Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Miss Lili Damita

Lili. Lily. Lillie. I have seen it spelled so many different ways that I still am not 100% sure which is the "right" way. For the sake of my sanity, I am going with Lili because that is the way I see it the most.

Oh, and did I mention what a total babe Lili was? She had a face that would be considered beautiful all these years later, such a fox.

Lili was born Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carre on July 10, 1904 in Blaye, France.

Her upbringing may have been pretty strict because her schooling was down in convents as well as ballet classes. Her ballet training took her all over Europe before she was enrolled in a prestigious dance school in Paris.

By age 16, Lili was a common sight around performance halls all around Paris. She also became a famous face because she frequently worked as a model for photographers.

Her pictures must have found their way into the right hands because in 1921 Lili entered a magazine beauty contest. The lucky girl won and her prize was a role in the film, Maman Pierre. She continued to appear either in the background or bit roles in a few other silent films before she won her first starring role in 1925's Das Spielzeug von Paris.

The movie going audiences loved her and she began appearing in more films, including ones directed by Michael Curtiz and G.W. Pabst.

In 1928, the inevitable happened, she was asked to come to Hollywood to make her debut in American films. She was leased out to a bunch of different studios so she had a chance to appear alongside some big names like Laurence Olivier, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and James Cagney. On of her biggest successes during this time was a part silent version of The Bridge of San Luis Rey in 1929 with Raquel Torres and Henry B. Walthall.

In the mid 1930s, Lili decided to retire from the screen to concentrate on her personal life. When her marriage fell apart in the forties, she re-married and moved to Florida but also spent part of her time in Iowa where her new husband was from.

Lili Damita passed away on March 21, 1994 in Palm Beach, Florida.

She was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Lili was married three times. Her first marriage was to director, Michael Curtiz in 1925. The marriage only lasted for a year.

Her second marriage was the one thing about Lili that most people remember. She married Errol Flynn, who was a relatively unknown actor at that time, in 1935. They had a fiery marriage for sure which resulted in a son, Sean born in 1941. Apparently, Errol would frequently go away for months at a time and leave her alone at home. And when he did come back home, it sometimes was only for an hour! She finally filed for divorce in 1942, calling Errol "a cross between Marco Polo and Greta Garbo."

In 1944, she took him to court again claiming he was about $13,000 behind in his spousal support payments. Not sure what the outcome of this trial was.

Her third and final marriage was to a retired dairy owner named Allen Loomis. They married in 1962 and stayed married until 1983.

One of the most tragic aspects of Lili's life is what happened in regards to her only child, Sean Flynn. On April 6, 1970, Sean was doing photo journalist work for Time magazine in Cambodia with co-journalist, Dana Stone. They were last seen on a road near Phnom Penh on motorbikes heading toward the front lines of the fight and were never seen or heard from again. Lili spent countless hours and money in efforts to try and find out what happened to her son, but to no avail. Sadly, in 1984, he was legally declared dead. There was some hope in the late nineties that remains found in a grave near a local village could be the missing journalists, but in 2003, DNA testing confirmed that the remains belonged to two other men. (There is a bunch of other info on what could have possibly happened to Sean and Dana Stone. And for the record, Sean was a total hottie).

Lili was one talented woman! She could speak French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hungarian, and Italian. Since Lili had a distinct french accent, her friends and co-stars would tell her the latest slang and swear words and she would use them in everyday conversation not knowing what they really meant! She later worked on getting rid of her accent.

She was good friends with Marlene Dietrich and Dolores Del Rio.

She was nicknamed "Tiger Lil," "Dynamita," and "Damiti." The latter was the nickname given to her by the King of Spain.

Whatever Lili's mood was would effect the way the furniture in her home was arranged. She loved to lie in bed, but would only sleep maybe three hours a night.

When she travelled, she carried roughly twelve trunks with her and always used her own bedsheets while staying in hotels.

For Christmas presents, she would frequently give people love birds. (No thank you, Lili!)

She loved horses....and roosters.....interesting....

"I detest food. I have to eat, of course, but only the simplest menus appeal to me. When I am working on a picture I eat nothing." ~~ Lili Damita

Monday, October 15, 2012

Miss Valeska Suratt

So, I figured since it is October and I am watching a documentary about Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula), why not do a write up about a vamp? We have covered Theda, Pola, Alla, Nita...why not the least remembered of the group, Valeska Suratt.

Valeska Suratt was born on June 28, 1882 in Owensville, Indiana to Ralph and Anna Suratt. No exotic birthplace here, sorry.

I am pretty sure I found the right census record for her family because the birth dates of her parents match up. However, Valeska isn't listed...but I am assuming she had already moved out of the home. Anyway, she had an older brother named John and a younger sister named Leah. It gets even more confusing because I believe her parents divorced around 1900.

When she was 13 years old, she began appearing on the stage in musicals and to rave reviews. Her most famous stage roles were in 1907's "Hip! Hip! Hooray!" and in 1911's "The Red Rose." Her role in the latter was made infamous when she posed for a painting that depicted the left side of her chest unclothed with just a roll placed over her nipple. Scandalous!

In 1915, Valeska made her screen debut in the film The Soul of Broadway. She appeared in around 11 films within two years. Unfortunately, 1917 was the year that she made her last film appearance.

So, why did she leave the movies after only two years? Well, one reason is that she was a dark, evil, mysterious vamp character and as the 1920s came around, the vamp was out and the flapper was in. She didn't really fit into that category, so she retired.

As to why she didn't come back to movies at all...there is perhaps an answer to that. In 1928, Valeska and her friend/mentor, author Mirza Ahmad Sohrab sued Cecil B. DeMille for allegedly stealing the screenplay The King of Kings from them. The case was eventually settled in 1930. The outcome is unknown, but it seems as if Valeska became unofficially blacklisted in Hollywood (You gotta have guts to go up against DeMille for sure!).

Valeska Suratt passed away on July 2, 1962 in Washington D.C.

She was buried at the Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Valeska was married twice. Her first husband was a vaudeville comedian named William J. Flannery, who she married in 1904 and then divorced in 1911. Her second marriagewas that same year to another actor named Fletcher Norton, who she stayed married to until his death in 1941.  Also, in between these two marriages she apparently had a boyfriend/lover who lived with her named Richard Mackey. Go Valeska!

What attracted people the most to Valeska when she was on stage was not her acting and singing abilities, but rather her costumes. She once wore a "Cinderella" cloak that was worth over $10,000! And in one of her films, she wore more than 150 dresses! No wonder she eventually earned the nickname "The Empress of Fashions."

Apparently she got her first big break in films after a film producer noticed her walking down a hotel staircase wearing a daring backless dress. Oooh la la!

I have stated this sad fact before in an earlier post, but I shall say it again...all of Valeska's films are lost. The only thing that remains from her film career are a few film stills here and there. That truly is a tragic story.

In 1914, Valeska became the proud owner of a new car, an Oakland Sedan. And boy did she pimp her ride! She had her initials written in gold on the doors and then had a red rose painted on the other panels. Awesome.

I actually read an article from 1914 where Valeska discusses her beauty secrets. One of them was drinking a mixture of water and sugar...and something else (can't remember), in order to increase your bust size. Wow.

"Miss Suratt has voluptuous beauty, a pleasing voice, as demonstrated in more than a half dozen songs, and acting ability." ~~ The Milwaukee Journal - January 15, 1912

"My Dear Friends, It is somewhat embarrassing to speak of myself, for my friends persist in calling me beautiful. It is delicious, indeed, to be called beautiful, but it is even more inspiring to feel that one's own efforts have brought it all about." ~~ Valeska Suratt to The Pittsburgh Press - September 8, 1912

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Spooky Starlets!

Halloween! My favorite holiday! So, here I present you with some of our favorite ladies dressed up for some Halloween cheesecake shots or being spooky...this means you Theda and Valeska!

These ladies are BOO-tiful!
Theda Bara

Theda Bara
Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Louise Brooks

Nancy Carroll

Nancy Carroll

Nancy Carroll

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Shirley Mason and Viola Dana

Marion Davies

Claudette Colbert and Marion Davies

Marion Davies, Irving Thalberg, and Norma Shearer

Marion Davies and Mary Pickford

Gloria Swanson, Marion Davies, Constance Bennett, and Jean Harlow

Marion Davies and Norma Shearer

Mildred Davis

Billie Dove

Madge Evans

Lupe Velez and Clara Bow

Bessie Love


Pola Negri

Rudolph Valentino

Anita Page

Anita Page

Esther Ralston

Dorothy Sebastian

Dorothy Sebastian

Dorothy Sebastian

Valeska Suratt

Valeska Suratt

Alice White

Alice White

Alice White

Alice (White) in Wonderland