Lil Dagover

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Lil Dagover
Dagover in 1919, photo by Alexander Binder
Marie Antonia Siegelinde Martha Seubert

(1887-09-30)30 September 1887
Died23 January 1980(1980-01-23) (aged 92)
Years active1913–1979
Fritz Daghofer
(m. 1907; div. 1919)
(m. 1926; died 1973)
ChildrenEva Marie Daghofer (1909–1982)

Lil Dagover (German: [lil ˈdaː.ɡo.vɐ] ; born Marie Antonia Siegelinde Martha Seubert; 30 September 1887[1][2][3] – 23 January 1980)[4] was a German actress whose film career spanned between 1913 and 1979. She was one of the most popular and recognized film actresses in the Weimar Republic.

Early life[edit]

Lil Dagover was born Marie Antonia Siegelinde Martha Seubert in Madiun, Java, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) to German parents. Some sources inaccurately give her birth name as Marta Maria Lillits.[5] Her father, Adolf Karl Ludwig Moritz Seubert, born in Karlsruhe/Baden Germany, was a forest ranger in the service of the Dutch colonial authorities.[6] She had two siblings. Her mother died in 1897, after which she returned to Germany, where she lived with relatives in Tübingen. She was educated at boarding schools in Baden-Baden, Weimar, and Geneva, Switzerland.[6]

Orphaned at the age of 13, she spent the rest of her adolescence with friends and relatives.[7] After completing her education she began pursuing a career as a stage actress around the principal cities of Europe. In 1907 she married actor Fritz Gustav Josef Daghofer, who was fifteen years her senior.[6] The couple had a daughter, Eva (born 1909) but divorced a decade later, in 1919.[8] Eva married Hungarian director Géza von Radványi in 1930.[citation needed]

Seubert began using a variant of her husband's surname as a professional moniker – changing the spelling of "Daghofer" to "Dagover".[9]

Acting career in the Weimar Republic[edit]

Lil Dagover c. 1912−13

Lil Dagover made her screen debut in a 1913 film by director Louis Held. During her marriage to Fritz Daghofer, she was introduced to several notable film directors; among them Robert Wiene and Fritz Lang. Lang cast Dagover in the role of O-Take-San in the 1919 exotic drama Harakiri which proved to be Dagover's breakout role. The same year, she was directed by Robert Wiene in the German Expressionist horror classic Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari, from a script by Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz opposite actors Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt.[9] Lang directed Dagover in three more films: 1919's Die Spinnen (English title: Spiders), 1921's Der Müde Tod (English release titles: Destiny and Behind The Wall), and 1922's Dr. Mabuse der Spieler.

Lil Dagover as the character Jane Olsen in the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

By the early 1920s, Dagover was one of the most popular and recognized film actresses in the Weimar Republic, appearing in motion pictures by such prominent directors as F. W. Murnau, Lothar Mendes and Carl Froelich. In 1925 she made her stage debut under the direction of Max Reinhardt. In the following years she played in Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater in Berlin and also at the Salzburg Festival.[10] In 1926 she married film producer Georg Witt, who produced many of Dagover's future films. The couple remained married until Witt's death in 1973.

Lil Dagover's film career in German cinema through the 1920s was prolific, making over forty films and appearing opposite such actors as Emil Jannings, Nils Olaf Chrisander, Willy Fritsch, Lya De Putti, Bruno Kastner and Xenia Desni. She also made several films in Sweden for directors Olof Molander and Gustaf Molander and appeared in several French silent films – her last film appearance of the 1920s was in the 1929 Henri Fescourt-directed French silent film Monte Cristo opposite Jean Angelo and Marie Glory.

Talkies and the Third Reich[edit]

Lil Dagover photographed by Elmer Fryer, May 1932

With the advent of talkies, Lil Dagover ceased making foreign films and appeared only in German productions; with the exception of one English language American film, the Michael Curtiz-directed drama The Woman from Monte Carlo (1932) with actor Walter Huston, shot on location in the United States.[citation needed]

After her return to Germany and the rise of the Third Reich in 1933, she avoided overt political involvement and generally appeared in popular costume musicals and comedies during World War II.[11] However, in 1937, she received the State Actress award,[12] and in 1944 she was awarded the War Merits Cross for entertaining Wehrmacht troops on the Eastern Front in 1943 and on the German occupied Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey in 1944.[13]

While Dagover's films of the period were decidedly apolitical, she was known to be one of Adolf Hitler's favorite film actresses and Dagover is known to have been a dinner guest of Hitler's on several occasions.[14]

Later career[edit]

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, Dagover continued to appear in West German films. In 1948, she starred in the anti-Nazi drama Gaspary's Sons. The film follows the disintegration of a German family living under National Socialism.[13] Dagover's most internationally popular film of the post-WWII era is the 1959 Alfred Weidenmann-directed adaptation of the 1901 Thomas Mann novel Buddenbrooks.[12]

In 1960, Dagover began appearing in numerous West German television roles in addition to continuing to perform in film. In 1973 she starred in the Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winner for Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film of 1973, The Pedestrian. The film was directed by Austrian actor-director Maximilian Schell, and featured international former early silent film peers Peggy Ashcroft, Käthe Haack, Elisabeth Bergner, Elsa Wagner and Françoise Rosay.

Dagover's last film role was at age 91 in the 1979 Maximilian Schell-directed and produced drama motion picture Tales from the Vienna Woods.[15]

Death and legacy[edit]

Grave of Lil Dagover and husband Georg Witt at the Waldfriedhof Grünwald cemetery in Grünwald

In 1962, Lil Dagover was awarded the Bundesfilmpreis. In 1964, she was awarded the Bambi annual television and media award from Hubert Burda Media, and the Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1967.[12] In 1979, she published her autobiography, Ich war die Dame (English: I Was The Lady). Dagover died at the age of 92, on 24 January 1980, in Munich, Bavaria, West Germany, and was buried at the Waldfriedhof Grünwald cemetery, near Munich.[16]



  1. ^ "Murnau Stiftung". Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Lil Dagover". Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  3. ^ "Lil Dagover". Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  4. ^ Wistrich, Robert S. (1982). Who's Who in Nazi Germany. New York: Macmillan. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-02-630600-3.
  5. ^ Wilson, Scott (19 August 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. ISBN 9781476625997.
  6. ^ a b c Schwarzmaier, Hansmartin (2020). "Daghofer, Martha Marie Antonia Siegelinde". Leo-BW (in German). Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  7. ^ Romani, Cinzia (1992). Tainted Goddesses: Female Film Stars of the Third Reich. Translated by Connolly, Robert. New York: Sarpedon. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-9627613-1-7.
  8. ^ [1] [dead link]
  9. ^ a b "AllMovie | Movies and Films Database | Movie Search, Ratings, Photos, Recommendations, and Reviews". Archived from the original on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2008.
  11. ^ "Lil Dagover - About This Person - Movies & TV -". 20 May 2011. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  12. ^ a b c "Lil Dagover - Actors and Actresses - Films as Actress:, Publications". Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  13. ^ a b Lil Dagover profile,; accessed 21 October 2021. (in German)
  14. ^ Knopp, Guido (2003). Hitler's Women. Translated by McGeoch, Angus. New York: Routledge. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-415-94730-5.
  15. ^ "Error - New York Times". 20 May 2011. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  16. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7.

Further reading[edit]

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