Few people know there were three amazing Gabor Sisters, not just two. All three Gabor Sisters were Hungarian-born actresses and American socialites. Magda, the eldest was born in June 1915. Zsa Zsa was born in February 1917 and Eva in February 1919. Eva was the first to die in 1995, at the age of 76. Magda died at age 82, while the most famous of the three sisters, Zsa Zsa died at age 99 in 2016.
Joli Gabor, Mother
The mother of the three beautiful girls was Joli Gabor. She was a formidable, entrepreneur, who trained her daughters how to attract wealthy gentlemen. Later it was discovered Joli had run a successful brothel in Hungary. Joli and Vilmos Gabor, soldier, were practising Jews.
Joli established herself as an actress, playing small roles in Hungarian films, but she was determined her girls would move to a place where they could attract the ‘big fish’. Eva, the youngest, married a doctor, whom she met while he was holidaying in Hungary. Her marriage allowed her to move to America in 1941.
In 1946, with the aid of Eva, Joli used her connections, income and business acumen, following the Nazi occupation, to get herself and her family to the United States. Years later, author Gerold Frank, would write, “It’s hard to describe the phenomenon of the three glamorous Gabor girls and their ubiquitous mother. The girls suddenly burst onto the society pages and into the gossip column. Their appearance was so forceful, it was if they had suddenly dropped out of the sky.”
Eldest of the Gabor Sisters, Magda
The eldest of the glamorous Gabor sisters, Magda, is the least known of the sisters, being more of a socialite than an actress. Though, there were times when all three Gabor sisters appeared together on various television, or talk shows.
Magda’s first husband, of a seven years marriage, died in 1944. She failed in the acting world, but she kept busy marrying men. Her marriages often lasted only one year. Her most disastrous marriage was to actor George Sanders, who had been previously married to the fickle Zsa Zsa. This marriage only lasted two months. Many believed George was still in love with Zsa Zsa.
Magda’s last marriage to Tibo Heltai managed to survive three years before too, ending in divorce. Magda married a total of six times. Magda was left partially paralysed from a stroke and died two months after her mother passed away, in 1995.
Youngest Gabor Sister, Eva
Eva Gabor, the youngest Gabor sister, is best known for her role as a pampered socialite married to a farmer in the television series, Green Acres. Of all the Gabor sisters, Eva was the most prominent actress. Like her sister Zsa Zsa, she too submitted herself to the hands of cosmetic surgeons, with a nose job on the legendary Jewish bulbous nose.
Eva was, also the businesswoman of the sisters, launching her fashion clothing collection with Luis Estevez, in the 1970s. She became more of a socialite than a movie star and preferred appearing on talk shows and giving interviews for magazines.
Eva married five times, citing her first husband for cruelty. “I wanted to have babies and lead a simple family life, but my husband objected to my having children”. Gabor never had children of her own but was stepmother to Frank Jameson’s four children. Jameson was Gabor’s last husband in a marriage that survived 10 years.
There was an intense rivalry between Zsa Zsa and Eva. Aaron Tonken, who was a ‘houseboy’ for Zsa Zsa for a year said, “Eva was always kind, but Zsa Zsa was verbally abusive and only nice to people who met her briefly on the outside.”
In 1990, the Los Angeles Times even went so far as to playfully tally up their “wins”: Eva was skinnier. Zsa Zsa had more marriages. Eva sold wigs and fashion clothing. Zsa Zsa sold costume jewellery and skin cream. Ultimately, even though Eva was the more successful actress, ironically, people often confused the two Gabor sisters.
Eva died after a fall in a bathtub in Mexico, from pneumonia, aged only 76.
The Middle Gabor Sister, Zsa Zsa
In the middle of the Gabor sisters, was the ostentatious Zsa Zsa, nicknamed Suzy. She began her acting career in Vienna, before moving to the United States. Prior to leaving Hungary, Zsa Zsa co-authored Every Man for Himself, with Victoria Wolff. In 1949, Zsa Zsa declined the offer to play the leading role in the classic Lady Chatterley’s Lover because she said, it was ‘too controversial’.
Zsa Zsa had a showy persona and flamboyant personality, which she used to the fullest. Like Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa was a shrewd woman who knew that talented cosmetic surgeons could work their magic. She was renowned for her extravagant Hollywood lifestyle.
Throughout the 1950s and Swinging 60s Zsa Zsa played numerous television and movie roles. In Zsa Zsa’s own words, “I have always been the kind of woman who could never be satisfied by money – only excitement and achievement.” She followed her mother’s instructions implicitly, on catching wealthy husbands. Zsa Zsa was the only Gabor sister to have a child, even though she married nine times. Sadly, it was reported the child was the result of marriage rape.
As her movie and television career died down, Zsa Zsa gained the title of princess, by marrying a German-American businessman, Prince Frederic Von Anhalt. This was her longest marriage, which lasted 10 years, right up to the time of her death.
In 1998, film historian Neal Gabler, called Zsa Zsa’s particular brand of celebrity, “The Zsa Zsa Factor”.
Zsa Zsa had a long-running feud with German-born actress Elke Sommer, that began in 1984. This led to a multimillion-dollar libel suit in 1993. Gabor lost and was ordered to pay Sommer $3.3 million in general and punitive damages. Zsa Zsa also got caught up in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and may have lost as much as $10 million.
Zsa Zsa became a recluse, following the death of her mother and two sisters. There was a serious car accident in 2002, from which she never fully recovered. A few years later, she fell, broke her hip and had her lower leg amputated, before dying at age 99, having been on life-support for the final five years of her life. In accordance with her wishes, her husband, Prince Frederick returned her ashes to her beloved Hungary.
The Power of a Mother’s Voice
There is no doubt that Joli Gabor, who died in 1995, would have been proud of her three glamourous, flamboyant and totally unique daughters. She would have been there in all the many marriages and break-ups. Joli would surely have to hold the record of attending the most marriages for just three daughters. She would have witnessed most of the marriages, which also meant witnessing most of the 18 divorces. Perhaps she became inured to the endless tears on the telephone. Maybe she was the one to organize the lawyers etc. etc?
It may not be the life style we would choose for our children, but it proves once again, how much influence a mother can exert over her children. It is vital, that as women we should never underestimate the power of our voice and a mother’s influence. Sadly, I know personally know three women whose mothers tried to continue to manipulate their daughters, to the end of their lives. Love should never have to involve manipulation.
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Wendy is an inspirational writer and enjoys researching out a topic, and happy to write articles for other sites. She is also very passionate about her garden and family. She says life is too short to waste, so live it to the fullest.