UNCLE VANYA—Lillian Gish, one of America’s foremost screen actresses, is seen in this new play at the Cort Theatre in a comedy by Anton Chekov—produced by Jed Harris. Mr. Harris’ cast is excellent, his scene setting in perfect harmony and his direction unpretentious and intelligent, his adaptation by Rose Caylor modestly modernized.
“Uncle Vanya” is greatly helped thereby. Chekov demands such artful treatment in the American theatre. His passive stories and leisurely action focus attention upon characters and moods. This is particularly true of “Vanya,” which is another of those simple recitals of love in the country and the irony of its arbitrary miscues in which Russian authors delight.
We have the placid and docile Uncle Vanya sacrificing his life, first for an unappreciative family, including a pompous molusk who trades on his learning and his poor health; and later for a handsome sister-in-law, who unfortunately loves another. And numerous sub-plots of other loves that are unhappily wasted on the wrong hearts, each demanding special emphasis in the playing.
Mr. Harris has selected for Vanya the excellent Walter Connelly, who suffers live pangs with convincing intensity. And for the chaste and unhappy Helena, the object of Vanya’s misplaced ardors, he has induced Lillian Gish, coldly perfect, a rare and charming personality in the playhouse, to return to what used to be known at the speaking stage.
If Miss Gish seemed a particularly youthful Helena the fault was rather in the picture than in the playing. Her Helena was mature and understanding, and as miserably unhappy as any Chekov could ask.
circa 1921: Lillian Diana Gish, originally Lillian de Guiche (1893 – 1993), made her stage debut at the age of 5. She played a lot of waif type heroines during her silent film career but never quite made the successful transition to talking pictures.
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya (Harris)
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya
Bolstering these two were fine performances by Osgood Perkins as a sanely philosophical doctor of medicine, and Joanna Roos as a vibrant Sonya, whose love dreams were likewise nightmares. So, with these histrionic perfections as its greatest recommendation, “Uncle Vanya” should please the Chekovians mightily. There is a considerable public of them, as Eva Le Gallienne has proved.
A World of Movies – 70 Years of Film History (1976) – by Richard Lawton
A Delta Special
“Moving pictures” in America were at first shown in penny arcades. (A penny dropped into the slot of a machine called the Kinetoscope allowed the viewer to turn a crank and watch a subject in motion.) When screen projection became possible, they were shown in vaudeville houses. Finally they were transferred to the nickelodeon: a converted store with screen, projector and chairs.
By 1908 there were eight to ten thousand of these— but they were stuffy, ill-smelling places frequented by the poor and illiterate, and they would not improve until their product was good enough to attract a different audience.
Into this scene came a man who would bring order out of chaos. Within seven years, David Wark Griffith would master the art of the silent film — and the motion picture industry would flourish.
the Biograph Bronx Studio
the Biograph Bronx Studio 2
Lillian Gish Richard Barthelmess Dorothy Gish and Donald Crisp – Biograph team
Griffith began his film career with reluctance. A playwright and actor from the legitimate theatre, he was working at New York’s Biograph Studio out of necessity. (Theatre people considered movies “galloping tintypes” — a form of entertainment not likely to distinguish itself.) His first directorial effort. The Adventures of DoHie, followed the pattern set by Porter but was more successful. It led to a contract with Biograph at $1 00 a week. Griffith soon became interested in his work. He abandoned existing formulas and invented new ones. His cameraman, Billy Bitzer, would protest that something couldn’t be done— and Griffith would answer “That’s why we’ll do it.” In this manner, he advanced pictures from novelty to art form.
He photographed a scene from more than one setup. He brought the camera closer to his players (resulting in “half an actor” — disturbing to the front office, but accepted by the public). He timed shots for psychological effect. He focused on objects— or portions of players, such as their hands—to point up ideas. And he introduced a more natural acting style to fit the intimacy of the medium. Lillian Gish, in a recent interview, said Griffith “taught that you must not be caught acting. The audience won’t believe you if they catch you acting. You must be whatever [the character] is.”
Differences of opinion with the front office made Griffith leave Biograph in 1913 and, taking Bitzer and many of his actors with him, he became head of production for the Mutual Film Corporation. The setup, at $1000 a week, guaranteed him the right to make two pictures of his own each year in exchange for the “potboilers” he was to turn out for the company.
Lillian Gish – Birth of a Nation
1915 saw the full effect of Griffith’s genius when the 12-reel Birth of a Nation was released. Its dramatization of the Civil War and Reconstruction aroused audiences and provoked controversy. Woodrow Wilson said it was “like writing history with lightning” — and the full potential of the motion picture was revealed in that statement. No matter what a film maker wished to say, he had at his disposal a powerful medium if he could learn how to handle it.
One of Griffith’s most Important contributions (the intercutting of parallel action) reached its peak in his other masterpiece. Intolerance. Here, working with four separate plots unfolding simultaneously, he gradually shortened the time given to each. By cutting with increasing rapidity, he was able to build to a climax of epic proportions.
Mae Marsh, Billy Bitzer and DW Griffith – Intolerance
The Birth of a Nation was a box-office hit. Intolerance— too complex for 1916 audiences— was not. In fact, Griffith spent years paying oft the debts of the latter. But the impact of both films on the future of the industry probably has no equal.
(A World of Movies – 70 Years of Film History 1976 – by Richard Lawton)
Backward Glances – John Gielgud 1989 (Distinguished Company 1972)
John Gielgud reflects on …
The year 1936 when I played Hamlet at the Empire Theatre in New York for Guthrie McClintic (with Lillian Gish, Judith Anderson, and Arthur Byron) was, of course, one of the most exciting of my life, though I was placed in a somewhat embarrassing position when Leslie Howard appeared during the same season in his own production and with a number of English players in his cast. (Malcolm Keen and Harry Andrews who played the King and Horatio respectively were the only English actors in mine.)
Howard had announced that he had decided not to put on the play before I had agreed to come over in the spring of that year, but later changed his mind, and I was upset at having to compete with a fellow countryman whom I did not know but greatly admired, and who was also an internationally popular film star. The reviews for my performance were encouraging but not wholly enthusiastic, and I was expecting a run of not more than a few weeks. When Howard opened, however, a few weeks later, and was poorly received, our performances began to sell out almost immediately. The press tried to persuade us to meet and give interviews about one another, but we stuck to our own guns and behaved with as much dignity as possible. Still, the Battle of the Hamlets was quite a popular topic in the city for several months. Beatrice Lillie played in a sketch about us in a revue, and even the taxi drivers used to ask which of the Hamlets I was when I directed them to the stage door of the Empire.
Lillian Gish as Ophelia and John Gielgud in Hamlet 1936
John Gielgud Hamlet
John Gielgud as Hamlet, Judith Anderson as Gertrude, 1936
Lillian Gish as Ophelia and Dame Judith Anderson in Hamlet 1936
Lillian Gish as Ophelia in Hamlet 1936
The abdication of the Duke of Windsor, which happened at the same time, helped to fascinate the New York public with England and Royalty, everyone arguing and taking sides. I have been lucky enough, through my work in the theatre, to meet four American Presidents. Lillian Gish took me to see President and Mrs Roosevelt at the White House, and I met Truman, Johnson, and Kennedy on different occasions when they came to see plays that I was appearing in. During the Hamlet run I did not keep a diary, and find it hard to remember the many fascinating and illustrious visitors who were kind enough to come round to see me.
But two amusing incidents have always remained with me. One night, when I was very tired at the end of two performances, Maria Ouspenskaya, an elderly Russian actress, was announced. I had greatly admired her in films, particularly Dodsworth and The Rains Came, and she had recently been acting in the theatre in New York in a Greek tragedy, though I had not been fortunate enough to see it. She came into the dressing-room, a formidable and striking personality with a long cigarette holder in her hand, looking very distinguished and escorted by an elegant young man who leaned gracefully against the wall behind her. ‘Oh, Madame Ouspenskaya,’ I burst out, gathering my dressing gown about me and wondering if I ought to kiss her hand, ‘I am so sorry to think you were in front tonight. I was dreadfully tired and I know I played so badly!’ On which Madame nodded her head twice in profound approval, turned around, and left the room without a word.
On another evening, Judith Anderson brought in a friend of hers to see me, a Swedish Countess beautifully bejewelled and dressed. She seemed greatly moved by the performance and, as she was leaving, murmured, ‘I would like to give you something in remembrance of this great experience,’ and, putting out her hand, began to take off a most beautiful square cut emerald ring that she was wearing. I nervously began to put out my own hand, but, just as I did so, she hastily drew her ring back on to her finger and made a graceful exit. I thought I must have imagined the whole episode, but Judith Anderson assured me afterwards that it was perfectly true.
The generosity of the leading players in America has always charmed me. When I opened in Hamlet I received telegrams of good wishes from a number of stars whom I had never even met, and on the last night, Helen Hayes, who was playing Victoria Regina so brilliantly at the Broadhurst Theatre just opposite, sent over a tray, with a bottle of champagne and glasses, saying how sorry she was that I was leaving this neighbourhood.
I have the happiest memories of the Players Club, the courtesy of its late presidents, Walter Hampden, Howard Lindsay, and Dennis King, and the dinners given there for me, and on other occasions for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and for Howard Lindsay just before his death. I was given a degree a few years ago at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and made a freeman of the City of Philadelphia, and I need hardly say that I have always found America, and Hollywood too – on the few occasions I have worked there – to be immensely kind and encouraging. I shall always look on that country as my second home, where I have made so many delightful friends among my fellow players and the audiences for whom I have played.
Miss Mabel is a 1948 stage play by R. C. Sherriff. It has been adapted for television at least five times.
1950 – A play in three acts, produced by Joel Shenker as a summer theatre touring package.
Advance director: Jerome Coray
With Charles Francis, Wallace Clark, Mark Roberts, Harry Bannister, Victor Beecroft, Gwen Anderson, Marie Carroll, Bethel Long.
Subsequent cast changes throughout tour as well as resident actors playing different roles in each theatre (Dorothy and Lillian Gish by Lillian Gish)
Also, a live version aired as part of British anthology series BBC Sunday Night Theatre in 1950. Cast included Mary Jerrold, Clive Morton, Richard Warner, W. E. Holloway, Josephine Middleton, Herbert C. Walton, Anne West, Ronald Marriott, Rowland Winterton and Anthony Farmer. It was performed on 26 March 1950 with a repeat performance on 29 March 1950. Both performances are lost, as the live broadcasts were not recorded.
Rehearsals for Miss Mabel went smoothly, once we learned to anticipate interruptions over which we had no control, like the noise and whistling from the trains. We had an idea of their schedule, so we could time when we were going to have our words drowned during matinees and evening. Whoever was talking would just remain in place and not say a word until the train had passed. Clarence Derwent, for all his impressive British training and background, was a very casual actor. He had a very relaxed delivery, and he didn’t like to wear any makeup other than his costume.
Once, on a matinee day, he came to the theatre from a long walk in the woods just before half-hour. He put on his costume and he took his seat on a soft chair onstage as the curtain went up, which he was supposed to do. A few minutes into the performance, he fell asleep.
The audience didn’t know what was happening, but onstage, including Lillian, did. Clarence wasn’t snoring. He had leaned back and closed his eyes.
Lillian looked over in his direction, and very casually, during the course of the scene, tiptoed behind the chair where Clarence was sitting. She placed her hand on his shoulder leaned over, and blew on his neck!
She might have whispered something which only he could have heard, but Clarence opened his eyes and said his line as if the action were rehearsed!
Whether she gave him a dressing down afterwards we never knew. But he never took any morning walks on a matinee day. And he never closed his eyes in that chair for the rest of the run!
When Miss Mabel company flew to the Bahamas to play an engagement at the Royal Colonial Theatre, Lillian made a star’s demand: to allow Malcolm, her West Highland terrier who had been with her since The Old Maid (1936), to ride next to her on the plane.
Lillian Gish: A Life on Stage and Screen – Stuart Oderman
it is a cool and sparkling afternoon of a type that appears to be indigenous to Manhattan. The streets are crowded, the traffic booms and shop fronts jostle for attention. It is an intensely contemporary world. But enter the hushed lobby of a building unchanged since the 1920s, and the mood softens. A few moments later, in the apartment of Lillian Gish, it seems to be not merely a different age, but a different civilization. The room is light and quiet, the air scented. Suddenly, as if in a frame of movie film, there is a glimpse of an extraordinary ageless figure, wearing a soft white cap, from which long hair of an extremely fine shade of gold falls to her waist. For a moment, the decades peel away, and the exquisite child-woman of Broken Blossoms and Orphans of the Storm moves into the room. It is not a celluloid apparition, but the real person. It is Lillian Gish. She still possesses the trusting gaze of a Victorian maiden, and she comports herself with the incomparable grace that was one of the hallmarks of her film career.
“I shall make tea,” says Lillian Gish. “I do hope you like it in the English fashion?” After she has duly poured the first cup—milk first, then the tea—she sits back, a beautifully composed figure, awaiting questions with an inquiring and benign look.
“I’ve always lived in New York,” she recalls. “Many many years ago D. W. Griffith said to my sister and me: ‘My dears, you must never stay out in California for more than six months at a time. It is good for the body, but not for the mind or soul.’ And this was before there even was a Hollywood, so you can’t blame the movies. I remember the first time I went to the West Coast, how lovely it was. We opened the windows of the train and smelled orange blossoms and roses. That has all changed. But New York never does: It is always noisy and dangerous and exciting.”
Miss Gish took her first New York house in the late twenties, when the first phase of her film career ended with the advent of talkies. “Mother and I lived on Fifty-first Street, right by the river, in the days before the highway, so there was no traffic. But in the thirties we decided we needed a quieter location. First a penthouse, and then this smaller apartment.” Initially the apartment was occupied only by Miss Gish’s mother, the actress preferring to live in one of the great Manhattan hotels of the time. “Well, I must have lived in all of them, eventually,” she recalls with a smile. “I was a nomad.” However, after the death of her mother, in 1948, Miss Gish settled permanently in the tranquil apartment with its pleasing air of suspended time.
Perhaps because she has led such a long full life, Lillian Gish seems to have moved beyond the need for possessions merely for the sake of ownership. There is nothing theatrical about her apartment. It is not crammed with memorabilia, nor filled with photographs of past triumphs. And every object that is to be seen has the air of clearly and logically fulfilling a function. Even the photographs trace, with the utmost economy and elegance, a rich life and a celebrated one. A small table contains portraits of her mother, herself and her sister, Dorothy, at all stages of their lives, while one living room wall is covered with photographs of other people who have been important to her.
But without a doubt, the possessions that mean the most to Miss Gish are her books. Their glowing ranks enrich the living room, and a random glance at any title page will often disclose the signature of the author. For this is another of the actress’s talents: the ability to make lifelong and devoted friends. It was one of these friends, Sam LeTulle known to Miss Gish since the early forties, when he would visit her mother at the famous Sunday teas— who helped the actress redesign the apartment for her own use. “I didn’t want a guest room, so he made one large bedroom and converted the second bathroom into storage space.”
Furniture, most of which the star has owned since the twenties, is disposed easily and comfortably about the rooms. The colors are pale, and make her a urprisingly vivid presence in her own home. “Of course, in a sense, this apartment is only a base. I travel all over the country, lecturing on films; I’m still a nomad at heart. And as for decor, I’ve always said that I’m much too busy myself to be surrounded by anything complicated or overdone. I don’t need pictures of myself either, because I have mirrors. What I do like is to entertain.” And again, her striking gaze becomes animated. “At my mother’s teas, we used to have everybody. Mary Pickford, Kit Cornell, people who knew that if they dropped by on Sunday, Mother would serve them tea and just sit and listen while the conversation went on all around her. And what wonderful conversation it was— people were witty and polished in those days. If you were to ask me what is most important in a home, I would say memories.
The people who have sat in your chair! So many over the years, and still I make new friends. Robert Altman sat there a while ago, and told me about A Wedding, and persuaded me to be in it.” It is this lively dialogue with the past and future that makes a visit with Lillian Gish both engrossing and moving. “We haven’t changed as much as we think we have, you know. I went to a college town in North Dakota recently, and they showed a print of Way Down East. Even in 1920 I had thought the story was a bit oldfashioned; but there the audience was, enthralled, enjoying the melodrama and the comedy.” What Lillian Gish omitted to say was that her young audience, watching that young girl of long ago transcend the limitations of an infant medium with luminous grace, was also responding to a quality the actress has possessed all her life—the ability to make of the most unlikely situation something truthful and real. The same can be said of the space she lives in. It is neither more nor less than the remarkable personality it contains.
In 1987, when she had completed her 107th film, the producer said of actress Gish, “Inside the lace glove, there’s a hand of steel.” But only a woman of strength would have climbed onto an ice floe in the teeth of a blizzard and gambled that her celluloid hero would rescue her before she reached the falls. That footage from D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East became, of course, the definitive scene of silent films, the theatrical touchstone for the twentieth century that Eliza’s perils on the Ohio River in Uncle Tom’s Cabin had been in the nineteenth.
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess
Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess (Way Down East)
Way Down East – filming the “Ice Floe Scene” (Lillian Gish)
Lillian Gish on the ice floe – Way Down East
Way Down East – Vermont
At the tail end of that century, Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy were born in Ohio, where their down-on-her-luck mother put her pretty little girls to work on the popular melodrama circuit. In 1902, Gish made her stage debut on the shoulders of Walter Huston in the tiny Ohio crossroads of Rising Sun. The play was In Convict’s Stripes, and the six-year-old actress earned ten dollars a week. Director Griffith, who gave the new medium of motion pictures their “form and grammar,” needed young faces for work under the harsh lights, and at age thirteen, Gish became a leading lady for filmdom’s founding genius.
Lillian Gish – Birth of a Nation
Lillian Gish as Elsie Stoneman (Birth of A Nation)
Griffith elevated movies to an art form, and Lillian, with her amazing grace and strength, earned her place as “The First Lady of the Screen” in such classics as The Birth of a Nation (1915), the first full-length motion picture. Dozens of roles in the legitimate theater, on Broadway, in the “talkies,” and even on television followed.
THE SCARLET LETTER, Lars Hanson, Lillian Gish, 1926
Hester Prynne worried for her ill daughter – Lillian Gish – Scarlet Letter
17th February 1926: Lillian Gish (1893 – 1993) is punished for bearing a child out of wedlock in the film ‘The Scarlet Letter’, a 17th century melodrama directed by Victor Sjostrom.
Hester Prynne and Rev.Dimmesdale – The Scarlet Letter – 1926 (Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson)
Lillian played Hester Prynne and Camille; she did comedy and drama, Coward and Chekhov; her 1953 teleplay The Trip to Bountiful ended up in the Museum of Modern Art. For more than eight decades now, Gish has practiced her craft, and as one critic noted, “has never failed either the author or the audience.”
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); [Camille–Gish, Lillian] [Central City, Colorado]; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.157
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Camille–Gish, Lillian Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.87
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Camille–Gish, Lillian [Central City, Colorado]; 1932; Platinum print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas, Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.21
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); [Camille–Gish, Lillian] [Central City, Colorado]; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.192
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Lillian Gish and Raymond Hackett in Camille Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.308
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Camille–Gish, Lillian, [And] Raymond Hackett [Made at Chappell Home, Denver]; 1932; Platinum print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas, Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.193
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); [Camille–Gish, Lillian, and Raymond Hackett] [Made at Chappell Home, Denver]; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.176
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Lillian Gish, Central City; 1932; nitrate negative; Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Fort Worth TX; P1979.240.5
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Camille–Gish, Lillian Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.85
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Lillian Gish as Camille. Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.309
“I’ve never known what to do except work; if you start acting when you’re five there isn’t a lot of point in trying to find something else to do when you’re 84. I expect I’ll still have a couple of days’ shooting to do when they bury me.”
NOT SINCE John Barrymore made Elsinore his own, has a Hamlet of the interest of John Gielgud’s been seen—and heard—in New York. If to some of us the Mr. Barrymore who was remains even now the Hamlet we shall continue to see in our mind’s eye as the perfect embodiment of the Prince, it will be Mr. Gielgud’s voice in the future we shall hear lending its color to many of the nobler speeches. Such a voice, such diction, and such a gift for maintaining the melody of Shakespeare’s verse even while keeping it edged from speech to speech with dramatic significance, is a new experience to those of us who since the twilight days of Forbes-Robertson have seen a small army of actors try their wings, and sometimes our patience, as Hamlet.
Mr. Gielgud is young enough to be the part and old enough in Shakespearean experience to play it exceptionally. The verse offers him no difficulties. He is its master and gives abundant proof of his mastery. He is no mere reciter, but an illuminator of what he has to say. He turns the searchlight of his thinking and his feeling on sentence after sentence which gains a new force and meaning because of what he finds in it to reveal. He is an actor who, though he lacks Mr. Barrymore’s natural endowment as far as looks are concerned, is nonetheless possessed of a sensitive, clear-cut face. It is so molded that it can amplify every passing thought which takes possession of his mind. It equals his voice in flexibility.
Without tearing a passion to tatters or sawing the air too much, Mr. Gielgud can suggest the whirlwind of the frenzy which has overtaken him. He has an exciting personality. He moves with grace and is not afraid of taking full advantage of the many steps which Jo Mielziner has placed at his disposal for some of the full stage scenes in Mr. McClintic’s visually arresting production at the Empire. If, in spite of the frequent brilliance, occasional superiorities and steady interest of Mr. Gielgud’s Hamlet, his Prince still plays second-best to Mr. Barrymore’s, one reason is that Mr. Gielgud’s Hamlet lacks the consistency Mr. Barrymore brought to the part. Many of the details of his Hamlet are fine. Some are magnificent. But they are not assembled into a characterization which is large enough to connect and explain them all. Their validity is for the scene in which they occur, rather than for the total impression.
Mr. Gielgud’s Hamlet is frequently more mercurial than is good for it. He changes it to fit new speeches, and in the process often seems to be presenting us new Hamlets to whom he has not hitherto introduced us. The Mr. Gielgud, for example, who reads the speech to the players benevolently, with a professional’s interest in its admonitions and no remembrance of the scheme to trap the King which underlies that interest, is an entirely different person from the Mr. Gielgud who delivers with tremendous austerity the seldom heard “How all occasions do inform against me” soliloquy. Then the Mr. Gielgud who solemnly speaks his first bitter aside about “A little more than kin, and less than kind,” wakes up slowly to the wit which he must later show in his encounters with Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
the First Grave Digger and Osric. It takes almost two acts for Mr. Gielgud’s Hamlet to become aware of the sharpness of his tongue. Mr. Barrymore’s was caustic from the first. Furthermore, the Mr. Gielgud who swears his love for Ophelia at the grave gives no indication of having really loved her before that time, as Mr. Barrymore did in the unforgettable intensity of his “Get thee to a nunnery” scene. Yet because of the excellence of its details and the thrilling revelation of some of its single readings, Mr. Gielgud’s Hamlet is a performance which deserves the loud cheers that greeted it last night when the final curtain had fallen. Mr. Gielgud is strangely disappointing in the Closet scene, when he dispenses with the traditional properties for the “Look here, upon this picture, and on this”; and is weakest throughout in his irony. He is at his best—and a fiery and exciting best it is—in the play-within-a-play, in his first en counter with the Ghost, and in the blood-stained last scene. Again and again during the course of the evening he delivers his individual speeches with such beauty and intelligence, such insight and tension, that one gladly overlooks the lapses in his interpretation. Mr. McClintic has brought to the patterning of his production the same sweep which made his direction of Miss Cornell’s Romeo and Juliet notable. His staging is vivifying, pictorial and inventive, especially in the uses to which it puts the levels and steps of Mr. Mielziner’s unit setting for the inner stage. But the performances of the well-known players Mr. McClintic has gathered about Mr. Gielgud are of varying merits.
Although completely negative until the mad scene, Lillian Gish’s Ophelia then turns into the most effective, if untraditional, Ophelia we have yet witnessed. Judith Anderson’s Queen is stately and captures the eye, but leaves much to be desired in the Closet scene. Malcolm Keen’s Claudius is, especially at the beginning, a welcome relief from the red-bearded, ranting Claudiuses usually on hand.
John Emery’s Laertes has real verve and distinction. And Arthur Byron’s Polonius is handsome enough, but a Polonius who is as slow to suggest his humorous garrulity as Mr. Gielgud is to suggest Hamlet’s wit.
The Ghost, who is always a problem to a generation whose belief in the supernatural stops with ghost-writers, is now almost as adventurously dealt with as he was when Robert Edmond Jones turned him into Tinkerbell by suggesting him with a shaft of light. There are two or three Ghosts lurking around the stage of the Empire these nights, one of whom remains unseen and speaks the Ghost’s speeches through an amplifier, which makes him seem just a little ahead of his times in Elsinore.
Mr. Mielziner’s settings, like the Vandyke costumes in which he has dressed most of the characters, are interesting. But, next to Mr. Shakespeare’s play, the most interesting feature of the evening is, as goes without saying, Mr. Gielgud. Although one may quarrel with this or that feature of his Hamlet, Mr. Gielgud is unquestionably a rare actor, possessed of the stuffs from which rare actors have always been made. He is decidedly worth seeing—and seeing again and again.
Tenth Anniversary (Exhibitors Herald – June 27, 1925)
THE WHITE SISTER: Lillian Gish—A wonderful picture in every sense of the word. The funny part of it was that 99 9-10 of my audience was composed of Protestants. Had absolutely no cooperation from the local priest or any of his like. Don’t have hardly any opposition for a jumping off place of this size. No, let’s see, a stock company under canvas ; a Chautauqua under canvas (until a big wind hit it and blew it down) ; and a big Ku Klux meeting, with the widow of Glenn Young as the chief attraction. Even at that I claim it is a wonderful picture. The Ku Klux boys want me to run one of their pictures. I have been stalling them off, but I sureinell couldn’t get any worse cooperation on their picture than I got from the Catholics on “The White Sister.” That’s that. If any of you boys think I am Bullshevick, Catholic or Ku Klux. you have another guess coming, because I believe like Voliva, the world’s flat ; that is, flat broke. Eleven reels.—Wm. E. Tragsdorf, Trags theatre. Neillsville, Wis.-—Small town patronage.
THE WHITE SISTER: Lillian Gish—A very, very good picture that people were waiting in line to see. Got a nice boost for it from the local Catholic priest. A nice business and pleased all classes. Too bad Mr. Tragsdorf had such a hard time. From the sound of his report, I would suggest he might try cooperating with the church some time. I’ve found them very fair-minded always and willing to meet you half way. Eleven reels.—Leo M. Fay, Gem theatre, Socorro. M.—Small town patronage.
10 More Facts (Exhibitors Herald – June 27, 1925)
Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s “Quality 52”
Among the big star names in The Quality 52 are: LILLIAN GISH, LON CHANEY, MARION DAVIES, JOHN GILBERT, BUSTER KEATON, RAMON NOVARRO, MAE MURRAY, NORMA SHEARER, JACKIE COOGAN, ELEANOR BOARDMAN, AILEEN PRINGLE, PAULINE STARKE, CONWAY TEARLE. CLAIRE WINDSOR, CONRAD NAGEL, MAE BUSCH, LEW CODY, and many others.
Romola (2nd Place – MGM The Talk of The Industry)
Lillian Gish, the star. With Dorothy Gish. Also Ronald Colman, William H. Powell. Henry King, Director. The successor to “The White Sister.”
Lillian Gish (MGM The Talk of The Industry)
1st place on – The Fireworks for 1925 – 1926 (MGM)
Two Big Productions This greatest star has just signed a long-term contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Miss Gish will appear in two great pictures.
Vidor to Make “La Boheme” (The Film Mart) Exhibitors Herald – June 27, 1925 King Vidor has been chosen to make “La Boheme,” Lillian Gish’s first for Metro-Goldwyn. Release has been set for November 15.
A Big Star Name Exhibitors Herald – Aug 22, 1925
ONE after another in August you get from Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer these big stars: LON CHANEY, NORMA SHEARER, LILLIAN GISH. Week after week these popular star names in front of your theatre mean bigger crowds and bigger profits. And this is the kind of service that you can depend on throughout 1925-26. With these money-winning August releases Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starts out on what is unquestionably the most marvelous line-up ever delivered to exhibitors.