The Dodge Sisters

I have a couple of questions about the Dodge Sisters that are so delightful that I don’t know that I ever want them answered.

One sprouts from their names: Beth and Betty. Those are both common nicknames for Elizabeth. Are they a pair of twin sisters both named Elizabeth Dodge? Are they clones, as opposed to twins? Don’t tell me the answer. I prefer not to know.

Two is that they don’t actually appear to be twins. Betty was born on April 1, 1909; Beth was born in September of that year. That would make them “Irish twins” as the inelegant expression goes, not literal identical twins like the Dolly Sisters whom they clearly emulated, although the Dodge Sisters were sometimes billed as the Dodge Twins.

The Dodge Sisters were originally from Washington State. They made their professional debut in San Francisco, singing and dancing in nickelodeons and vaudeville. By 1925 they had made their way to New York, which became their springboard to a half dozen years or show business adventures. In 1926 they appeared in the West End musical Tuned Up with Lupino Lane. Numbers from that show became the basis for their act for many years to come. They were especially associated with bird imitations, musical whistling, and feathery costumes. They played cabarets and night clubs in London, Berlin, and Paris (including the Folies Bergère), over the next three years. In 1927 they played the New York Palace and toured the Orpheum circuit, and appeared in the London production of Oh, Kay! with Gertrude Lawrence. They were also featured in two German films that year: Die schönsten Beine von Berlin and Unter Ausschluß der Öffentlichkeit.

In 1929 the Dodge Sisters were back in the U.S. That year they appeared in the Shubert musical A Night in Venice with Ted Healy; they would later appear with Healy in the 1933 film version. For MGM they appeared in a 1930 musical called The March of Time and a short with Cliff Edwards called The Flower Garden.

In 1930, Beth married Clarence Stroud of the Stroud Twins, who had formerly been married to Betty Wheeler . The pair divorced almost immediately, then Betty reunited with her sister for a 1931 vaudeville tour. She then remarried Stroud in 1932 and had two children. The marriage lasted this time until 1938. For a great deal more detail on the pair check out this excellent article.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube