Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bound By Flesh

Bound By Flesh is a documentary examining the lives of the Hilton Twins, conjoined sisters who began as a sideshow attraction and then became one of the highest paid vaudeville acts. Presented in a standard documentary style with interviews with writers and historians, vintage film clips, and various illustrations and tabloid news articles, the film rises above the lurid subject matter and ends poignantly. Fused at the hip, the sisters sang, played instruments, and tried a bit of acting, appearing in Tod Browning's cult film Freaks. After a sensational trial where they emancipated themselves from their abusive managers that kept them captive and stole their earnings, they had brief marriages that were little more than publicity stunts. They starred in a so-bad-it's-good film loosely based on their lives called Chained For Life, and when their careers began to decline, were forced to become burlesque performers and making personal appearances at drive-ins. Here's a trailer:

When another in a long line of unscrupulous managers stole their earnings and left them stranded at a drive-in in North Carolina, they began working at a grocery store. They died alone in their home from the Hong Kong Flu in 1969. Their lives were the subject of a Broadway musical called Side Show, which was the first time two actresses were co-nominated for a Tony for Best Actress as a team.

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