The thrill of being Tiger Lil`

12 Apr


My dear fellow Flynn fans,

here is what I dug up from the ancient archives of the Austrian National Library concerning the sexy sensual sparkplug we know as Mrs. Errol Flynn I.

Born Liliane Marie Madeleine Carré in Blaye near Bordeux on July 10th of either 1901 or rather 1904, she appeared in dancing revues in the Grand Nation`s capitol as early as age 15.

Of purported Iberian ancestry she started her career with the stage name of Damita del Rojo. Later she changed it to Lily Seslys under which she got credited with favorable performances during the silent film era.

As soon as film producer Count Alexander “Sascha” Kolowrat had laid his ladyloving eyes on her, he left no jewel unturned to lure the little dame from Paris to Vienna. This movie mogul went to great lenghts and used his personal riches to put big pictures onto the screen such as the then costliest movie up to date “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

Not only a bonvivant he was also a connaisseur of young talent and for example introduced Marlene Dietrich to the art of filmmaking.

But Lili was not to be seduced easily. She was determined to become a star and not end up a starlet. When arriving at the central train station of Vienna she was accompanied by an older woman (who may or may not have been her mother) as bodyguard. It was only when Count Kolowrat gave her top billing in his next three films partly made in Berlin: “Fiacre (stagecoach) Nr. 13”, “The Golden Butterfly” and “Plaything of Paris” that she agreed to terms and the chaperone was sent home. Director of all three flicks was a certain Michaly Kertesz, who soon was to embark on a shiptrip to Hollywood with no return ticket on a contract by Warner Bros.

Here is a comment of the “Neues Wiener Tagblatt” on the upraising star from the 4th of may 1929:

A fairytale out of real life

How Lili Damita found her way to film would make a fine story for a movie full of romance and sentimentalities so well liked these days, that has audiences streaming tears down their cheeks. Dancing in Boulevard venues at age 15 she was discovered and brought here by the late Count Alexander Kolowrat of Sascha Film Factory. Instand success came via “Das Spielzeug von Paris” under the guidance of one Michaly Kertesz providing a never before seen array of technical effects and scenic splendor. Standing out nonetheless was the appearance of this juvenile diva with her slender and flexible figure and that fine Parisian facial features. A new star had emerged.

A household name by now Lili Damita engaged in a torrid affair with the Prussian Prince Louis Ferdinand von Hohenzollern much to the delight of the European newspaper media. The 20 year young crown prince was madly in love with the temperamental French actress and vowed to marry her. His royal family naturally didn`t approve of the impossible liaison and urged L. Ferdinand to keep things “physical”. Rumours that Lili held his cousin, the Duke of Kent in equally intimate esteem may have contributed that Ferdinand ultimately married Princess Kira Romanowa. But not before following Damita to the United States and even accepting a worldly job at the Henry Ford automobile plant in Michigan. Lili by then had already set her sight on another royalty- the Baron of Mullholland.




— shangheinz


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  1. Tim

    April 12, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Absolutely marvelous, shangheinz!!! Tremendous research & sensationally informative writing. A real treat!!! Thank you!

  2. David DeWitt

    April 12, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Extraordinary! Great information, and wonderful research. There is quite a lot about Lili’s career and life that is little known by most Flynn fans. You’ve opened a fascinating door …

    • shangheinz

      April 13, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Dear Dave, praise appreciated. Thank you for giving us a forum to write and read about our Hollywood hero.

  3. Tim

    April 12, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Walking through that fascinating door you’ve opened, shangheinz, did you see any evidence that Curtiz ever married Lili (as often reported) or that she first met the future Baron of Mulholland before his first cruise to the U.S., and if so, where? For instance, did you come across any evidence they actually first met in Paris, or perhaps elsewhere in Europe?


    • shangheinz

      April 13, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Dear Shiver- me Tim,

      the marriage between Curtiz and Damita is the fabrication of a wikipediatrist- a scientist in his infancy. Curtiz was the employee of Count Kolowrat and therefore no match for the bulky film producer. In his pre- Tinseltown times he also was out Lili`s league socially. Furthermore the timeframe of less than a year for doing films, marriage and divorce doesn`t fit. I don`t see Lili converting to Judaism either. The Diva he indeed was wedded with was silent film star Lucy Dorain, his Hungarian muse and mother of their daughter Katherine alias Kitty.

      • shangheinz

        April 13, 2014 at 8:14 am

        And here is the certificate of wife nr. 2

      • Tim

        April 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

        Fascinating, indeed, shangheinz. Thanks. Lili was hanging out with quite the Bohemian crowd, quite literally. Here’s what appears to be a photo of Count Kolowrat & possibly Michael Curtiz(?) at Sascha Studios:



        • Tim

          April 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

          I guess some of the confusion could stem from somewhat of a resemblance between Lili Damita and Lucy Dorain, not only physically, but also strongly so in many of their promotional costumes & poses. Additionally, they both apparently appeared.together in Sascha Studios legendary Sodom & Gomorrah, famously directed by Curtiz. And they both used French stage names with the same initials!

          To Americans, most particularly perhaps, all these similarities might appear more pronounced than they would to Europeans.

          Since they worked together at Sascha Studios, I wonder what the relationship between.Lili & Lucy was in Hollywood.


          • shangheinz

            April 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

            I don`t think that the D&D divas were close. There was the age difference and while Lucy faded into obscurity, Lili had managed the switch from silent films to the talkies. For a while she was a hot Hollywood commodity filming with the likes of Cary Cooper and Ronald Colman.
            There is another diva though she was very fond of: Marlene Dietrich. As I stated her career was launched too by Count Kolowrat with the 1927 Sascha film “Café Electric” a study of the underworld in post WWI years.
            They might even had a fling going on, if one takes into consideration that Marlene had a lesbian liaison in Berlin and Errol mentioned a certain sexperimental openness within his Tiger Lil`. Well be it as it was, here`s a hommage to them both:…

            • Tim

              April 14, 2014 at 2:21 am

              I know in some circles Lili is seen as a victim of Errol’s, shangheinz. Recognizing well Errol’s unquenchable lust for adventure & profound resistance to monogamy, I still do not see it that way. Rather, I see her as a pathologically manipulative, opportunistic, deceitful, and vindictive creature, albeit a very sexually alluring one.

              On the other hand, per the divorce news link below, Lili regarded Errol a combination of “Marco Polo & Greta Garbo”!! (Well, however bad that might be, it’s definitely better than a stay-at-home combo of Hernando de Soto & Bette Davis.)


              Here a link discussing at length Lili’s attraction and destruction of Errol, as well as the nature and impact of the likely lesbian factor you mention:


              Marlene, Madonna (or maybe Lombard), Lili & Errol – Errol looking quite young, innocent, and naive, compared to Dietrich & Dynamita.


              • shangheinz

                April 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm

                Dear Shiver- me Tim,

                Lili tried every trick in the book to keep Errol interested- not an easy task! A tete-a-tete with that trousers wearing vamp Marlene was sure to get Errol`s attention/jealousy. Whatever their personal relationship might have been, these two European style icons at least engaged in acts of sophistication.

                • Tim

                  April 15, 2014 at 3:54 pm

                  Why, shanghai, how dare you suggest such a thing!



  4. twinarchers

    April 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Beautiful woman but Errol must have hurt her very badly to cause her to be so bitter towards him till the day he died. I have no idea but it always takes two to cause the situation

    • rswilltell

      April 14, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks to Heinz for some great detective work here. Lili loved and therefore hated Errol Flynn very much. She was bitter and heartbroken over the loss of her son Sean Flynn. No doubt she held Errol responsible for her son following in his footsteps seeking adventure in a war zone and getting himself killed.
      Ralph Schiller

      • shangheinz

        April 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm

        Dear Rush Street Ralph,

        Lili was hurt for being left behind and determined to make Errol pay literally. She might have been mad at herself for passing on real royalty for that Hollywood upstart superstar. The picture shows her and prince L. Ferdinand.…

    • shangheinz

      April 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Dear Twains,

      Lili was very ambitious and to some extent even bossy with her boyfriends. When prince Louis Ferdinand was writing his Doctorate thesis, she suggested he`d pick up gymnastics in order to build a body to the brain, which he promptly did. Initially she also helped molding Errol into an actor and a socialite. In the long run though I think it was that dominant demeanor that reminded Errol very much of his mother. While he rose in the ranks of stardown, Lili`s career was on a downslide. All she could do was cling on and when their relationship was over, she kept a part of Errol when she bore…

      • timerider

        April 17, 2014 at 2:13 am

        I must agree with Shanghaied, Errol was attracted to one that even looked a little like his mother with the same temperament. I cannot deny that Lili is a FOX and a spitfire!
        His second wife was a rebound for a much mellower lady that seemed to understand him very well.

        • shangheinz

          April 18, 2014 at 8:33 am

          Dear timerider,
          the parallels between Errol`s mum and his tigress would merit a blog by itself.

  5. Tim

    April 15, 2014 at 5:47 am

    Here’s an absolutely fascinating interview based article revealing most especially the apparently very non-traditional mind & “dominant” marital philosophies and objectives of Lili. Based on what she says here, the marriage was doomed from the start, I’d say. … Perhaps she would have fared better with Mussolini, for whom she here expresses very high regard – or, Valentino, her idea of an ideal lover & husband.

    Published Down Under in anticipation of a Christmastime visiit to
    where, according to “palpitating publicists”, the Irish-born Errol spent some years in his youth. O_o

    This article, like essentially all others, advances the story that Errol first met Lili on a cruise to America. However, there’s reason to believe this was not accurate, that he really first met her much earlier, on his way to Northhamptom from Paris, perhaps.…


    • shangheinz

      April 15, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Dear Shiver- me Tim,

      the earliest entry of Lili on a passagers list I could track down was on the “Bremen” from Cherbourg/France to ? from the 31st of August 1931. No Errol Flynn nowhere there.
      Maybe Robert will be able to clear things up if that first meeting ever took place onboard in his Chronology book.

      • Tim

        April 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

        Excellent research, shangheinz. I’m thinking more along the
        line of Errol meeting Lili for the first time in Paris, en route from Marseilles to England, perhaps. After we discussed this yesterday, I listened to Jack Marino’s great interview of Tom Mc Nulty, during which Jack actually brought up this very topic! If I heard and interpreted correctly, Jack has read a letter Errol wrote to Erben confirming this earlier meeting of Errol & Lili, so significant a meeting that Errol expressed a desire to marry her. So, the whole deal about the two of them first meeting on a cruise to The States could be a prevarification, or at least a storytelling embellishment.

        BTW, shangheinz, were you able to confirm Errol & Lili on a cruise together out of Europe to New York, circa ’33?

        • shangheinz

          April 15, 2014 at 6:27 pm

          Nope. Only some other voyages way later. I will report on Lucy Dorain, Michal Curtiz and their daughter Kitty`s entries to the States next.

      • Robert

        April 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

        I will, Heinz, as well as with many other questions that are posted here on the blog. Stay tuned…

        • shangheinz

          April 15, 2014 at 6:23 pm

          I thought so, Robert. Can`t wait!

  6. Tim

    April 16, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I just completed a comprehensive search of both Errol’s & Lili’s travels into the U.S. On November 14, 1934, they did indeed both travel, apparently (officially, at least) independently (as evidenced by registry on separate passenger manifest lists), on the SS Paris! Errol was registered to have a six-month visa as an actor for Warner Brothers. Lili declared herself an “artist” residing in Beverly Hills, on an extended visa. … So, Errol’s account of their travelling on the SS Paris together is definitely true. Whether the SS Paris (or perhaps Paris itself!) was where they first met remains to be explored and documented further. Jack Marino reports that Flynn met Lili before their cruise to America. I believe the primary source for that report is correspondence from Errol to Erben, perhaps shorty after Flynn arrived in England, en route from the South Seas via Marseilles. Paris (the City, not the ship) is a likely location for their first meeting or rendevous, but I can’t say for sure – yet.

    Here’s a couple of excellent glimpses into what it would have been like for Errol & Lili on the Paris. In fact, looks to me that it’s possible the pair actually saw some of the crew filmed in the second video, as the historical timeframe looks relatively close.……