As is par for the course, there's no more fact in the biopic The Dolly Sisters than can be squeezed into a thimble. This is probably of less concern to modern audiences, who will be totally unfamiliar with the titular siblings, than it might have been to audiences in 1945, for whom memories of the performers would have been somewhat fresher. If one dispenses with factual considerations, Dolly is a mighty entertaining little tunefest. Admittedly, there's precious little that's fresh or original in the story that the authors have concocted, but it does contain a decent number of dramatic elements that work quite well, and while the romantic entanglements are nothing new, they do keep the viewer's attention. What makes Dolly more than serviceable, naturally, are the numbers, which are plentiful and enjoyable, and its invaluable stars. Betty Grable is a delight, operating at the peak of her charismatic powers here. She sings winningly, dances engagingly and of course shows off those wonderful gams, but it's the total package that counts with Grable; she simply has that "something" that defies definition. She's well matched by June Haver, definitely a lesser talent and a lesser light, but here turning in some of her finest work, perhaps inspired by (or in competition with) Grable. John Payne also comes off well; not the world's greatest performer, he does click with Grable, and their duet on the marvelous "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" is a winner. Throw in S.Z. Sakall for cuddly comedy, brisk direction from Irving Cummings and a lavish production shot in truly glorious Technicolor, and the result is a slight but utterly charming little confection.
The Dolly Sisters is the heavily Hollywoodized biopic of Jennie and Rosie Dolly, Hungarian-born entertainers who took Broadway by storm in the early 1900s. Betty Grable plays Jennie and June Haver plays Rosie; their uncle is the inevitable "funny foreigner" S.Z. Sakall, who manages their career from childhood. Passing an important audition for Oscar Hammerstein, the Dolly girls become international stage headliners, but in so doing they find that their private life is strained. Jennie in particular is perplexed by the dilemma of devoting herself to a career while still finding time to romance handsome composer John Payne. The Dolly girls are separated permanently when Rosie is fatally injured in an auto accident, but Jennie finds lasting happiness with her composer. Despite the pre-World War I ambience of the film, both Grable and Haver show off a lot more skin than would have been permissible in earlier times. But Dolly Sisters producer George Jessel knew what he was doing, and the Technicolor film was a major hit in 1945.