Sunday, February 5, 2012

Miss Lilyan Tashman

There are three things that I know for sure about Lilyan Tashman. 1.) She was stunningly beautiful. 2.) She died way too soon. 3.) She beat the hell out of a fellow actress when she found her in her husband's dressing room. And for these three reasons, I salute you.

Lilyan Tashman was born October 23, 1896 in Brooklyn, New York. She was the TENTH and final child born to Maurice and Rose Tashman. In her early teens she worked as a model for both fashion magazines and artists.

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.

Unfortunately, another one of her plays closed so she decided to move out to Hollywood where the movie making action was really starting to rise. At first, she wasn't tied to any studio. She chose to free lance and just appear in the films that she chose to do. Eventually though, she did sign with Paramount Studios.

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.

Lilyan Tashman passed away on March 21, 1934 in New York City. She was only 37 years old.

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.

So. Edmund Lowe was gay, BUT so was Lilyan. Well, she was bisexual. Apparently, she loved grabbing the most beautiful ladies in the room, bring them to the nearest restroom, and have a little tryst! Her most famous lover was none other than Greta Garbo! The two met in 1928 and were involved in a very heated relationship until 1932 when Greta cooled from Lilyan's raging jealous nature. This left Lilyan heartbroken.

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!

As per usual when it comes to death and wills, there was a bit of a heated debate over what to do with Lilyan's estate. She didn't leave a will, and there was the issue of what to do with her massive collections of jewelry, furs, and cash. The debate was between her husband, Edmund, and her two sisters Jennie and Hattie. I am not sure how this was settled.

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

"It's more boring for a woman to talk about clothes than for a man to talk of his golf scores." ~~ Lilyan Tashman


  1. She seemed quite the diva! I actually mean this one in a good way as i believe there are good divas and bad divas. Too bad she passed away so young.

  2. She seemed like the kind of chick I would have loved to hang out with. Especially to be front row at one of those catfights. I would have killed to see her...or anyone actually go up against Lupe!

  3. Hi Jessica,
    Hope your day has been wonderful.I found an article of Lilyan Tashman's passing in Photoplay. Here is the link: . The title of the article is " Cinderella of Broadway" pg 43-44.


  4. The irony is that few people today have ever heard of Tashman, but everyone knows June Marlowe -- she was Miss Crabtree in Our Gang!

    1. This is very true! Most people don't associate June with being a silent film star. It is right to Our Gang!