Photoplay, April 1929
Out in the heart of the Hollywoods, beset by the dollar-snorting dragons of filmland, a blonde girl is fighting alone for her artistic honor. She is one of the most gallant spirits in the history of pictures.
She had more influence for good upon the dancing daguerreotypes than any dozen shinier stars.
And she is probably the most misunderstood and misrepresented public doll in the entire photoplay world.
Her name is Lillian Gish.
She has been for years the victim of as false a tradition as ever scuttled a stellar ship. Yet she is probably, at this moment, on the threshold of her greatest achievement in the film world. I whack the typewriter to paint the lights and shadows of the real Lillian Gish – not the Ice-Water Princess, The Mauled Anemone. The Slim White Virgin that the movie-going public thinks it knows.
As this is written she is on the gold coast, stubbornly and bravely fighting for the integrity of her next picture, on which she has focused her heart. At the expiration of her late Metro-Goldwyn contract Lillian cast about for the next move to keep her fame and fortune bright under the public sun.
Half-gods never satisfied La Gish, the girl who grew up under the wand of Ole Massa Griffith. Whole deities or none.
How about the most noted stage director in the world?
On her own Lillian went to Germany, and bearded Dr. Max Reinhardt, producer of “The Miracle”, in his own castle. On her own, she persuaded him to come to America and make “The Miracle Woman” with and for her. On her own, after months of preparation abroad, she and Reinhardt arrived in Hollywood – only to have the great man almost ignored, the prized and prepared story ditched and another handed them. But Lillian carries on – fights the good fight alone.
That’s the sort of mettle the frail and wistful Lillian is made of.
There are two Lillian Gishes.
The first is the one the public think it knows.
That Lillian – the false – is a frigid, bloodless creature, aloof, and about as spry and lively as a frozen cod-fish.
This is the old Gish curse – the Lillian tradition.
Because she has never marched her emotional life before the eyes of the world, or had it paraded by yellow newspapers, she has been denounced as inhumanly chill.
Because she has steamed up the interest of brilliant figures in the literary world, she is thought to be merely a glinting Mind, topped by yellow hair and held up by a couple of clothes poles.
Because she has never burned up Paris, bathed in a hotel fountain, bought a ten-carat diamond and divorced seven idiotic brokers she has been passed up for pretty numbskulls not fit to wind her wrist watch.
The whole tragic-comic story of the cruel, untrue Gish tradition was summed up by a Princeton boy a few years ago.
Referring to a non-petting, non-skid, four wheel braked damsel of his acquaintance, he said “She’s safe as a Gish!”
A smart crack, and it passed into common use.
That’s what the common world and it’s sweetie thought of Lillian Gish!
Well, what’s the real Lillian Gish?
Why, one of the most human, most charming and loveliest girls it is possible to meet in this most improbable of all worlds!
Is she just a great white Mind?
SHE has a dashing, vivid, ever-active sense of humor.
With people she likes she flames with warmth and charm.
Is she the Snow Girl of the Cinema?
She charms and captivates great writers and critics and has been known to smile a seven foot traffic cop out of passing a ticket when she has skipped past a red light on the Avenue.
Does she make a pose of keeping out of the spotlight?
Why, Lovely Lil has been an actress since she has been able to stand alone on a stage and pipe a line. For 25 years she has been in, of and for the theater and the screen, Her life has been about as private as that of a popular head waiter.
Now she loves her friends and her home with a consuming fire. If she likes to take her case among them, preferring talk and tea to a ring-side table in a night-club lunatic asylum, is she being snootily aloof?
Look at her service record, studded with honors.
Belasco called her the most beautiful blonde in the world.
For years she was the chosen vessel by which Griffith, the star-maker, poured his genius across the screens of the world.
Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about her by ink-slingers great and small.
Film fans have been for her and against her.
But some have been heedlessly neutral.
Everything has been said about her, it seems to me, save that she is a beautiful, lovable human being with a fighting heart almost without parallel in the entertainment world.