Great Interest Is Manifest in Return of “White Sister” – Santa Cruz Evening News, 1924

  • Santa Cruz Evening News, Volume 33, Number 152, 28 April 1924
  • Great Interest Is Manifest in Return of “White Sister”

Lillian Gish does not act, but rather lives the title part in “The White Sister”

Lillian Gish does not act, but rather lives the title part in “The White Sister,” now playing a return engagement at the New Santa Cruz theater, having been brought Back in response to the insistent demands of the many who were unable to gain admission at the former showing. Cast by nature to give an illusion of belonging more to another world than this one, she puts a spiritual quality, an emotion and a tensity into the part which rises to breathtaking moments of artistry. Gish start in Biograph days is supremely fulfilled in Henry King’s production of “The White Sister.” Her popularity today is as sturdy as in the old days with the added advantage of having grown with each new performance. Her characterizations have matured and mellowed to a point of being sheer genius. No one has kept alive flame than Lillian Gish, no one has learned to burn finer.

The White Sister

Lillian Gish was born in Springfield, Ohio, and two years later her sister Dorothy was born in Dayton. They spent their childhood days in Massillon, Ohio.

Miss Gish completed her education at a finishing school and while still in her teens made her stage debut as a fairy in “The Good Little Devil,” produced by David Belasco. She was just sixteen then and her mother and sister had gone to California. She was seized with an acute attack of homesickness. This was increased one night when the wire, which permitted her to fly across the stage, broke and a disheartened fairy , with tears rolling down her pale cheeks, hit a responsive chord in the audience, but almost spoiled the show.

Lillian needed a change and soon the Gish trio was reunited, and Lillian toured the country with a repertoire show of which her sister Dorothy was a member, playing child parts.

The White Sister

Jumps to Films

All this time her reputation was growing as a distinct personality behind the footlights and then one day she went to the Biograph studio to visit Mary Pickford, whose film destinies were being guided by D. W. Griffith at the time. Miss Gish felt the lure of the movies for’ the first time. It was but a short time afterward that she became a member of the Biograph stock company. She played a wide variety of parts during this time, ranging from the little old mother in “Judith of Bethulia,” one of the first multiple reel pictures produced, to Colonel Cameron’s sweetheart in “The Birth of a Nation,” Griffith’s big feature spectacle. When Griffith left the Biograph fold, Lillian Gish followed him through his engagements with Reliance, Majestic, Fine Arts, Artcraft, First National and, finally, United Artists. Her reputation has traveled from coast to coast, country to country, as the result of her splendid impersonations in the living tales which Griffith brought forth. She appeared in “Intolerance” as the mother at the cradle. This was followed by her appearance in “Souls Triumphant.” “Hearts of the World,” “The Greatest Thing in Life,” “Romance of Happy Valley,” “True Heart Susie,” and “The Greatest Question.” Then she directed one of Dorothy’s pictures, “Remodeling Her Husband.” Her remarkable characterizations in “Broken Blossoms” and “Way Down’ East,” in which she portrayed young girl against all odds with the world, firmly established her as the screen’s most appealing actress. Her best role yet, where she has outdone anything in which she has hitherto appeared is in “The White Sister,” however.

The White Sister

STARTS TODAY By Popular Demand, Return Engagement Of the screen’s supreme masterpiece.

For you that have not seen Lillian Gish’s triumph, Here is your opportunity. For you that have, here is your chance to see it again and really appreciate the work of this artist.

F. MARION CRAWFORD’S famous novel filmed in the haunting old-world beauty of Italy.

TERRIFIC THRILLS Vesuvius in actual eruption, a town flooded by water, a fight on the Algerian desert! Lovely Miss Gish as a girl whose love was more eternal than her lover’s passion.

Santa Cruz Evening News 1924 – White Sister returns

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Lillian Gish Finds It No Picnic to Lie In Guillotine (San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram – 1922)

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram, Number 87, 21 June 1922


“You often mall advice to aspirants. don’t you?” remarked Lillian Gish to a well known motion picture editor, who was visiting Mamaroneck during the taking of the guillotine scene for D. W. Griffith’s “Orphans of the Storm,” a United Artists Corporation release which is coming next week to the Elmo Theater. “Please tell them,” Miss Gish continued, “that it is no fun dying on the movie guillotine from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m. as I have done this day!” The property man who stood near by agreed with Miss Gish, and commented In the language that only a property man knows how to use. – “The strongest of us wouldn’t want to lay in that neck piece chocker a nine-hour day—takes, retakes, closeups, far shots, short bits of rest in between. In fact a thousand deaths in one,” was the way he put It.

Orphans of the Storm – La Guillotine …

And it was true. The fair Lillian had been dragged up the steps by two burly ruffians hurriedly strapped to the board that goes under the guillotine, then, the sharpened knife was raised high In the air and everything was In readiness to separate the gentle Lillian’s beautiful blond head from the lovely Lillian torso. Then just as the knife was about to fall, Danton the hero arrive on the scene after the mad gallop from the court house five miles away and again Lillian was saved. If this happened once It had happened a score of times during that day. No wonder Lillian Gish was tired.

Orphans of the Storm – Lillian Gish and Monte Blue

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Grauman’s Egyptian Program – Romola

Grauman Books Lillian Gish in “Romola” for Hollywood

ONE week after its world premiere at the George M. Cohan Theatre in New York, the Lillian and Dorothy Gish special, “Romola,” will go into Sid Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, for a long run starting December 8.

Grauman’s Egyptian Program – Lillian Gish

Sid Grauman plans to give Henry King’s new Inspiration production, distributed by Metro-Goldwyn, the most elaborate prologue he has staged in the Egyptian Theatre. As the Egyptian prologues are famous for their lavish beauty, Mr. Grauman’s intention in regard to “Romola” indicates that the production is expected to achieve a record run there. With “Romola” playing at both ends of the country at the same time, the publicity from these two engagements is expected to “cover” the entire United States territory in which the picture will afterward play. “Romola” has an immense audience waiting for it, as the George Eliot novel on which the picture is based is one of the most famous standard books, and the reunion of Lillian and Dorothy Gish in the picture is counted on to prove a big draw. Dorothy has a featured role in the production in which Lillian is the star.

Grauman’s Egyptian Program – Lillian Gish

The broad entrance to the Egyptian was a blaze of light and gala dress parade. The crowds massed on both sides to see the greatest of filmland pass. Doug and Mary (who had already run “Romola” in their home theatre), Charlie, Jackie . . . never mind the list, they were all there. High above, the name of LILLIAN GISH blazed out in tall letters. “When she arrived, and Dorothy, and their mother, their cars were fairly mobbed. Cameras were going, everybody had to pause a moment at the entrance for something special in that line. Manager Grauman was photographed between the two stars of the evening, properly set off and by no means obliterated, small man though he was, by the resplendent gowns. After which, came the performance. Manager Grauman had fairly laid himself out on an introductory feature. There were ten numbers of it, each more astonishing than the preceding: “Italian Tarantella,” “Harlequin and Columbine,” “The Eighteen Dance Wonders,” but why go on? It was a gorgeous show all in itself. After which, the beautiful processional effects of Romola’s story.

Lillian Gish, Sid Grauman and Dorothy Gish at The Egyptian

There was no lack of enthusiasm in the audience. When the picture ended and the lights went on, and Lillian and Dorothy appeared before the curtain, the applause swelled to very great heights indeed. And when a speech was demanded, Lillian, in her quiet, casual way, said:

“Dear ladies and gentlemen, both Dorothy and I do so hope you have liked ‘Romola.’ If you  have, then, dear, kind friends, you have made us very happy, very happy indeed . . . and you have made Mr. King, who directed ‘Romola,’ very happy, too.”

From the applause that followed, it was clear that there was no question as to the importance of the occasion — all the more so, had they known that, for Hollywood, at least, it was the last public appearance of these two together.

Egyptian Theater -1922

Photo Gallery – Advertising Romola

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  • Opened at the 44th Street Theatre, New York, April 4, 1918. 12 reels.

Directed by D. W. Griffith; scenario by M. Gaston de Tolignac, translated into English by Capt. Victor Marier (both pseudonyms for D. W. Griffith); photographed by G. W. Bitzer; technical supervision by Erich Von Stroheim; music arranged by Carli Elinor and Griffith.

Hearts of the World (Paramount, 1918) – Herald


  • The Grandfather – Adolphe Lestina
  • The Mother – Josephine Crowell
  • The Girl, Marie Stephenson – Lillian Gish
  • The Boy, Douglas Gordon Hamilton – Robert Harron
  • The Father of the Boy – Jack Cosgrave
  • The Mother of the Boy – Kate Bruce
  • The Littlest Brother – Ben Alexander
  • The Boy’s Other Brothers – M. Emmons, F. Marion
  • The Little Disturber – Dorothy Gish
  • Monsieur Cuckoo – Robert Anderson
  • The Village Carpenter – George Fawcett
  • Von Strohm – George Siegmann
  • The Innkeeper – Fay Holderness
  • A Deaf and Blind Musician – L. Lowy
  • A Poilu – Eugene Pouyet
  • A French Peasant Girl – Anna Mae Walthall
  • A Refugee Mile. – Yvette Duvoisin of the Comedie Frangaise, Paris
  • A French Major – Herbert Sutch
  • A Poilu – Alphonse Dufort
  • A Poilu – Jean Dumercier
  • Stretcher Bearers – Gaston Riviere, Jules Lemontier
  • A Poilu – Georges Loyer
  • A German Sergeant – George Nicholls
  • A Refugee Mother – Mrs. Mary Gish
  • Woman with Daughter – Mrs. Harron
  • Wounded Girl – Mary Harron
  • Refugee – Jessie Harron
  • Boy with Barrel – Johnny Harron
  • Dancer – Mary Hay
Hearts Of The World Press Book – The Bride Gish

Not credited on the original programs: Erich Von Stroheim as a Hun in several scenes, and Noel Coward as the Man with the Wheelbarrow and as a Villager in the Streets.

Publicity men created myths about the production of Hearts of the World, claiming that it consisted largely of on-the-spot recording of events. For the most part, Griffith recreated scenes which he witnessed or learned about first hand—Lillian Gish trying to guide her confused grandfather to safety as the village is bombarded; the orphaned children burying their mother’s body in the cellar. The only Americans who joined Griffith for filming in France and England were the two Gish girls and their mother, Robert Harron, George Fawcett, George Seigmann, Ben Alexander and his mother, and Bitzer with several assistants; even Von Stroheim was not hired until the company returned to California. The scenes in which other members of the Griffith company appeared must have been shot on the West Coast, and, though Griffith and Bitzer toured the front lines photographing action scenes, Griffith added stock footage later.

Download “Hearts of the World” – Program – in PDF version

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George Jean Nathan and Lillian Gish – by Thomas Quinn Curtiss (1988)

An Applause Original THE SMART SET:

George Jean Nathan & H.L.Mencken

  • by Thomas Quinn Curtiss
  • Copyright © 1998 by Thomas Quinn Curtiss

Nathan had been denouncing the movies as a menace to the arts for many years, but the screen appearance of Miss Gish bewitched him. A year earlier he had published a rapturous essay about her in Vanity Fair, attempting to explain the spell her celluloid image cast. That she is one of the few real actresses that the films have brought forth, either here or abroad, is pretty well agreed upon by the majority of critics. But it seems to me that, though the fact is taken for granted, the reasons for her eminence have in but small and misty part been set down in print.

Lillian Gish and George Jean Nathan — Chateau Du Plessis France

“The girl is superior to her medium, pathetically so. Her genius lies in making the definite charmingly indefinite. Her technique consists in thinking out a characterization directly and concretely and then executing it in terms of semi-vague suggestion. The smile of the Gish girl is a bit of happiness trembling on a bed of death; the tears of the Gish girl are the tears that old Johann Strauss wrote into the rosemary of his waltzes. The whole secret of the young woman’s remarkably effective acting rests as I have observed, in her carefully devised and skilfully negotiated technique of playing always, as it were, behind a veil of silver chiffon. She always dominates the scene, yet one feels somehow that she is ever just out of sight. There is ever something pleasantly, alluringly, missing, as there always is in the case of women who are truly ‘acting artists.’

Nathan proposed that Hergesheimer profile Lillian Gish and the novelist complied with an essay that ran in the August 1924 Mercury and is considered one of the memorable contributions to the magazine. The critic also told Hergesheimer that he would very much like to meet Miss Gish, but just then she was away filming in Italy. In November 1924, back from Italy, Miss Gish was on her way to spend a weekend at Joe Hergeshiemer’s home in Pennsylvania when, on the train to Philadelphia, a man introduced himself to her. She remembered him as being handsome and charming. She was suprised to find that he was George Jean Nathan, as she had imagined him to be a much older and ruder fellow, in keeping with his destructive humor. He, too, probably by pre-arrangement, was to be a guest at the Hergesheimers, and they chatted away the two hours of railroad journey. He was immediately and utterly enchanted. Miss Gish, however, was not entirely at ease with her new admirer. Once back in her New York apartment she was reluctant to accept Nathan’s frequent telephone calls. When he caught her on the line she would disguise her voice and, pretending to be her maid, would say that her mistress was out. Eventually, though, she began to accept Nathan’s phone calls and his invitations to first nights and dinners.

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

A calamity brought Lillian Gish from Hollywood on a lighten-ing visit in the summer of 1926. Her mother, who had gone to London where her daughter Dorothy was filming Nell Gwyn had suddenly suffered a severe stroke. Lillian was in the last week of shooting The Scarlet Letter. She learned that by leaving Los Angeles in three days she could catch the liner, Majestic, leaving New York for England. The last week of filming was compressed into the three days available and she was rushed to the Los Angeles depot with a police escort. Nathan saw her off on the Majestic and continued to write to her:

“Darling, I hope for all time: I tell you again what I have told you daily for the last solid year; that you are the only girl who can ever figure in my life, that you are the only one I can ever really and deeply love, and that I wish you would feel the same way about me as I do about you. “

The Gish girls nursed their mother in London and in a few weeks she was sufficiently improved to be transported to New York. There they broke the journey, preparing for the five-day train trip back to California. Nathan was most attentive during their New York stay. He gave Lillian a wirehaired terrier which she named Georgie, a playful puppy who cut his teeth on all the best chairs of the hotel drawing room. Nathan also presented the actress with a ring on which his profile was engraved. She wore it often and it attracted the attention of interviewers who asked whether it represented her engagement. To this she would evasively reply, “Mr. Nathan is a very brilliant man and my friend.” After Lillian went back to California, Nathan sailed for an inspection of the London theatres. While there, he visited A.B. Walkley, the British drama critic. During a day spent with Walkley at his seaside home, Nathan asked his host—who showed little partiality to Americans in general—how he explained the affinity that made his host and he friends. “You are the only American I have ever met who when you speak does not make me fear that all the dishes on the table will crash to the floor,” replied the advocate of Artistotelian reasoning.

George Jean Nathan, Lillian Gish and Rudolph Kommer at Leopoldskron

Nathan kept encouraging Lillian Gish to pursue the theatre in her career. She eventually did decide to enact mature drama as well as motion pictures. She gave her initial Broadway performance as Helena in Chekov’s Uncle Vanya on April 15, 1930. Jed Harris, a flamboyant producer, led the moving measure of the company and the excited public.

Her next three plays were Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils, Sean O’Casey’s tragedy about a prostitute, Within the Gates, and John Gielgud’s Hamlet, she playing Ophelia.  Shortly after the death of George Jean Nathan on April 8, 1958, after he was stricken with arteriosclerosis in 1956, Lillian Gish came to see me. She spoke of the letters she had owned since 1924. Most of her friends believed that he wanted to marry her. But in 1933 she wrote him that she had no more love for him. He replied that he was ready to commit suicide. She persuaded him to survive and he swallowed the bitter experience.

Lillian Gish 1930’s

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Gossip of all the Studios – By Cal York (Photoplay – 1929)

  • Photoplay – November 1929
  • Gossip of all the Studios – By Cal York

LILLIAN GISH is back in New York after a long stay abroad, waiting to make “The Swan.” She’s living at a quiet little hotel on a side street—going to the theater now and again with George Jean Nathan, who seems as devoted as ever.

Lillian Gish

Oddly enough, she came back on the same ship with her former boss, Charles H. Duell, who sues her for millions every now and then, and spent most of the trip avoiding him, to hear her tell it. Her mother, Mrs. May Gish, is in London, carefully tended by Sister Dorothy.

Dorothy Gish – Nell Gwyn

Mrs. Gish’s health is a little improved. She’s been an invalid now for some years, you remember.

DOROTHY, by the way, has had a successful voice test made in England and will appear in a British talkie, “Wolves.”

Funny, but Dorothy has her best luck in England. She made her best picture, “Nell Gwyn,” over there, and the British public adores her. A few months ago Dorothy told me that she was afraid to have a voice test made, in spite of her success on the stage. But she doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything in London!

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Tragedy and misfortune for Griffith Stars – By Marquis Busby (Photoplay – November 1929)

Photoplay – November 1929

The Other Side of the Story – By Marquis Busby

Tragedy and misfortune have stalked many who “Got their chance with Griffith”

WHEN a movie star kneels down in his little nightie and offers up a prayer he says—”Please let me do a picture with Griffith. Amen.” Ever since “The Birth of a Nation” these fervent prayers have been wafted skyward.

All actors were firm in the belief that David Wark Griffith, THE Great Griffith, THE Master Director, would get the utmost from them—more than any other director could achieve. It was, and is, true. Popular favorites of the screen have offered to work for nothing in his pictures just to gain the advantage of his training. Griffith stars were the most envied people on the screen. It meant much to be hailed as a Griffith “discovery.” It was almost an assurance of success. To appear in a Griffith picture meant as much as to appear in a Belasco play. Actors who played extra roles in “Intolerance” boasted of being Griffith “discoveries.”

Mae Marsh 1919

There are about as many people in Hollywood today who will tell you impressively that they were with Griffith as there are descendants of “Mayflower” Pilgrims in the United States. Griffith was a man of magic. He had the rare quality of revealing the souls of his people.

His heroines were delicate, fluttering girls, helpless and virtuous. His heroes were noble and pure, and poetic looking. Other directors did not want fluttering girls, and too poetic men. And usually, unfortunately for the players, Griffith’s stamp was indelible.

Carol Dempster – The Love Flower

TRAGEDY has dogged the footsteps of Mae Marsh, Blanche Sweet, Carol Dempster, Eric von Stroheim, George Walsh, Mildred Harris, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Dorothy Gish and Winifred Westover. Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess have been more successful, but their success has not been without the attendant hand-maidens, trial and unhappiness. Not many are left on the screen today from the marvelous “The Birth of a Nation” cast. Nor are there many from “Intolerance,” “Hearts of the World” and “Way Down East.” Wallace Reid achieved a vogue that no other male star has held, with the single exception of Valentino. Yet big, handsome Wally, who attracted so much attention as the heroic blacksmith in “The Birth of a Nation,” died a tragic death at the height of his career, a victim of his own weakness.

Wallace Reid signed

George Seigmann, the hated villain, Gus, in “The Birth of a Nation,” died while still a young man.

STRANGELY enough, one of the last appearances made by Gladys Brockwell was in a picture wherein she died. It was the tragic end of a tragic career. After her thorough Griffith training, and a brief period of fame as a vamp, Gladys almost dropped from sight.

Gladys Brockwell by Fred Hartsook

Talking pictures brought her back. A new and greater career was at hand, but fate willed differently. She died following a dreadful automobile accident on busy Ventura Boulevard.

Lillian Gish – The White Sister

Lillian Gish, the greatest of the Griffith stars, had a difficult time coming back in other hands. The fragile Duse of the cinema might never have returned but for her wonderful performance in “The White Sister,” made in Europe. Even her later pictures at M-G-M were not great box office attractions. Some of the old spark had gone, and a helpless, fluttering heroine in this modern day of flappers seemed quaint and incongruous. Lillian is the enigma of the screen. Even now she may return and reveal herself again as the superb Griffith star of the past.

Dorothy as “The Little Disturber”

Dorothy Gish has never been an unqualified success away from Griffith’s guiding hand. Even there she was somewhat overshadowed by her sister, Lillian. For several years she has made pictures abroad. The few efforts to reach America were received coldly. Yet, who will forget The Little Disturber in “Hearts of the World”?

Henry B. Walthall

IF Henry B. Walthall had retained his health he might have been greater than John Gilbert. The Little Colonel of ” The Birth of a Nation” was a dark-eyed romantic fellow, and a marvelous actor. Yet there were many years of illness. He appeared old and ill. He was forced to play character parts, when he should have been cast as dashing heroes. He is still very much in demand for these character parts, but he has been cheated out of his rightful destiny.

Fine Arts – Griffith Stars Back Row: Dorothy Gish, Seena Owen, Norma Talmadge Middle Row: Robert Harron, Harry Aitken (producer), Sir Beerbohm-Tree, Owen Moore, Wilfred Lucas Front Row: Douglas Fairbanks, Bessie Love, Constance Talmadge, Constance Collier, Lillian Gish (Marfa in Sold For Marriage), Fay Tincher, DeWolfe Hopper Photograph – Raymond Lee of Roy George Association

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Gish Sisters, House Attendants (Chicago Tribune – 1922)

  • Chicago Tribune – Sunday May 21, 1922 – Page 46
  • Gish Sisters, House Attendants

Various notables of the stage acted as ushers, water boys, coat room girls, and what not at a benefit for destitute Russian artists given in New York recently by the Chauve-Souris players from the famous Bat theater in Moscow. The “house attendants” in the picture are from left to right: Nikita Balieff, founder of the Bat theater; Sam Bernard, Leon Errol, Marilyn Miller, Walter Catlett, Laurette Taylor, Al Jolson, Doris Keane, Lenore Ulric, Dorothy Gish and Lillian Gish, and Morris Gest, who brought the Chauve-Souris players to America. In the rectangle below: Ed Wynn.

Photograph from White Studio

From left to right: Nikita Balieff, founder of the Bat theater; Sam Bernard, Leon Errol, Marilyn Miller, Walter Catlett, Laurette Taylor, Al Jolson, Doris Keane, Lenore Ulric, Dorothy Gish and Lillian Gish, and Morris Gest, who brought the Chauve-Souris players to America. In the rectangle below: Ed Wynn.

Benefit for destitute Russian artists given in New York Photo from “Dorothy and Lillian Gish” by Lillian Gish. To be noted Gish sisters costumes; Lillian and Dorothy Gish are wearing the famous gowns from “Orphans of the Storm.”

From left to right: Nikita Balieff, founder of the Bat theater; Sam Bernard, Leon Errol, Marilyn Miller, Walter Catlett, Laurette Taylor, Al Jolson, Doris Keane, Lenore Ulric, Dorothy Gish and Lillian Gish, and Morris Gest, who brought the Chauve-Souris players to America. In the rectangle below: Ed Wynn.

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