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Lilli Palmer

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Lilli Palmer
Palmer in 1946
Lilli Marie Peiser

(1914-05-24)24 May 1914
Died27 January 1986(1986-01-27) (aged 71)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Years active1935–1986
(m. 1943; div. 1957)
(m. 1957)
ChildrenCarey Harrison
RelativesIrene Prador (sister)

Lilli Palmer (German: [ˈlɪ.li ˈpal.mɐ] ; born Lilli Marie Peiser; 24 May 1914 – 27 January 1986) was a German actress and writer. After beginning her career in British films in the 1930s, she would later transition to major Hollywood productions, earning a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance in But Not for Me (1959).

Other notable roles include in the comedy The Pleasure of His Company (1961), the Spanish horror film The House That Screamed (1969), and in the miniseries Peter the Great (1986), which earned her another Golden Globe Award nomination. For her career in European films, Palmer won the Volpi Cup, and the Deutscher Filmpreis three times.

Early life[edit]

Palmer, who took her surname from an English actress she admired, was one of three daughters born to Alfred Peiser [de], a German Jewish surgeon, and Rose Lissman (or Lissmann), an Austrian Jewish stage actress in Poznań, Poznań, Poland).[1]

When Lilli was four years old, her family moved to Berlin-Charlottenburg. She was a junior table tennis champion as a young girl.[2]


In France, she appeared in an operetta at the Moulin Rouge, and then to London, where she began her film career. While performing in cabarets, she attracted the attention of British talent scouts and was offered a contract by the Gaumont Film Company. She made her screen debut in Crime Unlimited (1935) and appeared in numerous British films for the next decade.[3]

She married British actor Rex Harrison on 25 January 1943,[1] and travelled with him to Hollywood in 1945. She signed with Warner Brothers and appeared in several films, notably Cloak and Dagger (1946) and Body and Soul (1947).[4]

She periodically appeared in stage plays as well as hosting her own television series in 1951.[5] Harrison and Palmer appeared together in the hit Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle in the early 1950s. They also appeared in the 1951 British melodrama The Long Dark Hall, and later starred in the film version of The Four Poster (1952), which was based on the award-winning Broadway play of the same name, written by Jan de Hartog. She won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress in 1953 for The Four Poster.[6]

Harrison and Palmer divorced in 1956; they had one son, Carey, born in 1944.[7]

Palmer returned to Germany in 1954, where she played roles in many films and television productions. She also continued to play both leading and supporting parts in the U.S. and abroad. In 1957, she won the Deutscher Filmpreis for Best Actress for her portrayal of Anna Anderson in The Story of Anastasia, called Is Anna Anderson Anastasia? in the UK. In 1958, she played the role of a teacher opposite Romy Schneider in Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform), the remake of the 1931 film of the same title.[8]

Palmer interviewing German chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1982

Palmer starred with Fred Astaire and Debbie Reynolds in The Pleasure of His Company in 1961.[9]

She starred opposite William Holden in The Counterfeit Traitor (1962), an espionage thriller based on fact, and opposite Robert Taylor in another true Second World War story, Disney's Miracle of the White Stallions (1963). On the small screen, in 1974 she starred as Manouche Roget in the six-part television drama series The Zoo Gang, about a group of former underground freedom fighters from the Second World War, with Brian Keith, Sir John Mills and Barry Morse.[10]

Palmer published a memoir, Change Lobsters and Dance, in 1975.[7] She wrote a full-length work of fiction presented as a novel rather than a memoir, The Red Raven, in 1978.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Palmer's first marriage was to Rex Harrison in 1943. They divorced amicably in 1957, so that he could marry ailing actress Kay Kendall before her untimely death. Palmer agreed since she was already involved with her future husband, Carlos Thompson.

Lilli Palmer (with husband Rex Harrison), 1950

Palmer was married to Argentine actor Carlos Thompson from 1957 until her death in Los Angeles from abdominal cancer[12] in 1986 at the age of 71. She was survived by her husband, son, sisters, and her ex-husband.

Palmer is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California. A portion of the ashes of her first husband, Rex Harrison, were scattered on her grave.[13]




Year Title Role Notes
1935 Crime Unlimited Natacha
1936 Wolf's Clothing Lydia
The First Offence Jeannette
Secret Agent Lilli
1937 Good Morning, Boys Yvette
The Great Barrier Lou
Command Performance Susan
1938 Crackerjack Baroness Von Haltz
1939 A Girl Must Live Clytie Devine
Blind Folly Valerie
1940 Sunset in Vienna Gelda Sponek
The Door with Seven Locks June Lansdowne Also known as: Chamber of Horrors
1942 Thunder Rock Melanie Kurtz
1943 The Gentle Sex Erna Debruski
1944 English Without Tears Brigid Knudsen Also known as: Her Man Gilbey
1945 The Rake's Progress Rikki Krausner Also known as: Notorious Gentleman
1946 Beware of Pity Baroness Edith de Kekesfalva
Cloak and Dagger Gina
1947 Body and Soul Peg Born
1948 My Girl Tisa Tisa Kepes
No Minor Vices April Ashwell
1949 Wicked City Tania
1951 The Long Dark Hall Mary Groome
1952 The Four Poster Abby Edwards
1953 Main Street to Broadway Lilli Palmer
1954 Fireworks Iduna
1956 Devil in Silk Melanie
The Taming of the Shrew Katherina TV movie
The Story of Anastasia Anna Anderson
Between Time and Eternity Nina Bohlen
1957 The Night of the Storm Marianne Eichler
The Glass Tower Katja Fleming
1958 A Woman Who Knows What She Wants Julia Klöhn, Lehrerin & Angela Cavallini
The Lovers of Montparnasse Beatrice Hastings Also known as: Modigliani of Montparnasse
Girls in Uniform Elisabeth von Bernburg Also known as: Mädchen in Uniform
Life Together Odette de Starenberg Also known as: La Vie à deux
1959 But Not for Me Kathryn Ward
1960 Mrs. Warren's Profession Mrs. Kitty Warren
Conspiracy of Hearts Mother Katharine
1961 The Pleasure of His Company Katharine Dougherty
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney Mrs. Cheney
1962 The Constant Wife [de] Constanze Calonder
Leviathan Mother Also known as: Dark Journey
The Counterfeit Traitor Mrs. Marianne Möllendorf
Le rendez-vous de minuit Eva / Anne Leuven
Adorable Julia Julia Lambert
L'amore difficile Hilde Also known as: Sex Can Be Difficult, (segment "Il serpente")
1963 Miracle of the White Stallions Vedena Podhajsky
Torpedo Bay Lygia da Silva
And So to Bed [de] Actress
1964 Le Grain de sable Anna-Maria di Scorza
1965 Operation Crossbow Frieda Silver Shell for Best Actress
The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Dutchy
God's Thunder Marie Brassac Also known as: Le Tonnerre de Dieu
1966 Zwei Girls vom Roten Stern [de] Olga Nikolaijewna Also known as: An Affair of States
Der Kongreß amüsiert sich [de] Princess Metternich Also known as: Congress of Love
Le Voyage du père Isabelle Quantin Also known as: Father's Trip
1967 The Dance of Death Alice
Jack of Diamonds Herself
The Diary of Anne Frank Edith Frank TV movie
1968 Sebastian Elsa Shahn
Oedipus the King Jocasta
Nobody Runs Forever Sheila Quentin
1969 Hard Contract Adrianne
De Sade Mademoiselle de Montreuil
The House That Screamed Señora Fourneau Also known as: La residencia
1970 Only the Cool Helen
Hauser's Memory Anna Hauser TV movie
1971 Murders in the Rue Morgue Mrs. Charron
1972 What the Peeper Saw Dr. Viorne
1975 Lotte in Weimar Lotte
1978 The Boys from Brazil Esther Lieberman
1980 Weekend Judith Bliss TV movie
1981 Kinder Mother TV movie, Also known as: Children
1982 High Society Limited Hilde
Imaginary Friends Ellen Pitblado TV movie
1985 The Holcroft Covenant Althene Holcroft
2018 The Other Side of the Wind Zarah Valeska (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1938 Starlight Episode: "Richard Hearne"
1938 S-s-s-h! The Wife! The Wife Short
1949 Suspense Julia Episode: "The Comic Strip Murder"
1950 The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse Molly Collicutt Episode: "The Uncertain Molly Collicutt"
1952 Lux Video Theatre Nancy Episode: "Three Hours Between Planes"
1952 Omnibus Anne Boleyn Episode: "The Trial of Anne Boleyn"
1953 The United States Steel Hour Mrs. Chrystal Weatherby Episode: "The Man in Possession"
1954 Four Star Playhouse Stacy Lawrence Episode: "Lady of the Orchids"
1971 Der Kommissar Hilde Larasser Episode: "Grau-roter Morgen" [de]
1972–1979 Eine Frau bleibt eine Frau Various 5 episodes
1974 The Zoo Gang Manouche 'The Leopard' Roget 6 episodes
1974 Derrick Martha Balke / Johanna Jensen Episode: "Johanna"
1984 The Love Boat Lilly Marlowe 2 episodes
1986 Peter the Great Natalya Miniseries

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Suspense "Philomel Cottage"[19]
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air An Ideal Husband[20]
1953 Star Playhouse No Time for Comedy[21]
1953 Star Playhouse Twentieth Century[22]


  1. ^ a b Luft, Herbert C. (5 August 1960). "On the Screen". Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. p. 3. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  2. ^ "Lili Palmer, actress: Still understated at 70". Toledo Blade. 26 May 1984. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  3. ^ Bergfelder & Cargnelli 2008, p. 176.
  4. ^ "Body and Soul (1947)". Turner Classic Movies Database. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  5. ^ Kleiman, Dena (29 January 1986). "Lilli Palmer, actress on TV, stage and screen for 50 years". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Venice Film Festival: History 1932–2018 – Coppa Volpi for best actors since 1935", labiennale.org. Accessed 31 July 2023.
  7. ^ a b Folkart, Burt (29 January 1986). "Lilli Palmer, Actress and Best-Selling Author, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Maedchen in Uniform". Turner Classic Movies Database. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  9. ^ "The Pleasure of His Company". Turner Classic Movies Database. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  10. ^ "TV: Zoo Gang on NBC" by John J. O'Connor, The New York Times, July 16, 1975. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  11. ^ Palmer, Lilli (1978). The Red Raven: A Novel. Macmillan. ISBN 9780025946309.
  12. ^ "Lilli Palmer". Jewish Women's Archive. Archived from the original on 20 June 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  13. ^ "A Final Curtain Call: Rex Harrison (1908-1990)". 2 July 2014.
  14. ^ Moliterno 2009, p. 352.
  15. ^ a b "Deutscher Filmpreis-Lilli Palmer". Deutscher Film Preis (in German). Archived from the original on 25 December 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Lilli Palmer". Golden Globes. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  17. ^ Kniewel, Peter (1979). Unser Fernsehen, 1952–1979: Geschichte und Geschichten des Mediums, der Menschen, der Sender und Sendungen. Springer. pp. 66–67 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Folkart, Burt. "Lilli Palmer". Los Angeles Times. Hollywood Star Walk. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Philomel Cottage". escape-suspense.com. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  20. ^ Kirby, Walter (30 March 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved 18 May 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ Kirby, Walter (18 October 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved 6 July 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ Kirby, Walter (22 November 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Daily Review. p. 46 – via Newspapers.com.


Further reading[edit]

  • McClintock, Walter (1951). Current biography yearbook: 1951. New York: H. W. Wilson.
  • Palmer, Lilli. Change Lobsters and Dance: An Autobiography. New York: Macmillan, 1975. ISBN 978-0-02-594610-1

External links[edit]