Blackmail, Blacklist, and Injustice for all …

Louis B. Mayer had a talent for taking hopeful young actresses and turning them into the glamorous movie queens that audiences associated with his MGM studios. Few in those audiences realized that those carefully created, pampered stars were the most bullied women in Hollywood. The MGM Girls raised the velvet curtain and revealed the real story of life on the movie lot that Hedy Lamarr called “heaven and hell all contained in five acres.”

The Executive War on Stars (Louise Brooks – 1959)

Louis B Mayer cca 1930
Louis B Mayer cca 1930

Another name never mentioned in endless shop talk was that of Lillian Gish. The guilty, incredible suspicion that MGM had put her under contract at a spectacular salary in order methodically to destroy her might not have been forced upon me had I not seen The Wind at the Dryden Theatre in Rochester’s Eastman House one night in 1956. I had never heard of it! And I could find no clue to its making. Gish’s clothes were charmingly contrived from all periods, from no period. Millers had been making those dancing slipper since 1915. Her hair was either piled up in a dateless fashion on top of her head or swirling round her throat and shoulders, more tormenting than the wind. Victor Seastrom [Sjostrom], in his direction shared her art of escaping time and place. They were meant for each other- Seastrom and Gish – like the perfume and the rose. After the picture, I could hardly wait to ask Jim Card when and where it was made. “In Hollywood in 1927 at MGM? Why, I was there then, working at Paramount! How come I never heard a word about The Wind?” Determined to solve this mystery of obliteration, I went at once to the files of Photoplay magazine. Its editor, James Quirk, seems to have wept and raged, danced and exulted, with every heartbeat of the MGM executives. And I found that the last kindness Photoplay howed Lillian Gish, until after she left the MGM studio, appeared in a caption under her photograph in the October 1924 issue.

Lillian Gish and Greta Garbo - on set for The Wind
Lillian Gish and Greta Garbo – on set for The Wind

In time I became such a good Quirk student that, after the completion of “The Temptress” when Garbo’s power and demands were beginning to tell on MGM, I predicted the beginning of her nasty publicity in the July 1926 issue. And sure enough, the first threat of the only thing Garbo feared – deportation- was conveyed to her in one of those “why don’t they go back where they came from” articles titled “The Foreign Legion in Hollywood.” Will Hays’ friends in the Department of Immigration were coming in handy for something besides getting the producers’ relations into the country.

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert

Sixteen years were to pass between the public execution of Lillian Gish and the bloodless exile of Greta Garbo. Hollywood producers were left with their babes and a backwash of old men stars, watching the lights go out in one picture house after another across the country. (Louise Brooks)

King Vidor Lillian Gish and filming team La Boheme
King Vidor Lillian Gish and filming team La Boheme

“Mr. Mayer wants you right now!”

“But I’m not through here,” Lillian protested.

“He said right now!”

Mayer barely greeted the actress. Then he shoved a sheaf of papers across the desk at her. “Sign these. We need it done right now.”

Lillian pointed out that her attorney had always refused to allow her to sign anything until he’d had a chance to study it. Mayer’s face turned red. “I want to take you off salary until we have a property for you,” he yelled. Lillian remained calm. “Look, Mr. Mayer, you’ve had plenty of time to find a film for me to do, and, I must repeat, I can’t sign anything until my attorney studies it.”

The MGM chief leaped to his feet, screaming, “If you don’t do as I say, I can ruin you!”

Lillian slowly put on her gloves, grasped her handbag, and stood face-to-face with Hollywood’s most powerful mogul. “This is the second time you’ve said that to me, Mr. Mayer. I’m sure you can ruin me. But I will not sign anything without the advice of my attorney.”

Through mutual agreement, Lillian’s contract was not renewed. The defenders of Mayer, and there have been many, claim that his imperious ways developed only after years of corrupting, absolute power. (Peter Harry Brown & Pamela Ann Brown – 1983)

The MGM girls : behind the velvet curtain
The MGM girls : behind the velvet curtain

Interviewing for Peter Harry Brown & Pamela Ann Brown book began in the fall of 1978 with a wide ranging session with one of the earliest MGM Girls, Lillian Gish. Interviews followed with Debbie Reynolds, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse, the late Dore Schary (the former MGM production chief, who submitted to eight hours of interviews), Jane Powell, George Gukor, silent film expert and author Kevin Brownlow, Kathryn Grayson, MGM archivist Dore Freeman, Henry Rogers (founder and head of the large Rogers and Gowan public relations network), John Springer (former publicist for Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Grawford), former MGM publicist Esme Ghandlee, Harriet Parsons (daughter of Hollywood’s foremost gossip columnist, Louella Parsons), columnists Dorothy Manners and Dorothy Treloar, Vincent Minnelli, Gonnie Francis, and Lana Turner. Of particular help were the interviews conducted by Los Angeles Times arts editor Gharles Ghamplin as part of his cable show, ”Gharles Ghamplin On the Film Scene.”

Ruling his empire as only a dictator would for years, as long as “his stars” did as Mayer wished, their own road was paved with the yellow bricks Judy Garland would sing about later. Then, when the good roles began going to other actresses, Mayer humiliated them by reminding them how often MGM had come to their “rescue.” Even big stars, some of them with immortal names, were subject to this form of creative blackmail. To enforce his domination, he had servants with sharp plumes ready to smear and tarnish any star reputation. Thus, Lillian Gish returned to her first love, the theater, and the cinema lost her for the better part of a decade. She never left the footlights, even when she returned on filming sets again. Her impressive stageography can be studied, accessing the link below:

Lillian Gish – Stageography

Irving G. Thalberg, Lillian Gish, Louis B. Mayer 1927
Irving G. Thalberg, Lillian Gish, Louis B. Mayer 1927

Unhappy Critics or Paid Assassins?

Public Execution of Lillian Gish and Attacks Targeting Her Theatre Career long after she left MGM.

The Enigma of the Screen

What does the future hold for Lillian Gish?

Is she a Genius or Mechanic?

By James R. Quirk

Photoplay Magazine, March 1926

Numerous actresses of sirenic charm and inscrutable pasts have been paraded from time to time as “enigmas,” but the real enigma of the motion picture constellation is Lillian Gish. And the most baffling question of the hour is. What of her future?

Miss Gish is a screen pioneer, Commencing her career with Mary Pickford, Mabel Normand and the Talmadges, yet she has never become definitely established in a place of public favor. We can estimate the popularity of Gloria Swanson, of Mary Pickford, of Norma Talmadge and Pola Negri almost to the decimal point. But Miss Gish’s remains a problem.

She has given great performances in great pictures, and yet curiously we regard each new endeavor as a test of her. She appears a wraith hovering on the borderland between oblivion and reality, a mystical creation whose power hypnotizes us momentarily and then leaves us wondering if it is not an illusion. How much of this fragile crystal figure has been created about Miss Gish by the Griffith tradition, so skillfully and deliberately worked?

I recently attended a dinner where a light wine was served. No one remarked its flavor until the hostess observed that it was forty years old and came from the cellars of a Russian palace. Immediately there were ecstatic exclamations as to its bouquet, its rare flavor and the mystic gold of its color. Stars in motion pictures seldom succeed alone. Behind them you invariably find certain guiding geniuses who infuse them with the power of their own genius. Is Miss Gish a genius or is she but the worthy student of the magic Griffith? An electrician watching her at work one day suddenly exclaimed “That girl ain’t an actress—she’s a mechanic.” He could give no explanation for his observation aside from a mumbled, “She knows her stuff.”

Examining Miss Gish’s characterizations you find that she achieves greatness of effect through a single phase of emotion—namely, hysteria. And she knows precisely the method of it. “It is expressed by the arm from the elbow to the fingers,” she says scientifically “and depends entire on rhythm”  the gradual quickening of movement up to the point desired.” In other words, it is a physical lashing into frenzy. Every actress of the Griffith school has employed it. Miss Gish more skillfully than the rest. And it has been for each of them the most effective gesture, but it could not have been without Griffith’s skill in contriving a situation for it. Mr. Griffith has said that the greatest screen climax is not attained through the actors but through the forces of nature. Miss Gish is always the helpless, tossed victim of a stormy fate, an overwhelming brutal destiny.

Her performances are not remembered for polished, symphonic continuity but for piercing moments of crescendo where emotion was expressed in physical terms of hysteria verging on madness. It has been said that great parts make great actors. Great situations have made Miss Gish. She depends more on material than any actress of the screen. Gloria Swanson can toss colored trifles in the air, play with them as with balloons and entertain solely by the charm of her gestures as a literary stylist charms with his play of words. Charlie Chaplin extracts the most interesting moments from trivialities. Pola Negri is not remembered for any single moment but, on the contrary, for the infinite variety of her moods. Lillian Gish has been termed the Duse of the screen, and yet she is utterly unlike Duse in method. The Italian genius was so quiet in her naturalness as to appear repressed, so highly sensitized that she responded poignantly to every mood and situation, as delicately and mysteriously attuned as a radio instrument.

Miss Gish thus far has been lacking in range. From the moment she steps on the screen there is the feeling of inevitable doom. Too gentle for this world’s pain, her only hope of happiness appears in death or the cloister. And so obviously is this fate written in her every aspect that suspense is lessened The emotion she arouses in one is that of an infinite and poignant pity. Pity is akin to love but it can never be love, even though it is heart rending. Miss Gish is a student, she does not rely on inspiration. There is nothing spontaneous in her work. It is carefully motivated, studied and timed. This in no way detracts from her worth as an artist, or a possible genius. Leonardo da Vinci fashioned the smile on the face of Mona Lisa as mathematically as Lillian Gish has drawn a similar smile on her own likeness.

Like her, also, he was divinely detached and unemotional. He would follow a man to the gallows to catch the expression on his face that he might express the anguish later on his canvas. Miss Gish has that infinite capacity for taking pains that the greatest artists have had. Unfortunately she is not a free artist as is the painter, the sculptor or the writer who relies only on his implements. She works in a medium that requires collaboration. A film cutter can ruin utterly the finest masterpiece. A director or a scenario writer without understanding of her peculiar gift can fail in providing her with the proper sitting for it. A supervisor with a set commercial formula can, by applying it to her pictures, make of her a commercial failure. As a classic, Lillian Gish may be commercially successful, but as a regular commercial routine star, grinding on schedule with whatever material is at hand, her fate at the box-office would be as tragic as it invariably is on the screen.

More than any other star, Miss Gish must be her own producer. Whether or not she has the capacity remains to be seen, and whether or not she is permitted to be is still another matter. Her stellar power has been tried in but two pictures, “The White Sister” and “Romola,” a success and a failure.

Her performance in “The White Sister” was as fine as anything she ever gave the screen. Her story and her character were carefully devised. In ” Romola” she was but a figure on a moving tapestry, and as such she is no more effective than many other actresses. She was not as big as her reputation. Witnesses of the playing of scenes in “La Boheme” felt this strongly. The acting methods of John Gilbert and Miss Gish are entirely different.

Gilbert works on mood. Lillian would film a scene only after it had been rehearsed several times. When the time came that the scene was actually being photographed she knew exactly the effects she was going to create and when and where. Gilbert was loud in his praise of her. He expressed the opinion that she was the great artist of the screen and that she knew more technically than anyone else. Yet plainly his work was suffering under that method. During the first and second rehearsals of the scene his work would be magnificent. After the fifth or sixth repetition of it, he was stale. The term “technician” should not be disparaged, provided it is properly employed to signify one who gains effects mentally rather than emotionally. It is what the screen requires.

The camera does not wait on heaven for moments of inspiration, and no human being could go on feeling his part through several rehearsals and a half-dozen “takes.” It has to be felt first over the script and then mathematically planned for effect if chances are not to be taken. Miss Gish is perhaps the greatest student among motion picture actresses. A humorous story is told of how she learned to swim. An instructor had told her that she should learn to float first if she wanted to be the best swimmer. Water terrified her, but she bravely clamped a clothes pin on her nose and went floating for days until she was proficient. Today she is a mermaid. That is Lillian Gish — thoroughness, conscientiousness, perseverance. Will she overcome all limitations, her own and those artificially imposed? Will she prove to be, as many believe she will, the greatest actress of an immortal screen? Personally I feel that she is going to be either one of the enduring great or a complete failure. A half-way position for her is impossible.

By James R. Quirk – editor of Photoplay, March 1926

 

Lillian Gish in Camille, Central City, Colorado
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

The New Yorker – October 22, 1932

Shouts and Murmurs

Camille at Yale

HERE are some program notes set down by one who is uneasily aware that he has already become an Old Playgoer. At least I feel a growing kinship with the aged banker who once wrote me that, beginning with Samuel Phelps at Clerkenwell, he had seen seventy-eight Macbeths and that, as I could well imagine, ‘Valter Hampden was the worst of the lot. There comes a time when such a one totters off to a fresh revival with the acquisitive eagerness of a maniacal philatelist in pursuit of a fugitive Nicaraguan. In short, he goes only to complete his set. Thus I suspect it was chiefly as an irrational collector of theatrical memorabilia that I hied me to New Haven one day last week to see the tear-stained relic which the young man who wrote it called “The Camellia Lady.” The audience was recruited to a considerable extent from the undergraduate body at Yale. Then Boardman Robinson was there because his son was playing a footman in Act One – a footman who, by Act Four, had joined the jeunesse doree and, unless my eyes deceived me, was dancing heartlessly in the gambling hell on the night of Marguerite’s great humiliation. Also present – in New Haven, that is, not in the gambling hell-was Thornton Wilder, there because he had never chanced to see the play before. But scattered throughout the theatre were enough of us incorrigible old-timers to have justified some such notice in the program as “Wheel-chairs at Eleven.”

IT would be a satisfaction, I thought, to see the lovelorn Marguerite played, for once in a way, by a young actress who, in her own person, would suggest the cool, sweet, fragile, phthisic courtesan that the younger Dumas had in mind when he wrote the play. That was Alphonsine Plessis who, doing business under the name of Marie Duplessis, was once, for a little time, the talk of Paris. Dumas, fils, had an affair with her which his father was able to break up without having to appeal to her better nature. He broke it up by the more prosaic device of treating his son to the expense of a trip to Spain. By the time the youth returned to Paris, his lady lay buried in Montmartre Cemetery where you can see her grave today. While he was busy covering it with camellias and himself with reproaches, the poor girl’s creditors were auctioning off the contents of her flat. Sundry agitated old gentlemen from the Faubourg St.-Germain bid high for such desks and cabinets as might conceivably shelter the letters they had been so careless as to write her. All this was noted with fine English disapproval by Mr. Dickens, who was in Paris at the time, and who, bless his heart, went off, buckety-buckety, to attend the sale.

The grief of the bereft Dumas took the form of a novel, and from that he made the play which was first acted in this country by Jean Davenport under the title of “Camille: or The Fate of a Coquette.” It was then successfully taken over by the lovely Matilda Heron, who translated her own version but still clung to the preposterous Davenport title, which has always bewildered the French. (Miss Heron’s grandson, by the way, has made a name for himself in the theatre, said name being Gilbert Miller.)

From the first, America delighted in “Camille,” and up to thirty years ago most of the actresses, foreign as well as native, played the part at one time or another—even Modjeska, despite William Winter’s plea to her that she not degrade her art by portraying a fallen woman, and despite the pitfalls of a Polish accent which necesitated her crying out “Armong, I loaf you !” The Marguerite Gautier of Dumas’s imagination was a wasted, waxen girl who died when she was twenty, but she was so often depicted in Nineteenth-Century America by robust actresses in full bloom that I suppose most people grew to think of her as one who had died of gluttony.

THEN I suspect I was drawn to the ticket booth of this latest revival by an incurable wonder about Lillian Gish. A mockingly elusive phenomenon, Miss Gish. Was she a good actress? Was she an actress at all? After seeing the pastel wraith which she substituted for the smouldering Helena of “Uncle Vanya,” I rather thought not. But she was so grotesquely miscast as the disastrous woman in that lovely play that I went to “Camille” with an open mind. It is still open. I do not envy the task of the reviewers who must try to make an intelligible report on that baffling performance. It will be easy enough to describe its obvious shortcomings, its emotional emptiness, the pinched little voice which reduces all her colloquies to an arid prattle. One has the illusion of watching “Camille” played by a small-town high-school girl. This is part of an abiding immaturity which one finds difficult to describe in such words as will distinguish it from arrested development. It is the immaturity of a pressed flower–sweet, cherishable, withered.

It has a gnomelike unrelation to the processes of life and death. It has the pathos of little bronze dancing boots, come upon suddenly in an old trunk. It is the ghost of something that has passed this way-the exquisite print of a fern in an immemorial rock. It is of a quality for which I can find no words. As you see.

Then, when one has said all that, how shall one find other words for certain moments of loveliness which, by sorcery, she does impart to this fond and foolish old play. All around her in the death scene there is a shining light which the puzzled electrician cannot account for. And when she retreats into the garden in Auteuil, there passes over her a shadow as delicate and fleeting as the reflection of a cloud in the mirror of a quiet lake. Or am I babbling? I really do not know how to translate into print the tantalizing mystery of Lillian Gish. I do wish America had never been wired for sound. Even so, I shall buy me a ticket when next she treads

the boards in our town in another play. Even after seeing “Camille.” Even after reading that astounding opus of Albert Bigelow Paine’s declining years, “Life and Lillian Gish,” which, insofar as I have had the strength to examine it, seems to me, in a quiet way, the most sickening book of our time. ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT.

Camille Cast with R.E. Jones and Lillian Gish in Chappel Garden by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas 1932
Camille Cast with R.E. Jones and Lillian Gish in Chappel Garden by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas 1932

Excerpts: Silent Star – By Colleen Moore (1968), Gish and Garbo – The Executive War on Stars – By Louise Brooks (1959), The MGM Girls Behind The Velvet Courtain (1983), by Peter Harry Brown & Pamela Ann Brown

Lillian Gish and Greta Garbo - on set for The Wind
Lillian Gish and Greta Garbo – on set for The Wind

Sixteen years were to pass between the public execution of Lillian Gish and the bloodless exile of Greta Garbo. Hollywood producers were left with their babes and a backwash of old men stars, watching the lights go out in one picture house after another across the country. (Louise Brooks)

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The Expressions Of Dorothy Gish – (Picture Show, 1920)

Picture Show October 15th , 1920.

The Expressions Of Dorothy Gish. (Special to the “Picture Show”)

DOROTHY GISH.

The Laughing Star Whose Black Bobbed Wig is Her Mascot.

 

Lillian Gish and The Little Disturber (Dorothy) - Hearts of The World
Lillian Gish and The Little Disturber (Dorothy) – Hearts of The World

DOROTHY GISH and her sister Lillian are as unlike as they can be. Dorothy explains this in three words : ” Lillian is good,” she says. Dorothy began her screen career playing serious roles, and strangely enough it took a picture of tragedy—a picture of the Great War—to prove that comedy was her strong point, but it’s true. If you saw the D. W. Griffith play, “Hearts of the World,” you will understand. This was a play with the scenes set in France, showing the havoc war made in the hearts of the people.

Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World
Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World

Everyone who saw the picture will remember Lillian Gish, distraught with the horrors she had suffered by the invasion of her country by the Germans, wandering on to the battlefield in search of her lover, carrying, as a mother would her child, her wedding frock.

Hearts of the World program - Little Disturber
Hearts of the World program – Little Disturber

The Little Disturber.

THERE was one brief respite from the terrible tragedy of the film. This was when the ” little disturber ” appeared. The little disturber was a mischief loving girl, and for this part Dorothy Gish was chosen. Because she was so like her sister Lillian, to make herself different, she wore a wig. In the part Dorothy achieved fame, and swore allegiance to her wig ; she has worn it on the screen for every picture since.

Dorothy Gish, Noel Coward -- Hearts of the World
Dorothy Gish, Noel Coward — Hearts of the World

To Laugh or Cry.

DOROTHY speaks laughingly now of the days when she played nuns, cast – off daughters, wronged sisters, etc. She tells of the hours she posed before her mirror, casting her eves sorrowfully down, or tragically up ; reading Omar Khayyam — anything to get her naturally bubbling spirits down to the point required for the part. But Dorothy has since learned that it is as hard to be merry all the time as it is to be sad. There are days when even her high spirits cannot rise to the insistent demands of her director to be funny.

Dorothy as "The Little Disturber"
Dorothy as “The Little Disturber”

” It’s hard to make people laugh,” says Dorothy. ” And there are nights when I cry myself to sleep – disappointed because I can’t think of something funny that has not been done before.

” Another thing that worries me is that some people seem to think because I play the uncultivated girl on the screen, I drink out of a fingerbowl and eat asparagus with a knife, that I am really like that in real life.

” We have to do many things on the screen that would make us shudder if we had to repeat them in private life. Again, many people think that cinema actresses converse in slang. True, slang words are largely used on the screen to explain a scene ; but, after all, that is the producer’s business, and not ours. As a matter of fact, I rather pride myself on being able to speak clearly and correctly.”

pictureplay magazine Dorothy Gish driving her car
pictureplay magazine Dorothy Gish driving her car

Her Closest Friend.

Dorothy Gish as The Little Disturber in The Hearts of The World
Dorothy Gish as The Little Disturber in The Hearts of The World

AT one time Dorothy Gish was known to cinema goers merely as Lillian’s sister ; but to-day she has established for herself a very high place among screen artistes by her clever work. No article about Dorothy Gish would be complete without a reference to the wonderful affection she feels towards Constance Talmadge. The two are inseparable, and when Constance decided to accompany Norma to Europe, Dorothy at once coaxed her director into giving her permission to travel with her friend. Sightseeing and shopping (both spelt with a capital S) has occupied every minute of this holiday tour. The Paris shops were a great attraction, and Dorothy’s luggage has considerably increased by her visit there. Florence, Naples, Rome, and our own beloved London are among the pleasant memories Dorothy has to take back with her to Lillian. Added to this Dorothy takes back a box of presents, among which are some wonderful frocks for her sister.

Picture Show (Oct 1920) Expressions Dorothy Gish
Picture Show (Oct 1920) Expressions of Dorothy Gish

paramount-silent-films-star-dorothy_1

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Honors (Kennedy Center) – The New Yorker (1982)

A movable feast of parties, testimonials, and live entertainment which celebrates the careers of five distinguished Americans in the  performing  arts ­ this year they were George Abbott, Lillian Gish, Eugene Ormandy, Benny Goodman, and Gene  Kelly

Lillian Gish (left) Mr. Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Nancy Reagan 1982 - Kennedy Center
Lillian Gish (left) Mr. Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Nancy Reagan 1982 – Kennedy Center

CARY GRANT gets stagefright, Benny Goodman is absent minded. George Abbott’s favorite song, now that he has directed ninety ­ nine plays and musicals, is “Falling in Love with Love,” from “The Boys from Syracuse.” Secretary of State George Shultz sports a red satin Marine dress cummerbund with his dinner jacket, because he used to be a Marine. Eddie Albert was trained in classical music at the Cincinnati Conservatory and is a Wagnerian – opera buff. Lillian Gish is an old friend of Nancy Reagan’s mother, and invited our First Lady to dinner frequently when Mrs. Reagan was a struggling young actress in New York. Gene Kelly sang “The Wearing of the Green” with President Kennedy on the night of his Inauguration, and both men forgot the second verse. Eugene Ormandy began his American musical career as a last-chair violinist in the pit orchestra of the old Capitol Theatre  in New York. William Agee, of Bendix, is a Goodman fan, and Yves Montand is fascinated by Peggy Lee.

Peggy Lee - Kennedy Center 1982
Peggy Lee – Kennedy Center 1982

Van Johnson lives in an  apartment near Sutton Place with four cats he’s picked up during appearances in din­ ner theatres around the country. Hal Linden was Tom Bosley’s understudy in  George  Abbott’s  “The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N,” a hard ­ luck  musical  that  opened   on   the day Martin Luther King was assassinated. Schuyler and  Betty  Chapin know practically everybody in the performing arts. Isaac and Vera Stern know everybody in  the  performing arts. Senator Charles Percy is trying to persuade Congress to cancel the accumulated interest on the Kennedy Center’s forty-five-million-dollar  debt  to the United States government. Budget Director David Stockman is  shorter and grayer than he looks on television, and Interior Secretary James Wall is taller and balder.  These are some of the nuggets of information we picked up during a weekend trip to Washington  for  the  Kennedy  Center  Honors, a movable feast of parties, testimonials, and live entertainment which celebrates the careers of five distinguished Americans in the  performing  arts ­ this year they were George Abbott, Lillian Gish, Eugene Ormandy, Benny  Goodman,  and  Gene  Kelly – and adds about half a million dollars to the Center’s bank account.

Benny Goodman - 1982 Kennedy Center
Benny Goodman – 1982 Kennedy Center

There were four main functions: a private State Department dinner, where the Honors-multicolored ribbon necklaces clasped by three gold-plated bars – were handed out; a  White House reception, during which President Reagan introduced each honoree to the assembled guests; a variety show at the Kennedy Center Opera House, which consisted of filmed biographies of the honorees and tributes from their fellow-artists; and, after the show, a dinner dance for fifteen hundred people in the great hall of the Center.

Lillian Gish is greeted by Mrs. Nancy Reagan and President Ronald Reagan - 1982
Lillian Gish is greeted by Mrs. Nancy Reagan and President Ronald Reagan – 1982

In case you’re wondering why President Reagan didn’t hand out the ribbons himself, we should explain that, despite all kinds of support from the government, the Honors are essentially a private affair. Recipients are suggested by the Center’s eighty-one­member Artists Committee, but the final choice is made by a ten-man executive committee chaired by Roger Stevens, the Kennedy Center chairman. Although there is on occasion some discussion about the candidates, it is generally acknowledged that Mr. Stevens is the dominant influence in the choice of honorees- especially when it comes to the theatre.

Benny Goodman honored - 1982 Kennedy Center
Benny Goodman honored – 1982 Kennedy Center

Things got under way at seven­ thirty on a balmy Saturday evening with cocktails and dinner in the State Department’s official reception rooms, which are furnished with American antiques and Oriental carpets  and are named for Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams. We wandered out onto a broad terrace overlooking the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and admired some more recent national treasures: Claudette Colbert, in gold-and-navy sequins; Leona Mitchell, in black sequins; Martha Scott, in purple silk; Eva Marie Saint, in black silk; and Peggy Lee, in ruffled and spangled black lace. We fell into conversation with Jean Stapleton, who said that George Abbott had provided her with her first real break in the theatre. (“He hired me, a greenhorn, as Sister in ‘Damn Yankees.’ There were two other relative greenhorns in that show-Hal Prince and Richard Adler.”) Peggy Lee told us that she was writing her musical autobiography for the Broadway stage.

Mrs. Reagan greets Gene Kelly - 1982
Mrs. Reagan greets Gene Kelly – 1982

Yves Montand explained that he was narrating Gene Kelly’s biographical film, because he’d admired Kelly’s films for many years. Lionel Hampton remembered the exact date of his first encounter with Benny Goodman. (“I was playing at the Paradise night club in L.A. on August 20, 1936, when suddenly I heard this clarinet come in on the bandstand next to me.”) Eugene lstomin told us that he had made his concert debut at seventeen with Maestro Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. (“I played the Chopin Second with one rehearsal, and I still remember the wonderful support he gave me.”) Then we talked to Van Johnson, who told us that Mr. Abbott’s casting of him as Victor in “Pal Joey” had sent him to California and a movie career (“I ended up with ten lines and a reprise of ‘Happy Hunting Horn,’ and a lot of people noticed me”); and to Eddie Albert, who was recovering from the shock of singing the aged Emperor in a San Francisco Opera production of Puccini’s “Turandot.” “Luciano Pavarotti swindled me into doing it,” he said. “The score only has about eight notes, but when I opened my mouth to sing the first night I found I’d forgotten all of them. For­ tunately, the prompter saved me.”

Ronald Reagan and Lillian Gish
Ronald Reagan and Lillian Gish – 1982

The White House reception, on the following day, was a larger and more formal affair. Guests were ceremoniously announced at the door, music was subdued and classical, and a decorous receiving line snaked in and out of the Blue  Room.  Toward  the  end of   the  afternoon,   President   Reagan mounted a platform in the East Room and introduced each of the honorees ­ Lillian Gish, fragile and lovely in a high-waisted pale-peach silk ball gown; George Abbott, forceful and sharpeyed at ninety-five; Eugene Ormandy, twinkly-eyed and benign at eighty ­ three; Benny Goodman, with his curiously remote smile; and Gene Kelly, with   his  infectious  Irish  grin-to what might be called the Washington establishment.

Lillian Gish in 1982 NY Apartment
Lillian Gish in 1982 NY Apartment

Of  Miss  Gish,  the President said, “Her performances set a standard of enigmatic allure that has never been equalled.” Of Mr. Abbott, he  said, “Mr. Abbott-I’m  not  sure enough yet to call him George, as I’m temporarily  between  engagements ­ has surely earned the reputation as the dean of American showmen.” Of Mr. Ormandy, he said, “You once said, ‘I had tasted the intoxicating wine of being a wunderkind, and my whole ambition was to be a wunder-man as well.’ Your fellow-Americans want you to know that in their eyes you’ve made it.” Of Mr. Goodman, he said, “He ushered in the era of swing and the music took America by storm.” Of Mr. Kelly, he said, “Bob Hope used to say that every time Kelly dances Fred Astaire starts counting his money. To have seen him dance makes most of us start counting our blessings.” The show that followed at the Kennedy Center demonstrated, as Walter Cronkite, the host, remarked, “not only an abundance of excellence . . . but a diversity of talent.” Leona Mitchell sang “Mi chiamano Mimi” for Miss Gish, who had once played Mimi in a silent film of Puccini’s “La Boheme.” Isaac Stern, accompanied by the Kennedy Center Orchestra under Julius Rudel, played the sublime slow movement of Mozart’s Concerto in G Major for Eugene Ormandy. Peggy Lee said, “Benny, you may remember this,” and sang ‘”Where or When” in her familiar, smoky voice. Lionel Hampton and his quartet bopped through “Air Mail Special” for Benny Goodman,  and  then  Mr. Hampton took over the drums and led the entire orchestra in “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

George Abbott - 1982 Kennedy Center
George Abbott – 1982 Kennedy Center

Betty Buckley sang “Memory” for all five honorees, and Gregory Hines tapped his way through “I Got Rhythm” for Gene Kelly. But the high points of the evening were two old-fashioned vaudeville acts, with casts that had been assembled from all over the country. The first was a quintet of Abbott protégés – Van Johnson, Tom Bosley, Hal Linden, Eddie Albert, and Jean Stapleton – who soft-shoed through “You’ve Gotta Have Heart,” with some special lyrics, ending, “We’ve got George, We’ve got George, We’ve got George.” The second was a quartet of Kelly cronies – a bearded Donald O’Connor, a slinky, long-stemmed Cyd Charisse, a bouncy Betty Com­ den, and an impish Adolph Green ­ singing, “A star with a brain, Who’s dancin’ And acting And directing And choreographing And making love And SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.” After the show, we sat down to dinner next to William Eells, a Ford Motor Company executive from Columbus, Ohio, who told us that he’d attended every one of the five Honors celebrations. “This year, I had a nice talk with Eugene Ormandy about the late George Szell,” he said and I found that Cary Grant and Claudette Colbert knew my father’s cousin Franchot Tone when he was in the movies. These affairs make those of us who are involved with fund raising for the arts feel really appreciated.”

kennedy-center-honorees george-abbott-lillian-gish-benny-goodman-gene kelly 01 12 1982
kennedy-center-honorees george-abbott-lillian-gish-benny-goodman-gene kelly 01 12 1982
1982 DC Ronald Reagan - Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)
1982 DC Ronald Reagan – Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)

Photo Gallery:

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The Price They Paid for Stardom – By Myrtle West (Photoplay Nov. 1926)

Photoplay November 1926 Vol. XXX Number Six

The Price They Paid for Stardom

By Myrtle West

Do they profit by their popularity—or are they victims of fate?

Irving G. Thalberg, Lillian Gish, Louis B. Mayer 1926
Irving G. Thalberg, Lillian Gish, Louis B. Mayer 1926

 

Italian postcard, no. 22. Publicity still for The Scarlet Letter (Victor Sjöström, 1926)

WouId you want to be a star—If you knew that you never could laugh?

If you had to go through life with cross-eyes?

If it cost you the love of your husband or wife ?

If you might have to pay for fame with your life ?

Oddly enough, Lillian Gish’s regime is like Mae Murray’s. Lillian has less real fun than any girl in the world. Although somewhere around the age of thirty, Lillian is constantly chaperoned. Lillian’s public demands a nun like idol. And Lillian lives up to this ideal with amazing consistency.

 

Lillian cannot marry. No one wants to think of her as a domestic little wife.

George Jean Nathan Chateau Du Plessis France 22
George Jean Nathan and Lillian Gish at Chateau Du Plessis – France 1922

Lillian cannot eat in public; she might spoil the illusion.

Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford
Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford

Lillian cannot wear gay clothes, flirt, dance, or lose her temper. Lillian’s life is divided between the studio and her home. At the studio she works hard and there is seldom any joking or laughing on her set.

Lillian Gish - with Hupmobile car
Lillian Gish – with Hupmobile car

When she goes home, she rides in a curtained limousine with her chaperon. At home, she reads stories and scripts and sits with her invalid mother.

1937-LILLIAN-GISH-Famed-Film-Actress-Mother

And all around her the lesser players of Hollywood dance, flirt, fall in love, have children and enjoy themselves.

Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter - Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter – Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Photoplay (Nov 1926) The Price they paid
Photoplay (Nov 1926) The Price they paid

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The Great War Propaganda – By Louella O. Parsons (Photoplay 1918)

Photoplay – Vol. XIV September 1918 No. 4

Propaganda!

An earnest consideration of the inestimable part being played by the Motion Picture in the Great War.

By Louella O. Parsons (Excerpts)

If German vandalism could reach overseas, the Kaiser would order every moving picture studio crushed to dust, and every theatre blown to atoms. There has been no more effective ammunition aimed at the Prussian empire than these picture stories of Germany’s atrocities.

Griffith and the Great War 2
Griffith and the Great War 2

First because the moving picture reaches such an enormous audience. Where the novel eight times out of ten presents a more logical discussion of the cause, and the stirring patriotic play has more claim to pur attention it only reaches the thousands, where the film is seen and absorbed by millions. Moving pictures encircle the globe in every inhabited city, and are shown at a price which makes it possible for everyone to see them. These followers of the cinema have seen with their own eyes how German militarism is waged against civilization.

They have seen the rape of Belgium, the devastation of France and the evil designs against America, Italy and France. They have lived over with these unfortunates this tragedy against helpless women and children, and with tears in their eyes and horror in their hearts have cried aloud for vengeance against this soulless nation. And while these film plays have been raising the temperature of the Allies’ patriotism to blood heat, Germany has been gnashing its teeth. The natural question, Why doesn’t Germany meet these attacks with similar moving pictures? brings back an answer attacking one place where Germany’s widely touted efficiency is at fault. We do not doubt for the minute that Germany is making a strong attempt to come back at us with its own moving picture propaganda, but we who have studied the film situation since long before the war know that the kaiser’s domain is not equipped to circulate any such productions as we have been viewing the last twelve months. And if it were it would not have an American audience to reach. We with our cosmopolitan population of mixed races are able to reach the very people Germany ‘is struggling to get into its clutches.

Griffith and the Great War 5
Griffith and the Great War 5

And again, if it had studio facilities, there is no story it could tell to gain sympathy. The allies have never invaded a Belgium, nor destroyed a France, nor waged any unholy war against defenseless women and children. The powers at Washington realized what a factor the screen would be in the war against William Hohenzollern. The declaration of war was not a week old when President Wilson sent for W. A. Brady to co-operate with him in getting the moving picture industry in line. What the fifth estate did in the way of starting the ball rolling with its four-minute men, its patriotic strips of film and with the active assistance of the three Liberty Loan Campaigns is too well known to need further comment. But the big thing the film producer has done was to create within the year over sixty pictorial propagandas, or more than one a week. Not all of these moving pictures have been intelligently constructed. Some of them have been absurd and impossible; others have been written too obviously for financial gain, but the strong argument is, that they have all sent people home thinking and planning of some way to be of service to the government. The government too, has been able to use the screen as a school of instruction, a sort of military text book. By following the weekly films, the mothers at home, the fathers and the younger children have been able to get a very fair idea of what the sailors and soldiers are doing in the military training camps. Every open phase of military life has been narrated in a most entertaining fashion on the screen. England and France have not been slow to realize the value of following America by presenting their righteous cause in a pictured story.

D.W. Griffith in the trenches on the western front
D.W. Griffith in the trenches on the western front

An invitation was sent to David Wark Griffith to come to the fighting fronts and make a moving picture of the conflict for the English government. Mr. Griffith was asked to give a cinematic argument of why German militarism, like a cancerous growth, should be cut away before it further menaces civilization by its malignant presence. The adventures of David Griffith on those foreign shores are like a wonder tale of Aladdin and his magic lamp. If I had not heard the story from Mr. Griffith’s own lips I might have accused someone of flirting with the truth. Conservative England received him as they might have received a visiting potentate. Lloyd George personally appeared before the camera with him; Queen Alexandria expressed a desire to meet the American whose magic would bring the war home to so many indifferent hearts, and social England, devoted to the war stricken country, helped by facing the camera. Such women as Lady Diana Manners, Mrs. Buller, Elizabeth Asquith, and the Duchess of Beaufort turned moving picture actress to have a part in the British war film. Government aid and official escort did not make the filming of this picture as simple as it sounds. To get the great panorama of battle in action, the moving picture camera had to be carried into the front line trenches. Shot and shell and gas explosions became a part of the daily Griffith menu. After the camera was blown to bits on one occasion, care was taken to make a facsimile of every battle scene filmed, so a retake could be made in the California studios if it should be necessary.

DW Griffith shooting a scene from The Great Love 1918
DW Griffith shooting a scene from The Great Love 1918

The last time I talked with Mr. Griffith, he was greatly upset at the reports that the Germans were planning to invade Ham, Amiens, Ypres and Chalnes. “Some of those villages,” he said, “are the very spots in which I established my temporary studios. The villagers were deeply interested in the moving picture which was to carry a message to the outside world. Old men., women and children left at home gave freely of their hospitality. This eighteen months’ work in France and England resulted in a combination romance and history. The bleak desolation of “No Man’s Land” with the grim, smoke-stained soldiers are the “supers,” who played in this picture as earnestly as they “play” “over there” in the big war drama for your freedom and for mine. The great stretch of devastated territory, with its accoutrements of war, its trenches and barbed wire fences, are all pictured as accurately as though we were standing there, gazing at the tangible result of German kultur.

Sarah Bernhardt - Mothers of France 1
Sarah Bernhardt – Mothers of France

It is difficult to discriminate and say which film has done the most to aid the fight. Madame Sarah Bernhardt’s ‘Mothers of France,” which should have been titled “Mothers of the World,” has probably called forth the most tears. Madame Bernhardt, with a brave spark burning in her feeble body, stood knee deep in the trenches and offered herself a living sacrifice to her beloved France. The tears are not only for the bereaved mothers, but also for the pathetic old woman, lame and sick, who forgot her own discomfort to try and stir the other women of the world to action. The motive of this picture glorifies it. No one who ever saw Bernhardt and her silent plea that we give our loved ones gladly and proudly to the cause will ever forget her message. Herbert Brenon made a stepchild to the war films in a screen play featuring Rasputin and the downfall of the Romanoff dynasty. This and his English birth brought forth an invitation from the English government for him to make an historical film record for the British archives. Mr. Brenon is now in England working on this mission. There have been many official war films, some of them actually photographed at battles which have now gone down in history as decisive moments in the great world’s war. Among those which have occupied the screen during the past year are: “The Retreat of the Germans at the Battle of Arras,” “The Italian Battlefronts,” “The Battle of the Ancre,” and “Heroic France and the German Curse in Russia.” The last named is more of a pictorial discussion of the Russian situation than a moving picture of any specific battle scene. All of these war time pictures have been received with enthusiasm with the exception of a few which had been better left unfilmed. These are hectic dramas using the war as a reason for their existing, and made with no high patriotic purpose, but with a thinly veiled camouflage to make money. They have offended both the individual patriot and the government. The very fact that some of the producers have taken advantage of war time has induced the government to put every patriotic picture released under strict surveillance, with a trained corps of men to pass upon their fitness to serve as propaganda.

Sarah Bernhardt - Mothers of France 3
Sarah Bernhardt – Mothers of France 3

Some of these features, while harmless enough, are so badly done, that even the heavy Teutonic nature must have found them amusing. But the good done by the screen has far outweighed any evil effects of these ridiculous war films. The President has congratulated the moving picture industry on the help it has given the nation at this time, and he and the other men now at the helm in Washington have gone on record as saying these pictorial propagandas are among the most valuable war-time assets United States owns.

Hearts of the World
Hearts of the World

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HENRY KING – Director From Silents to ‘Scope (1995)

HENRY KING – Director

From Silents to ‘Scope

Based on Interviews by David Shepard and Ted Perry

Copyright 1995 by Directors Guild of America, Inc.

Introduction

Henry King, noted director, producer, actor, writer and editor of film.
Henry King – 1937 (Bettmann Collection) – noted director, producer, actor, writer and editor of film.

It is ironic in this day of home video and cable television, when we have virtually every existing motion picture within easy grasp, that we seem ever more in danger of allowing film history to fade away. Too many of the greatest artists of the medium are today nearly unknown. Twenty years ago the works of Griffith, Keaton, von Stroheim, Chaplin, Ford and Hawks were taught in college cinema courses as a matter of routine. Today you can throw a stone on any college campus without hitting a student who has even heard of Foolish Wives or True Heart Susie or Sherlock Jr. If the acknowledged masters of the cinema are in danger of being neglected, what of the brilliant craftsmen whose careers have cried out for rediscovery: Herbert Brenon, Marshall Neilan, Maurice Tourneur, Henry King? Of these, King is undoubtedly the best known, yet appraisal of his career has always seemed particularly problematic. In the Twenties, with acclaimed masterworks such as ToVable David (1921), The White Sister (1923) and Stella Dallas (1925) under his belt, King was considered among the pantheon of American directors, a worthy successor to Griffith. But his tenure at Twentieth Century-Fox, beginning in 1930 and lasting until his retirement, muddied the waters a little. Still highly regarded critically, particularly for his serious dramas like Twelve O’clock High (1949) and The Gunfighter (1950), King’s creative signature became so intertwined with the Fox aesthetic that, during his lifetime, he was regarded more as a supremely commercial filmmaker than an artist.

1925 - Alice Terry and director Henry King
1925 – Alice Terry and director Henry King

Rediscovery has seemed imminent at several points in the last two decades. Late in his life, King received tributes at film festivals and museums and a few articles were written about his oeuvre but, by and large, film scholars passed King by in favor of more “personal” artists. As historian William K. Everson wrote in his book American Silent Film, “For directors of the past to be rediscovered by contemporary critics, they usually have to have been off-beat, ahead of their time, or even abysmally bad but at the same time interesting in a bizarre way. But King fits into none of these categories. Far from being ahead of his time, he was exactly of his time.”

Henry King and Ronald Colman - MGM The Magic Flame
Henry King and Ronald Colman – MGM The Magic Flame

On Filmmaking

To me, motion pictures are less about art than about story telling. The moment I started making pictures, I started looking at pictures to see what they were all about because I hadn’t seen many before. D.W. Griffith’s The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1914), with Mae Marsh and Lillian Gish, really stood out in my mind. The thing that impressed me about this one was that it definitely told its story better than any of the pictures that I had seen. I didn’t particularly notice the form or method Griffith used. The story stood out and he told it well. A motion picture director is a story teller. If he knows how to punctuate and accentuate, he knows the art of telling stories. One night in the Thirties at Twentieth Century-Fox, I was at a dinner at which Irwin Cobb was giving a talk. I don’t remember precisely what story he told — probably one of his “Judge Priest” tales — but the way he told it was just dynamic, it was very, very funny. There was an audience of about 150 people and when he finished his story, he got a standing ovation. About a month later I heard someone else tell the same story and it was the dullest thing I ever heard in my life. From that I learned that sometimes it’s the way you tell a story rather than the story itself that makes it effective. When I was filming The White Sister in Italy in 1923, I was in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel in Rome waiting for someone. I saw an Italian, who looked very much the part of a nobleman — so well dressed, so immaculate — go over to greet a beautiful lady who had just come down the stairs. He bowed and, very gallantly, he kissed her hand. Moments later an elderly man got off the elevator and came over to them. He took out his handkerchief and rubbed her hand off before he kissed it; he rubbed off the other man’s kiss. Later, when I was doing The Woman Disputed (1928) with Norma Talmadge, that incident popped into my mind, and I found a situation in which to use it. In the theater it got a terrific laugh, it was very, very funny. And it was real.

Lillian Gish – Returning from Rome (White Sister) after visiting the HH Pope (International Newsreel)
Lillian Gish – Returning from Rome (White Sister) after visiting the HH Pope (International Newsreel)

One day Charlie Duell asked me, “What would you think if we could bring Lillian Gish into the company?” I didn’t know that he was a little bit sweet on her. I said, “I think it’d be a great asset. But what’s she going to do?”

“That’s what I want to ask you,” Charlie said. Like a flash in my mind, I remembered an old play, The White Sister, that had come around when I was in stock. I hadn’t played in it, but I had read it. It was from Marion Crawford’s book and Viola Allen had played it on the stage to tremendous success. I said to Charlie, “The White Sister seems to me a great thing for Lillian Gish.”

 

The White Sister
The White Sister

THE WHITE SISTER (1923)

[Lillian Gish plays Angela Chiaromonte, an Italian woman whose half sister usurps their late father’s estate. Angela joins a convent when her fiance Soverini (Ronald Colman) is reportedly killed in a war in Africa. Soverini (** Giovanni Severi – original film character) returns home alive, and tries in vain to convince Angela to renounce her vows. Soverini gives his life to save his townspeople from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.]

The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) - The White Sister 1923 — with Lillian Gish.

I had used my free time on the Nearis to re-read The White Sister. In my little berth, I was reading it in bits and pieces. It wasn’t as good as I had remembered. When I met Charlie Duell and Lillian Gish in Boston, they had both read it and were just thrilled to death. They thought it was a good story. I said, “I think it’s terrible and I’ll tell you why.” We were in the Ritz Carlton Hotel and I started in telling them this awful story and about two-thirds of the way through I stopped. “It strikes me,” I said, “that I’m telling you a pretty good story.”

Lillian said, “That’s what I was thinking. If you’re telling us a bad story, we need more bad stories like it.”

I turned to Charlie. “Buy it,” I said. He bought the rights to the play for $16,000 and two weeks later William Randolph Hearst wanted to buy it for Marion Davies. The rights owners could have made a lot more from Hearst than from selling it to us. Charlie Whittaker wrote the first screen treatment of The White Sister, but I didn’t find it satisfactory. Then Eddie Goulding said to me, “I can do the greatest screenplay of this.” I said, “Go ahead.” He wrote it in ten days and when I read it I dropped it right in the waste paper basket. He had been writing these pictures for Robert Z. Leonard and Mae Murray [Broadway Rose, Fascination and Peacock Alley; all 1922] and had turned The White Sister into a pure Mae Murray, one of those flippant, fluttering little butterflies. So I threw it away. Eddie got so mad he didn’t know what to do and it sort of left me in the lurch. I had the story and Lillian Gish but I didn’t know exactly which way to go. I went over to the Lamb’s Club for lunch and saw George Hobart sitting there. I asked him to have lunch with me. George was a very capable man. He wrote the Follies for thirteen consecutive years and he wrote many of Lillian Russell’s plays like Wild Flower. I said, “George, how would you like to work with me on a screenplay?”

“I’ve seen very few pictures in my life,” George said.

“I don’t know, pictures never appealed to me.” I took him up to the Capitol Theater, to impress him. I said, “Theaters like this show motion pictures.” He didn’t know such things existed. The Follies always played at the New Amsterdam Theater, so he only knew the little theaters around 42nd Street; the Capitol was way uptown. He was awestruck. I asked George, “What will you take to work with me for a couple of weeks?”

“For $765,” he replied, “I’ll commit murder, if it isn’t too obvious. I’m in desperate straits right now.” They had just foreclosed on his house. I said, “I’ll give you $1,000 if you work with me this next week.” Went down to Atlantic City, where he lived, and started working. He had brilliant ideas. We worked from eight o’clock until noon, had lunch, took a walk on the boardwalk, went back and worked until about six thirty in the evening and he would go home. We did that every day for, I think, eight days. When I left, I had the entire story on twelve sheets of paper. And that was the script the way it was shot. We went to Italy to make a feature from twelve pages of script!

The White Sister
The White Sister (Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman)

When I was planning The White Sister I was desperate to get a man to play Giovanni. Everybody, in fact, was trying to help me cast the picture. Eddie Small called me and said, “I have a woman playing at the Empire Theatre [Ruth Chatterton in La Tendresse] who I think you should see to play Lillian Gish ‘s half-sister.” He said, “I’ll send over two tickets for you to see it tonight. And I’m sending two other tickets so that you can see her in the first act at the Empire, then go right around the corner to the 39th Street Theater. There’s a man that I want you to see for Giovanni’ My wife and I went to the Empire Theatre that night and watched the first act. I saw the woman I was supposed to see and when the act was over we got up and went out into the lobby. My wife said, “You know, I’ve seen the first acts or the last act of almost every show in New York. I haven’t seen one show all the way through. Why don’t we stay and see Act Two? You don’t want to get around there until the third act, anyway.”

The White Sister
The White Sister (Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman) – promotional

“Fine,” I said. “We’ll do that.” We walked back into the theater and the curtain went up on the second act. There was a knock at the door, the leading lady opened it — the play was about a clandestine affair — and in walked a man and he played through this act. When her husband returned, the adulterer went out the window and the curtain came down. My wife said, “Now there’s the man you’re looking for. Let’s stay and see the next act.” I agreed that he looked very good. I looked at the program and saw his name: Ronald Colman. We stayed and saw the last act, and he wasn’t in it at all — he was just in that one act. The next day there was an agent in my office and I asked him, “Do you know an actor named Ronald Colman?” He said, “Yes, I represent him.”

“Well,” I said, “I’d like to talk to him.” He brought Mr. Colman over to my office and Mr.

Colman was very appreciative and said that he had had a screen test in England and was told that he didn’t photo graph well. “I came to the United States on the recommendation of one of the directors from Paramount.”

I said, “I think we’ll just have you make a test.”

“I’d love to make a test’ he said, “but I hate to waste your time and money. Mr. [Gilbert] Miller put me in this show and I think I’d better stay where I belong — the theater.”

The White Sister
The White Sister (Ronald Colman and Lillian Gish)

I made a test. I just set the camera up and asked him embarrassing questions to take his mind off the camera, so he was only thinking about me. Soon, the real man was coming out. I asked him to answer me absolutely honestly — I can tell when anything is honest or when it’s a little bit strained — so he did some of his best acting in this scene. He was natural, he was himself, he answered sincerely, you believed everything he said. When we finished this first scene, I said, “Go out, do something with your hair.” He wore it in a kind of pompadour. We parted his hair, slicked it down and combed it and I made another 400 feet. He was going to play an Italian army officer, so I took a retouching pencil and put a little mustache on him. When we got finished with all these tests I said, “Mr. Colman, you are 90% on the way I don’t want to make any decisions until I actually see the film but, from my judgement, you’re the man I’m looking for.” I called Duell and said, “I think I have the man I want but I want you to see the film with me tomorrow morning. Let’s have Lillian Gish there, too, and see what she thinks of him. She has to work with him, after all.” At ten o’clock the next morning the three of us met in the projection room and it turned out exactly as I thought it would. You could see the development from the first test to the next — the hair, the mustache, that made him Giovanni. Lillian said, “The only objection I can think of is that he’s an Englishman and Englishmen are awfully stiff.”

I said, “I don’t think this one will be.”

I called his agent and signed him up for $450 a week plus expenses. There never was a man so surprised as Ronald Colman. He couldn’t believe it. He was able to get out of his contract with Gilbert Miller and ten days later we were on the ocean liner Providence, headed for Italy. All the time I was in Rome I was in touch with the Cardinal. He came to the hotel a couple of times to have tea. Lillian Gish invited him over a few times. Everybody at the hotel thought we were the greatest dignitaries in the world — Cardinals don’t run around with just anybody! From that time on, everyone at the hotel jumped to do our bidding because we knew the Cardinal.

Silver Nitrate White Sister Lobby Card Negative
White Sister Lobby Card (Inspiration Pictures)

THE WHITE SISTER (1923) Inspiration/Metro Pictures. Presented by Charles H. Duell. Scenario: George V. Hobart and Charles E. Whittaker. Titles: Will M. Ritchey and Don Bartlett. Camera: Roy Overbaugh. Editor: Duncan Mansfield. Cast: Lillian Gish, Ronald Colman, Gail Kane, J. Barney Sherry, Charles Lane.

 

Lillian Gish and director Henry King - Romola candid on set
Lillian Gish and director Henry King – Romola candid on set

ROMOLA (1925)

[Romola, based on an 1862 novel by George Eliot, re-teamed Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman in Italy, and also starred Dorothy Gish and William Powell. The story is about the daughter (Lillian Gish) of a blind scholar who marries an unscrupulous magistrate (Powell). After the magistrate betrays and angers the populace, a mob chases him to the river, where he drowns. Romola finds happiness with a sculptor (Colman).] I found the Italians to be tremendously serious in what they’re doing. They want things to be exactly right. They bend over backwards to have things exactly right and they know what they’re doing. We learned some of the most valuable things from them, especially when we were doing Romola.

Romola 1924 - scene from film - Lillian Gish
Romola 1924 – scene from film – Lillian Gish

In Romola we were trying to duplicate the Davanzati Palace, which is one of the great palaces of Florence — it stands there today. These people went down to the Davanzati Palace and plastered over it and made a cast. Then they took the cast off and nailed the stone up and it duplicated exactly all the detail in the world, like a mask. When Bob Haas and I came back to Hollywood we used that technique. We were the first people in the United States to use it and it’s been copied ever since. In Florence there was a studio that covered about forty acres. It had two small stages, nothing like the ones we had in Hollywood, but large enough for the interiors. They had just finished shooting some huge costume picture and the sets covered seventeen acres. Robert Haas was again my art director. He and I went up to see these standing sets and realized that all we had to do was peel off the fronts and change it to anything we wanted.

Romola Motion Picture Magazine Page Lillian Gish
Romola Motion Picture Magazine Page Lillian Gish

We rebuilt fifteenth century Florence on that back-lot. One building, the set for II Duomo, was 274 feet high. Our sets matched the real buildings perfectly, thanks to the Italian workmen. I made some scenes in front of the real Duomo and the real Campanile. They matched so well you couldn’t tell the difference. We needed galley ships for the picture and they were built for us at Livorno, a port south of Florence, by Tito Neri. He took the hulls of existing boats and put new superstructures on top so that they would look like authentic Italian ships of the period. We named the ships the Liliano and the Dorothea, after the Gish sisters. While filming The White Sister I had begun to take one-hour Italian lessons. I built up enough vocabulary to get along as long as you didn’t complicate things too much. The Italians have six forms of the verb “to be” and keeping track of those was enough to keep me busy. So on Romola I was beginning to speak a little Italian and that scoundrel Bill Powell — he went over without one word of Italian and within two months was speaking the language as fluently as he spoke English. When I was returning to Italy to film Romola, I called my friend Alfredo Berniggi and told him that there was an actor I wanted to meet in Rome. I said, “Get in touch with him and ask him to meet me at the Majestic Hotel.” The next morning, Alfredo picked me up and drove me to the Majestic. When we got within about a block of the hotel, there was a crowd of about a hundred and fifty people standing on the sidewalk.

“Are they here to see me?” I asked.

Alfredo grinned. “Yes, Mr. King.”

I said, “Alfredo, I wanted to see one actor. My God, you’ve got all the actors in Rome here!”

“Mr. King,” Alfredo said, “these people don’t want a job. All they want to do is just say, ‘Bon giorno, Signor King. They love you.” Well, I felt like a heel. As I got out of the car they formed a “V” and said together, “Bon giorno!” I thought, if they can do this for me, I can do the same for them. I started at the end of the line and called each one by name and shook hands with every one of them and said, “I’m glad to be back” or some other greeting in my little Italian. They applauded like everything. When I got into the hotel, Alfredo, a big husky man, was standing at the ban nister of the stairs, crying like a baby. He said, “Mr. King, any man in that group — you want somebody killed, he kill him for you.” That’s how much they loved me. They’d kill anybody for me.

Poster_-_Romola
Poster_-_Romola

ROMOLA (1925) Metro-Goldwyn. Scenario: Will M. Ritchey. Art Director: Robert M. Haas. Production Manager: Joseph C. Boyle. Shipbuilder: Tito Neri. Cast: Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish, William H. Powell, Ronald Colman, Charles Lane, Herbert Grimwood.

 

Henry King - Baja California 1965
Henry King – Baja California 1965

 

Afterword

Henry King remained an active and creative man for the rest of his life. At 94, he passed a pilot’s physical, making him the oldest licensed pilot in the United States. He attended tributes to his remarkable career at the Telluride Film Festival in 1976 (he flew his own plane to the event), the British Film Institute in 1979, the Museum of Modern Art and UCLA, both in 1980. He also, in the last decade of his life, granted several in-depth interviews with film scholars, including those which form the basis for this book. He died on June 29, 1982 at his home in Toluca Lake, California at the age of 96.

 

Henry King, director : from silents to ʼscope
Henry King, director : from silents to ʼscope – cover

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Dorothy Gish – The Girl on the Cover, By Elizabeth Borden (Photoplay 1925)

The Girl on the Cover

By Elizabeth Borden

Photoplay Magazine – August 1925, Vol. XXIX No. 3

Dorothy Gish Cca 1920 CS

DOROTHY GISH had gone down to Clinton Street, in the heart of New York’s East Side, to do some shopping. To be exact, she had to buy some costumes for her new picture. “The Beautiful City,” in which she plays a member of New York’s Four Million.

In a little hat shop—one of those funny burlesques of the Fifth Avenue establishments—a typical East Side flapper engaged Dorothy in conversation. After some talk of fashions, the girl stopped and looked at her.

“Do you know,” she said, “you look the image of Lillian Gish? Yes, you certainly look just like her! Did anyone ever tell you that before?”

“That’s what my mother says.” answered Dorothy.

The flapper sighed. “Lillian Gish looks like an angel.”

“Do I look like an angel?” asked Dorothy seriously.

Again the flapper studied her.

“No,” she said, finally, “you don’t look a bit like an angel, but you do look like Lillian Gish.”

Dorothy Gish cca 1930 - by Nell Dorr 15
Nell Dorr (1893-1988); [Portrait of Dorothy Gish view 7]; nitrate negative; Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Fort Worth TX; P1990.47.3554

And there, in a little anecdote, you have the history of the career of Dorothy Gish. Because Lillian looks like an angel, Dorothy has played the role of an imp. Because Lillian has been a tragedienne, Dorothy has been asked to play the comic. As soon as she finds a suitable story, Dorothy will be starred. Just at present she is playing opposite Richard Barthelmess. Barthelmess considers her an ideal leading woman. She is one of the most versatile and resourceful actresses on the screen. She is intelligent and keen-witted, and her suggestions are invaluable. Dorothy is one actress whose mental horizon is not limited to the screen and the studio. Her friends and her interests are varied. Just as her viewpoint is always fresh, so she imparts to her work an unfailing variety and vitality.

Her presence in a picture is valuable, not only because of her popularity, but because of the clear, analytical quality of her mind. When Lillian departed for Hollywood she left these instructions with Dorothy, “Watch my work and watch it carefully. “If you find me doing anything wrong, if you feel that I am being influenced by the accepted Hollywood standards, wire for me to come home immediately.”

Dorothy is married, as you know, to James Rennie, one of Broadway’s most popular actors. It is not only a happy marriage, it is a genuinely congenial one.

She lives in New York, near Gramercy Square.

The Girl on the Cover - Dorothy Gish - Photoplay 1925
The Girl on the Cover – Dorothy Gish – Photoplay Magazine – August 1925, Vol. XXIX No. 3
Photoplay Magazine – August 1925, Vol. XXIX No. 3
Photoplay Magazine – August 1925, Vol. XXIX No. 3 – Dorothy Gish

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HOLLYWOOD The Pioneers – by Kevin Brownlow, 1979

Hollywood, the pioneers - Hollywood in 1905
The pioneers – Hollywood in 1905

Hollywood in 1905, before the invasion. We are looking down on Hollywood Boulevard, which runs along the centre. The road on the right is Orange Drive, and the house with the oriental cupola became the home of Conway Tearle. More recently, it passed into the hands of the American Society of Cinematographers, who have carefully preserved it—the only building in the picture to survive. Apartment and office blocks now stretch to the horizon.

 

HOLLYWOOD

The Pioneers

by Kevin Brownlow

ALFRED A. KNOPF – NEW YORK, 1979

Talk to people who saw films for the first time when they were silent, and they will tell you the experience was magic. The silent film, with music, had extraordinary powers to draw an audience into the story, and an equally potent capacity to make their imagination work. They had to supply the voices and the sound effects, and because their minds were engaged, they appreciated the experience all the more. The audience was the final creative contributor to the process of making a film.

The films have gained a charm and other-worldliness with age but, inevitably, they have also lost something. The impression they made when there was no rival to the moving picture was more profound, more intense; compared to the easily accessible pictures of today, it was the blow of a two-handed axe, against the blunt scraping of a table-knife.

Hollywood, the pioneers - Rooftop Studios
Hollywood, the pioneers – Rooftop Studios

The films belong to an era considered simpler and more desirable than our own. But nostalgia should not be allowed to cast a Portobello Road quaintness over the past, for it obliges us to edit from our mind the worst aspects of a period and embrace only those elements we admire. The silent period may be known as ‘The Age of Innocence’ but it included years unrivalled for their dedicated viciousness. In Europe, between 1914 and 1918 more men were killed to less purpose than at any other time in history. In America, men who stood out from the herd—pacifists, anarchists, socialists —were rounded up and deported in 1919, and were lucky to avoid being lynched. The miseries of war culminated in the miseries of disease when the Spanish flu swept Europe and America and killed more civilians than the war had killed soldiers. With peace came the Versailles treaty—collapse and starvation in Central Europe—the idealism of Prohibition—gangsterism in America.

Hollywood, the pioneers

The benefit of the moving picture to a care-worn populace was inestimable, but the sentimentality and charm, the easily understandable, black-and-white issues were not so much a reflection of everyday life as a means of escape from it. Again and again, in the publications of the time, one reads horrified reactions against films showing ‘life as it is’.

Pioneers are people of exceptional energy—-a quality that sets them apart. An example of this occurred at the Sun Valley Western Conference in 1976, which David Gill and I attended. We encountered the director, Henry King, who had once been a pilot. He was known as the Flying Director.

Hollywood, the pioneers

I asked him if he still flew from time to time. “I flew in this morning,” he said. “Oh, I realise that,” I said, thinking of the twin-engined boneshaker which had transported us all across the mountains. “But do you ever fly your own plane?”

“I flew in my own plane this morning,” he replied. We could only blink in astonished admiration—for King’s career goes back almost as far as powered flight.

“I’m a pioneer,” said fellow-director King Vidor, when I told him this story, “I’ve been in this business for years.

But even when I first got to Hollywood, Henry King was going strong.”

It is impossible to listen to these people without marvelling; they are so extraordinary in their old age… what must Hollywood have been like when they were all young? (Kevin Brownlow)

 

DW Griffith in 1943
DW Griffith in 1943

The Mesmeriser

Griffith’s Masterpieces

 

IN other arts, millions are expended to preserve a work in its original state. In the movies, the money is spent to prevent the film remaining in its original state, because that state is highly dangerous. It is therefore hard to judge the true value of the films of the silent era, since copies are generally travesties. This is particularly true in the case of D. W. Griffith. Not only has the delicate quality of the photography been debased; Griffith s own attitudes have become so archaic that his work is greeted today as much by laughter as applause.

Hollywood, the pioneers - Griffith and Bitzer 1912
A rare picture of D. W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer on location for Biograph around 1912. Bitzer is lining up a shot through ground glass, which he has inserted into the gate—for there was no viewfinder on the Mutograph camera. This vast machine, which punched its own sprocket holes, was smaller and more portable than Biograph’s first cameras. Negatives made with it are still providing superb quality prints. Karl Malkames—whose father, Don, once worked with Bitzer—has converted a Mutograph camera to printer and has rescued scores of original Biograph negatives.

Nevertheless, it is a tribute to his genius that seventy years after he began work as a director, his major films are still regarded as masterpieces. Griffith himself is still regarded as the innovator of the language of film. So much has been written about him, however, that his work has been submerged by praise, and the expectation of an audience for a Griffith film is thus unnaturally high. Few artists, however talented, can retain their reputation through generation after generation—and in an art subject to such violent change as the motion picture, the mortality rate for genius is high.

Griffith and Bitzer on set filming a scene 1919
D.W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer on location in Cuddebackville – NY, directing “The Squaw’s Love.”

To appreciate what Griffith did without romanticising his achievements, it is necessary to strip some of the legends away. Like Edison, Griffith was blessed (or cursed) by the talent of top-flight press agents. They conducted their campaigns in a curious manner, treating their subject with the kind of reverence usually reserved for the deceased. They poured into their advertisements quotations one might see carved on a statue: “The most sane and imaginative American who ever revolutionized the theatre when it needed an emancipator.” . . . “He has far exceeded the power of the written word. It would be impossible for the greatest master of language to picture the emotions as Griffith has perpetuated them.” . . . “D. W. Griffith is the Creator of the Eighth Art of the World!”

1-dw_griffith_(1875-1948)
W.G. Billy Bitzer and D.w. Griffith (1875-1948)

The campaign was mounted when Griffith left the Biograph Company, with the publication in the New York. Dramatic Mirror of a celebrated advertisement: “D. W. Griffith, producer of all the great Biograph successes, revolutionizing the Motion Picture Drama, and founding the modern techniques of the art. Included in the innovations which he introduced and which are now generally followed by the most advanced producers are: the use of large closeup figures, distant views, as reproduced first in ‘Ramona’, the ‘switchback’, sustained suspense, the fade-out’ and restraint in expression, raising motion picture acting which has won for it recognition as a genuine art.

Billy Bitzer Josephine Crowell and DW Griffith
Billy Bitzer, Josephine Crowell (Catherine De Medici of “Intolerance”) and D.W. Griffith

Although the word ‘introduce’ is marginally less arrogant than ‘invent’, Griffith was not responsible for the close-up or the fade-out nor would it have made the slightest difference if he had been. What counted was how such devices were used. Griffith used them efficiently, sometimes brilliantly, and the tendency is to credit him with everything possible in the cinema. The trouble is, that by piling all these offerings on Griffith’s altar, one obscures the true object for admiration : the quality of Griffith’s direction.

Billy Bitzer and DW Griffith analyzing film - editing
Billy Bitzer and DW Griffith analyzing film – editing

The travelling shots, the dynamic editing and the colossal sets are all incidental beside this element. It is not always apparent. Some of Griffith’s films—Home Sweet Home (1914), Dream Street (1921)— are completely lacking in any sign of outstanding direction. But take the scene in Orphans of the Storm (1921), when Lillian Gish hears the distant voice of her long-lost sister, begging in the street below. Griffith holds Lillian Gish’s ethereal face in close-up; her blonde hair is illumined by a halo of light. The electricity between Griffith and Lillian Gish is so hypnotic that the audience finds itself straining to catch the merest movement of an eyelash. Miss Gish hesitates, moves her head slightly—“no” . . . one can see her dismiss the thought. . . “that cannot be my sister ”. But the voice reaches her again. Her eyes flash with wild hope, then the lustre fades as she attributes the sound to her imagination. When the voice recurs, and she realises she is not mistaken, the tears well in her eyes—and in ours. One reaches the climax of the scene sharing with Lillian Gish a sense of love and desperation instilled by direction of brilliance.

Orphans of The Storm Set DW Griffith
Orphans of The Storm Set – D.W. Griffith

All his other achievements are overshadowed by this ability to transfer to a length of celluloid the most poignant degree of emotion. Here is something which can survive the centuries. However skilful the other early directors might have been, none of them knew how to project anything but the most basic emotions until Griffith showed them. And it was emotion, rather than close-ups and fade-outs, that made the people of the world fall in love with the moving picture.

 

 

Birth of a Nation Battle - Henry B Walthall
Birth of a Nation Battle – Henry B Walthall

The Birth of a Nation

Lillian Gish had suggested to Griffith during production that the scenes with the Klan, and the explicit racial elements, might cause the picture to be stopped. “I hope to God they do stop it,” replied Griffith. “Then you won’t be able to keep the audiences away with clubs!” He undoubtedly recalled that Dixon’s play had sparked riots in 1908.

Despite this brutal remark, Griffith was probably as surprised as anyone at the power of his film. “The fact that the showing of The Clansman started riots and put blood on the streets,” said Karl Brown, “was proof beyond proof that it was a great and powerful picture. Regardless of what any critic might have to say about it, the proof was there.”

 

 

Intolerance
Intolerance

Intolerance

Griffith sent his assistant Joseph Henabery to persuade the workmen to join the company. By this time the Exposition was over, and the people who had built it had left. But Henabery rounded up three of the craftsmen who had worked on the intricate Italian section. Griffith s associates have steadfastly insisted there was no art director; Griffith showed pictures to his boss carpenter, Frank Huck Wortman, and the sets were built accordingly. But Karl Brown remembered Walter L. Hall, an English theatrical designer, who translated Griffith’s vision into reality. Once Babylon towered over Sunset Boulevard, Griffith had to work out how to shoot it. A tall camera tower was an obvious answer, but Griffith had been impressed by those subtle camera movements in Cabiria. Could he make the camera move from that height?

Griffith - On Set (Intolerance)

A balloon was tried, but it made Bitzer sick and was not a stable camera platform. Griffith asked Allan Dwan, an engineer albeit an electrical one, and he suggested a mobile tower with an elevator. It was constructed to move on mining rails. No photograph of this monster is known to exist but the scenes that it filmed are so full of mystery and magic that perhaps it’s as well to preserve that mystery. The eye of the audience is guided softly out of the clouds above Babylon and down to examine the Bacchanalian feast below. At a certain season of the year,” said Karl Brown, “Southern California is visited by a windstorm, a Santa Ana. This wind, blowing out of a cloudless sky, comes in off the San Fernando Valley, which at that time was raw desert. Clouds of dust come over the mountains and through the valley, and a strong wind which would reach forty or fifty knots, so much so that it was hard to walk against.

Hollywood, the pioneers
Hollywood, the pioneers – Intolerance set

We had put up the walls of Babylon which were about 150 feet long and 90 feet high—that’s a considerable area to expose to a wind as any man knows who’s used to square-rigged vessels. When the Santa Ana hit that tremendous expanse, the walls were just moving in and out. We thought we d lost the entire set, but Huck Wortman, our master builder, said ‘Well, it ain’t no use looking at her, let’s get some line on her.’ So we did. The boys went aloft on that swinging structure and fastened hawsers, which were made fast and covered with what they called dead men. Those dead men saved our lives, because the hawsers held, the wind subsided and we went to work.”

INTOLERANCE constructors and carpenters team
INTOLERANCE constructors and carpenters team

 

 

J. Jiquel Lanoe, Dell Henderson, Charles Hill Mailes, Robert Harron, Mae Marsh and D.W. Griffith
J. Jiquel Lanoe, Dell Henderson, Charles Hill Mailes, Robert Harron, Mae Marsh and D.W. Griffith

A unique picture of Griffith at work in the Biograph Studios, New York, 1912. Griffith stands behind flowers. Another Biograph director, Dell Henderson, stands in shirtsleeves next to Bobby Harron (seated), with Mae Marsh next to him. In the background is Olive Fuller Golden. Charles Hill Mailes behind Harron, and, at far right, Christy Cabanne, a future director. Compare the faces of the actors with those of the technicians. Orthochromatic film registered skin tones much darker than they were in reality, and actors had to wear the heavy make-up which gives them, in stills, the look of the mortician’s parlour. Some directors dispensed with make-up altogether, but the habit was not relaxed until the general acceptance of panchromatic film in the late ’twenties, and the introduction of incandescent lights. To this day, male actors often wear make-up for colour film and television.

DW Griffith and Lillian Gish
DW Griffith and Lillian Gish

In Griffith’s autobiographical notes, he wrote: “I remember one day in the early summer going through the gloomy old hall of the Biograph studio, when suddenly all gloom seemed to disappear.

His eyes had fallen on two young girls, Lillian and Dorothy Gish.

He brought both to stardom, but while Dorothy proved a comedienne of great talent, Lillian became a great dramatic actress. Here is a rare photograph of Griffith together with his favourite star.

Lillian Gish writes: “I certainly look like a frump in that dress. Have no idea whether it was taken in New York or Hollywood, but could you burn my half of the photograph? And about those shoes . . . ???”.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish (Anna Moore’s wedding dress)

Lillian Gish, at the time of Way Down East (1920). Her fragile beauty is apparent from this photograph, but you have to see such films as Orphans of the Storm and The Wind to appreciate her brilliance as an actress. She was able to convey intense emotion by little more than a quiver. D. W. Griffith trained Lillian, and her sister, Dorothy, an outstanding comedienne.

Hollywood, the pioneers - G. W. ‘Billy’ Bitzer, with the Mutograph camera
G. W. ‘Billy’ Bitzer, with the Mutograph camera lashed to the cowcatcher of a locomotive in Orange, N.J., making advertising films for a railroad company, around 1898. This is precisely the method by which the Hales Tour films were later to be made— the alternative being a shot from the observation car. Some of the Hales Tours were sponsored by railroad companies.

 

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