She first appeared on the vaudeville stage when she was in her late teens and quickly became a very skilled performer. A few years later, she moved on to the Ziegfeld Follies where she remained for about two years.
After the Follies, Lilyan joined a David Belasco production where she worked as an understudy to Ina Claire. She even got to go on for her a few times.
Lilyan made her film debut in 1921, but still chose to appear in plays as well. When one of the plays she was in closed, she made another film, this time with comedienne Mabel Normand.
Although Lilyan didn't become a huge star, she did appear next to some during her career. She shared the screen with such names as Will Rogers, Norma Talmadge, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, and Norma Shearer.
She did make a smooth transition into the talkies. It seemed easier sometimes for 'bit' players because they weren't so larger than life and fans didn't put an image to them. They were free to just be. In all, she made 28 talking pictures, which is pretty good. One of the films she appeared in was The Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), which sadly is a lost film.
Her last film appearance was in 1936's Frankie and Johnny.
By the time of her last film, her health was already worn. In 1932, she went to the hospital to have her appendix removed, although now there are people who believe it was actually to have surgery as treatment for abdominal cancer. In 1934 her health was getting worse, so she went back into the hospital, but sadly, her cancer had progressed far beyond help.
She was buried at Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Lilyan was married twice. Her first husband was another actor she met during her vaudeville days named Al Lee. They married in 1914, separated in 1920, and were finally divorced in 1921.
Her second, and most notable marriage was to actor Edmund Lowe in 1925. Not only was Lowe a longtime friend of hers, he was also openly gay. They were the new Pickford/Fairbanks couple around Hollywood. They represented the ideal marriage to the public, living in a beautiful mansion called "Lilowe." They held large and lavish parties and even orgies with their movie star friends! The two never had children, but did remain married until her death.
During her later career, she was seen as a fashion icon by her fans. They wanted her hairstyle, her dresses, her hats, you name it!
During tea time, her household staff were also told to serve her cats as well. She used to paint rooms of her house to compliment her hair, and even painted the whole house red and white on a whim, told her guests to wear red and white, and even brought in red and white toilet paper!
In 1931, Lilyan was arrested and charged with assault. She walked into her husband Edmund's dressing room and caught him with actress June Marlowe. She beat the living hell out of June before finally being pulled off her by Edmund. The charges were later dropped. THIS. IS. AWESOME.
I have also read that Lilyan also got into a fight with actress Constance Bennett after Constance apparently flirted with Lilyan's then girlfriend. Another fight? Lupe Velez. These two got into an altercation with punches being landed and nails scratching at faces. According to onlookers, Lupe was the winner of this fight. Lilyan at least got 2 out of 3! Lupe was crazy, I wouldn't want to go up against her!
|Edmund Lowe and Lilyan|