Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · 10 January 1941, Friday · Page 17
Probably the last Christmas tree in Chicago to be taken down is that of Miss Lillian Gish, in her apartment at the Blackstone hotel. The tree, hung with ornaments and webbed in silver mist, the holly wreaths, the Christmas angels on the mantelpiece, and the Christmas candles go down today with the departure of Mrs. Gish for New York after a holiday visit with her daughter here in her long run of Life With Father.
Mrs. Gish, who with her dazzling white hair and deep blue eyes is reminiscent of a Dresden figurine, is an invalid as a result of shell shock in the world war, when she accompanied her daughters, Lillian and Dorothy, to the war area, where they made propaganda pictures under the direction of David Wark Griffith. She lost 35 pounds during the stay in the war zone, and has been invalided ever since.
Lillian and Mrs. Gish sailed for England on the first boat to cross the Atlantic after America had declared war, the St. Louis. Dorothy Gish sailed later on the Baltic, the same boat that carried Gen. Pershing and his staff overseas, and took 13 days to do it.
“Think of any one having the courage to face the movie camera,” the commander of the A.E.F. said to Miss Gish.
The Gishes were in London during two months of heavy bombardment. In September they sailed for France on a troop transport that started out twice and returned because of floating mines. Griffith had gone ahead to get into production, and when the two Gish girls arrived with their mother they went into the war area and made pictures in trenches and beyond the barbed wire. During their stay in Paris they lived with a French family in a bomb shelter, and learned to tell by the sound of the motors overhead what kind of plane and which country’s it was. The pictures made were Hearts of the World, The Greatest Thing in Life, and The Great Love. Remember?
A TRIO that means much to Triangle—Lillian and Dorothy Gish and their mother! Not only does this one-family constellation of stars mean much to Triangle, but it contributes much toward the perpetuity of the happiness of thousands of photoplay fans throughout filmdom. At the beautiful Ruth St. Denis home in Los Angeles this interesting little family lives the lives of cultured gentlewomen, devoting themselves to their profession and bringing to it the highest artistic endeavor. The result is that the Gish girls, though young in years, have long since become established as prime favorites. Lillian Gish is more of a student and a dreamer, being given to secluding herself while she thinks out her part and costumes it according to her own lines. She is of a delicate, almost ethereal style of beauty.
Dorothy Gish, the younger, is an outdoors girl, full of life and high spirits, she going in for all outdoor sports in which she excels. Both girls are devoted to their mother, and are her constant companions. To Mrs. Gish is due the credit of the successful artistic careers of her daughters, as she has personally instructed them since they were tiny girls.
It is good to know that that old superstition about only one really brilliant member of a family appearing in the same generation, is not true. Lillian and Dorothy Gish disprove it. Ever since they began work for the Triangle programme, they have been stars of equal magnitude. One of the most interesting facts about these two sisters, who have won so many admirers throughout the nation, is that off the screen they are precisely like any other sweet American girls untouched by fame. That, however, is where their resemblance to each other ceases. Temperamentally they are as unlike as any two respectable persons could be.
Lillian is a girl of the old-fashioned kind. She loves sewing and cooking, and can undertake general housekeeping if necessary, which, of course, it never will be. Dorothy is a woman of the future. Joyously impractical, her imagination is just one riot of poetic fancy. Dorothy is at once the delight and distraction of her sweet-faced mother and sister. All three are great chums ; and their evenings together, after work at the studio has been completed for the day, are sacred to them. One would no sooner think of breaking into that charmed circle than—than in walking on the grass when the sign says not to. Dorothy began her dramatic career at the age of four—she is not yet out of her teens—playing little Willie in “East Lynne.” She often has regretted in late seasons that she made so many persons cry through her portrayal of that famous role. After “East Lynne,” she appeared chiefly in melodrama, but presently she entered a school in Virginia, remaining there five years. Then she was engaged by D. W. Griffith, who took her with him through several motion picture companies to the Triangle programme. She has been seen there in “Old Heidelberg,” “Jordan is a Hard Road,” “Betty of Graystone,” “Little Meena’s Romance” and “Susan Rocks the Boat.”
Lillian Gish, the elder sister, made her debut when only six years old, in a melodrama called “The Little Red Schoolhouse.” She then became a pupil in a Springfield dancing school, and her next engagement was as one of the fairy dancers with Sarah Bernhardt, who then was making one of her American tours. After two seasons with Mme, Bernhardt, Lillian went to New York to finish her dancing lessons. There she renewed her old acquaintance with Mary Pickford and went with her to visit a picture studio. There she was seen by D. W. Griffith, who was attracted by her natural poise and expression, and he placed her under contract at once. Since joining Triangle, she has appeared in “The Lily and the Rose,” “Daphne and the Pirate,” “Sold Marriage” and “An Innocent Magdalene.” This Miss Gish has two hobbies — collecting rare old books, mainly on ancient history, and playing golf. She is a keen student of literature, and she can discuss manner master. She always arranges her affairs each week so systematically as to permit of a certain number of hours to be devoted exclusively to reading. Needless to add, there are thousands of fine volumes in her library, and she prizes every one of them to the highest degree. She plays the piano delightfully and displays enough aptitude to make one wonder why she has never thought of achieving fame as a pianist. However, her sole idea in playing the piano is to add credibly to the entertainment in her own family circle.
Meanwhile Dorothy Gish has hobbies too. She loves motoring and drives her own car dexterously, and ’tis said often precariously in her zeal to have excitement. She is likewise an expert horsewoman, and she is ruled by an extreme kindness towards all dumb animals. When it comes to aquatic sports, she is immensely capable and she can stand a good endurance test in swimming at any time.
“We love our mother and our art, and we never worry,” Dorothy says. “I am sure as long as anyone remains in this sort of attitude happiness will be a permanent consort.”
“And I think the motion picture has been the cause of our greatest joz in life just as it has served the same purpose with thousands of other people,” Lillian supplements.
“My girls believe in rather a close corporation so far as family life is concerned, but they do derive unlimited pleasure from the realization that they are helping to lighten the burdens of humanity by their artistry on the screen,” Mrs, Gish chimes in pleasantly.
Needless to add, there are thousands of ardent photoplay fans who swear by the Gish sisters, and they will all no doubt be glad to learn that mother counts for so much. Indeed, mankind always likes to have mother exert her potential and beneficial influence over the affairs of mankind. It is all in accordance with our most exalted ideals.
Finally, the future of the Gish sisters is replete with possibilities of greater accomplishments than their noteworthy past has brought and throughout their careers—while you are watching their delightful performances on the screen—just always remember that everything they do, both professionally and in private life, is more under the direction of their mother than under any picture director.
“To mother we owe everything, and her instruction is the supreme court with us,” Dorothy explains.
“And if either of us do good work in portraying characters, please give the full credit to mother,” Lillian adds.
All hail the successful firm of Gish Sisters & Company!
And, remember, photoplay fans, while you are watching these girls perform on a screen, you are seeing the results of a mother’s set ambition.
Chicago Tribune – Thursday March 29, 1979 – Page 22
Recalling the early shots with Lillian Gish
Her own first stage appearance came in a little theater in Rising Sun, Ohio, in a melodrama called “In Convict’s Stripes,” with Walter Huston as its star.
“There was an explosion in a stone quarry as part of the play, and when I heard the noise, I ran down to the basement to hide. They came and got me, and I took my first big curtain call perched on Mr. Huston’s shoulder.”
The Gishes at that time were friends with Gladys Smith, another child actress who had appeared in “the flickers.” When they went to visit her at the Biograph studio in New York, nobody knew her, and when they said they were sure they had seen her in the Griffith film “Lena and the Geese,” they were told, “Oh, you must mean our Mary.” Gladys Smith had become Mary Pickford of the movies, and it was she who introduced them to Griffith.
“Mother and Dorothy and I each got $5 for taking of our hats, putting on a little makeup, and sitting in the audience as extras,” Miss Gish recalls. “That was $15 a day, a lot of money in that time, even if it was in the movies, and not in the legitimate theater.”
‘My pride is constantly hurt when I see some screen acting today. I watched a bit of a new version of “The Scarlet Letter” on television and I swear every one of those people could just as well have been walking down 5th Avenue today.’
By 1912, the Gish girls had been featured in Griffith’s early social melodrama, “The Musketeers of Pig Alley,” and in 1914, while still a teen-ager, Lillian was a leading lady in the epoch-making “The Birth of a Nation.”
“We had to be young then,” she says, “because the photography was so bad. Old hags of 18 were playing character parts because camera made everyone look so old. When I saw the film, I told Mr. Griffith, ‘Oh look, I have a mole on my face.’ Mr. Bitzer (Griffith’s cameraman) gave me a mole.’”
She learned everything about the movies from her beloved Mr. Griffith. Of her, “he always said, ‘Well, she’s a woman, and she has no brains, but 85 per cent of my audience is women, so I want to have her reactions.’ He made me look at all the rushes and pick the shots I liked best. I helped write the subtitles. I watched him rehearse the actors, shoot the scene, develop the film.”
In 1920, while Griffith was away filming, he entrusted her with the direction of a romantic comedy she and Dorothy had written, “Remodeling a Husband.”
“I always felt that Dorothy had such a wit and a great gift for comedy. She used to say such clever things,” Miss Gish recalls, “and it was this quality I wanted to capture, so I found a little magazine story I thought was right for her. It was about a girl who tells her husband that men really admired her looks, and to prove this, she walks down the street and sticks out her tongue at every man she meets to make sure they’ll look at her. Years later, they used the same device in that movie with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, ‘Easter Parade.’ So that’s where that came from. That movie was actually a success. We made it for $58,000 and it grossed $700,000.
“But I was too frightened to do it again. I was so young to be directing all those experienced actors, and in those days, you had to know everything about the movies, including the carpentry, to direct a film. Well, I didn’t even know what feet or inches were, so, I was always getting the dimensions for the scenery wrong.”
She made many films for Griffith – “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East,” “Intolerance,” and “Orphans of the Storm,” among others – but after “Orphans” was completed, Griffith gently told her it was time to leave the nest and earn the salary she could then demand.
“Mother thought Dorothy should be the one to leave,” Miss Gish remembers, “because I got along with him better, ‘Don’t tell me; show me,’ he always used to say; but Dorothy wanted to talk about it first, and he was too much in a hurry for that. When Dorothy did talk to Mr. Adolph Zukor, the producer, about making pictures for him, she came home and told us she had refused his offer of $1 million for a series of comedies. We wanted to know why on Earth she had turned him down, and she said, ‘All that money! It might ruin my character!’ I felt like telling her, ‘Give the money to Mother. I won’t ruin her character!”
Typically however, when Miss Gish did go off on her own, she made sure that she struck a deal in which, besides making money, she had approval of the pictures she was to make and the people with whom she was to make them.
“We always liked to work with the best people,” she says. “That’s something I learned from Mr. Griffith and I tell it to young people today: ‘Go with the people, not with the money, and you’ll be happy in your work.
Actresses had to be young then, because the photography was so bad. ‘Old hags of 18 were playing character parts because the camera made everyone look so old.’
When she went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, making a salary of $1,000 a week, “I couldn’t sleep at night because I was making all that money and not working regularly, so I went to Irving Thalberg, who ran the studio – oh, I adored him – and told him I had a couple of stories in my trunk that I wanted to make. These included “The Scarlet Letter.” But they told me I couldn’t do it because the women’s clubs and churches would object. I said, ‘Why should they object? It’s an American classic; they teach it in schools.’ So I wrote to women’s clubs and churches all over the country and said I wanted to make the movie, and I got enough good response to convince the MGM people that we could make the movie.
“It was my film from the beginning to the end. Lars Hanson was the leading man; Victor Seastrom was the director. I’m still very proud of it.”
Miss Gish made one other memorable film with Seastrom, “The Wind,” before she left MGM in the early 1930s and returned to work on the stage. She returned to films in 1940s, when she laughingly told friends that now she was playing “old ladies.” In 1955, she made an unforgettably gallant, indomitable “old lady” in “The Night of the Hunter,” the only film Charles Laughton directed. She has remained active on stage and screen ever since, completing her 100th film here in 1977 with director Robert Altman’s “The Wedding.”
“When I first started making movies, we would shoot them in one or two days, and that was that. But we always rehearsed them carefully first. That’s why Mr. Griffith took only people who were experienced in theater or ballet or music. He wanted them to have the discipline of that training. Today, it takes months and millions of dollars to make a film, and they rarely rehearse anything. We never rehearsed with Altman; he doesn’t work that way.”
I asked her, finally, if she could tell, from her long experience, how and why some actresses endured as movie stars. Was it, after all, because they played well to the camera?
“It’s got to be more than that,” she said. “There’s something more basic. It’s research and study and rehearsal and preparation. Why, my pride is constantly hurt when I see some screen acting today. I watched a bit of a new version of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ they’re showing on television, and I swear that everyone of those people could just as well have been walking down 5th Avenue today. When we made movies, Mr. Griffith would say, ‘Don’t just study your character. Study the whole world around you.’ That’s the thing they don’t remember to do today.”
It was time then for her to get ready for the picture taking and for her appearance onstage at the Opera House, an appearance that was to be greeted with a standing ovation.
First, however, she wanted to fuss with her makeup a bit. She stood at the mirror in the little dressing room and took out a few pins so that her hair fell down. She turned to ask a question, and in that moment, with her braids now flowing down to her waist, she looked exactly as if she was ready to go before the cameras again, the lovely heroine of the silent screen who had somehow defied the years and survived with all her innocence and strength intact. It was another moment that will not be forgotten.
Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, August 23, 1927 – Page 3
Lillian Gish, taking her mother to hospital
Lillian Gish, movie star, was in Chicago for an hour an forty minutes yesterday while she changed from the Chief limited from Los Angeles to the 20th Century for New York. She was taking her mother, Mrs. Mary Gish, to a New York hospital. Mrs. Gish is suffering from a blood clot on her brain which has made her speechless and her right side is paralyzed.
The Chicago stage settled down into Lenten poverty with last night’s departure of Orson Welles’ staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” as a parable of Fascism, and “Father Malachy’s Miracle.” “Room Service” keeps the spirit of merriment alive at the Selwyn theater, and Maurice Schwartz’s production of the Yiddish drama, “The Brothers Ashkenazi,” remains at the Studebaker for another week; but elsewhere there is vacancy, pending the renewal of activity, especially in musical shows, that the spring is expected to bring.
The first arrival of the spring theatrical season will be “The Star-Wagon,” a play by Maxwell Anderson with Burgess Meredith and Lillian Gish as the leaders of the cast. This work has been one of the favorite items on the Broadway playbills since last fall, and it will come to the Grand Opera house immediately after the closing of its New York run. The premiere is scheduled for the Tuesday before Easter Sunday, or April 12.
This work is a fantastic comedy, dealing with an old inventor and his colleague who are given a supernatural opportunity to live their lives over again and correct their errors of judgement which had deprived them of material success. The content and meaning of the play are serious and reveal certain aspects of Maxwell Anderson’s philosophy, but there is said to be much humor in the treatment of the incidents.
Lillian Gish, who appears as the heroine, has an international reputation because of her participation in some of the most popular productions of the silent films. It is said that no movie in which she figured over a period of fifteen years netted less than $1,000,000. They included “The Birth of a Nation,” “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East,” and “The White Sister.”
Two years ago Miss Gish and her sister, Dorothy, also famous as a film actress in the pre-talkie era, were travelling through the Balkan states. They stopped at a hut on the Albanian frontier, a mountainous region miles away from any motion picture theater. The woman of the house was an ignorant, barefooted peasant, but she recognized Lillian Gish instantly. Years before, the priest of the parish had arranged for an exhibition of the film, “The White Sister,” strongly religious of sentiment, in his church, and she had seen it.
Miss Gish withdrew from the film studios when the talkies arrived and returned to the dramatic stage in 1930 in a distinguished production of Chekhoff’s “Uncle Vanya,” which was seen in Chicago. Since then she has acted in a revival of “Camille” both at Central City, Colo., and in New York; in Sean O’Casey’s “Within the Gates,” in Philip Barry’s “The Joyous Season,” and in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” She was the Ophelia to John Gielgud’s Prince of Denmark in New York last year.
“The Star-Wagon” gives Miss Gish a “protean role.” She acts a poor old household drudge, a winsome girl of 20, and a wealthy but unhappy wife of 55. These, of course, are phases of the same character.
Chicago Tribune – Sunday, April 21, 1918 – Page 37
“Hearts of the World”
By Mae Tinee
This being Sunday, with everybody having a little leisure, may be as good a time as any other for me to answer the questions that come pouring in regarding the new Griffith picture, “Heart of the World,” which will have its premier showing on Wednesday night at the Olympic. Time: 8:15.
Where was the picture taken?
On the European battlefields.
What made Mr. Griffith think of taking it?
It happened this way: He went to Europe to procure scenes for six Artcraft pictures which he was under contract to make. He was just about to start back, when Lord Beaverbrook of the British publicity bureau approached him with a request. He said that the government was about to make some official war films and the valuable experience of Mr. Griffith was desired. One thing led to another. It was finally decided to make the official films, but to weave them with a story of charm and power.
“A crowd of us used to get together,” Mr. Griffith said, “and discuss the subject. We all had our own ideas, but finally it was decided that Georges De Tolignac had the right one. M. De Tolignac is a close friend of J. M. Barry.
“He said, ‘Just let the story be a simple heart tale, like one of the many thousand which are being lived each day over here. A simple story about simple folk – such a story as all many understand.’ We told him to write it. He named it, too.
“First I didn’t care for the name. Now I think it’s the best one that could possibly have been chosen. It is a cry from ‘Hearts of the World’ to hearts of the world.”
What is the story about?
It is a romance of love and action with a setting of war stricken France and Belgium, and briefly is of the love affair between a young American artist (Robert Harron) and an American girl (Lillian Gish), who both reside in France. They are engaged to be married, and the date for the wedding set when war is declared and the Huns loom up with their hideous menace.
“Any country that’s good enough to live in is worth fighting for!” says the American boy, and he joins the French army. From then on the story, it is said, is one series of thrills after another until in the end the allies come to the rescue of the beleaguered girl and her townspeople and send the audience away with a smile on their lips.
How long was the picture in the taking?
Who gets the money from the film?
Half of the proceeds go to British charities.
You’re acquainted with the people in it. The leads will be taken by Lillian Gish, Robert Harron, George Seigman, George Fawcett and Josephine Crowell.
Prominent figures in the history of the day will be seen and the supers are none others than the real people suffering and living in Belgium and France today.
Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, April 7, 1925 – Page 25
Sisters Gish Make This One Night Perfect
“Romola” Fine Picture in Every Possible Way
Produced by Inspiration Pictures
Directed by Henry King
Presented at the Roosevelt theater
Romola ………………………….. Lillian Gish
Tessa …………………..……… Dorothy Gish
Tito Melema ………… William H. Powell
Carlo Bucellini ………..… Ronald Colman
Baldassarre Calvo …………. Charles Lane
Savonarola …………. Herbert Grimwood
Bardo Bardi ………. Bonaventura Ibanez
Adolfo Spini …………….……. Frank Puglia
By Mae Tinee
Good Morning! Romola – George Eliot’s “Romola” is revealing her dramatic story at the Roosevelt through the gentle characterization of Miss Lillian Gish.
This production, sponsored by Mr. Duell before his famous scrap with the fair star, is a truly artistic offering. It’s authentic as to sets and scenery, having been photographed in and around Florence, Italy, where the scenes of the story were laid. It is richly costumed and vividly acted and there is about the intangible atmosphere of romance, intrigue and bloodshed that hung heavy over Florence in the fifteenth century at the time when people drove the decadent Medici from power and established their own government.
Romola was the daughter of a rich, gentle and blind philosopher and writer. Completely devoted to her father and his works, life had flowed along peacefully enough in the house of Bardi until the mysterious stranger, Tito Melema, slid in to win the favor with the parent nad marry the daughter. Happily, the father died before he realized the treachery with which the Greek encompassed the household. But Romola lived on to go through horrible experiences, both politic and private.
Miss Gish gives a delicate and charming portrayal of Romola – more saint than human.
William H. Powell as Tito, acts a smooth and crafty villain to this department’s taste.
Dorothy Gish, as a simple country maid, also betrayed by the dexterous Tito, gives one of her funny, pathetic, adorable characterizations. Ronald Colman suits well the role of the noble and picturesque artist, Carlo, who truly loves Romola and whose devotion, you are led to believe is rewarded in the end.
Considerable footage is given to the activities of Savonarola, the advocate of freedom, whose heated speeches in the public squares incite the mobs to action – action that is at last turned toward the destruction of himself. Herbert Grimwood makes a gaunt, tense, fevered evangelist.
As to that – all the parts are well played. The photography is fine and the director handled his subject matter intelligently.
If you liked the book, chances are you’ll be fond of the picture.
Chicago Tribune – Saturday, November 21, 1953 – Page 14
Looking at Hollywood
Performance of Lillian Gish on Broadway Found Stirring
By Hedda Hopper
New York, Nov. 20 – Lillian Gish put a lump the size of a golf ball in my throat during her performance in the play “The Trip To Bountiful.” She literally breaks your heart into little pieces. You want to choke her daughter-in-law, played brilliantly by Jo Van Fleet. The entire cast is star studded.
… After the play, I met the author Horton Foote, and his wife, who was named for Lillian. What’s more, her sister’s name is Dorothy. When Lillian was our top picture star, many babies were named for her. She kept a supply of gold christening rings, and when she heard about each child she sent a ring. I’ll never forget how Lillian fought for a place in the movies for her friend, the late D.W. Griffith, the last time she was in Hollywood …
I’m always appalled at stars’ dressing rooms in New York theaters. Compared to ours in the movie world, they’re little better than lean-tos. I guess that’s why stage actors are so hardy and have so much steel in their backbones.