Bild Lilli Doll and her History 1952-1964
The Bild Lilli doll was originally a cartoon character created by German cartoonist Reinhard Beuthien as a “filler” piece on June 24, 1952 for the newspaper Bild-Zeitung in Hamburg, Germany. Her character became very popular with the public, she was a curvy gal who knew what she wanted and went about her business to get it. She was sassy, classy, fashionable and desirable, much like some female characters in 1930s or 40s movie roles.
Reinhard choose Max Weissbrodt of the famous Hausser/Elastolin company to produce a physical doll based on the comic strip. On August 12, 1955 the Bild Lilli doll was sold in smoke shops and a few toy stores as a gag gift intended for adult males. Later Lilli was exported to other countries including the United States. The Lilli doll is all plastic and 7 1/2″ or 11 1/2″ tall, she came in a clear oval tube with a round plastic stand as the bottom marked Bild-Lilli, dolls sold in the United States the stand says Lilli. Along with the dressed doll is a miniature copy of the Hamburg newspaper Bild-Zeitung and the cartoon continued to run in the actual journal every Sunday.
Bild Lilli is the doll that Ruth Handler found while shopping in Europe in 1956 and was exactly the kind of a doll she had been thinking of producing. Mrs. Handler noticed her daughter Barbie preferred playing with her paper dolls rather than baby dolls that were prevalent at the time. Ruth bought three dolls and gave one to daughter Barbie and the others to her designers at Mattel. The rest is history as Ruth’s Barbie doll debuted at the New York Toy Fair on March 9, 1959.
In 1964 Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll, so her production ended, however the Lilli head molds were sold to other companies who produced their own dolls – see Bild Lilli, Hong Kong Lilli doll clones, copies and competitor. This causes confusion to collectors of a true Bild Lilli doll who can command a very high price, like a vintage number one Barbie doll today.
We do not know if Marlene Dietrich ever noticed the uncanny resemblance of the Bild-Lilli doll to her or if she even was the inspiration for the doll. Let us know your thoughts, post on our forum board.
1955 Bild Lilli Doll versus 1959 Mattel number One Barbie Doll
1955 Bild Lilli doll 11 1/2″, blonde mohair wig cap, narrow high arched eyebrows, red bow painted lips, black molded earrings and shoes, Bild-Lilli white stand with two prongs to fit holes on the bottoms of shoes. Doll is unmarked.
1959 number one Barbie doll 11 1/2″, rooted blonde ponytail hair, high narrow ^^ pointed eyebrows, holes in bottom of feet, to fit on black Barbie stand with two prongs. Doll marked Barbie ™ Pats. Pend. © MCMLVIII by Mattel Inc.
Lilli’s black shoes and earrings are molded on the doll, she has a painted face with side glancing white iris eyes, high thin oval shaped eyebrows, red bow lips and red fingernails. Her limbs attach inside the body by coated rubber bands, her blonde ponytail mohair is a cut-out scalp that is attached by a hidden metal screw with split curl bangs, brunette haired doll’s were also made. Lilli came as a dressed doll with additional fashions available separately, the packaging and clothing was designed by Mrs. E. Martha Maar of the Drei-M Puppenfabrik doll company. The Bild Lilli doll is unmarked, clothing is not labeled but could have a paper tag Ein Erzeugnis der Drei-M Puppebfabrik Nr. model number, if a clothing piece has metal snaps they were marked “PRMY“, separate fashions came with a forty-eight page fashion booklet with Lilli on the cover. In 1962 the Schwabinchen comic strip and doll was made but was not nearly as successful as Lilli. In England the doll was named Miss Sweetheart who is 7 1/2″ tall, doll mark Made in England.
1955-1964 Bild Lilli Dolls 11 1/2″ Identified