The smoldering temper and exotic sensuality of Lili Damita attracted as much attention in pre-code Hollywood as her films, and this Greta Garbo inspired photograph by Elmer Fryer captures her unusual attractions. This large format, double weight sepia gallery portrait features the French beauty in ornate art deco headdress, and displays Fryer’s sophisticated eye.
by Sandra Brennan
French actress Lili Damita began her career at age 16 as a music-hall entertainer and later went on to take over the starring role in the Casino de Paris Revue. She first appeared in French films in 1921 under the name Damita del Rojo, and later as Lily Seslys, before becoming Lili Damita in 1923. She worked for two years in German, Austrian and British films until MGM mogul Samuel Goldwyn invited her to visit Hollywood. Though she was a leading lady in many of the early sound films, she gained more fame for her tumultuous romance and marriage to Errol Flynn. She retired from films shorty after their wedding. Damita was the mother of Sean Flynn, a former actor and war correspondent in Vietnam who was listed as missing in action just months before the war’s end. Although Damita spent an enormous amount of money searching for Sean, he was never found and was presumed dead.