Lilyan Tashman's life dramatized the benefits of always being dressed for success. She broke into show business in 1916 by wearing a fetching frock and a stylish coif at a table at Rector's next to where Florenz Ziegfeld was dining. Tashman had striking facial features and metallic blonde hair of a sort more modern than that generally worn during the First World War. Ziegfeld moved to her table and gave her a spot in the chorus of "The Century Girl." She also appeared in the 1917 Follies.
Once on the stage, Tashman exerted herself to stay there. Not beautiful, not blessed with a singer's gift or a dancer's rhythm, she compensated with attitude and wardrobe, securing supporting parts in a number of plays, including the Ina Claire drama of showgirl life, "The Gold Diggers." Her break came in 1924's "Garden of Weeds" when her turn as a slangy, worldly chorus girl captivated critical attention. When the play was adapted for the movies, she was invited to reprise her part before the camera. While she had walk-on bits in several independent films earlier in the 1920s, "Garden of Weeds" afforded Tashman the opportunity to show she embodied the flapper spirit.
A passionate woman, she was known for her fits of rage, jealousy, and envy. She pummeled women who got too close to husband Edmund Lowe. She was tolerated because she had the best clothes sense of any woman in Hollywood, she had wit, and there was something distinctive about her looks and Brooklyn voice that insured regular screen appearances throughout the 1920s and into the sound era. She appeared in several notable features including "Bulldog Drummond" and "Puttin’' on the Ritz." She died on the operating table in 1934, age 34. David S. Shields/ALS