Betty and Beth: The Dodge Sisters

In the unfinished musical ‘The March of Time’, photographed by George Hurrell, 1930

Betty Jane and Beth (sometimes known as Dora) were born in San Francisco around 1909-1910; they are sometimes presented as twins but it seems most probable they were just sisters. At 5ft 4in and with jet-black hair, they were keen dancers from a young age and Beth was said to be so good at whistling that she performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, aged nine. Aged fourteen, they were spotted dancing and offered a booking in a variety show that was travelling along the Pacific Coast. They went on to perform in New York in a production of ‘Suzanne’ where Julian Wylie saw them and offered them a contract to dance in London.

They arrived in London in 1926 to perform in ‘Turned Up’ at the New Oxford Theatre; for extra publicity Wylie offered £20 to the first person who could find a way to tell them apart. They also appeared in C.B. Cochran’s ‘Supper Time’ revue at the Trocadero Grill Rooms with costumes designed by Doris Zinkeisen.

They often performed in costumes resembling birds and made appearances at various other cabaret venues during their time in London. In July 1926 they were dancing at the riverside cabaret ‘Palm Beach’ on Taggs Island in the Thames near Hampton Court, as seen in one of the gallery images below. This was followed by a short programme at the Coliseum before they left for Berlin later that summer. Some reports state that they travelled to Berlin as their mother lived there and had become unwell.

Performing in Berlin, c.1927

After appearing briefly in a few German films and a tour of American theatres, they returned to London in 1927 to dance in ‘Oh Kay!’ at His Majesty’s Theatre. The musical was by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse with music by George and Ira Gershwin and had originally opened in Broadway before transferring to London.

By 1928 the sisters were the stars of the La Grande Folie at the Folies Bergere and after a successful run in Paris they returned to America in Spring 1930. After Beth’s brief marriage to Clarence Stroud, another twin-performer, the sisters returned to dancing and had a radio show. Despite some renewed popularity, they filed for bankruptcy in 1931.

There is certainly more to be discovered about the sisters but, for now, here is a gallery of some highlights from their career.

Performing at the Palm Beach cabaret on Tagg’s Island
Caricature by E.S. Hynes 1926

 

 

Some images © Illustrated London News / Mary Evans

2 thoughts on “Betty and Beth: The Dodge Sisters”

  1. Hello,

    In the 1970s, my wife and I lived in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Two elderly sisters with the last name Dodge lived just up the hill from us. They seemed somewhat reclusive and we only talked with them a few times.

    We thought about them recently and recalled that they may have been in show business when they were younger, so I looked around online and discovered the Dodge Sisters/Dodge Twins, Betty and Beth. They certainly had interesting careers.

    I’m curious to find out if Betty and Beth possibly spent their later years in LA, and if the sisters we met could have been them. If you have any information about their later years that you could share with me I would appreciate it very much. Possibly where they were living at the ends of their lives? I did a quick obituary search but came up with nothing.

    Thank you for any additional information you can provide.

    Best regards,

    Michael Mills

    1. Hi Michael,

      How fascinating! I’m afraid there is often very little to find out about the later lives of a lot of the people I pick for my blog and I didn’t come across anything for the Dodge sisters. Maybe someone else can help add to this part of their story in the comments if anyone has an idea of what became of the sisters.

      Kind regards

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