Lida Baarova was born on September 7, 1914, in Prague as Ludmila Babkova. She studied acting at Prague Conservatory, where her mother sung in the choir and acted in several plays. Young Lida made her movie debut at the age of 17, in Pavel Čamrda’s Career. Her younger sister, Zorka Janů, was also an actress and appeared in several films. Babkova sisters acted in one movie together, Brickmaker’s daughter, in 1933.
Next year, in 1934, Lida Baarova moved to Berlin, after being offered a role in the UFA’s film Barcarole. The movie was a huge success and launched her career in the German capital. She became romantically involved with her co-star from Barcarole, Gustav Fröhlich. Baarova also made several successful appearances in theaters, namely in Deutsches Theater and the Volksbühne.
Hollywood studios took note of her, and she started receiving job offers from Amerika. She declined them all, under pressure from the Nazi authorities, who saw her as a useful asset and a future star. It was the decision she deeply regretted later, claiming that she could have been as famous as Marlene Dietrich.
Together with Fröhlich, who became her fiancé, Lida Baarova moved to Schwanenwerder, a river island on Havel river, one of the most affluent communities in Berlin. She met Joseph Goebbels there, who was one of their neighbors. Goebbels was very involved in Germany’s movie production and he and Baarlova spent a lot of time together. Eventually, they became lovers in 1936.
The relationship caused an uproar in Nazi leadership, especially when Goebbels and Lida Baarlova started appearing in public together. Goebbels’ wife Magda sought revenge in the arms of Goebbels’ state secretary Karl Hanke and even went to Hitler and asked him for permission to divorce her husband. Hitler was enraged, as the affair ruined the picture of perfect family Nazi leader worked so hard to create and ordered Goebbels to end it, which he did in 1938.
Lida Baarlova was forbidden to leave Germany and was under constant watch. She managed to return to Prague and acted in few plays there, before going to Italy and starring in several movies.
She was arrested in 1945 by the Americans and extradited to Czechoslovakia. Her entire family was placed under arrest. Lida’s mother died during the interrogation by the communist authorities and her sister, Zorka Janů, committed suicide. Baarlova was released after 18 months, without any charges being brought against her. She lived in Argentina for a while, before moving to Austria, where she married Dr. Kurt Lundwall in 1969. In the 1990s, she returned to the Chezch Republic and published her memoirs. Lida Baarlova died from Parkinson disease in 2000.