The Dolly Sisters, with their dollies
Mary Nolan - December 18, 1905 - October 31, 1948
Born Mary Imogene Robertson in Kentucky, Robertson’s childhood was beset with hardship that included the death of her mother in 1908 and an absent father. As a child, she worked as a farm laborer, before moving to New York City in 1919 where she worked as a model. Before long, she was discovered by Florenz Ziegfeld, who hired her under the name Imogene Wilson (the first of three name changes she was to have) as a dancer in his follies. As a showgirl in New York she was called Bubbles. Her impact as a dancer was so profound that columnist Mark Hellinger once said of her in 1922: “Only two people in America would bring every reporter in New York to the docks to see them off. One is the President. The other is Imogene “Bubbles” Wilson.”
November 27, 1904 - November 7, 2005
She was born Dorothy Wegman on Nov. 27, 1904, in New York to Eastern European immigrants and dropped out of school at 14 to support her widowed mother and younger brother. Steered toward the stage by her mother, the reluctant girl made her debut as a dancer in a Shubert revue, “The Passing Show of 1921” at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theater.
Ziegfeld cast her in his “Follies of 1924,” and she later performed in his shows “Big Boy” and “Rio Rita.” In 1927, during the “Rio Rita” run, she eloped with playwright Samson Raphaelson. She remained married to him until his death in 1983.
In 1930, she wrote a novel about her experiences as a Ziegfeld Girl entitled “Glorified”.
Sheet Music Cover from the “Ziegfeld Follies of 1916”
Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston