The documentary “Bound by Flesh” is all about the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton who were vaudeville sensations in the 1920s and 1930s.
The two girls were born in 1908 to a woman in England. She was unmarried and was scared by her daughters being joined by the hip and buttocks, that they would be burdensome to her. Her midwife, Mary Hilton, was impressed by the birth and decided she’d raise them as a way to make money. In that time, side acts in the circus were really big. She never actually showed them love and raised them so that she’d receive commercial glory.
Mary Hilton named them Daisy and Violet and immediately got them photographed and had people come to her home, so they could be looked at by strangers who had never seen conjoined twins. She gave them musical lessons, which they had to spend hours learning. They were able to play multiple instruments and also sang.
Once the girls were old enough to travel, Mary would take her birth daughter Edith along with the twins to various countries around the world. The girls were a big hit throughout the world, meeting Harry Houdini and Bob Hope. Little did anyone know that these girls were being exploited as money machines who were never given any real love, were abused severely behind the scenes by their adoptive mother, and had to work non-stop without seeing any of the money.
In time, Edith Hilton “inherited” the twins when her mother Mary died. Edith married a former balloon salesman Meyer Meyers at one of the circuses in the US. The two of them were in complete control of the twins’ every move. They were not allowed out of the house except during performances. The couple somehow could afford a mansion where the girls were beaten if they did not comply with what the Meyers wanted.
The twins wanted freedom and found a lawyer to help them gain that. They were able to find the freedom they wanted as well as $100,000. Because they didn’t know much about the outside world, it caused a lot of hardships for the girls to continue to live in the spotlight. Motion picture movies were becoming popular and they were not able to find as much work. In time, they got involved in the burlesque theater, had relationship troubles, and even one of the twins gave up a child to adoption.
Despite all the problems they had, they stuck together (even after given an option for a safe separation which they refused) and lived their lives in a kind poor community where they had worked in a grocery store until their deaths at 60 years of age.