BOUND BY FLESH (2014) Violet Hilton, Daisy Hilton, Nancy Allen, Blake Boyd, Tim Stack, Lea Thompson. Directed by Leslie Zemeckis
"As charming as they are unusual" was a line used to describe conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. Born in Brighton, England in 1908 the sisters were sold to Mary Hilton after their mother, Kate Skinner, abandoned them at birth. They grew being exploited and abused by Hilton and spent many years as a sideshow attraction. Joined at the hips and buttocks, they shared blood circulation but no major organs. Both played musical instruments and put on a vaudeville styled show. They toured extensively and brought in a large amount of money which Mary Hilton kept for herself.
When Mary died the twins guardianship went to daughter Edith Hilton who along with her husband Meyer Meyers exploited the girls even further until they turned 23 and with the help of San Antonio lawyer Martin J. Arnold, they sued and won their freedom.
Director Leslie Zemeckis chronicles the girls lives from the time they were born until their deaths in 1969 by using photographs, rare footage, audio recordings and interviews. It's a tragic and fascinating story that shows the sisters go from sideshows to vaudeville and burlesque, to making motion pictures (they were featured in the cult classic "Freaks" by Tod Browning), and finally living out the last few years of their lives broke and working for a supermarket in Charlotte, N.C. Since the Hilton twins spent part of their lives in San Antonio, it's interesting to see and hear Amy Fulkerson, curator of collections at the Witte Museum, give commentary about the sisters. The museum houses quite a few materials related to the Hilton Twins.
At times you may feel inundated by the vast amount of information Zemeckis puts forth but she seems to leave no stone unturned with this riveting documentary which reveals that beyond all the labels these sisters were just two girls who had the same kind of hopes and aspirations that all of us have.
(3 1/2 stars)
*The film opens Friday July 11th at Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes in San Antonio.
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