Lili Damita (Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carré)

Lili Damita

Born Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carré in Blaye, France, she was educated in convents and ballet schools in several European countries, including France, Spain and Portugal. At 14, she was enrolled as a dancer at the Opera de Paris. As a teenager, she was performing in popular music halls, eventually appearing in the Revue at the Casino de Paris. 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; 1927), G.W. Pabst (Man Spielt nicht mit der Liebe; 1926) and British director Graham Cutts (The Queen Was in the Parlour; 1927). In 1928, at the invitation of Samuel Goldwyn she went to Hollywood, making her American debut in a film titled The Rescue. Leased out to various studios, she appeared with stars such as Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier, Laurence Olivier, Cary Grant and James Cagney. Her films included the box office successes The Cock-Eyed World (1929), the semi-silent The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929) and This Is the Night (1932). In 1935, she married a virtual unknown who would become Hollywood’s biggest box office attraction, 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 Errol 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. However, the results, released 30 June 2010 by JPAC, showed the remains were not those of Sean Flynn. On the manifest of the SS Bremen, sailing from Cherbourg on 5 September 1929, Damita’s age is given as 25, and on the SS Paris sailing from Le Havre, France, on 14 November 1934, her age is given as 30, both indicate that she was born in 1904. She later shaved four years off her age, including on her Petition for Naturalization (United States, # 127601), dated December 17, 1945, which was granted on 10 May 1946, giving her year of birth as 1908. 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.

More Images

  • damita3 -

  • loomislilidamit2 -

Born

  • July, 10, 1904
  • France
  • Blaye, Gironde, Aquitaine

Died

  • March, 21, 1994
  • USA
  • Palm Beach, Florida

Cause of Death

  • Alzheimer's disease

Cemetery

  • Oakland Cemetery
  • Fort Dodge, Iowa
  • USA

2485 profile views