The Sisters G: Jazz Age Beauties in Stereo

Fate appears to be conspiring to make me (and thus you) aware of The Sisters G: I caught them recently (they are hard to miss) in Paul Whiteman’s The King of Jazz (1930) and Frank Fay’s God’s Gift to Women (1931) and at the moment I am right in the middle of Angela Carter’s 1991 novel Wise Children, about a pair of twin Jazz Age chorines. Unlike the characters in that terrific book, The Sisters G weren’t twins, though they were often mistaken for such, for they were like mirror images. Nor were they English. It was better than that. They were from Königsberg, Germany, and came to prominence during the Weimar Era. The older of the pair Eleanor Gutöhrlein (Eleanor Kopse) was born this day in 1909. Her sister Karla followed in December, 1910. They might thus be called by the epithet “Irish twins”, though as I say, they were empathtically German.

The Sisters G were like a sexier version of the Hungarian-American Dolly Sisters, both with shiny black bobbed helmets of hair like two Louise Brooks clones. Managed and taught by their stage mother Maragarete, also a trained dancer, the girls initially performed in a trio with their older sister Inez, who left the act to get married.  They performed in cabarets in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Barcelona, and London from 1927 through 1929. They are said to have been the first Germans to have performed at the Moulin Rouge since the end of World War One. Carl Laemmle signed them for The King of Jazz in 1930. Since the Dolly Sisters had recently retired (temporarily, it turns out) The Sisters G were the logical act to fill the “beautiful twins” niche in America. They can also be seen in Recaptured Love (1930), Kiss Me Again (1931), A Woman of Experience (1931), and God’s Gift to Women (1931). Gorgeous though they were, their English was next to non-existent, so their future in talking pictures was dim and at all events the vogue for Jazz Age glitz would soon pass as the Depression lingered. In 1932 they were booked for a Chicago edition of the Ziegfeld Follies as well as Earl Carroll’s Vanities. They then returned to Berlin to perform. Hitler came to power shortly after that. Being Jewish, the girls moved to Sweden. Being world class beatuties, they both married rich husbands. Eleanor died in 1997; no one seems to know when Karla passed, though she must have, else she’d be 110 at this writing!

To learn more about the history of variety entertainment, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,