Lili Damita

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Lili Damita
Stars of the Photoplay, 1930
Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carré

(1904-07-10)10 July 1904
Blaye, France
Died21 March 1994(1994-03-21) (aged 89)
Resting placeOakland Cemetery, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Other namesLily Damita
Lily Deslys
Years active1922–1937
(m. 1935; div. 1942)
Allen Loomis
(m. 1962; div. 1983)
ChildrenSean Flynn

Lili Damita (born Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carré;[1] 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]

Lili Damita was born in Blaye, France, on 10 July 1904. Her father was an officer.[2] She was educated in convents and ballet schools in her native France, as well as Spain and Portugal. At 14, she was enrolled as a dancer at the Opéra de Paris.[3]

Early career in revue, modeling and German film[edit]

As a teenager, she was performing in popular music halls, eventually appearing in the Revue at the Casino de Paris.[4] 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.[5] She was an instant success, and Curtiz directed her in two more films: Fiaker Nr. 13 (1926) and Der goldene Schmetterling (1926).[6] Damita continued appearing next in German productions directed by Robert Wiene (Die große Abenteuerin; 1928),[7] G.W. Pabst (Man spielt nicht mit der Liebe; 1926) and British director Graham Cutts (The Queen Was in the Parlour; 1927).[citation needed]

Hollywood career[edit]

In 1928, Damita was invited to Hollywood by Samuel Goldwyn and made her American film debut in The Rescue. She was leased out to various studios, appearing with stars and leading men such as Maurice Chevalier, Laurence Olivier, James Cagney, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. Her films included box office successes The Cock-Eyed World (1929),[8] the semi-silent The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929) and This Is the Night (1932).[9]

Personal life[edit]

Damita and husband Errol Flynn at Los Angeles airport, 1941

Following a lengthy affair with Curtiz,[10] and a relationship with Prince Louis Ferdinand, grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II,[11] she married the then-unknown actor Errol Flynn in 1935 and retired from the screen. Flynn soon became one of Hollywood's biggest box office attractions, and in 1941 they had a son, Sean Flynn. The couple had an acrimonious divorce in 1942. According to her ex husband's memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Damita was unstable and violent throughout the tumultuous relationship. She is portrayed by Barbara Hershey in the 1985 TV movie based on the book.

In 1962, while living in Palm Beach, Florida, Damita married Allen Loomis, a retired Fort Dodge, Iowa, dairy product manufacturer, and spent part of each year living there.[12] They divorced in the mid-80s.[13]

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.[14] Although Damita spent an enormous amount of money searching for her son, he was never found, and in 1984 he was declared legally dead.


Damita died of Alzheimer's disease on 21 March 1994, in Palm Beach, Florida, aged 89.[15] She was interred in the Oakland Cemetery in Fort Dodge, Iowa, her last husband's hometown.[16]

Selected filmography[edit]

Promotional photo of Damita and Victor McLaglen for The Cock-Eyed World (1929)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929)
Damita and Gary Cooper in Fighting Caravans (1931)
With Ernest Torrence, Gary Cooper, and Tully Marshall in Fighting Caravans (1931)
With Lester Vail in The Woman Between (1931)
Thelma Todd, Roland Young, Lili Damita in This Is the Night (1932)
Charles Ruggles, Cary Grant, Lili Damita and Roland Young in This Is the Night (1932)
Year Film Role Notes
1922 Maman Pierre
1922 La belle au bois dormant
1922 L'Empereur des pauvres Riquette
1922 La fille sauvage Henriette Villedieu
1923 Corsica
1924 Une femme dans la nuit
1924 The Clairvoyant Suzanne
1925 Prince Charming
1925 Das Spielzeug von Paris Célimène aka Susana Armard
1926 Fiaker Nr. 13
(Cab No. 13)
1926 Geheimnisse einer Seele
(Secrets of a Soul)
1926 Der goldene Schmetterling
(The Golden Butterfly)
1926 Man spielt nicht mit der Liebe
(One Does Not Play with Love)
Calixta Lost film
1927 The Queen Was in the Parlour Prinzessin Nadya von Kraya
1927 Die berühmte Frau
(The Famous Woman)
Sonja Litowskaja
1928 Die große Abenteuerin
(The Great Adventuress)
1928 Scandal in Paris
1929 The Rescue Lady Edith Travers Incomplete film
1929 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Camila (La Perichole) Filmed as both silent and part-talkie, only the silent version of this film survives
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 alternate language version
1932 The Match King Marta Molnar
1933 Goldie Gets Along Goldie LaFarge
1934 A Man Has Been 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]

  • On Dit Ça, Paris (1923)
  • Sons o'Guns, New York (1929/30)
  • Here's How, London (1934)


  1. ^ Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, 5th ed. McFarland. pp. 130–131. ISBN 9780786457632. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  2. ^ "La jeune fille de Blaye devenue star". 10 July 2019.
  3. ^ Tyler, Don (2007). Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era. McFarland. p. 374. ISBN 9780786429462. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  4. ^ Lil Damita, Retrieved on 22 October 2016.
  5. ^ Rode, Alan K. (22 September 2017). Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-7397-9.
  6. ^ McNulty, Thomas (7 May 2015). Errol Flynn: The Life and Career. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-0972-0.
  7. ^ Jung, Uli; Schatzberg, Walter (1999). Beyond Caligari: The Films of Robert Wiene. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-57181-156-1.
  8. ^ Erickson, Hal. "The Cock-Eyed World". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  9. ^ "This Is the Night (1932)". BFI. Archived from the original on 2 April 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  10. ^ Thomson, David (20 December 2018). "No Mistakes". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 23 September 2020. (Curtiz) married one actress, Lucy Doraine, and had a lengthy affair with another, Lili Damita, before he married Bess Meredyth
  11. ^ Louis Ferdinand (1952), The Rebel Prince: Memoirs of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, Henry Regnery Co., p. 216-218
  12. ^ "Lili Damita". Variety. Associated Press. 25 March 1994. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  13. ^ Eyman, Scott. "Tragic, tempestuous life of Palm Beach's forgotten star, Lili Damita". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  14. ^ Brady, Brendan (2 May 2010). Time. ISSN 0040-781X,8599,1983766,00.html. Retrieved 22 April 2020. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ "Lily Damita; Star of Early Talking Films". Los Angeles Times. 26 March 1994. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  16. ^ Wilson, Scott (19 August 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7.


  • 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, UK: Herbert Joseph.
  • "Lily Damita". Stars of the Photoplay. Chicago: Photoplay Magazine. 1930.

External links[edit]