Lili Damita

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Lili Damita
Lili Damita from Stars of the Photoplay.jpg
Born Liliane Marie Madeleine Carré
(1904-07-10)10 July 1904
Blaye, Gironde, Aquitaine, France
Died 21 March 1994(1994-03-21) (aged 89)
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Resting place Oakland Cemetery, Fort Dodge, Iowa, U.S.
Other names Lily Damita, Lily Deslys
Years active 1922–1937
Spouse(s) Michael Curtiz (1925–1926; divorced)
Errol Flynn (1935–1942; divorced)
Allen Loomis (1962–1983; his death)
Children Sean Flynn (May 31, 1941; disappeared/MIA April 6, 1970)

Lili Damita (10 July 1904 – 21 March 1994) was a French-American actress and singer who appeared in 33 films between 1922 and 1937.

Early life and education[edit]

Born Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carré in Blaye, France, she was educated in convents and ballet schools in several European countries, including France, Spain and Portugal. At 14, she was enrolled as a dancer at the Opera de Paris.

As a teenager, she was performing in popular music halls, eventually appearing in the Revue at the Casino de Paris.[1] She worked as a photographic model. Offered a role in film as a prize for winning a magazine beauty competition in 1921, she appeared in several silent films before being offered her first leading role in Das Spielzeug von Paris (1925) by Hungarian-born director Michael Curtiz. She was an instant success, and Curtiz directed her in two more films: Fiaker Nr 13 (1926) and Der Goldene Schmetterling (1926). Damita continued appearing in German productions directed by Robert Wiene (Die Grosse Abenteuerin; 1927), G.W. Pabst (Man Spielt nicht mit der Liebe; 1926) and British director Graham Cutts (The Queen Was in the Parlour; 1927).


In 1928, at the invitation of Samuel Goldwyn she went to Hollywood, making her American debut in a film titled The Rescue. Leased out to various studios, she appeared with stars such as Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier, Laurence Olivier, Cary Grant and James Cagney. Her films included the box office successes The Cock-Eyed World (1929),[2] the semi-silent The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929) and This Is the Night (1932).

Personal life[edit]

Lili Damita and husband Errol Flynn at Los Angeles airport, 1941

In 1935, she married a virtual unknown who would become Hollywood's biggest box office attraction, Errol Flynn, with whom she had a son, Sean Flynn (born 1941). Following the marriage, she retired from the screen. The couple divorced in 1942. (Barbara Hershey portrayed Damita in the TV film My Wicked, Wicked Ways [1985] based on Errol Flynn's autobiography.) While living in Palm Beach, Florida, Damita married Allen Loomis, a retired Fort Dodge, Iowa dairy owner, and spent part of each year living there.

During the Cambodian Civil War (Khmer Rouge Reign), her son Sean Flynn was working as a freelance photo journalist under contract to Time magazine when he and fellow journalist Dana Stone went missing on the road south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 6 April 1970. Although Damita spent an enormous amount of money searching for her son, he was never found, and in 1984 he was declared legally dead. DNA testing was conducted on remains found in Cambodia and turned over to the U.S. authorities there in March 2010.[3] However, the results, released 30 June 2010 by JPAC, showed the remains were not those of Sean Flynn.[4]

Age and nationality[edit]

On the manifest of the SS Bremen, sailing from Cherbourg on 5 September 1929, Damita's age is given as 25, and on the SS Paris sailing from Le Havre, France, on 14 November 1934, her age is given as 30, both indicate that she was born in 1904. She later shaved four years off her age, including on her Petition for Naturalization (United States, # 127601), dated December 17, 1945, which was granted on 10 May 1946, giving her year of birth as 1908.[citation needed]


Lili Damita died of Alzheimer's disease on 21 March 1994, in Palm Beach, Florida, aged 89. She was interred in the Oakland Cemetery in Fort Dodge, Iowa, her husband's hometown.[5]

Selected filmography[edit]

Promotional photo of Lili Damita and Victor McLaglen for The Cock-Eyed World
Lili Damita & Gary Cooper in Fighting Caravans.
Year Film Role Notes
1922 Maman Pierre Silent film
1922 La belle au bois dormant Silent film
1922 L'Empereur des pauvres Riquette
1922 La fille sauvage Henriette Villedieu Silent film
1922 The Clairvoyant
1923 Corsica
1924 Une femme dans la nuit
1925 Prince Charming
1925 Das Spielzeug von Paris Célimène aka Susana Armard
1926 Cab No. 13
(Fiaker Nr. 13)
1926 Secrets of a Soul
(Geheimnisse einer Seele)
1926 The Golden Butterfly
(Der goldene Schmetterling)
1926 One Does Not Play with Love
(Man spielt nicht mit der Liebe)
1927 The Queen Was in the Parlour Prinzessin Nadya von Kraya
1927 The Famous Woman
(Die berühmte Frau)
Sonja Litowskaja
1928 The Great Adventuress
1928 Scandal in Paris
1929 The Rescue Lady Edith Travers
1929 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Camila (La Perichole)
1929 The Cock-Eyed World Mariana Elenita
1930 Let Us Be Gay
(Soyons gais)
1931 The Bachelor Father
(Le père célibataire)
alternate language version
1931 Fighting Caravans Felice
1931 The Woman Between Julie Whitcomb
1931 Friends and Lovers Mrs. Alva Sangrito
1932 This Is the Night Germaine
1932 One Hour With You
(Une heure près de toi)
Mitzi Olivier
1932 The Match King Marta Molnar
1933 Goldie Gets Along Goldie LaFarge
1934 Man Stolen Annette
1935 Brewster's Millions Rosalie La Rue
1935 Frisco Kid Belle Morra
1936 The Devil on Horseback Diane Corday
1937 Escadrille of Chance Edwige

Selected stage musicals[edit]


  1. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Lili Damita". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 August 2009. 
  2. ^ Erickson, Hal. "The Cock-Eyed World". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 August 2009. 
  3. ^ Kennedy, Helen (29 March 2010). "Remains of Errol Flynn's son, photographer Sean Flynn, may have been found in Cambodia mass grave". Daily News (New York). 
  4. ^ "Sean Flynn not buried in Cambodia war grave", The Daily Telegraph, 30 June 2010.
  5. ^ Lili Damita at Find a Grave


  • Bermingham, Cedric Osmond (1931). Stars of the screen 1931: A volume of biographies of contemporary actors and actresses engaged in photoplay throughout the world. London: Herbert Joseph. 
  • "Lily Damita". Stars of the Photoplay. Chicago: Photoplay magazine. 1930. 

External links[edit]