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


  1. I always wanted to know a little more about this lady ansd thanks for her bio! I knew her son went missing during the war...such a shame

  2. Having just read the Errol Flynn biography, 'My wicked wicked ways' , I was interested in understanding more of Lili Damita. It would be easy to judge the punitive ex wife, and be seduced by the charming Errol. I can only say that after much thought, I admire her more. Much love xx

    1. They made one good looking couple and they an equally good looking son. Poor Sean. How awful not to know what happened to him!

  3. Interested in old cars used in films I happened to see her foto when driving an open Packard 1929. Thanks for all interesting info. She was just as exotic and lovely as I had hoped for.