Dorothy and Vivian Hamilton (Daisy and Violet Hilton) are singers in a vaudeville show. They also happen to be conjoined twins that are joined at the hip. Their manager Hinkley (Allen Jenkins) comes up with a great publicity gimmick for the act. He suggests that one of them pretends to become engaged and have a fake wedding. He floats the idea to the show’s trick gun shooter Andre Pariseau (Mario Laval) to be the prospective groom. Pariseau is handsome, suave and always looking for money. Hinkley says he will pay him part of the proceeds. Vivian is against the idea but Dorothy is willing to go along with it. The girls are now a hit and there is standing room only for their shows.
When Andre sees that Vivian is getting a lot of money for her and her sister’s singing act, he proposes to her in reality. By now Dorothy is in love with Andre and says yes. Andre begins fleecing his fiance. Vivian tries to talk her out of it but Dorothy sees this as her one chance to have true love and is blind to what Andre is really up to. Hinkley is also clueless and is OK with a real wedding.
There are, however, a few flies in the ointment. Andre is a cad and is already in a relationship with the assistant in his act, Renee (Patricia Wright). He only wants to marry Dorothy for her money. In addition, when they start trying to obtain a marriage license, they get turned down by a couple dozen states. The marriage license bureaus say that it would be bigamy and refuse them. Their attorney, (Alan Keys) sends the girls to a friend of his to see what he can do to get Dorothy married. Reverend Dr. Burnham (Roy Regnier) is a blind pastor. He understands the situation and makes arrangements for Dorothy to marry Andre. On the wedding night, however, Andre can’t go through with consummating the marriage.
It then comes to light that he never loved Dorothy but just wanted the money. Vivian in anger shoots Andre. In court she fully admits that she killed her sister’s husband. The judge is in a pickle. The punishment for murder is either the death penalty or life in prison but to sentence Vivian would also mean sentencing Dorothy, an innocent person, to the same fate.
“Chained for Life” was released in 1952 and was directed by Harry L. Fraser. It is an American quasi exploitation film.
The Hamilton sisters are played by real life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. The life of the Hilton sisters was even darker than what they play in the film. The movie gives them dignity and doesn’t look on them as freaks but as two sisters who, because of ignorance, are not considered the same as everyone else. The story shows their lives through the filter of prejudice which is a concept most people can understand.
The Hilton sisters were born in 1911. Their mother sold them. The girls then appeared in various side shows from the time they were toddlers. They were singers, dancers and musicians. This allowed them to leave the sideshows and perform as regular entertainers in vaudeville and burlesque houses. They sued their guardian for emancipation and damages for abuse and theft of wages. They also appeared in Tod Browning’s “Freaks” 1932. That did not help their star power. They went out of favor and ended up broke. With few prospects the sisters agreed to do “Chained for Life”. The Hilton sisters are singers not actors. The songs in the movie are actually being sung by the Hilton sisters and unfortunately so are the acting.
The movie is not very good but, if you are interested, you get to see a few actual vaudeville acts in the form of comedian juggler Whitey Roberts, a bicycle act by Paul Gordon and Tony Lovello, an accordion player, with his rendition of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” and Johannes Brahms “Hungarian Dance No. 5” played really fast.