Review: Lillian Lorraine

Dear Constant Reader,

I must confess: today’s book is not actually about burlesque. I’m justifying its inclusion here because it’s partially about the Ziegfeld Follies from which many a burlesque show took inspiration and to which a few burlesque performers graduated. You may ask why I’m skipping over the dozens of unreviewed burlesque books on my bookshelf. I received this one from the publisher in exchange for a review and as long as I was reviewing it already, I would kindly share it with you.

Lillian Lorraine: The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva by Nils Hanson (2011).

A trunk full of memorabilia sparked Nils Hanson’s interest in beautiful Lillian Lorraine. The trunk belonged to his mother, Lillian’s companion and confidant, and he remembered meeting the diva once when he was just a boy. He wanted learn more about the star who shone so brightly and now had faded from memory.

As a pretty teenager at the turn of the century, Lillian Lorraine was plucked from the chorus by Florenz Ziegfeld to be one of his Follies stars and his mistress. Her tragic story was sadly not uncommon: early stardom, fast living, messy romances, alcoholism, poverty, death in obscurity. She was so scandalous that the Ziegfeld Club, dedicated to preserving the history of the Follies, removed her from their records.

The book is illustrated with promotional photos of Lillian, covers of sheet music bearing her image, personal snapshots, as well as other Ziegfeld related pictures. It’s filled with personal accounts of those who knew her. The Ziegfeld Club, despite initial reluctance, was helpful in his quest for information and he was able to interview former Follies girls who knew her.

It’s a good resource for fans of the golden age of the Follies and the early days of Hollywood. Lillian Lorraine’s story may be tragic, but there are many inspiring details in the book. And nothing is more inspiring than the research Mr. Hanson did to bring her life back to light.

Published in: on 11 January 2012 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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