Lilli Palmer: German actress (1914 - 1986) | Biography
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Lilli Palmer
German actress

Lilli Palmer

Lilli Palmer
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German actress
Was Athlete Actor Writer Table tennis player Autobiographer
From Germany
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature Sports
Gender female
Birth 24 May 1914, Poznań, Greater Poland Voivodeship, Poland
Death 27 January 1986, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, U.S.A. (aged 71 years)
Spouse: Rex HarrisonCarlos Thompson
Children: Carey Harrison
The details (from wikipedia)


Lilli Palmer (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 1940s, 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 Dr. Alfred Peiser, a German Jewish surgeon, and Rose Lissman, an Austrian Jewish stage actress in Posen, Prussia, Germany (now Poznań, Poland). When Lilli was four her family moved to Berlin-Charlottenburg. She was a junior table tennis champion as a young girl. She studied drama in Berlin before fleeing to Paris in 1933 following the Nazi takeover.


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. She married actor Rex Harrison 25 January 1943, 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). She also periodically appeared in stage plays as well as hosting her own television series in 1951. Harrison and Palmer appeared together in the hit Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle in the early 1950s 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. Harrison and Palmer divorced in 1956; they had one son, Carey Harrison, born in 1944.

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.

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

Palmer published a memoir, Change Lobsters and Dance, in 1975. Reminiscences by Vivian Matalon and Noël Coward (Matalon directed Palmer in the premiere production of Coward's play Suite in Three Keys in 1966; see A Song at Twilight) 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.

Personal life

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 in 1986 at the age of 71.

Palmer is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California in the plot of Commemoration, Map 1, Lot 4066, Space 2. The ashes of her first husband, Rex Harrison, were scattered on her grave.


  • 1953: Volpi Cup for Best Actress for The Four Poster
  • 1956: Deutscher Filmpreis (Silver) for Best Actress in Teufel in Seide
  • 1957: Deutscher Filmpreis (Silver) for Best Actress in Anastasia, die letzte Zarentochter
  • 1959: Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nomination for But Not for Me
  • 1972: Goldene Kamera for Eine Frau bleibt eine Frau (ZDF TV)
  • Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7013 Hollywood Blvd.
  • 1974: Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Großes Verdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland)
  • 1978: Deutscher Filmpreis (Gold) for Lifetime Achievement
  • 1986: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film nomination for Peter the Great (TV series)



Year Title Role Notes
1935 Crime Unlimited Natacha
1936 The First Offence Jeannette
1936 Wolf's Clothing Lydia
1936 Secret Agent Lilli
1937 Good Morning, Boys Yvette
1937 The Great Barrier Lou
1937 Command Performance Susan
1937 Sunset in Vienna Gelda Sponek
1938 Crackerjack Baroness Von Haltz
1939 A Girl Must Live Clytie Devine
1939 Blind Folly Valerie
1940 The Door with Seven Locks June Lansdowne Also known as: Chamber of Horrors
1942 Thunder Rock Melanie Kurtz
1943 The Gentle Sex Erna Debruski
1944 English Without Tears Brigid Knudsen Also known as: Her Man Gilbey
1945 The Rake's Progress Rikki Krausner Also known as: Notorious Gentleman
1946 Beware of Pity Baroness Edith de Kekesfalva
1946 Cloak and Dagger Gina
1947 Body and Soul Peg Born
1948 No Minor Vices April Ashwell
1948 My Girl Tisa Tisa Kepes
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
1956 The Taming of the Shrew Katherina
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 Eine Frau, die weiss, was sie will Julia Klöhn, Lehrerin & Angela Cavallini, ihre Großmutter
1958 The Lovers of Montparnasse Beatrice Hastings Also known as: Modigliani of Montparnasse
1958 Girls in Uniform Elisabeth von Bernburg Also known as: Mädchen in Uniform
1958 Life Together Odette de Starenberg Also 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 Frau Cheney
1962 Finden Sie, daß Constanze sich richtig verhält? Constanze Calonder
1962 Leviathan Mother Also known as: Dark Journey
1962 The Counterfeit Traitor Frau Marianne Möllendorf
1962 Adorable Julia Julia Lambert
1962 Le rendez-vous de minuit Eva / Anne Leuven
1962 L'amore difficile Hilde Also known as: Sex Can Be Difficult
1963 Miracle of the White Stallions Vedena Podhajsky
1963 Torpedo Bay Lygia da Silva
1963 Das große Liebesspiel Schauspielerin
1964 Le Grain de sable Anna-Maria di Scorza
1965 Operation Crossbow Frieda
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Dutchy
1965 God's Thunder Marie Brassac Also known as: Le Tonnerre de Dieu
1966 Zwei Girls vom Roten Stern Olga Nikolaijewna Also known as: An Affair of States
1966 Der Kongreß amüsiert sich Princess Metternich Also known as: Congress of Love
1966 Le Voyage du père Isabelle Quantin Also known as: Father's Trip
1967 The Dance of Death Alice
1967 Jack of Diamonds Herself
1967 The Diary of Anne Frank Edith Frank
1968 Sebastian Elsa Shahn
1968 Oedipus the King Jocasta
1968 Nobody Runs Forever Sheila Quentin
1969 Hard Contract Adrianne
1969 The House That Screamed Señora Fourneau Also known as: La residencia
1969 De Sade Mademoiselle de Montreuil
1970 Only the Cool Helen
1970 Hauser's Memory Anna Hauser
1970 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
1980 Weekend Schauspielerin Judith Bliss Television film
1980 Kinder Mother Television film
1982 High Society Limited Hilde
1982 Imaginary Friends Ellen Pitblado Television film
1985 The Holcroft Covenant Althene Holcroft


Year Title Role Notes
1938 Starlight Episode: "Richard Hearne"
1938 S-s-s-h! The Wife! The Wife Short
1949 Suspense Julia Episode: "The Comic Strip Murder"
1950 The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse Molly Collicutt Episode: "The Uncertain Molly Collicutt"
1952 Lux Video Theatre Nancy Episode: "Three Hours Between Planes"
1952 Omnibus Anne Boleyn Episode: "The Trial of Anne Boleyn"
1953 The United States Steel Hour Mrs. Chrystal Weatherby Episode: "The Man in Possession"
1954 Four Star Playhouse Stacy Lawrence Episode: "Lady of the Orchids"
1972–1979 Eine Frau bleibt eine Frau Various 5 episodes
1974 The Zoo Gang Manouche 'The Leopard' Roget 6 episodes
1974 Derrick Martha Balke / Johanna Jensen Episode: "Johanna"
1984 The Love Boat Lilly Marlowe 2 episodes
1986 Peter the Great Natalya Miniseries

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Suspense "Philomel Cottage"
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air An Ideal Husband
1953 Star Playhouse No Time for Comedy
1953 Star Playhouse Twentieth Century
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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