Lilyan Tashman (October 23, 1896 – March 21, 1934) was an American silent film actress.
Born in 1896 in Brooklyn, New York
to a Jewish
family, Tashman was the youngest of eight children, born to Morris Tashman, a manufacturer of children's clothes, and his wife, Rose Cook Tashman. Her grandparents were Isaac and Rose Schlomowitz Tashman, and her siblings were named Bertha, Kitty, Jennie, Annie, Sarah, Gustav and Hattie. (both 1900 and 1910 Censuses state that she was born in 1896)
She attended high school in Brooklyn and later graduated from a finishing school.
Lilyan Tashman worked as a model
. Her blonde hair and a unique type of beauty appealed to artists, who employed her. From her earliest recollections she yearned to appear on the stage. By 1914 she had also starting working in vaudeville
, on a bill that included the up and coming double act Eddie Cantor
and Al Lee
. Tashman and Lee were married in 1914, separated in 1920, and divorced in 1921. Cantor and Lee broke up, with Cantor going on to a successful solo career, Lee going on to become a manager for George White's Scandals
and Tashman trying out for whatever Broadway
show she could find.
Several tries by Tashman to get on the stage were largely failures. By the age of seventeen she had given up hope, when she met Flo Ziegfeld
. The meeting happened on an afternoon when she was eating at a Broadway restaurant. A mutual acquaintance introduced them at the producer's request. He quickly asked Lilyan if she wanted to appear in one of his shows. In 1916 she made the first of her Ziegfeld Follies
appearances with a cast of newcomers that included Marion Davies
. At the age of 18 she became a member of the chorus of the "Follies of 1917". Others in the cast were Marion Davies, Peggy Hopkins Joyce
, and Justine Johnstone. She stayed with the show for its 1917 and 1918 seasons and in 1919 Tashman left the Ziegfeld company.
Enters movie business
Later in 1919 she was given a job by the producer David Belasco
in a comedy
called The Gold Diggers
starring Ina Claire
. The show was a success, and ran for two years and in addition to her own supporting role, Tashman acted as Claire's understudy.
In 1921 she made her first film Experience with Richard Barthelmess and Nita Naldi. After a period of misfortune in New York in which one show closed, and she was fired from another, Tashman decided to move to Hollywood to further her film career.
On coming to Hollywood, Lilyan was cast in a supporting role in a Mabel Normand film, Head Over Heels (1922). When The Garden of Weeds (1924) came into production. Her part in the stage play secured for Lilyan the same place in the film. From then on Tashman appeared in many motion picture roles and became a prominent figure in the world of film. At first she worked for independent film companies but later she was featured in productions being made by the largest organizations in the industry.
Meets Edmund Lowe
It was while acting in the film Ports of Call
(1925) that the actress met her soon-to-be husband Edmund Lowe
. By this time she and Al Lee
had divorced. She married Lowe on 21 September 1925
. The wedding occurred before the release of the film and the two made their home in Hollywood. Edmund and Lilyan resided in an Art Deco
home thought to have been designed by Tashman. Both maintained their acting careers.
As a couple Tashman and Lowe became more prominent in Hollywood than they had as single people. They entertained lavishly in their Beverly Hills home, and Tashman began appearing on "Best Dressed" lists. Their respective film careers began to improve as a result of the publicity they were beginning to generate.
Successful film actress
By 1925 Tashman had built a reasonable career as a film actress. She appeared in Pretty Ladies
and Myrna Loy
also taking small roles). Other film roles of note included "Seven Days" (1926), "Texas Steer" (1926), "Camille" (1927), "So This Is Paris" (1928), "Craig's Wife" (1928), "The Trial of Mary Dugan" (1929), "The Marriage Playground" (1929), and "The Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929), and the pre-Production Code
comedy "Girls About Town" (1931).
Over the next few years Tashman appeared in numerous supporting roles, and several starring roles, and with the advent of talking pictures made an easy transition. She had a rich, contralto voice, and a confident delivery of dialogue after years spent on the stage.
Rapidly declining health
Death due to cancer
After a busy year in 1931 in which Tashman appeared in eight films, she began to reduce her work schedules while newspapers speculated about the state of her health. After denying repeatedly that there was a problem with her health, Tashman was eventually hospitalised, and upon her release answered further rumors with a statement saying that she had undergone an appendectomy
. It was only when she died soon after, that it was revealed she had died of cancer
. Hospital authorities described the cause of her death as an advanced tumerous condition. She was conscious until the end according to A.J. Gertenbach, managing director of the hospital. Edmund Lowe was beside her bed as she died. The couple lived in New York at 73 East 70th Street.
Funeral in New York City
Tashman was only 38 years old when she died at 2:15 at Doctor's Hospital, 170 East End Avenue, on March 21, 1934. She had undergone an operation the previous Friday. Rabbi Rev. Dr. Samuel H. Goldenson of Temple Emanu-El performed the funeral service at the Universal Funeral Chapel, 597 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Tashman was later interred at the plot of the Palestine Lodge 71, I.O.S.B., Washington Cemetery, Brooklyn
, New York.
1910 United States Federal Census, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, Enumeration District 587, Sheet 11B, April 11, 1910.
1930 United States Federal Census, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, California, Enumeration District 19-822, Sheet 11B, April 11, 1930.