.
After having won the heart of all America, in 1920, the sisters decided to tour in Europe too. By this time the twins were flush with money, but could not handle their wealth well and were spending carelessly. Rózsi fell victim to the casinos, and as it usually is, she lost a great deal of money on several instances. However, she had big wins, like once in Cannes, where she won 28 million French francs. Needless to say, she lost it just as fast.
They have visited Budapest frequently during their European tours, where Janka even adopted two Hungarian girls.
When the sister duo grew tired of the spotlight, they decided to split up and retire, especially since they have made enough money for the rest of their lives. Janka opened a shop in Paris and bought the Singer family’s castle as her home. Rózsi married the son of a filthy rich tobacco factory owner, but the father refused to aid the couple financially, so they lived on Rózsi’s money.
The happy life reached an end for Janka when she was involved in a car accident on the French Riviera in 1933. Her injuries suffered to the face were so severe that she had to undergo plastic surgery multiple times. Her scars and a sunk marriage drove her into depression and not even a fresh marriage could lighten her up. She committed suicide in Hotel Shelton at the young age of 49.
Rózsi, on the other hand, lived a long life, which ended with a stroke on New Year’s Eve in 1970.
May they rest in peace and be remembered forever.
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