Lillian Lorraine

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Lillian Lorraine
Lillian (sometimes spelled Ealallean) Jacques

Utah, U.S.[1]
DiedApril 17, 1955
New York City, NY, U.S.
Resting placeSaint Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx County, New York City, NY, U.S.
Other namesMary Ann Brennan
Lillian O'Brien
Years active1906–1922
Frederick M. Gresheimer
(m. 1913; ann. 1913)
PartnerJack O'Brien (1946-55)

Lillian Lorraine (1892/1894 – April 17, 1955) was an American stage and screen actress of the 1910s and 1920s, and a prominent Ziegfeld Girl in the Broadway revues Ziegfeld Follies during the 1910s.

Early years[edit]

Theatre Magazine, 1909

Lorraine was born in Utah, most likely as Lillian (sometimes transcribed as Ealallean) Jacques (her publicity claimed she was born on New Year's Day in San Francisco, California) to Mollie and Charles Jacques (or De Jacques). Her father was a miner whose roots were in St. Louis. Her mother's maiden name may have been Mary Ann Brennan.[1] The U.S. census of 1900 shows that she and her parents resided in Leadville, Colorado, at her maternal step-grandfather's hotel, and gives her birthdate as January 1894, her name as Lillian Jacques, and her place of birth as Utah.


She began her career on stage in 1906, aged 12 or 14. The following year, she appeared as a minor performer in a Shubert production, The Tourists. It was in that show that she was discovered by Florenz Ziegfeld. At some point she had become known as Lillian (or Lillie) Lorraine. He spent the next several years promoting her career, rocketing her into an ascendance which made her one of the most popular attractions in his Follies.[2] In 1909, Ziegfeld pulled the teenaged Lorraine from the chorus line in that year's production of Miss Innocence to spotlight her as a solo performer who became celebrated for introducing the song "By the Light of the Silvery Moon".[3]

Lorraine starred in many annual productions of The Ziegfeld Follies as well as the 1912 Broadway musical Over the River. She ventured into motion pictures with limited success, appearing in about ten films between 1912 and 1922, including the serial Neal of the Navy with William Courtleigh, Jr.[citation needed] Although the affair she'd had with Ziegfeld was over by the end of the 1910s, her box-office drawing power kept her in a number of his productions of the period. Lorraine's fame began waning in the 1920s and she worked for a period in vaudeville.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Lorraine's personal life earned her more notoriety than either her talent or her beauty, and she was a staple in newspapers of the day with accounts of her latest turbulent romance or feuds with rival stars such as Fanny Brice and Sophie Tucker.[citation needed]

In his book Scandals and Follies, author Lee Davis writes that, "By 1911, [Ziegfeld] was insanely in love with Lillian Lorraine and would remain so, to one degree or another, for the rest of his life, despite her erratic, irresponsible, often senseless behavior, her multiple marriages [sic] to other men, his own two marriages and his need for all his adult life to sleep with the best of the beauties he hired."[4] The relationship, both professional and romantic, between Ziegfeld and Lorraine, reportedly led to the demise of his relationship with Anna Held.[citation needed] Lorraine and Ziegfeld's relationship was turbulent and emotionally complex, but their passion was such that Ziegfeld's second wife, actress Billie Burke, confessed that Lorraine was the only one of Ziegfeld's past sexual entanglements that aroused her jealousy.[3]


Lorraine married Frederick M. Gresheimer, on March 27, 1912, after they met on a beach.[5] Ten days later, Lorraine announced that the marriage had been a mistake and that the couple was "incompatible" due to her career.[6] The marriage was later found to be invalid because Gresheimer had not divorced his first wife. Lorraine and Gresheimer remarried in May 1913. Three months later, Lorraine filed to have the marriage annulled after claiming that Gresheimer misrepresented himself.[7]

Around 1946, she reportedly wed Jack O'Brien, an accountant. According to Lorraine's biographer, Nils Hanson, no record of any such marriage exists, and the marriage was likely common-law.[8]

Final years and death[edit]

Lorraine disappeared from public view in 1941, sometimes going by her mother's purported maiden name, Mary Ann Brennan.[1] She died on April 17, 1955, in New York City. She was widely believed to have been 63 years old at the time of her death but may have been 61.[9] Her funeral, which was held at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, was attended by Jack O'Brien and two friends. She initially was buried in a pauper's grave in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. Her body later was exhumed and moved to a friend's family plot in Saint Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx.[10]

Broadway credits[edit]

Date Production Role
November 30, 1908 - May 1, 1909 Miss Innocence Angele
June 14 - August 7, 1909 Ziegfeld Follies of 1909 Performer
June 20 - September 3, 1910 Ziegfeld Follies of 1910 Performer
June 26 - September 2, 1911 Ziegfeld Follies of 1911 Performer
January 8 - April 20, 1912 Over the River Myrtle Mirabeau
October 21, 1912 - January 4, 1913 Ziegfeld Follies of 1912 Performer
January 10 - May 30, 1914 The Whirl of the World Fifi, Cleopatra II
November 19, 1917 - February 23, 1918 Odds and Ends of 1917 Performer
Jun 18, 1918 - Closing date unknown Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 Performer
July 1918 - Closing date unknown Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic Performer
November 3, 1919 - January 3, 1920 The Little Blue Devil Paulette Divine
March 8 - May 1920 Ziegfeld Girls of 1920 Performer
January 13 - May 13, 1922 The Blue Kitten Totoche


Year Title Role Notes
1912 The Immigrant's Violin Lora - Albert's Sweetheart Short film
1912 Dublin Dan The Old Hag Short film
1912 The Face at the Window Short film
1913 The Detective's Santa Claus Miss Steele Short film
1913 The Old Parlor Short film
1915 Neal of the Navy Annette Illington Lost serial
1915 Should a Wife Forgive? La Belle Rose print held by Library of Congress[11]
1917 The Prima Donna's Special The Prima Donna Short film
Alternative title: The Hazards of Helen (#118): The Prima Donna's Special
1918 Playing the Game Lost film
1922 Lonesome Corners Martha Forrest Lost film

In popular culture[edit]

  • The first biography of Lorraine, Lillian Lorraine: The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva by Nils Hanson, was published in October 2011 by McFarland Press.
  • Lorraine was portrayed by Valerie Perrine in the 1978 film Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women (Columbia Pictures).
  • Lorraine is mentioned as an acquaintance of characters in Jennifer Egan's 2017 novel Manhattan Beach (New York: Scribner Press).


  1. ^ a b c (Hanson 2011, p. 186)
  2. ^ (Hanson 2011, pp. 18–19)
  3. ^ a b Lorraine and Ziegfeld,; accessed October 24, 2014.
  4. ^ (Hanson 2011, p. 63)
  5. ^ "Actress Lillian Lorraine Weds Man Who Taught Her How To Swin Like a Tadpole". The Evening News. March 27, 1912. p. 3. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  6. ^ "Actress Quits Husband". The Milwaukee Sentinel. April 5, 1912. p. 1. Retrieved January 19, 2013.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Wants Marriage Annulled". Evening Tribune. July 19, 1913. p. 1. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  8. ^ (Hanson 2011, pp. 186, 186)
  9. ^ "Lillian Lorraine; Won Fame as Ziegfeld Star". Youngstown Vindicator. April 21, 1955. p. 36. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  10. ^ (Hanson 2011, pp. 186–190)
  11. ^ Lorraine, Lillian (September 14, 1915). "Should A Wife Forgive?" – via


  • Hanson, Nils (September 1, 2011), Lillian Lorraine, The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva, MacFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0786464074

External links[edit]