Lillian Gish Plays Hawthorne Heroine – By Mae Tinee (Chicago Tribune – 1927)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday, March 20, 1927 – Page 43

Lillian Gish Plays Hawthorne Heroine

“The Scarlet Letter”

Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Victor Seastrom. Presented at the Chicago theater TOMORROW.

The Cast:

  • Hester ……………………..…..…………. Lillian Gish
  • Reverend Dimmesdale …………… Lars Hanson
  • Roger Prynne …….………….. Henry B. Walthall
  • Giles …………………………..………..…… Karl Dane
  • Governor ………………………. William H. Tooker
  • Mistress Hibbins ……….…….. Marcelle Corday
  • Jailer ………………..…………….…….. Fred Herzog
  • Beadle ……………………….…………. Jules Cowles
  • Patience ……………………..………… Mary Hawes
  • Pearl ……………………………………….. Joyce Coad
  • French Sea Captain ……….…. James A. Marcus

By Mae Tinee

Good Morning; Lillian Gish looks like a saint and Lars Hanson looks like Paul Ash in this much “adapted” version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story. And I reckon why the film isn’t being presented at the Oriental is because Messrs. Balaban and Katz know the Oriental fans could never bear to see Paul suffer. SO – because Mr. Hanson, who looks like Mr. Ash, has so much to endure as Rev. Dimmesdale – he’s at the Chicago. (Maybe.)

THE SCARLET LETTER, Lillian Gish (hands clasped front left), Victor Sjostrom (aka Victor Seastrom) (hand in pocket front right) with the crew on-set, 1926
THE SCARLET LETTER, Lillian Gish (hands clasped front left), Victor Sjostrom (aka Victor Seastrom) (hand in pocket front right) with the crew on-set, 1926

Those of you who haven’t read the book may find the film version of “The Scarlet Letter” to your liking. But if you are familiar with the story of Hester Prynne, I’m afraid you’re going to be up on your ear over the liberties that have been taken. The screen production is a life sized portrait of a movie magnate showing Nathaniel Hawthorne how.

There has been much bristling officiousness and the result is the most ordinary sort of melodrama instead of a picture of power and subtlety. “The Scarlet Letter” SHOULD have been one of the great pictures of the day.

Though Lillian Gish is truly beautiful in her doctored role and gives a thoughtful and finished performance, she is as different as possible from the author’s conception of his heroine who was – “tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes … characterized by a certain state of dignity.

A Story of Old Salem

Hester Prynne was a seamstress in Salem, a New England settlement of early Puritan days. The place, you know, where they burned the witches and made Sunday such a bugaboo that no descendant of a Puritan father has to this day entirely shaken off the influence of those Sunday Morning Blues to which his forefolks clumped their mournful way to meeting along around the close of the seventeenth century.

She bore a child out of wedlock, refusing to name the father, who, the picture almost immediately shows you, was the young, earnest, and greatly beloved minister of the community. For her sin she was ordered by the town fathers to wear always and forever on the bosom of her meek and proper dress the scarlet letter “A,” which should stamp her for all beholders to see as a woman taken in adultery.

Lillian Gish (Scarlet Letter, HiRes)_02
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.

(I’m going to write in the present tense if you don’t mind. It’s easier, somehow or other.)

The minister, who loves her deeply, begs to be allowed to declare his own guilt and share her shame. This, Hester steadfastly refuses to let him do, declaring that her greatest punishment would be to know that she had interfered with his work and destroyed his influence. Besides, she is aware of what he is not, that the man to whom she had been married in England – an old surgeon – but whose wife she had never been, has arrived in Salem and, under an assumed name, is hovering about them like a black and leisurely vulture, biding his time to pounce.

This sinister, implacable, waiting man is present through the entire original story. In the picture he appears near the end providing a “WHO-IS-THIS-MAN!”, “STOP-HE-IS-MY-HUSBAND!” scene. That poor Yorick of the melodramas which you know so well.

Henry B Walthall - The Scarlet Letter
Henry B Walthall – The Scarlet Letter

Little Pearl, the Only Bright Spot

The tragedy develops amid the stern, monotonous, petty routine of the Blue Law ridden settlement, the only bright spot in the lives of these three actively unhappy people being little Pearl, that “child of sin,” who, by some strange rank of Fate is a joyous madcap, utterly uncowed by the outcast condition of her mother and herself.

The denouement, as you can imagine, is a dramatic one. The picture ends sadly where the book does not – which amazes me – for the author provides a comparatively happy ending, and WHEN before have the movie makers rejected a happy ending? As a rule they will make one for themselves if the story writer has not been so considerate as to provide a fadeout that will send audiences forth smiling.

The Scarlet Letter Lillian Gish
Lillian’s Protegee The story of “The Scarlet Letter” gave Lillian Gish, as Hester Prynne, many scenes with little Joyce Coad, who plays Pearl. And Miss Gish believes that Joyce, who is the winner of a California baby contest, will win an esteemed place for herself on the screen. Photo Motion Picture Magazine (Aug 1926-Jan 1927)

In the novel little Pearl, it is told, becomes one of the richest heiresses in England and Hester Prynne, having seen her darling cared for, returns to the scene of her shame and becomes a woman generally beloved. In the lapse of the toilsome, thoughtful, self-devoted years that made up Hester’s life the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s bitterness and became a type of something to be sorrowed over and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence, too. And as Hester Prynne had no selfish ends nor lived in any measure for her own profit and enjoyment, people brought all their sorrows and perplexities and besought her counsel as one who herself had gone through a mighty trouble.

Hester Prynne worried for her ill daughter - Lillian Gish - Scarlet Letter
Hester Prynne worried for her ill daughter – Lillian Gish – Scarlet Letter

Passing Up Some Fine Chances

To this “tall woman in a gray robe” there came from England letters with armorial seals … “and once Hester was seen embroidering a baby garment with such a lavish richness of golden fancy as would have raised a public tumult had any infant thus appareled been shown to our sober-hued community.” …

Can you FEATURE how any movie maker ever passed up the chances offered in those last three paragraphs? Mi-gosh, I can’t.

So much for the stories – Mr. Hawthorne’s and Mr. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s.

The acting throughout is splendid. I foretell great popularity for the Ash-en Mr. Hanson. Sets and costumes are picturesque and of the period. Such scenery as there is lovely and the photography is everything in the world it should be. Also there are some comedy situations which I sincerely hope you may enjoy.

In closing, fans dear, may I remark regarding this film that

“If with joy you’d on it look,

Prithee, do not read the book!”

See you tomorrow!

The Scarlet Letter Hvar 8 Dag Swedish Mag 1926
The Scarlet Letter Hvar 8 Dag Swedish Mag 1926

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Max Reinhardt with Lillian Gish (Chicago Tribune 1928)

Chicago Tribune – Thursday, December 27, 1928 – Page 29

Max Reinhardt Here with Lillian Gish and Hollywood Bound

Max Reinhardt, German theatrical producer, whose setting of “The Miracle” was shown in Chicago three seasons ago, and Lillian Gish, American movie star, will spend a few hours in Chicago this afternoon. They are en route from New York to Hollywood, where Reinhardt will direct his first motion picture, starring Miss Gish, for United Artists.

Max Reinhardt - The Miracle
Max Reinhardt – The Miracle

Reinhardt’s debut in the movie was arranged through negotiations between him and the United Artists officials, as conducted by the producer’s American sponsor, Morris Gest. His film will be placed in production February 1 in a Hollywood studio.

Max Reinhardt mit Lillian Gish im Hotel Esplanade in Berlin 1928
Max Reinhardt mit Lillian Gish im Hotel Esplanade in Berlin 1928

Miss Gish spent six months abroad conferring with Reinhardt and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Austrian poet-playwright, who wrote the play for Miss Gish. Raimund von Hofmannsthal, son of the author, is accompanying the party to the west coast. The German consul plans to entertain Reinhardt at tea during his sojourn here.

Douglas Fairbanks, Max Reinhardt and Lillian Gish at train station - 1920s
Douglas Fairbanks, Max Reinhardt and Lillian Gish at train station – 1928

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

THE STAGE “Uncle Vanya” – By Charles Collins (Chicago Tribune – 1930)

Chicago Tribune – Tuesday October 20, 1930 Page 29

THE STAGE

“Uncle Vanya”

A play by Anton Chekhoff, translated by Rose Caylor; given at the Harris theater Oct. 20, 1930, under the management of Gilbert Miller. Production by Jed Harris.

Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya (Harris)
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya (Harris)

The Cast:

  • Marina ……………………………….. Kate Mayhew
  • Michael Astroff …….……..…… Osgood Perkins
  • Uncle Vanya ……………….…… Walter Connolly
  • Alexander Serebrakoff ……… Eugene Powers
  • Ilya Telegin …………….…….. Eduardo Ciannelli
  • Helena …………………..………………. Lillian Gish
  • Mme. Voinitskaya …….…………… Isabel Irving
  • A Servant ………………….……. Harold Johnsrud

By Charles Collins

We have watched the visiting Russians of the Moscow Art theater dream wistfully through the gentle, lyric melancholy of Chekhoff’s plays without understanding a word of them, and have applauded prodigiously. Now we have an opportunity to get the full flavor of this famous Slav in sympathetic translation and in acting that is mellow with his racial characteristics. “Uncle Vanya,” new at the Harris theater, supplies it, and if we who were charmed by the company from Moscow do not react to it with enthusiasm we are merely cultural frauds. For this “Uncle Vanya” is better Chekhoff for us than that of the admirable Moscovians – because it is clear, intelligible play-going, freed from the fog of uncomprehended words.

This translation, adepts in Russian literature assert, catches the fluid prose-poetry of Chekhoff style and is close to the gray, pensive spirit of the original dialogue. But even without the value of being understandable by American audiences, this staging of “Uncle Vanya” would still be excellent Chekhoff. I can imagine Stanislavsky of Moscow praising it as worthy of his Seagull theater, where Chekhoff was held as a patron saint until the soviet government banned his works as too pleasantly reminiscent of the czarist regime. Here you have an ideal cast and an admirable interpretation; true “art theater” stuff.

Jed Harris
Jed Harris (The Curse of Genius – Cover)

Jed Harris, who staged this production, is the same young Mr. Harris who clicked of such successes as “Broadway,” “The Royal Family,” and “The Front Page.” His touch as a director jas been marked by speed and wire edged nervous energy. But when he went Russian, Mr. Harris seemed to say to himself, “Now I will show them what I can do with the soft pedal.” His “Uncle Vanya” is as quiet and moody and entranced as anything that ever came out from Russia. Perhaps the only criticism that Stanislavsky would make of it is: “This is a little too Russian, for beneath his melancholy, Chekhoff has a sense of ironical humor.”

Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya

This story of boredom and frustration and minor heartaches in a Russian provincial home comes across the footlights with persuasive human values. It charms like a dark opal; it fascinates the attention as it gropes through its dim lights and its petty incidents. This is Chekhoff in his true stageworthy quality; and it explains, better than any poring over the entire body of his work in translation, why he is rated as one of the major Russian dramatists. This performance also, is what American art theaters have been striving for and almost always missing.

Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya

Lillian Gish floats through the picture like a symbol of fugitive romance, escaping the clutching hands of men hungry for an ideal love. Osgood Perkins is the disillusioned country doctor, somewhat Byronical in his pose – a crisp, complete characterization. The petulant and dejected Vanya is effectively treated as an amiable frustrate [who puts a bit of melodrama into the play with some wild revolver shooting] by Walter Connolly. The professor, an intellectual fake and browbeating stuffed shirt who is the family incubus, is strikingly represented by Eugene Powers. Sad, sincere little Sonia, whose heart is so hopelessly broken, is played with winsome truth by Zita Johann.

If you want Chekhoff, here it is. And if you know an “art theater” when you see one, for the next two weeks you must consider the Harris in that category.

Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya
Osgood Perkins and Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya
Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Book World to Take Look at ‘Lillian Gish’ (Chicago Tribune – 1969)

Chicago Tribune – Saturday 17, May, 1969 – Page 111

Book World to Take Look at ‘Lillian Gish’

“Lillian Gish is an artist for art’s sake, and she has preserved for us a precious chunk of one of her own medium’s most magnificent moments in time,” says Liz Smith in her Sunday Book review of “Lillian Gish – The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me.”

Miss Gish’s book is less a story about herself than about a motion picture innovator, David Wark Griffith, whom she presents to the reader “warts and all.”

The Movies Mr.Griffith and Me
The Movies Mr.Griffith and Me

A lady With Class - Chicago Tribune 1

A lady With Class - Chicago Tribune 2

Lillian Gish- The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me

 

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

“Star Wagon” Dreams About Life and Time – By Charles Collins (Chicago Tribune 1938)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday 17, April 1938 Page 80

“Star Wagon”

Dreams About Life and Time

By Charles Collins

“The Star Wagon” came to the Chicago stage as welcome relief from the Lenten drougth in drama. It was the first new play, except for two WPA contributions of minor interest, to open here in four weeks, and its premiere was notable for cordiality of audience response. It brought an admirable cast, with Burgess Meredith and Lillian Gish as co-stars; and it told a diverting and unusual story of American life with overtones of philosophic brooding over the mystery of life and time and destiny.

The Star Wagon 4

After adventures into the past with his “time machine,” the old inventor who is the central figure in the tale [acted with humor and quiet emotional touches by Mr. Meredith] brings down the curtain with the following speech, which expresses the spirit in which Maxwell Anderson approached his fantastic theme:

[After singing two stanzas of “The Holy City”]: “I never believed much in a golden city, back there in the choir. I don’t believe it now. But they were right about one thing, the old prophets – there is a holy city somewhere. A place we hunt for, and go forward, all of us trying and none of us finding it. Because our lives are like the bird, you remember, in the old reader that flew in from a dark night through a room lighted with candles, in by an open window, and out on the other side.

Lillian Gish and Burgess Meredith in fantasy play The Star Wagon

We come out of dark, and live for a moment where it is light, and then go back into the dark again. Some time we’ll know what’s out there in the black beyond the window where we came in, and what’s out there in the black on the other side, where it all seems to end.”

The Star Wagon 1

Bloomers and Trousers of 1902

The second act of “The Star Wagon” is a study in American small town manners in 1902, and as such it contains the exaggerations, tending toward caricature, which are generally found in theatrical reconstructions of the past. Miss Gish’s bloomer costume for bicycle riding has almost a “Hollywood” quality in the extremeness of its design. I can easily remember thousands of bloomer girls of 1902 or earlier, and none of them looked like that. Furthermore, in 1902, the nation had become blasé to bloomers and and they were rapidly going out of fashion.

Lillian Gish and Burgess Meredith promo for fantasy play The Star Wagon

The automobile of which Mr. Meredith was the proud creator is patterned after designs that were archaic in 1902. The men’s clothing is truer to the comic sketches of the period that to the suits, hats, neckties and collars actually worn by the average male at the time.

Lillian Gish and Burgess Meredith singing in fantasy play The Star Wagon

Songs used in plays of this type are often anachronisms. For example, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” used in the film in “Old Chicago,” was composed years after the date of the Chicago fire. Eager to fix such a “time machine” error on “The Star Wagon,” I dipped into the history of “The Holy City,” but lost my bet. This song was composed in 1892; music by Stephen Adams, words by F.E. Weatherly.

Lillian Gish in - Star Wagon - alfredo valente photo
Lillian Gish in – Star Wagon – alfredo valente photo

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

“The Fatal Marriage” (Enoch Arden) – Chicago Tribune – 1922

Chicago Tribune – Sunday June 25, 1922 Page 91

Back, Back, Back to Days That Are Gone Forever

“The Fatal Marriage”

Presented by Robertson-Cole, Directed by Christy Cabanne, under supervision of D.W. Griffith.

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

The Cast:

  • Philip ………….…..…………. Wallace Reid
  • Annie …………………………… Lillian Gish
  • Enoch Arden ……..….……… Alfred Paget
  • Annie’s Daughter …..…. Mildred Harris

By Mae Tinee

“The Fatal Marriage,” you must be informed quickly, is a reissue. It was made, I believe, at least seven years ago. O, yes, at LEAST – for D.W. Griffith himself has a small part in the picture. He only appears for a moment or so, but you know the movies were pretty young when he was doing any acting. Then, Wallace Reid and Lillian Gish in the same picture – yes, pretty old!

“The Fatal Marriage” is from Tennyson’s “Enoch Arden,” and is well worth your time and money for several reasons.

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

It is interesting to see how far Griffith has come once this picture was made. Then, you might say, he was a simple country boy who entered the big city of filmdom unostentatiously and told the little story he was sent to tell with a touching simplicity. Now he enters with blare of trumpets, clad in purple and fine linen, and writes his tales with a golden pen on the mountain sides, while heralds herd the populace to see what he has written.

Then – before the fans crowned Wallace Reid king of moviedom – what sort of a chap was he?

An earnest chap with lots of talent anxious to hold down a job that I warrant didn’t pay him anymore than was necessary to keep a roof over his head. A nice, lovable chap with an eye to the future.

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

Lillian Gish? How was she some seven years ago? Older, apparently then than now, and just as good an actress.

What about the photography? Surprisingly good. Minus the sensational effects achieved nowadays, but satisfactory.

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

Most of Us Know the Story.

The story of Enoch Arden is known to most. It is a tale of honest love and friendship. Two men love one woman. Annie, the woman, marries Enoch Arden, a sailor who goes to a foreign port to win a fortune for her and his beloved children. The years pass and he does not return. Annie waits, her constancy never wavering, and Phillip, friend of her husband, and worshipper of herself, stands by, seeing to it that she does not want, and, finally, when convinced that Enoch is dead, pressing her to marry him.

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

Still Annie waits. Still Enoch does not come. So, at last she becomes Phillip’s wife.

Enoch, who has been shipwrecked on the coasts of Africa, is at last rescued. He returns to his native village a white bearded stranger. Nobody knows him. He finds his old home deserted. He asks of the woman who keeps the inn:

“And what became of Annie who married Enoch Arden?” She replies that Annie waited many years, but at last married Phillip and had just borne him a child.

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

Enoch, finding that his adored wife is safe and happy, goes to his death without revealing himself to her.

The picture is quite as well acted as many we see today. I was surprised to see Mildred Harris in the cast. As Annie’s young daughter she showed herself an infinitely better actress that at the present time.

The picture will drag a bit, I’m afraid, for most. It will seem like a fairy tale to many. I suppose there are constant loves and honest friendships nowadays, but certainly one doesn’t hear much of them.

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

Enoch Arden - Lillian Gish /Paget /Reid

Below, original Lillian Gish portrait by APEDA NY used to illustrate this Chicago Tribune article.

Lillian Gish APEDA New York Photography cca 1921
Lillian Gish APEDA New York Photography cca 1921

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Reincarnation (Uncle Vanya) Chicago Tribune – 1930

Lillian Gish (promo - before Uncle Vanya)
Lillian Gish (promo – before Uncle Vanya)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday October 26, 1930 Page 75

Reincarnation

“Uncle Vanya” represents a perfectly balanced cast under consummate stage direction – and for play-goers who are immune to the subtle, brooding enchantment of Chekhoff. It offers a pretty lady whose name was a household word in the great days of David Wark Griffith and the silent silver screen. She, of course, is Lillian Gish, fair haired, slender, spirituelle – an actress who might have stepped out of Tennyson’s lyrics – “She has a lovely face, the Lady of Shalott.”

Universal Images Group 1930 Uncle Vanya (Helena) Lillian Gish
Universal Images Group 1930 Uncle Vanya (Helena) Lillian Gish

Miss Gish has made an extremely happy return to the stage. Her sisters of the films who are now planning to descend upon the drama in swarms – Mary Pickford, Colleen Moore, and all the others who have issued their challenges to the playwrights – may well envy her. She is a perfect type for Checkhoff’s fragile, evasive Helena; she has had the coaching of Jed Harris, a master of stage direction; and she has made this new debut not as a star but as one of a group of cooperative artists. The production of “Uncle Vanya” was not a ballyhoo for Lillian Gish, but it has refreshed and renewed her reputation in a distinguished manner. She proves herself, by her admirable realization of Checkhoff’s heroine, a highly accomplished actress.

Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya

Checkhoff’s chronic melancholy would have vanished if he could have seen Miss Gish and Osgood Perkins in his “Uncle Vanya.” Being a Russian and an invalid, he suffered intense agonies over the production of his plays. His letters contain big complaints over the acting his characters received. Apparently he was a man of fiction.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Lillian Leaves For West (Chicago Tribune – 1943)

Chicago Tribune – Monday November 22 1943 Page 10

Leaves For West

Lillian Gish Press Photo 1940s
Lillian Gish Press Photo 1940s

Lillian Gish as she prepared to board the Santa Fe Chief yesterday.

Miss Lillian Gish, star of the silent screen, left Chicago yesterday aboard the Santa Fe for a lecture tour. The attractive actress, huddled in a raccoon coat with a matching snood, said she hadn’t realized Chicago became so frigid in November.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 22 Nov 1943, Mon Page 10 - N
Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 22 Nov 1943, Mon Page 10 – N

 

Back to Lillian Gish Home page