Lili Damita

Lili Damita (born Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carré;[1] 10 July 1904 – 21 March 1994) was a French-American actress and singer who appeared in 33 films between 1922 and 1937.

Lili Damita
Stars of the Photoplay, 1930
Liliane Marie Madeleine Carré

(1904-07-10)10 July 1904
Died21 March 1994(1994-03-21) (aged 89)
Resting placeOakland Cemetery, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Other namesLily Damita
Lily Deslys
Years active1922–1937
Michael Curtiz
(m. 1925; div. 1926)

Errol Flynn
(m. 1935; div. 1942)

Allen Loomis
(m. 1962; div. 1983)
ChildrenSean Flynn

Early life and education

Lili Damita was born Liliane Marie Madeleine Carré in Blaye, France on 10 July 1904. She was educated in convents and ballet schools in several countries, including her native France, as well as Spain and Portugal. At 14, she was enrolled as a dancer at the Opera de Paris.[2]

Early career in revue, modeling and German film

As a teenager, she was performing in popular music halls, eventually appearing in the Revue at the Casino de Paris.[3] She worked as a photographic model. Offered a role in film as a prize for winning a magazine beauty competition in 1921, she appeared in several silent films before being offered her first leading role in Das Spielzeug von Paris (1925) by Hungarian-born director Michael Curtiz. She was an instant success, and Curtiz directed her in two more films: Fiaker Nr. 13 (1926) and Der goldene Schmetterling (1926). Damita continued appearing in German productions directed by Robert Wiene (Die große Abenteuerin; 1928), G.W. Pabst (Man spielt nicht mit der Liebe; 1926) and British director Graham Cutts (The Queen Was in the Parlour; 1927).

Hollywood career

In 1928, she went to Hollywood at the invitation of Samuel Goldwyn, making her American debut in a film titled The Rescue. Leased out to various studios, she appeared with stars and leading men such as Maurice Chevalier, Laurence Olivier, James Cagney, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. Her films included the box office successes The Cock-Eyed World (1929),[4] the semi-silent The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929) and This Is the Night (1932).[5]

Personal life

In 1935, she married a virtual unknown who would become one of Hollywood's biggest box office attractions, Errol Flynn, with whom she had a son, Sean Flynn (born 1941). Following the marriage, she retired from the screen. The couple divorced in 1942. (Barbara Hershey portrayed Damita in the TV film My Wicked, Wicked Ways [1985] based on Flynn's autobiography.) While living in Palm Beach, Florida, Damita married Allen Loomis, a retired Fort Dodge, Iowa, dairy owner, and spent part of each year living there.

During the Cambodian Civil War (Khmer Rouge reign), her son Sean Flynn was working as a freelance photo journalist under contract to Time magazine when he and fellow journalist Dana Stone went missing on the road south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 6 April 1970. Although Damita spent an enormous amount of money searching for her son, he was never found, and in 1984 he was declared legally dead. DNA testing was conducted on remains found in Cambodia and turned over to the U.S. authorities there in March 2010.[6] However, the results, released on 30 June 2010 by JPAC, showed the remains were not those of Sean Flynn or Dana Stone.[7]


Lili Damita died of Alzheimer's disease on 21 March 1994, in Palm Beach, Florida, aged 89. She was interred in the Oakland Cemetery in Fort Dodge, Iowa, her husband's hometown.

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1922 Maman Pierre
1922 La belle au bois dormant
1922 L'Empereur des pauvres Riquette
1922 La fille sauvage Henriette Villedieu
1923 Corsica
1924 Une femme dans la nuit
1924 The Clairvoyant Suzanne
1925 Prince Charming
1925 Das Spielzeug von Paris Célimène aka Susana Armard
1926 Fiaker Nr. 13
(Cab No. 13)
1926 Geheimnisse einer Seele
(Secrets of a Soul)
1926 Der goldene Schmetterling
(The Golden Butterfly)
1926 Man spielt nicht mit der Liebe
(One Does Not Play with Love)
Calixta Lost film
1927 The Queen Was in the Parlour Prinzessin Nadya von Kraya
1927 Die berühmte Frau
(The Famous Woman)
Sonja Litowskaja
1928 Die große Abenteuerin
(The Great Adventuress)
1928 Scandal in Paris
1929 The Rescue Lady Edith Travers Incomplete film
1929 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Camila (La Perichole) Filmed as both silent and part-talkie, only the silent version of this film survives
1929 The Cock-Eyed World Mariana Elenita
1930 Let Us Be Gay
(Soyons gais)
1931 The Bachelor Father
(Le père célibataire)
alternate language version
1931 Fighting Caravans Felice
1931 The Woman Between Julie Whitcomb
1931 Friends and Lovers Mrs. Alva Sangrito
1932 This Is the Night Germaine
1932 One Hour With You
(Une heure près de toi)
Mitzi Olivier
1932 The Match King Marta Molnar
1933 Goldie Gets Along Goldie LaFarge
1934 A Man Has Been Stolen Annette
1935 Brewster's Millions Rosalie La Rue
1935 Frisco Kid Belle Morra
1936 The Devil on Horseback Diane Corday
1937 Escadrille of Chance Edwige

Selected stage musicals

  • On Dit Ça, Paris (1923)
  • Sons o'Guns, New York (1929/30)
  • Here's How, London (1934)


  1. Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, 5th ed. McFarland. pp. 130–131. ISBN 9780786457632. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  2. Tyler, Don (2007). Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era. McFarland. p. 374. ISBN 9780786429462. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  3. Lil Damita, Retrieved on 22 October 2016.
  4. Erickson, Hal. "The Cock-Eyed World". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  5. "This Is the Night (1932)". BFI. Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  6. Kennedy, Helen (29 March 2010). "Remains of Errol Flynn's son, photographer Sean Flynn, may have been found in Cambodia mass grave". Daily News (New York).
  7. "Sean Flynn not buried in Cambodia war grave", The Daily Telegraph, 30 June 2010.


  • Bermingham, Cedric Osmond (1931). Stars of the screen 1931: A volume of biographies of contemporary actors and actresses engaged in photoplay throughout the world. London, UK: Herbert Joseph.
  • "Lily Damita". Stars of the Photoplay. Chicago: Photoplay Magazine. 1930.
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