Lillian Lorraine

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Not to be confused with silent film actress Louise Lorraine.
Lillian Lorraine
Lillian Lorraine 03.JPG
Born(1892-01-01)January 1, 1892
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedApril 17, 1955(1955-04-17) (aged 63)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeSaint Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx
Other namesMary Ann Brennan
Lillian O'Brien
Years active1906–1922
Frederick M. Gresheimer
(m. 1913; annulled 1913)
Partner(s)Jack O'Brien (1946–1955)

Lillian Lorraine (January 1, 1892 – April 17, 1955) was an American stage and screen actress of the 1910s and 1920s, best known for her beauty and for being perhaps the most famous Ziegfeld Girl in the Broadway revues Ziegfeld Follies during the 1910s.


Theatre Magazine, 1909

Born in San Francisco, Lorraine began her career on stage in 1906 at the age of 14. In 1907, she appeared as a minor performer in a Shubert production, The Tourists. It was in that show that she was discovered by Florenz Ziegfeld. He spent the next several years promoting her career, rocketing her into an ascendance, which made her one of the most popular attractions in his Follies.[1] In 1909, Ziegfeld pulled the 17-year-old Lorraine from the chorus line in that year’s production of "Miss Innocence", spotlighting her as a solo performer who became celebrated for introducing the song, "By the Light of the Silvery Moon".[2]

In his book Scandals and Follies, author Lee Davis writes that, "By 1911, [Ziegfeld] was insanely in love with Lillian Lorraine and would remain so, to one degree or another, for the rest of his life, despite her erratic, irresponsible, often senseless behavior, her multiple marriages to other men, his own two marriages and his need for all his adult life to sleep with the best of the beauties he hired."[3]

The relationship, both professional and romantic, between Ziegfeld and Lorraine, led to the demise of his marriage to actress Anna Held. (A fictitious character, Audrey Dane, clearly based on Lorraine was portrayed by Virginia Bruce in the 1936 motion picture The Great Ziegfeld.) Lorraine and Ziegfeld's relationship was turbulent and emotionally complex, but their passion was such that Ziegfeld's second wife, actress Billie Burke, confessed that Lorraine was the only one of Ziegfeld's past sexual entanglements that aroused her jealousy.[2]

Lorraine starred in many annual productions of The Ziegfeld Follies as well as the 1912 Broadway musical Over the River. She ventured into motion pictures with limited success, appearing in about ten films between 1912 and 1922, including the serial Neal of the Navy with William Courtleigh, Jr.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Lorraine's personal life earned her more notoriety than either her talent or her beauty, and she was a staple in newspapers of the day with accounts of her latest turbulent romance or feuds with rival stars such as Fanny Brice and Sophie Tucker. Her personality and private life reportedly was a large influence on Anita Loos in the creation of the character of Lorelei for the novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.[5] Although her affair with Ziegfeld was over by the end of the 1910s, her box office drawing power kept her in a number of his productions of the period. Lorraine's fame waned in the 1920s, and she worked for a period in vaudeville.[6]


Lorraine's first marriage was to Frederick M. Gresheimer. They married on March 27, 1912 after meeting on a beach.[7] Ten days later, Lorraine announced that the marriage had been a mistake and that the couple was "incompatible" due to her career.[8] The marriage was later found to be invalid, as Gresheimer had not divorced his first wife. Lorraine and Gresheimer remarried in May 1913. Three months later, Lorraine filed to have the marriage annulled after claiming that Gresheimer misrepresented himself.[9]

Around 1946, she married Jack O'Brien, an accountant, taking his name. According to Lorraine's biographer, Nils Hanson, no records of a marriage exist and the marriage was likely a common-law marriage.[10]

Final years and death[edit]

Lorraine disappeared from public view in 1941, sometimes going by her mother's maiden name, Mary Ann Brennan.[11] She died on April 17, 1955 at age 63 in New York City.[12] Her funeral, which was held at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, was attended by her husband, her accountant and two friends. Lorraine was initially buried in a pauper's grave in Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Her body was later exhumed and moved to a friend's family plot in Saint Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx.[13]

Broadway credits[edit]

Date Production Role
November 30, 1908 - May 1, 1909 Miss Innocence Angele
June 14 - August 7, 1909 Ziegfeld Follies of 1909 Performer
June 20 - September 3, 1910 Ziegfeld Follies of 1910 Performer
June 26 - September 2, 1911 Ziegfeld Follies of 1911 Performer
January 8 - April 20, 1912 Over the River Myrtle Mirabeau
October 21, 1912 - January 4, 1913 Ziegfeld Follies of 1912 Performer
January 10 - May 30, 1914 The Whirl of the World Fifi, Cleopatra II
November 19, 1917 - February 23, 1918 Odds and Ends of 1917 Performer
Jun 18, 1918 - Closing date unknown Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 Performer
July 1918 - Closing date unknown Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic Performer
November 3, 1919 - January 3, 1920 The Little Blue Devil Paulette Divine
March 8 - May 1920 Ziegfeld Girls of 1920 Performer
January 13 - May 13, 1922 The Blue Kitten Totoche


Year Title Role Notes
1912 The Immigrant's Violin Lora - Albert's Sweetheart Short film
1912 Dublin Dan The Old Hag Short film
1912 The Face at the Window Short film
1913 The Detective's Santa Claus Miss Steele Short film
1913 The Old Parlor Short film
1915 Neal of the Navy Annette Illington Lost serial
1915 Should a Wife Forgive? La Belle Rose print held by Library of Congress[14]
1917 The Prima Donna's Special The Prima Donna Short film
Alternative title: The Hazards of Helen (#118): The Prima Donna's Special
1918 Playing the Game Lost film
1920 The Flaming Disc Lost film
1922 Lonesome Corners Martha Forrest Lost film

In popular culture[edit]

  • The first biography of Lorraine, Lillian Lorraine: The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva by Nils Hanson was published in October 2011 by McFarland Press.
  • Lorraine was portrayed by Valerie Perrine in the 1978 film, Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women (Columbia Pictures).
  • Lorraine is mentioned as an acquaintance of characters in Jennifer Egan's 2017 novel "Manhattan Beach" (New York: Scribner Press)


  1. ^ (Hanson 2011, pp. 18–19)
  2. ^ a b Lorraine and Ziegfeld,; accessed October 24, 2014.
  3. ^ (Hanson 2011, p. 63)
  4. ^ Lillian Lorraine on IMDb
  5. ^ "Anita Loos and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes",; February 2, 2007; accessed October 24, 2014.
  6. ^ Early career portrait,; accessed October 24, 2014.
  7. ^ "Actress Lillian Lorraine Weds Man Who Taught Her How To Swin Like a Tadpole". The Evening News. March 27, 1912. p. 3. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  8. ^ "Actress Quits Husband". The Milwaukee Sentinel. April 5, 1912. p. 1. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  9. ^ "Wants Marriage Annulled". Evening Tribune. July 19, 1913. p. 1. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  10. ^ (Hanson 2011, pp. 186, 186)
  11. ^ (Hanson 2011, p. 186)
  12. ^ "Lillian Lorraine; Won Fame as Ziegfeld Star". Youngstown Vindicator. April 21, 1955. p. 36. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  13. ^ (Hanson 2011, pp. 186–190)
  14. ^ The Library of Congress Database:Should a Wife Forgive?


  • Hanson, Nils (September 1, 2011), Lillian Lorraine, The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva, MacFarland & Company, ISBN 0786464070

External links[edit]