Lilli Palmer

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Lilli Palmer
Lilli Palmer 1946.png
Palmer in 1946
Lilli Marie Peiser

(1914-05-24)24 May 1914
Posen, German Empire
(Poznań, Poland)
Died27 January 1986(1986-01-27) (aged 71)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Years active1935–1986
Children Carey Harrison
Relatives Irene Prador (sister)

Lilli Palmer (German: [ˈlɪ.li ˈpal.mɐ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); born Lilli Marie Peiser; 24 May 1914 – 27 January 1986) was a German actress and writer. After beginning her career in British films in the 1930s, she would later transition to major Hollywood productions, earning a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance in But Not for Me (1959).


Other notable roles include in the comedy The Pleasure of His Company (1961), the Spanish horror film The House That Screamed (1969), and in the miniseries Peter the Great (1986), which earned her another Golden Globe Award nomination. For her career in European films, Palmer won the Volpi Cup, and the Deutscher Filmpreis three times.

Early life

Palmer, who took her surname from an English actress she admired, was one of three daughters born to Alfred Peiser  [ de ], a German Jewish surgeon, and Rose Lissman (or Lissmann), an Austrian Jewish stage actress in Posen, Prussia, Germany (Poznań, Poland). [1]

When Lilli was four her family moved to Berlin-Charlottenburg. She was a junior table tennis champion as a young girl. [2]


In France, she appeared in an operetta at the Moulin Rouge, and then to London, where she began her film career. While performing in cabarets, she attracted the attention of British talent scouts and was offered a contract by the Gaumont Film Company. She made her screen debut in Crime Unlimited (1935) and appeared in numerous British films for the next decade. [3]

She married actor Rex Harrison on 25 January 1943, [1] and followed him to Hollywood in 1945. She signed with Warner Brothers and appeared in several films, notably Cloak and Dagger (1946) and Body and Soul (1947). [4]

She periodically appeared in stage plays as well as hosting her own television series in 1951. [5]

Harrison and Palmer appeared together in the hit Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle in the early 1950s. They also appeared in the 1951 British melodrama The Long Dark Hall , and later starred in the film version of The Four Poster (1952), which was based on the award-winning Broadway play of the same name, written by Jan de Hartog. She won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress in 1953 for The Four Poster. [6]

Harrison and Palmer divorced in 1956; they had one son, Carey, born in 1944. [7]

Palmer returned to Germany in 1954, where she played roles in many films and television productions. She also continued to play both leading and supporting parts in the U.S. and abroad. In 1957, she won the Deutscher Filmpreis for Best Actress for her portrayal of Anna Anderson in The Story of Anastasia , called Is Anna Anderson Anastasia? in the UK. In 1958, she played the role of a teacher opposite Romy Schneider in Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform), the remake of the 1931 film of the same title. [8]

Palmer interviewing German chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1982 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F062649-0005, Lilli Palmer interviewt Helmut Schmidt.jpg
Palmer interviewing German chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1982

Palmer starred with Fred Astaire and Debbie Reynolds in The Pleasure of His Company in 1961. [9]

She starred opposite William Holden in The Counterfeit Traitor (1962), an espionage thriller based on fact, and opposite Robert Taylor in another true Second World War story, Disney's Miracle of the White Stallions (1963). On the small screen, in 1974 she starred as Manouche Roget in the six-part television drama series The Zoo Gang , about a group of former underground freedom fighters from the Second World War, with Brian Keith, Sir John Mills and Barry Morse. [10]

Palmer published a memoir, Change Lobsters and Dance, in 1975. [7] Reminiscences by Vivian Matalon and Noël Coward (Matalon directed Palmer in the premiere production of Coward's trilogy Suite in Three Keys in 1966) suggest that Palmer was not always the patient and reasonable person she represented herself as being in this autobiography. She wrote a full-length work of fiction presented as a novel rather than a memoir, The Red Raven, in 1978. [11]

Personal life

Palmer's first marriage was to Rex Harrison in 1943. They divorced amicably in 1957, so that he could marry ailing actress Kay Kendall before her untimely death. Palmer agreed since she was already involved with her future husband, Carlos Thompson.

Lilli Palmer (with husband Rex Harrison), 1950 Lilli Palmer & Rex Harrison by Toni Frissell 1950.jpg
Lilli Palmer (with husband Rex Harrison), 1950

Palmer was married to Argentine actor Carlos Thompson from 1957 until her death in Los Angeles from abdominal cancer [12] in 1986 at the age of 71. She was survived by her husband, son, sisters, and her ex-husband.

Palmer is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California. A portion of the ashes of her first husband, Rex Harrison, were scattered on her grave. [13]




1935 Crime Unlimited Natacha
1936 Wolf's Clothing Lydia
1936 The First Offence Jeannette
1936 Secret Agent Lilli
1937 Good Morning, Boys Yvette
1937 The Great Barrier Lou
1937 Command Performance Susan
1938 Crackerjack Baroness Von Haltz
1939 A Girl Must Live Clytie Devine
1939 Blind Folly Valerie
1940 Sunset in Vienna Gelda Sponek
1940 The Door with Seven Locks June LansdowneAlso known as: Chamber of Horrors
1942 Thunder Rock Melanie Kurtz
1943 The Gentle Sex Erna Debruski
1944 English Without Tears Brigid KnudsenAlso known as: Her Man Gilbey
1945 The Rake's Progress Rikki KrausnerAlso known as: Notorious Gentleman
1946 Beware of Pity Baroness Edith de Kekesfalva
1946 Cloak and Dagger Gina
1947 Body and Soul Peg Born
1948 My Girl Tisa Tisa Kepes
1948 No Minor Vices April Ashwell
1949 Wicked City Tania
1951 The Long Dark Hall Mary Groome
1952 The Four Poster Abby Edwards
1953 Main Street to Broadway Lilli Palmer
1954 Fireworks Iduna
1956 Devil in Silk Melanie
1956The Taming of the Shrew Katherina TV movie
1956 The Story of Anastasia Anna Anderson
1956 Between Time and Eternity Nina Bohlen
1957 The Night of the Storm Marianne Eichler
1957 The Glass Tower Katja Fleming
1958 A Woman Who Knows What She Wants Julia Klöhn, Lehrerin & Angela Cavallini
1958 The Lovers of Montparnasse Beatrice HastingsAlso known as: Modigliani of Montparnasse
1958 Girls in Uniform Elisabeth von BernburgAlso known as: Mädchen in Uniform
1958 Life Together Odette de StarenbergAlso known as: La Vie à deux
1959 But Not for Me Kathryn Ward
1960 Mrs. Warren's Profession Mrs. Kitty Warren
1960 Conspiracy of Hearts Mother Katharine
1961 The Pleasure of His Company Katharine Dougherty
1961 The Last of Mrs. Cheyney Mrs. Cheney
1962 Finden Sie, daß Constanze sich richtig verhält?  [ de ]Constanze Calonder
1962LeviathanMotherAlso known as: Dark Journey
1962 The Counterfeit Traitor Mrs. Marianne Möllendorf
1962Le rendez-vous de minuitEva / Anne Leuven
1962 Adorable Julia Julia Lambert
1962 L'amore difficile HildeAlso known as: Sex Can Be Difficult, (segment "Il serpente")
1963 Miracle of the White Stallions Vedena Podhajsky
1963 Torpedo Bay Lygia da Silva
1963 Das große Liebesspiel  [ de ]Actress
1964Le Grain de sableAnna-Maria di Scorza
1965 Operation Crossbow Frieda
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Dutchy
1965 God's Thunder Marie BrassacAlso known as: Le Tonnerre de Dieu
1966 Zwei Girls vom Roten Stern  [ de ]Olga NikolaijewnaAlso known as: An Affair of States
1966 Der Kongreß amüsiert sich  [ de ]Princess Metternich Also known as: Congress of Love
1966Le Voyage du pèreIsabelle QuantinAlso known as: Father's Trip
1967 The Dance of Death Alice
1967 Jack of Diamonds Herself
1967 The Diary of Anne Frank Edith Frank TV movie
1968 Sebastian Elsa Shahn
1968 Oedipus the King Jocasta
1968 Nobody Runs Forever Sheila Quentin
1969 Hard Contract Adrianne
1969 De Sade Mademoiselle de Montreuil
1969 The House That Screamed Señora FourneauAlso known as: La residencia
1970Only the CoolHelen
1970 Hauser's Memory Anna HauserTV movie
1971 Murders in the Rue Morgue Mrs. Charron
1972 What the Peeper Saw Dr. Viorne
1975 Lotte in Weimar Lotte
1978 The Boys from Brazil Esther Lieberman
1980WeekendJudith BlissTV movie
1980KinderMotherTV movie
1982 High Society Limited Hilde
1982Imaginary FriendsEllen PitbladoTV movie
1985 The Holcroft Covenant Althene Holcroft
2018 The Other Side of the Wind Zarah Valeska(final film role)


1938 Starlight Episode: "Richard Hearne"
1938S-s-s-h! The Wife!The WifeShort
1949 Suspense JuliaEpisode: "The Comic Strip Murder"
1950 The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse Molly CollicuttEpisode: "The Uncertain Molly Collicutt"
1952 Lux Video Theatre NancyEpisode: "Three Hours Between Planes"
1952Omnibus Anne Boleyn Episode: "The Trial of Anne Boleyn"
1953 The United States Steel Hour Mrs. Chrystal WeatherbyEpisode: "The Man in Possession"
1954 Four Star Playhouse Stacy LawrenceEpisode: "Lady of the Orchids"
1971 Der Kommissar Hilde LarasserEpisode: "Grau-roter Morgen"  [ de ]
1972–1979Eine Frau bleibt eine FrauVarious5 episodes
1974 The Zoo Gang Manouche 'The Leopard' Roget6 episodes
1974 Derrick Martha Balke / Johanna JensenEpisode: "Johanna"
1984 The Love Boat Lilly Marlowe2 episodes
1986 Peter the Great NatalyaMiniseries

Radio appearances

1946 Suspense "Philomel Cottage" [19]
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air An Ideal Husband [20]
1953Star Playhouse No Time for Comedy [21]
1953Star Playhouse Twentieth Century [22]

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  19. "Philomel Cottage". 16 April 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  20. Kirby, Walter (30 March 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Daily Review . p. 46. Retrieved 18 May 2015 via
  21. Kirby, Walter (18 October 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Daily Review . p. 48. Retrieved 6 July 2015 via
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Further reading