A Book and a Play are keeping Lillian Gish for the Public Eye – By Karen Hollis (Picture Play 1933)

“It isn’t the Paris courtesan that she is playing. What she really is playing is Marguerite’s pathos itself, the sadness of the irrevocable of all those memories evoked by the yellowed lace of old hall dresses, by pressed roses found in a book, by the tinkle of dance music played on a harpsichord; the tragedy of fleeting beauty, of love lost, of fragile youth so soon to yield to death.” (Arthur Ruhl)

 

Lillian Gish in Camille by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum 7
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Lillian Gish as Camille. Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.309

They Say in New York – By Karen Hollis

The stars, our first solvent citizens,

can make or break a play opening,

restaurant, hotel, or dress designer.

Picture Play Magazine, 1933

BROADWAYITES have finally had an opportunity to see Lillian Gish as Camille, and she is assured a place in arguments about illusion in the theater for years to come. Not every one approved her delineation of the role, but every one found some evanescent magic in it. There were harsh words said about her playing the fabulous courtesan as a chaste spinster. There was some confusion over the play being presented in the manner of fifty years ago with quaint lighting, soliloquies, and exrated posturings.

Picture Play Magazine (1933) Lillian Gish and Frederick Warlock in Camille
Picture Play Magazine (1933) Lillian Gish and Frederick Warlock in Camille

One commentator, however, described expertly what Miss — Gish accomplished. Arthur Ruhl of the New York Herald-Tribune said. “It isn’t the Paris courtesan that Lillian is playing. What she really is playing is Marguerite’s pathos itself, the sadness of the irrevocable of all those memories evoked by the yellowed lace of old hall dresses, by pressed roses found in a book, by the tinkle of dance music played on a harpsichord; the tragedy of fleeting beauty, of love lost, of fragile youth so soon to yield to death.”

Last month I set out to tell you about the book which Albert Bigelow Paine has written, called “Life and Lillian Gish,” but I tore up my remarks before they ever reached you. In my dissatisfaction over what seemed to me the most extravagant and moonstruck drivel, I attempted to set down a little of what I know and feel about Lillian Gish. Children, it was drool. So who am I to growl at the scholarly gentleman who wrote a book which preserves some lovely photographs at least? Since Lillian Gish bids fair to be the measuring rod by which all film players present and future are to be gauged, something ought to be done about this book. It perpetuates the legend that she is an exquisite sprite. Maybe that will be news to posterity. She would seem more convincing to them, however, if the author had known her well enough to round out the picture with some of the occasionally grim or casual contacts of her career.

Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925
Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925

He is guilty of one flagrant omission. He skips over the tragic lawsuit with Charles Duell in one sentence, that front-paged episode when Lillian’s childlike love letters were read in court while she sat munching a raw carrot to calm her rasped nerves. Going through with that suit to free herself from a business contract took far more courage than anything demanded of her in making pictures. He ignores her visits to the Duell home at Newport. He never faces honestly that widespread, but now proved unfounded, legend that D. W. Griffith exerted hypnotic influence over her to make her act. Mr. Paine’s book is not a biography in any real sense. It is more of a press agent’s blurb or an enraptured admirer’s labor of love. Any of the fan-magazine writers who grew up with her could have done better.

Inez McCleary, who for more than a year some ten years ago wrote a daily syndicated newspaper article under the byline of Lillian Gish, revealed in them far more of her human qualities. This was no small feat since she was acting under orders from the Griffith office that Miss Gish was never to express a personal opinion about anything. Harry Carr, who was everybody’s right hand during the great and grim years of the Griffith company, could do the best book of any about Lillian. Norman Kerry and John Gilbert could contribute a companion portrait. They drew her out of her shell more than any other players who worked with her ever could ; they made her laugh gayly and look forward to seeing them. John even taught her to shoot craps and revel in winning.

Lillian Gish and her parrot

That the girl casts a magic spell over every one who knows her I would be the last to deny. But I don’t want strangers to see just this uncanny quality in her. I want them to see her hustling through a Chicago railway station with John, her parrot, under her arm in order to catch a glimpse of Geraldine Farrar. I want them to see her in a red bathing suit, chuckling to find that she could go on swimming with Gene Tunney after other girls in the party were exhausted.

I want them to see her primly going out to the kitchen of the Pen and Brush Club to shake hands with the cook, saying that she might be just a name to the guests in the parlor, but that workers looked on her as one of them. I should like them to be transported back to her dressing room at Mamaroneck to find Lillian washing out stockings and underwear while she explained that Mr. Griffith thought all women should love doing homely tasks like that. I want readers in future to know that she went two blocks out of her way to follow Corinne Griffith, whom she did not know, because she thought Corinne so beautiful. I want them to see her entertaining old friends at luncheon at Sherry’s so that she could show off the suit designed for her to wear when she lunched at the White House with the late President and Mrs. Harding. In short, I should like every one to know the lovely Lillian as a tangible and companionable person rather than as a misty angel.

Lillian Gish in Camille by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Camille–Gish, Lillian Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.85

FarewellBut I’m Staying …

Hollywood Is Piggish.—Not content with what is almost a monopoly on acting talent, Hollywood wants to grab Lillian Gish and Tallulah Bankhead back from the stage. They let them go without pangs and now they regret it. Lillian Gish will make one picture for RKO and then scurry back to the stage. The sultry Tallulah has gone West, just for a visit, she maintains, but she may relent and do one picture. They can’t keep her there, though, because she has promised to play “Jezebel” on the stage in October. Until RKO finds a story that suits her, Lillian Gish is living with sister Dorothy and her mother in a lovely old house at Wilson Point, in Norwalk, Connecticut. Nightly Lillian and Dorothy dash over to Westport where Dorothy is playing in the theater, and early morning finds Lillian diving into the Sound and swimming with long, sure strokes far, far out until she is just a dot in the distance. Neighbors never get over marveling at the strength behind her fragile appearance. Boys sit in their boats with oars poised to rush to the rescue, but they haven’t been needed yet and the little fiends are frankly disappointed.

Two Get New Start.—Just when we thought that Lillian Gish was forever through with pictures, comes the news that she has signed with RKO. She is to make one, possibly three films. The price for each is said to be $15,000, and expenses paid from Europe.

Miss Lillian Gish as Camille …

 

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Griffith Sees Real War – By Harry C. Carr (Photoplay March 1918)

Photoplay Vol. XIII March 1918 No.4

Griffith, Maker of Battle Scenes, Sees Real War

By Harry C. Carr

“I found myself saying, ‘Why this is old stuff. I have put that scene on myself so many Times – Says Mr. Griffith; “Viewed as a drama, the war is in some ways disappointing. As an engine it is terrific.

 

Photoplay (Mar 1918) Bitzer - Gish
Photoplay (Mar 1918) – Photo: The nonchalant gentleman at the film-gun is of course Mr. Bitzer. And this is the selfsame miracle box with which he shot “The Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” and the lastest Griffith subject in France. The lady in black is Lillian Gish, in the real ruins of a shelled village just a few miles from the front line trenches. This picture was enlarged from a negative taken “Somewhere in France.” Miss Gish worked under exceedingly dangerous conditions.

It was in the ruins of the Court of Belshazzar. A decayed and very tough looking lion who once graced the Imperial throne of Babylon looked down with a dizzy smile. One of the beast’s majestic hoofs had been chipped off and some graceless iconoclast, with no respect for art, royalty, or lions, had thrust the decapitated member in the lion’s mouth.

Intolerance Elephand detailed view set

And you know that none of us could look our best with an amputated foot in our mouth. And the lion saw—what he saw. In the middle of Belshazzar’s court stood a small stage and at the edge of the stage stood a tall man with a straw sombrero punched full of holes. There was never another hat like this in motion pictures. David Wark Griffith, maker of canned wars and mimic battles, having looked upon a real war at very close range and having been in the midst of a very real battle, is back on the job again—making another war picture in the midst of the studio where ‘Intolerance” was filmed. Of all the interesting events of this great war, not the least interesting was the visit of Griffith to the front line trenches.

Photoplay (Mar 1918) Griffith - Crowell
Photoplay (Mar 1918) – David Wark Griffith directing Josephine Crowell as Catherine de Medici of “Intolerance”

I have met many men who have seen the great battles of Europe face to face and I have never been able to get anything satisfactory out of them. I went to Europe as a newspaper correspondent myself and saw one of the greatest battles of the war; and I never could get anything out of myself. For months I have been waiting anxiously to hear what Griffith, maker of battles, would have to say. The question that naturally rises in every one’s mind is this: “Was the real thing like the battles of his imagining?” And that question is naturally followed by another, “Now that Griffith has seen a real war, what use will he make of the material?” I asked him and he threw up his hands and laughed. “There was a man once,” he said, “who contended that fiction was a good deal stranger than fact and a darned sight more interesting. He had some grounds for his contention.” And then he went on to explain. “Viewed as a drama, the war is in some ways disappointing. As an engine it is terrific. “I found myself saying to my inner consciousness all the time, ‘Why this is old stuff. I have put that scene on myself so many times. Why didn’t they get something new?’ Do you catch what I mean? “It was exactly as I had imagined wars in many, particulars. I saw, for instance, many troop trains moving away to the front. I saw wives parting from husbands they were never to see again. I saw wounded men returning to their families. I saw women coming away from the government offices, stunned with grief, a little paper in their hands to tell that the worst had happened.

Griffith and the Great War 6
Griffith and the Great War 6

“All these things were so exactly as we had been putting them on in the pictures for years and years that I found myself sometimes absently wondering who was staging the scene.

Everything happened just as I would have put it on myself—in fact I have put on such scenes time and time again. “By rare good luck I was able to get into the front line trenches. This honor was never before accorded to any American motion picture man. “The Misses Gish, Robert Harron and the others of my company were permitted to go to one of the ruined French villages and we made the greater part of the picture there that I am now finishing here in the studio.

Griffith and the Great War 4
Griffith and the Great War 4

“The conditions under which these girls worked were exceedingly dangerous. The town was under shell fire all the time. We all feel that, as we shared their dangers, we would like to give the proceeds to alleviating the hardships of those who were left behind and have to face it through to the end. The entire proceeds of this picture will go to some war charity—probably for the benefits of the mine sweepers whose lives are sacrificed to make the seas safe for the rest of us to travel.”

I asked Griffith what the battle looked like when he got into the front line trenches. He looked at me narrowly.

“You saw a battle; what did it look like?” he countered.

“It looked like a meadow with two ditches in it and some white puffs of smoke and no signs of human life anywhere.”

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

Griffith laughed. “It looked something like that to me,” he said. “I said that many of the scenes of the war made me think of our own motion pictures; but not the battles—not the battles.

“A modern war is neither romantic nor picturesque. The courier who dashed up on a foam-covered charger now uses a desk telephone in a dug out.

Sheridan wouldn’t bother to dash in from Winchester twenty miles away. He would sit in front of a huge map at Winchester and rally his troops by telling two draftsmen how to arrange the figures on the scale map while a man in a corner at the phone exchange with a phone head piece would send out the orders over the wire.

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

“Every one is hidden away in ditches. As you look out across No Man’s Land, there is literally nothing that meets the eye but an aching desolation of nothingness—of torn trees, ruined barbed wire fence and shell holes. “At first you are horribly disappointed. There is nothing but filth and dirt and the most soul sickening smells. The soldiers are standing sometimes almost up to their hips in ice cold mud. The dash and thrill of wars of other days is no longer there.

“It is too colossal to be dramatic. No one can describe it. You might as well try to describe the ocean or the milky way. The war correspondents of today are staggered almost into silence. A very great writer could describe Waterloo. Many fine writers witnessed the charge of Pickett’s army at Gettysburg and left wonderful descriptions. But who could describe the advance of Haig? No one saw it. No one saw a thousandth part of it.

DW Griffith in France 1917 D. W. Griffith, American film master
DW Griffith in France 1917

“Back somewhere in the rear there was a quiet Scotchman with a desk telephone and a war map who knew what was going on. No one else did. “A curious thing that everybody remarks who has seen a modern war is that the closer you get to the front, the less you know what is going on. “I know a war correspondent who was with the Austrians when they retreated before the Russians in the Carpathian Mountains in the spring of 1915. I asked him to tell me just what the rout of a modern army looked like. My friend looked sheepish and finally told me he would kill me if I ever told but—’The truth is,’ he said, I didn’t know they were retreating until I got back to London three months afterward and read about it in the files of a newspaper.’

“The most interesting and dramatic place in a modern battle is four or five miles back of the line. Back there you get something of the stir and thrill of the movie battle. Artillery is moving, ambulances come tearing down the roads with the dying screaming as they take their last ride. Streams of prisoners are marching in tatters and dejection back to the bases; wounded soldiers are making their own way. Motorcycle messengers go tearing to and from. Strange engines of war covered with camouflage are trundling by on their way to some threatened point.

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

“It is back there that you begin to catch the meaning of this terrific machinery of battle.

“You begin to realize that, after all, you are face to face with a drama more thrilling than any human mind could conjure up.

“The drama that is in modern machinery is not at first realized. The world of art used to bewail the passing of the picturesque old phases of life and the coming in of machinery. It took a Pennell to see the wonderful artistic possibilities of machinery. “Just so it finally comes to you that the real drama of this war lies in the engulfment of human soldiers in these terrible war monsters men have built in work shops.

“Promoters often boast of having made motion pictures for which the settings and actors cost a million dollars. The settings of the picture I took cost several billion dollars.

Hearts of The World Program
Hearts of The World Program

“When you see the picture you will see what I mean. I thought in my mimic war pictures I was somewhat prodigal for instance in the use of cannon. In my picture made at the French front, I made one scene showing thirty-six big guns standing almost wheel to wheel firing as fast as the gunners could load and fire. “I think I will be able to make good the claim that I will use the most expensive stage settings that ever have been or ever will be used in the making of a picture.” Griffith smiled and declined to state his plans for the use of this war material. This first picture is for charity,” he said. “After that, I will go on making Artcraft pictures.”

Motion picture people are looking for another spectacle from him. “Intolerance” proved to be a big hit in London and Paris and has practically paid for itself over there, without counting the receipts on this side. In the older culture of Europe, the story of Babylon was better understood and better appreciated.

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

In fact, it was “Intolerance” that got Griffith the rare boon of a pass to the front line trenches. His previous spectacle also made a great sensation abroad. “The Birth of a Nation” happened to go in London for the first time when the Battle of Loos was in progress. It translated the war for the Londoner into terms that the human mind could comprehend. As I have said before, no one can comprehend a modern battle any more than any human mind can comprehend the real significance of a billion dollars. You can look at a dollar and dimly realize what a billion of them mean. So they needed an epitomized battle to make them comprehend the conflict in which their husbands and sons were dying. They found this in “The Birth of a Nation.” It gave them a better idea of a battle than any one could tell; in fact a better idea than as though they had seen a real battle.

Griffith and the Great War 1
Griffith and the Great War 1

Although Griffith speaks of it lightly, he had a very narrow escape from being killed in the battle that he saw. In fact it may be said to have been a little private battle of his own. A British officer had been detailed to take him into the trenches. He had a new pair of boots and was unwilling to drag those gorgeous foot coverings into the filthy muck of the trenches. When Griffith insisted upon going into the front line, the officer started to walk along the top of the trench. Griffith had no choice but to follow him. It happened that the Britisher was carrying a map case that was very shin}’. It caught the gleam of the sun and the other end of that gleam evidentiary hit a German artilleryman in the eye. At any rate, there came the peculiar whining howl that tells you that a shell is on its way. There was a good marksman at the breech of that distant 77. The shell struck not a dozen yards away and threw up a shower of mud. It happened to be a “dud” and did not explode. Otherwise there would have been no Griffith left to tell the story. They both made a dive into the trench. It was one of the old Hindenburg trenches. Hardly had they taken refuge before the storm began. Griffith crouched down behind a cement pillar that had been part of the old German fortifications. Then it began. Shrapnel and explosive shell came like a terrific storm around them. The noise was beyond all human description. Every shell that came near threw up torrents of mud and slime.

In the middle of it, a British officer appeared on the scene and looked with astonishment at this lone civilian crouching down behind a hunk of cement while the shells rained all around him.

‘”What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“I’m trying to keep out of sight,” said Griffith.

The officer was standing at the window of a shell proof that faced the other way. “I shall have to arrest you,” he said sternly. “Oh thank you; pray do,” said Griffith gratefully seeing a chance to get into the shell proof. As the British officer would have been obliged to come around in plain sight of the German to “pinch” the intruder, he evidently thought better of it and closed the aperture. Griffith had to stay there, squatting in the mud until night came and the shelling stopped. The British officers said afterward that they had never seen a fiercer artillery display than this little private battle between Griffith and the German artillery.

Griffith and the Great War 3
Griffith and the Great War 3

Since he has come home, he is the adored of all the war veterans in Los Angeles. And already there are scores of men who have done their bit and are home again from the war. A natty young Italian aviator with a war badge and a soldier from the French Foreign Legion form the first line trenches of his board of consultation. As one snap shot photograph gives a better idea of the trenches than all the words in the dictionary can possibly tell, it will not be surprising if the most accurate and comprehensive idea of this war will be given to the generations to come, not by the pages of written books but in the motion picture films that will be left by David Wark Griffith. The banging of those German guns will be crystallized in a message that millions will see. It is not the man who describes what actually happens who best tells history. It is the genius who symbolizes it for us; who puts it into doses we can take without mentally choking.

Griffith Lillian Dorothy and Mary Gish - in the ruins of Babylon
Griffith Lillian Dorothy and Mary Gish – in the ruins of Babylon

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Romola – Praised for Unusual Visual Splendor

Lillian Gish - Romola

There were endorsements from museum directors dithyrambic over the accuracy of historical detail, and no less an artistic luminary than painter Pierre Bonnard asserted, “It will awaken longings for the glorious past and enthuse all souls that follow ideals.” The concept central to publicity for Romola was Lillian Gish, the incarnation of the Renaissance woman. Nicolai Fechin’s portrait of her as the character was eventually bought by the Art Institute of Chicago; sculptor Gleb Derujinsky’s bust of her Romola is now in the collection of Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. French press materials, for instance, accentuated the Renaissance connection, even featuring side-by-side photographs of the Mona Lisa and a rather peculiar version of the portrait with Lillian’s face superimposed on it. The writer was quick to advise viewers that since Lillian was “as pure as she was good,” her eyes harbored none of the “devil” hidden in the subject of da Vinci’s painting.

Testimonials to her beauty were probably insufficient solace to Lillian, who, not especially enthusiastic about Romola at the outset, was decidedly unsatisfied with the finished product. “I never thought the drama matched the splendor of its fifteenth-century backgrounds.” (Charles Affron)

Romola - Nicolai Fechin 1925 Painting Oil on canvas tacked over board, 125.1 x 114.9 cm. Private collection as of 2006.
Romola – Nicolai Fechin 1925 – Painting Oil on canvas tacked over board, 125.1 x 114.9 cm. Private collection as of 2006.

Although Romola did well, I never thought the drama matched the splendor of its fifteenth-century backgrounds. Douglas Fairbanks maintained that it was the most beautiful picture ever made, but I found it too slow-paced. Giavonni Poggi, then director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, said of it: “In the film Romola the costumes, the principals and the ensembles seem to have been studied with the greatest possible care. Bravo for the beautiful work of Inspiration Pictures.” And Firmin Gemier, director of the Odeon National Theater, Paris, wrote: “I must tell you how marvelous I think Romola is. Your reconstruction of the golden age of Florence gave me one of the greatest surprises of my life. It is a glorious moment from an epoch in which all true artists, all people of culture, all those who have loved and thought passionately, would like to have lived.”

lillian-gish-gleb-derujinsky-sculpture
Lillian Gish and Gleb Derujinsky’s sculpture – Romola

During that time, two sculptors, Dimitri Dirujinski and Boris Lorski, modeled busts of me. Nicolai Fechin did a portrait of me as Romola that was bought by the Chicago Art Institute. When I was in that city playing in Life With Father, it was hanging in the Goodman Theater. (Lillian Gish)

Nicolai Fechin and Alexandra Fechin with actress Lillian Gish and Erwin S. Barrie, director
Nicolai Fechin and Alexandra Fechin with actress Lillian Gish and Erwin S. Barrie, director

Nicolai Fechin (1881 – 1955) also known as “The Tartar Painter”, was highly influential student of Russian master Ilya Repin. Fechin, along with John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, and Anders Zorn are the perhaps the most frequently cited influences on contemporary impressionists. But it is Fechin’s technique and approach that made his paintings stand out. Masterful with color and palette knife, Fechin used whatever he could, including saliva and his thumb, to achieve the effects he was seeking. Fechin would start with an abstract and bring it back to realism in select areas such as the face and hands, but his compositions, especially anything other than the center of interest, were generally abstract.Began paintings on plain, double weave Belgian linen, which was often attached to stretchers which he had made. He generally prepared his own canvases and seldom made preliminary sketches.His ground varied, not only from painting to painting, but upon a single canvas. In some areas he might use rabbit skin glue; in others, cottage cheese. The absorbency differences in the various sections of ground resulted in areas of high gloss and areas of matte finish in his completed painting. This was the effect he sought, and he therefore did not varnish his paintings.

Fechin painted Lillian Gish as Romola in 1925 (oil on canvas tacked over board) 49¼ x 45¼ in. (125.1 x 114.9 cm.). Estimate $150.000, portrait was finally sold for $464.000 and is part of a private collection since 2006.

Lillian Gish admiring Romola portrait by Nicolai Fechin 1930 - French Press
Lillian Gish admiring Romola portrait by Nicolai Fechin cca 1925 (Oil on canvas painting) – French Press HiRes

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Lillian Gish returns as “the mother” in “The Swan” (1948)

Hollywood, June 2. – (INS)

What a flood of memories will crowd Lillian Gish’s mind when she returns from Europe to play Grace Kelly’s mother in “The Swan.” In 1939 *** Lillian was the star in the M-G-M picture portraying the princess, which now falls with Grace.

Curiously enough there is a resemblance between Grace and Lillian and LILLIAN GISH can very well pass for the Academy Award winner’s “Mom”.

Lillian Gish - Oct 25 1948
Lillian Gish returns as “the mother” in “The Swan” (1948)

*** Admin note: M-G-M The Swan aka “One Romantic Night” was released in 1930 NOT in 1939. One review was written in Weekly Kinema Guide London Suburban Reviews and Programmes (1931), while Albert Bigelow Paine was writing in his book about “The Swan” – where Lillian Gish played Princess Alexandra, in 1932.

Hollywood June 2 (INS) The Swan 1948
Hollywood June 2 (INS) The Swan 1948 – article clipping

 

“’With the preparation and all,” Lillian said, “I worked about three months on ‘One Romantic Night,’ as they called the picture later. Mary Pickford has a bungalow on the lot, and lent it to me. I used it as a dressing-room, sometimes I slept there, when I had to be on the lot very early. I had Georgie, my dog, and Josephine. It would have been well enough, but they were building soundstages all about, which made a great deal of noise, all night long. It was a complete little house. Josephine cooked for me when we stayed there.” (Lillian Gish)

 

 

 

 

Actually, in 1956, was released a “Swan” version inspired by Molnar’s play starring Grace Kelly, Alec Guinness, Louis Jordan, Jessie Royce Landis and Agnes Moorehead. That film was directed by Charles Vidor, after a screenplay written by John Dighton.

 

 

Form 1019 Press Photo 1948 - Lillian Gish
Form 1019 Press Photo 1948 – Lillian Gish
Grace Kelly filming The Swan 1955
Grace Kelly filming The Swan 1955

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Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage” in Way Down East? (Photoplay September 1920)

Photoplay Vol. XVIII September 1920 No. 4

Society in the Films

 

A FRIEND called the residence of Mrs. Morgan Belmont, prominent member of that exclusive circle known as “the four hundred” in New York society. Mrs. Belmont’s butler informed the friend that Madame was out. “Madame is working today,” he said. “What?” gasped the friend at the other end of the wire, “working?”

“At the David Wark Griffith Film Studios,” came the urbane voice of the family servitor.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish

Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage”? She was not. She made a friend of every member of the company from Lillian Gish – center – to Pete Props. Mrs. Belmont at the right.

 

There was something sounding like a muffled, well-bred shriek from the other party; a receiver clicked—that’s all. It was almost as bad as the scion of an aristocratic family going in for trade! Friends couldn’t believe it. Other people, not so fashionable but no less skeptical, branded the announcement from the Griffith offices that “Mrs. Morgan Belmont is appearing in ‘Way Down East’ ” as a press-story. But it proved to be true. Mrs. Belmont is working in “Way Down East,” playing the part of the Boston society woman: Mrs. Belmont is made-up every morning and on the set at eight o’clock and often works until midnight. What’s more. Mrs. Belmont loves pictures and says she intends to go in for them.

What do you think of that?

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

A queen was Griffith’s star and innumerable Countesses and Duchesses and Ladies have posed for his camera in England. But American royalty never capitulated to the lure of the camera until Mrs. Belmont set the style. Now it would not surprise us to hear that Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Astor are to co-star in a domestic drama written especially for them: that Clarence Mackaye is going to do a race-horse story, or that the entire Vanderbilt connection is appearing in a serial written by Mercedes D’Acosta, direction of George Gould, with artistic effects by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney. Society’s first contribution to films was Margaret Andrews, daughter of Paul Andrews, distinguished millionaire of New York and Newport, before she married Morgan Belmont, son of August Belmont. She has an enviable position in that upper strata so-called “society:” she has wealth: she could spend her time in London as the house-guest of half the nobility if she had a mind to: she can live in Manhattan or she can pack up her jewels and take one of her many motor-cars to her luxurious “country” place on Long Island. But Mrs. Belmont says she is having a better time working in pictures than she ever had in her life before, although the hours are long and the rehearsals hard.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish and the eccentric aunt

A great admirer of Mr. Griffith, she proved herself a particularly apt pupil under his guidance, acting with the greatest ease and naturalness. The assembled company watched her with ill-concealed curiosity. What would she be like? Would she be “up-stage?” Would she hold herself aloof from the regular thespian strugglers or ignore them completely? She would not!

She met them all. She became a friend of Lillian Gish, playing Anna Moore, the little country girl who comes to the Boston lady’s house. Mrs. Belmont learned that Lillian possessed as much dignity and charm as any New York or Newport debutante, and infinitely more brains than some. She liked to talk to her: asked her many questions about her work. Once when they were enjoying a between scenes chat in the studio, Mrs. Belmont produced from her bag a gold-and-jeweled lipstick with which to freshen her make-up. Lillian exclaimed with delight at the pretty trinket.

way down east - lobby card 3

“Please accept it,”‘ said Mrs. Belmont eagerly. Lillian demurred, but was finally persuaded to possess the stick, which is a real treasure. Mr. Andrews made a trip to Mamaroneck to find out what was so interesting to his daughter. He became an interested spectator, and soon decided he would like to be in pictures, too. As a result, you will see a real “millionaire clubman” instead of an actor made up to look like one. Mr. Andrews invited several friends to see him work and it wasn’t long before they were in it, too!

Way Down East Cast and Director
Way Down East Cast and Director

It is really one of the property men who can give you the best “line”‘ on- the actors from society. An ex-sailor who has a “game leg” that bothers him in bad weather was trudging along the road to the studios one stormy day. A motor stopped and a voice called, “Hop in.”” Pete Props hopped. His benefactors were a pretty woman who sympathized with his affliction, and a genial man. When Pete got back he told somebody about it. “Why, that was Mrs. Morgan Belmont, that society dame, and her dad,”” he was informed. Pete Props was stunned. “I’ll be— !” he remarked. “Well, they’re regular guys, anyway!”‘

Photoplay (Sep 1920) Mrs Belmont Way Down East
Photoplay (Sep 1920) Mrs. Belmont in Way Down East

Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage”? She was not. She made a friend of every member of the company from Lillian Gish – right– to Pete Props. Mrs. Belmont at the left.

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True Heart Susie Advertising Campaign – Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919)

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 2
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 2

SMILES THRU TEARS; HEARTBREAKING; OH, “TRUE HEART SUSIE!”

Highly Impressive Scene in D. W. Griffith’s New Artcraft Production

PERSONS who have ever had to smile while their hearts were breaking, will never forget the performance of Lillian Gish in “True Heart Susie,” the latest D. W. Griffith Artcraft picture which will be displayed at the theatre on next.

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 7
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 7

SOUL OF VILLAGE MAID IS THEME OF “TRUE HEART SUSIE”

Three Strong Characters Are Central Figures of New D. W. Griffith Picture

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 5
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 5

Advance Press Stories of “True Heart Susie”

To be Sent to the Newspapers Immediately Prior to and During the Display of David Wark Griffith’s Latest Photoplay

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 6
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 6

An Artcraft Picture

CHARMING STORY OF TRUE GIRL’S LOVE IS ‘TRUE HEART SUSIE”

David W. Griffith’s New Artcraft Picture is Delightful Production

CHARMING indeed, is the story of “True Heart Susie,” David W. Griffith’s new Artcraft picture which will be shown at the theatre for days. It is one of those pastoral themes which rise to the dignity of screen classics by reason of the artistry of this master producer, and which invariably hold their own against criticism. In this fascinating story of a little Hoosier girl who loves a boy with rare devotion, the heart interest is supreme and the suspense wonderfully compelling. Susie May Trueheart loves William Jenkins so well that when a politician fails to keep his promise to send William to school, she sells butter and eggs and even her cow to raise funds for the purpose. So it happens that William goes to college, but he is unaware that his good angel is Susie to whom he writes desultory letters. So it happens that when he leaves college and is ordained a minister, he comes to his home as pastor of the village church. Then the tragedy of poor Susie’s life is born. William weds a flighty beautiful girl who repays his love by accepting the attentions of less worthy men. But she is punished by fate. Susie, although she never has forgotten that she was the bearer of flowers at the wedding of the man she loved, protects the erring wife, and it is only after the latter’s death that William comes to a realization of Susie’s great love and both find happiness. Sweet Lillian Gish plays the part of Susie and Robert Harron is William Jenkins. Clarine Seymour plays the role of Betty the butterfly wife. The support generally is of the finest grade.

WIFE OF MINISTER DANCE? OH, HORROR!

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 9
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 9

LILLIAN GISH BUYS AFFECTIONATE COW

Animal Wins Her During- Filming of “True Heart Susie”

IN her new character of. “True Heart Susie” Lillian Gish has to surrender her greatest asset and dear friend, a cow to which she has become greatly attached. When she goes into the field, the cow approaches, stands contentedly near, sniffs at her shoes, calmly and tenderly licks her face, and otherwise demonstrates her affection. “True Heart Susie” will be shown at the theatre next While taking the scenes, Miss Gish was so impressed by the friendliness of the cow, that she made it a pet, and when work was over after several days, she bought the animal. It is the first of a herd Miss Gish hopes to have some day, although it may go as a gift to her sister, Dorothy, for it is the first cow Miss Dorothy ever could fondle without disaster.

True Heart Susie
True Heart Susie

ROBERT HARRON BOY IN NEW PHOTOPLAY

Supports Lillian Gish in New Picture “True Heart Susie”

ROBERT Harron as a lanky, long-necked country boy who goes to college and becomes a minister, with wise opinions about selecting a girl for a wife, but hasty and lacking judgment in doing so, plays the part of a character familiar to millions in D. W. Griffith’s new Artcraft picture “True Heart Susie,” which comes to the theatre next Even before he leaves for the small college, his innocent complacency at being a favorite among the girls of the small community, led him to strut and council with the confidence and wisdom only a boy at such an age could assume. And when he returns from the college for his vacation, with a new suit, a moustache, and a new importance in his carriage ; and grandly invites Susie to attend his royal and triumphal progress to the village grocery store in search of a “sody,” Mr. Harron makes all the world his debtor for one of the most deep-seated laughs the screen has ever offered.

Lillian Gish and Clarine Seymour play the leading women’s roles. The cast generally is of the highest Griffith standard of excellence.

Clarine Seymour Has Strong- Role in “True Heart Susie’’

WHAT could shock a sedate and church-going community more than to have the minister’s wife dance? Not only secretly dance in her own home, but go out at night with a young chap called “Sporty” and dance in the neighboring town. She knew the latest ‘shimmy’ and she danced the lightest step, and she came capering into the life of “True Heart Susie” to become a troublesome and delightful figure in D. W. Griffith’s latest Artcraft picture which will be shown at the theatre next week. But she would dance. The minister had never seen a dance, and his horror at finding his bride dancing with the gayest young man in the countryside, with the music played on the organ where he practiced all his church hymns, was beyond expression. The irrepressible character of this little milliner who stitches a strange garment of life for herself in the drama, is played by Clarine Seymour, the “Cutie Beautiful” of ‘The Girl Who Stayed at Home’. Her vivacity and fascinating selfishness in the role make it distinctly a part of vivid interest and true human proportions.

Lillian Gish and Clarine Seymour - True Heart Susie
Lillian Gish and Clarine Seymour – True Heart Susie
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 1
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (May 1919) True Heart Susie 1

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“The Greatest Thing In Life” advertising campaign (Paramount and Artcraft Press Books – Dec 1918)

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918)

Accessories For The Exploitation Of “The Greatest Thing In Life”

Tell ‘Em About It.

LILLIAN GISH and Robert Harron were big characters in “The Great Love.”

Don’t forget to let your public know that they are playing together again in “The Greatest Thing in Life.” What they did in “The Great Love” set a high standard for them to follow in any subsequent play in which they might appear together. But they’ve reached that high standard, and passed beyond it. Tell your people about it. They’ll want to know and to see the picture.

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 2
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 2

HAVING passed through the cauldron of war, the haughty clubman, with his petty prejudices and jealousies burned away, wooed the little cigar counter girl like a real man. War is a great leveler and develops the greatest thing in life.

WHAT is caste to those who have endured a common sorrow, who have suffered a common peril? War has broken many a shell of social precedent, but never a stranger mating was caused than that of Jeanette Peret and Edward Livingston in “The Greatest Thing In Life.”

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 3
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 3

Death for the Huns who were beating down the door.

Life for the American girl, trapped behind it.

And for the American boy who led the Yanks, the one who threw the grenade, the greatest thing in life.

What is the greatest thing in life? Victory? The veteran’s first view of the Statue of Liberty after the end of the war? Or—just what is it? D. W. Griffith will show you in the newest production from the hand of the genius who made “The Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” “Hearts of the World” and “The Great Love.”

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 4
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 4

Lillian Gish and Robert Harron are in it. WHAT would you ask for if the gods decreed that the one thing you wanted you could have? You’d want the greatest thing in life, wouldn’t you?

Well, what is the greatest thing in life? Victory? Money? Love? The Distinguished Service Cross? The Sight of home at the end of the war? Or is it—the glorious thing that an unenvied American youth found in France in the midst of battle, the thing that brought him all that’s really worth while? Is it that?

D. W. Griffith has that answer for you in his newest production. Lillian Gish and Robert Harron are in it and the great creator of “The Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” “Hearts of the World” and “The Great Love” with his magic has woven around them a motion picture story that takes its fit place among the photoplay masterpieces that will live forever. What do you know about that French girl that your soldier-boy, back victorious from the war, is going to tell you about ? Are her clothes startling? Do the skirts show her hose? Is she the “Frenchy” sort of person you imagine her to be? D. W. Griffith’s newest motion picture introduces you.

Lillian Gish portrays the girl. Her two love affairs don’t go quite smoothly. Garlic fumes bathe one of her idols and the other is scarred with a sneer for all mankind. But a war well-won makes a tremendous difference ! There are worse things than garlic, and cads can change.

motion picture lobby card for the greatest thing in life cve detail2 (library of congress)

Meet that girl your boy knows in France.

THRILLING SCENES IN LILLIAN GISH’S NEW WAR PICTURE

Superb Griffith-Artcraft Picture

“The Greatest Thing In Life.”

ONE of the most remarkable scenes that has thus far been shown on the screen, is in D. W. Griffith’s new Artcraft photoplay, “The Greatest Thing In Life,” with Lillian Gish in the stellar part which will be shown at the theatre next The war has swept over a French village in which a young French-American girl, Jeanette Peret, the character portrayed by Lillian Gish, is living with her father. Hammered by the death storm from the great guns, they have taken refuge in an underground dugout. As the French are leaving, pressed back temporarily by the Huns, a French officer shows Jeanette’s father how the water jar opens with a secret spring and discloses a telephone. “When the Huns come,” the lieutenant tells the old man, “You can serve France by using it.” The old man tries his best to send the message but he is wounded and his daughter undertakes to send it. With the Huns pounding at the door, killing and slaughtering as they come, the girl takes up the field telephone. At first no one will answer. At last, when it seems as though her heart must burst, a voice comes at the other end of the telephone. It is the voice of the fastidious, dandified young lover from America whom she had flouted. That faroff “hello” heard through shot and shell, means more to her than the hope of rescue from the beasts who are beating down her door ; it means that the man she loves has found his soul in the muck and glug of the trenches New honors await Miss Gish when this vivid and wonderful emotional scene is presented to the public. She is splendidly supported, her leading man being Robert Harron, an actor of ability and wide popularity.

Lillian Gish - The Greatest Thing in Life
The Greatest Thing in Life

LILLIAN GISH HAS CHARMING ROLE IN BIG GRIFFITH FILM

Paramount Star Rollicking Girl

in “The Greatest Thing In Life.”

TO see Miss Lillian Gish as Jeanette in “The Greatest Thing in Life,” is to see her in a role entirely different from any in which she has recently appeared. The picture is an Artcraft production by David Wark Griffith and will be shown at the theatre next It presents Miss Gish as a rollicking girl, half hoyden, half dreamer. Her old father, who is homesick for his native France, keeps a little tobacco and news-stand in New York City. Jeanette has to tidy up the living rooms, and attend customers. Very happy is she with today, but tomorrow is of great interest, too, for then will come her hero, a strong, brave man who loves the world as she does, and likes to dream too. At first she thought Edward Livingston might be the man. He was an elegant New York chap, but he called her a simp one day, and left before she could really express her thoughts with the rigorous force they deserved. Then she went to France with her Daddy. When a young giant with a basket of vegetables arrived for the daily delivery at her Aunt’s shop, and found the American girl wonderful, Jeanette had a new hero to consider. But he would eat garlic, and Cupid never rode to conquest on the waves of garlic fumes. Livingston visited France, crossing the ocean to deliver an apology. He shared her delight in poetry and he was clean and fine, but he hated children. She knew then he could never be her ideal, and she returned to Mon. le Bebe. Then war changed many things for little Jeanette. It changed Livingston too. And in the end she knew Livingston was her ideal.

Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising - posters
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising – posters
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 7
Paramount and Artcraft Press Books (Dec 1918) Greatest Thing in Life advertising 7

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“Diane of the Follies” by Thomas C. Kennedy (Motography – September 30, 1916)

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

Motography – September 30, 1916

“Diane of the Follies”

 

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

Lillian Gish has appeared in five Triangle plays to date, and is beginning her sixth. Her first play for this company was “The Lily and the Rose,” followed by “Daphne and the Pirate.” “Sold for Marriage,” “The Innocent Magdalene,” and a symbolic drama now being titled and assembled. Lillian Gish will next be seen on the Triangle program on September 23 in “Diana of the Follies.”

In her latest play, “Diane of the Follies,” Lillian Gish gives an imitation of Sarah Bernhardt, with whom she once appeared as a fairy dancer. Lillian Gish’s latest Triangle play, called temporarily, “Diana of the Follies,” is considered one of the best stories of the year by the Fine Arts scenario department.

Lillian Gish in Fine Arts-Triangle Comedy.

Reviewed by Thomas C. Kennedy

 

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

LILLIAN GISH essays a role quite different from anything she has previously attempted in “Diane of The Follies,” and as a very temperamental show-girl she does remarkably well.

There is nothing in the way of adverse criticism prompted by Miss Gish’s performance, but after sitting through the full five reels of “Diane of The Follies” one, even if one be most charitable, cannot down the feeling that the producers should have found another story about a show-girl if they were anxious to have Miss Gish play such a part.

Diane has plenty of spirit and breeziness but none of the other characters has, nor does this story by Granville Warwick ever threaten to get anywhere in particular. Diane is a showgirl and she marries an amateur writer and is not happy with him and goes back to the “Follies.” That rather brief sentence would do as an outline of the play. The only semblance of plot comes after Diane leaves her husband and child. The latter becomes the victim of some dramatic illness or other and dies before Diane receives word of the trouble. And that was to be expected from the moment Diane gazed longingly upon the child before taking her departure from Christy. The ending of the play finds Diane again back on the stage and her husband, whom she wishes every happiness and success, continues to live as he did before meeting her.

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

“Diane of The Follies” presents some quietly amusing situations and Miss Gish by sheer force of her own acting is a bit interesting upon occasions, but these events are too far between. The production is good in all particulars save one, and that one is the show given to the theater-going public of Stamford. If Stamford could applaud a show like that, why there is hope for “Diane of The Follies,” in Stamford at least. This comedy from the Fine Arts studio was produced by W. Christy Cabanne. Sam De Grasse as Phillips Christy does nothing at all. Others in the cast are Lillian Langdon, Howard Gave, Wilbur Higby and Wilhelmina Siegmann.

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

Were Surprised, Lillian!

Lillian Gish has adopted a course of training as strenuous as a professional pugilist in order to get into the best possible condition for her “rough house” work in the Triangle-Fine Arts production. “Diana of the Follies.” Miss Gish has several free-for-all fights in the picture, including one at her husband’s house and another on the stage of the opera house in which several chorus girls mix in.

In the theater scene one of the chorus girls emerged with a black eye as the result of coming in too close contact with demure Miss Gish. Miss Gish’s portrayal of the temperamental actress in “Diana of the Follies” is expected to make other celebrated temperamental ladies of the screen look to their laurels to preserve their reputations as “Champion Temperamentalists of the World.” W. C. Cabanne directed the production.

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Diane_of_the_Follies_-_1916_newspaper
Diane of the Follies – 1916 newspaper advertisement

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Back to Lillian Gish Home page