“Birth of a Nation” Breaks All Records – (Photoplay, July 1924)

Photoplay Magazine Volume XXVI, Number Two – July 1924

“Birth of a Nation” Breaks All Records

The Perfect Song - The Birth of a Nation

Seven years before the producer of “The Birth of a Nation,” then just Larry Griffith, an actor out of a job, found a chance to play a role in a little one-reel Edison drama for five dollars a day. Seven years since he sold his first script to Biograph for fifteen dollars.

lillian gish - nacimiento-de-una-nación - the birth of a nation 5

“The Birth of a Nation” broke all manner of theater records in various world capitals and became, as it remains today, the world’s: greatest motion picture, if greatness is to be measured by fame. It has ever since continued to be an important box office success. Early in 1924 “The Birth of a Nation” played in the great Auditorium Theater in Chicago, surpassing any previous picture audience record for that house.

lillian gish - nacimiento-de-una-nación - the birth of a nation 6

“The Birth of a Nation” is nine years old.

No other dramatic screen product has lived so long, with the single and interesting exception of the little one-reel Sennett Keystone comedies featuring Charles Chaplin.

Here, perhaps, is a test of screen art. “The Birth of a Nation” was Griffith vindication for his flourishing departure from Biograph. Because of the halo that “The Birth of a Nation” has conferred upon them, some of the now famous names from the cast must be recalled: Henry Walthall, Mae Marsh, Elmer Clifton, Robert Harron, Lillian Gish, Joseph Henabery, Sam de Grasse, Donald Crisp and Jennie Lee.

Griffith’s attainment in “The Birth of a Nation” must be credited with a large influence in extending an acceptance and appreciation of the screen art into new, higher levels. Here was a picture that could not be ignored by any class. It also exerted a large, even if indirect, influence on the course of motion picture finance. Hundreds of thousands and million were now to become easy figures in the manipulation of the thought of the industry. “The Birth of a Nation” is said to have cost over a quarter of a million. It would have been cheap at a million. The public has paid 815,000,000, according to the estimate of J. P. McCarthy, who has put the picture on the screens of the world.

In this single picture, Griffith, above all others, forced an indifferent world to learn that the motion picture was great. In the next chapter we shall tell some untold tales of screen destiny, rich with personal drama and adventure, stories of Charles Chaplin, Pancho Villa. Jack Johnson and Jess Willard. a curious bypath story of the world war and Broadway, and the amazing truth of how one idea and one little girl, Mary Pickford, rocked the whole vast institution of the screen and set all of its invested millions a-tremble.

The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) - Griffith demonstrating his rapport with animals — with D. W. Griffith.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

LOOS PREVIEW 1981

Desert Sun, Number 17, 24 August 1981

LOOS PREVIEW

(AP Laserphoto) Actresses Helen Hayes (left) and Lillian Gish attend the preview in New York Thursday of an exhibit entitled “Anita Loos and Friends.” The exhibit, to be shown at the Grand Central Art Galleries in the Biltmore hotel, is a memorial to the late author who died this week. The exhibit features memorabilia collected over the author’s 70-year career.

Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish attend at preview in New York Thursday of an exhibit Anita Loos and Friends
Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish attend at preview in New York Thursday of an exhibit entitled Anita Loos and Friends

Anita Loos and Lillian Gish …

Memory is not necessarily truth—it is a constant civil war. If there is anyone who could have written the history of writing for the screen, it was Anita Loos. Yet doing so had not seemed important at the time.
She began selling random stories to various companies to help pay the family rent, and eventually she procured a studio job with D. W. Griffith as a so-called story editor. (She bought many of her own scenarios, thus doubling her income. But, after all, hers were the best.) She grew up with the newborn movie industry that led her into her great success with subtitles and on to feature films and early talkies. She moved to the big canvas of the golden years of studios such as Famous Players-Lasky (later known as Paramount), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Twentieth Century Fox. Her great success with her brilliant novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, shot her like a comet into the world of celebrities and international society. Later, as a craftsperson of stage plays, she became a star maker and a biographer of talent. During the years she traveled in Europe and headquartered in New York, she continued writing by hand. Her humor spilled out of her writing to create laughter for the world, in spite of the secret sadness of her lonely life. (Mary Anita Loos)

Anita Loos is perhaps best known today tor informing the world that “gentlemen prefer blondes” and that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Yet she did so much more than that. As early as 1917 her work was compared favorably with O. Henry’s,’ and for more than three decades she was one of Hollywood’s most respected and prolific screenwriters. Anita was also an accomplished novelist, a short-story writer, and a much-indemand New York playwright. Her full-page obituary in the Sew York Times in 1981 attests to the longevity of her celebrity status, but hard work went into that glamorous facade: Anita wrote almost every day for more than seventy of her ninety-four years.

Anita Loos rediscovered : film treatments and fiction
Anita Loos rediscovered : film treatments and fiction

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Nearly 200 top stars shine at benefit show – 1982

Desert Sun, Number 166, 15 February 1982

Nearly 200 top stars shine at benefit show

“Night of 100 Stars”

NEW YORK (AP) Elizabeth Taylor flubbed a line and said Queen Victoria celebrated her diamond jubilee in 1997. Liza Minnelli did “New York, New York” backed by a chorus line of seven New York Yankees. And the likes of Al Pacino, James Caan, Roger Moore, Robert De Niro and former New York Mayor John Lindsay high-kicked and sang with Radio City Music Hall’s famed Rockettes. Sunday’s one-night stand featured one of the greatest casts in show business history, which was assembled for a $2 million benefit for the Actors’ Fund of America. Billed as the “Night of 100 Stars,” featuring nearly 200 celebrities and a 36-piece orchestra, the show lasted five and half hours, and played to a sell-out crowd of 5,882 people who paid from $50 to $1.000 a seat to see the glittering extravaganza at the huge midtown Manhattan theater.

The Night of 100 Stars - 1982
The Night of 100 Stars – 1982 Lillian Gish

Despite the show’s length the program was taped and will be edited to a three-hour telecast scheduled for an ABC airing March 8 the audience generally remained cheerful during delays between the more than 40 segments in Sunday’s big show. But they occasionally groaned at repeated scenes in which a huge birthday cake commemorating 100 years of the Actors’ Fund was rolled on stage and candles on it were lit as Helen Hayes, Princess Grace and James Earl Jones ticked off major and minor events in each decade.

Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly - night-of-100-stars
Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly – night-of-100-stars

The audience jumped to its feet, applauding, when an ailing Jimmy Cagney, seated in a chair, was saluted along with other Hollywood superstars from Gene Kelly to Lillian Gish, who joined him on stage. Showcasing the top names of stage, screen, TV and music, “Night of 100 Stars” aimed at raising $2 million for the Actors’ Fund, created in 1882 to help needy members of the entertainment community. President Reagan, a former actor, is to be awarded the fund’s special medal of achievement later. The award last was given to President William Howard Taft in 1910.

AP Wire Press Photo Lillian Gish, Miss Piggy, Radio City Muppets (The Night of 100 Stars)
AP Wire Press Photo Lillian Gish, Miss Piggy, Radio City Muppets (The Night of 100 Stars)

GLAMOUR GALS Miss Piggy of the “Muppets” backs up longtime actress Lillian Gish, during finale of the “Night of 100 Stars” gala benefit Sunday night at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

D. W. Griffith, Pioneer Film Producer, Dies (July 23, 1948)

Madera Tribune, Volume 16, Number 12, 23 July 1948

D. W. Griffith, Pioneer Film Producer, Dies

Hollywood, July 23—(U.R)—Pioneer Film Director David Wark Griffith, 68, whose “Birth of a Nation” lifted the movie industry out of the nickelodeon stage, died today of a brain hemorrhage. His death at 8:24 a. m. at Temple hospital occurred after he was stricken in his hotel room yesterday. Paralyzed from a hemorrhage on the left side of his brain, Griffith was administered oxygen. Dr. Edward Skaletar, his attending physician, was at Griffith’s bedside. Members of his family, including a niece, Ruth Griffith, and a nephew, Willard Griffith, both of Santa Ana, had spent part of the night at the hospital.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Retirement

For much of the last 20 years the movie pioneer, who had discovered such film stars as Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Mary Pickford, Norma Talmadge, Richard Barthelmess and the Gish sisters, was in retirement. In 1930 he returned to the industry as an associate in the Roach organization, serving in an advisory capacity for the 1939-40 season. Entering the film industry in 1908 after brief careers in journalism and on the stage. Griffith produced the movies’ first epic and revolutionized screen technique. He daringly made films longer than one reel, and originated the “flashback,” and the “close-up,” “Mist-photograph” and the “fade out.”

 “Birth of a Nation”

“The Birth of a Nation,” probably the most famous picture ever made, was directed by Griffith in 1915. Nothing like it had been seen before, and seats sold for $1 when the film toured the country. The picture grossed $3,500,000—exceeded only by four other pictures in the next 20 years. It is still being shown. Mae Marsh, the “Little Sister,” Henry B. Walthall, the “Little Confederate Colonel,” Lillian Gish and Wallace Reid rode to fame in the picture which depicted the strife-torn days in the south after the Civil War. There were hopes that Griffith might produce the film again in sound— the original was a silent version—but Walthall died in 1936 and Griffith said “I couldn’t do it again without Walthall.”

The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) With D.W.Griffith and his wife Evelyn in their West Coast home — with Lillian Gish and D. W. Griffith.
The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) With D.W.Griffith and his wife Evelyn in their West Coast home — with Lillian Gish and D. W. Griffith.

Recently Divorced

Griffith’s second wife, Evelyn Baldwin Griffith, 40 years younger than he, divorced Griffith last November, claiming he was a bachelor at heart. They were married in Louisville Ky., in 1936. His first wife was Actress Linda Arvidson, and they were divorced in 1938 after 25 years of marriage. “D W “, as he was known through out the movie industry, was born in La Grange, Ky., Jan. 22. 1880, son of Margaret Oglesby, and Col. Jacob Wark Griffith, known locally during the Civil War as “Roaring Jake” Griffith.

D W Griffith late 1890s
D W Griffith late 1890s

Newspaper Worker

Young Griffith worked in the mail room of his brother’s newspaper in a Kentucky town, then graduated to night police reporter for “Marse Henry” Watternson’s Louisville Courier-Journal. He also wrote theatrical notes and thus saw his first stage performance, Peter Baker in “America’s National Game.” After seeing Julia Marlowe In “Romola”, Griffith left newspaper  work to become a dramatist. He first appeared as an actor in a play, “The District School,” but he earn so little as a stock company actor in Louisville that he took a job mornings running a store elevator. He fared better later and played leading roles in “The Three Musketeers,” “The Ensign,” and ‘Elizabeth.” His literary efforts included a poem “The Wild Duck,” which he sold to Leslie’s Weekly for $35 and a play, “Fool and a Girl,” which opened at the Columbia theatre in Washington Sept. 30, 1907. But even with Miss Fanny Ward in the cast, it failed.

Lawrence Griffith, third from left at back, with the MeffertStock Company, Louisville, Kentucky 2897-98
Lawrence Griffith, third from left at back, with the MeffertStock Company, Louisville, Kentucky 1897-98

Saw First Movie

Griffith went to Chicago and there in 1907 saw his first motion picture, which was still in the  “flicker” era. He thought the film was stupid, but he was impressed by the long lines awaiting admission. A scenario he wrote—a screen version of the opera, “La Tosca,” — was rejected as too expensive to produce. A friend, Frank Marion, owned stock in the old Biograph Co., and he sent Griffith there. The scenarios aroused little Interest but Griffith was hired by Biograph as an actor at $5 a day.

Griffith - The Adventures of Dollie
Griffith – The Adventures of Dollie
Griffith Early Biograph career
Griffith Early Biograph career

In June, 1908, he became assistant director to H. M. Marvin, head of Biograph, and then began his rapid rise in the industry. His first film, “The Adventure of Dollie,” was billed as “one of the most remarkable cases of child-stealing.” Some of the actors he worked with at the Biograph were Owen Moore, Lionel Barrymore, Mabel Norman, Alice Joyce, James Kirkwood, Harry Carey and Constance Talmadge. In 1919. Griffith. Mary Pickford. Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks founded the United Artists Corp. He sold his interest in 1933.

 

Richard Barthelmess, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish at Griffith's Memorial Lagrange Kentucky May 14, 1950
Richard Barthelmess, Mary Pickford, Evelyn Baldwin Griffith and Lillian Gish at Griffith’s Memorial Lagrange Kentucky May 14, 1950
Richard Barthelmess, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish at Griffith's Memorial Lagrange Kentucky May 14, 1950
Richard Barthelmess, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish at Griffith’s Memorial Lagrange Kentucky May 14, 1950

 

 

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Tasteless Film Sex Disturbs Lillian Gish

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 118, Number 256, 31 October 1973

Tasteless Film Sex Disturbs Lillian Gish

BEVERLY HILLS. Calif. (AP) “As an American, I am against censorship of any kind.” remarked Lillian Gish, one of the great stars of the silent screen. She added wistfully, “But I do wish we could do something about taste.” Miss Gish, the fragile beauty of “Birth of a Nation,” “Broken Blossoms” and a host of other silent classics, was paying a return visit to the Hollywood she first saw exactly 60 years ago. She reminisced about the past, particularly her prideful association with D.W. Griffith, but she also talked about present-day films. “Ugliness disturbs me,” she commented, “and much of what is shown on the screen is ugly. Not only in exposure of the human body. I also mean the ugliness of violence. To me, violence is just as offensive as nudity. “Although I do not approve of censorship,

1973 Press Photo Lillian Gish Nov 6 1973 Sun Times B
1973 Press Photo Lillian Gish Nov 6 1973 Sun Times

I wish there were some way to impose taste on the people who make films. It’s not that I mind the portrayal of sex in movies, but sex should be beautiful, an expression of human love. But too often it is made to seem ugly.” A youthful 77, Miss Gish is in the middle of a tour of 30 cities in seven weeks to call attention to her new book. “Dorothy and Lillian Gish,” a $20 family album of the rich careers of the two sisters. She added a historical perspective on the film world’s flirtation with obscenity: “You know. I helped the Italian film industry get started. I went to Rome after the first World War and made the first American film there -The White Sister.’ There was only one broken-down studio in Rome, and we rebuilt it. Then I went to Florence and made another movie, “Romola.”

“I spent two years in Italy, and I had time to learn all about their art. The Italians in the Renaissance went through what our film makers seem to be going through today. Nudity had not been seen before, and at first they exploited it. But then they learned to portray the human body with beauty. “I say to today’s movie makers: Do what you will but do it beautifully.” LillianGish conveyed an air of fragility on the screen, but she is in reality the most resilient of ladies. She has proved that by crossing the country 11 times in the last four years, lecturing to colleges and other audiences on “The Art of the Film.” “I’ve lectured in 41 states only nine to go,” she announced proudly. The barnstorming is a throwback to her childhood, when she and Dorothy toured the country in melodramas.

Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish and Mary Pickford
Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish and Mary Pickford

The Gishes made their movie debuts in 1912 in “An Unseen Enemy,” starring a stage chum they had known as Gladys Smith now she calls herself Mary Pickford. The director was D.W. Griffith. It was the start of Lillian’s long, distinguished association with the greatest of the silent film makers. She recalled her arrival in California in 1913: “There was nothing but citrus groves, all the way from San Bernardino. I remember passing a little Santa Fe station named Gish; I never saw it again or learned why it was so named.

1973 Press Photo Lillian Gish promoting book 1973
1973 Press Photo Lillian Gish promoting book 1973

“Our first studio was in a car barn on Pico Boulevard, and they put rugs over the tracks when we were filming. We worked only in the daytime, of course, because we couldn’t shoot when the light failed.” She recalled Hollywood as “a village full of churches and a white hotel with a verandah where old ladies in California for the winter sat in rocking chairs.” Throughout her career, Miss Gish only lived here when she was working.

Her home was, and still is, New York “an awful, dirty, noisy, filthy city, but still the most exciting place in the world.” She recently ended a run in a play there, “Uncle Vanya,” directed by Mike Nichols and starring George C. Scott and Julie Christie. After touring the United States and England for her book, she may do the film version. After that? “I don’t know. Things just happen to me. I never plan.”

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 118, Number 256, 31 October 1973
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 118, Number 256, 31 October 1973

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Cape Coat Continues to Appeal to Slender Figure (1927)

Advertising Annie Laurie ...

Lompoc Review, Volume IX, Number 4, 21 June 1927

Cape Coat Continues to Appeal to Slender Figure

(Graceful and charming, the cape coat continues to appeal to the slender  figure. Lillian Gish, Metro – Goldwyn – Mayer star, who is to be seen on the screen soon In her latest production, “Annie Laurie,” sponsors a coat of this type for general wear. This one is of kasha and is lined with a contrasting color which forms the piping on the cape. The cape is scalloped. With this coat Miss Gish wears a two-toned hat of the new linen weave so smart for summer wear and shoes of alligator skin.

Lillian Gish by Harriet Louise 1920s F
Lillian Gish by Harriet Louise 1920s F
Lompoc Review, Volume IX, Number 4, 21 June 1927
Lompoc Review, Volume IX, Number 4, 21 June 1927
ANNIE LAURIE, Norman Kerry (links), Lillian Gish (Mitte), Direktor John S. Robertson, am Set, 1927
ANNIE LAURIE, Norman Kerry (links), Lillian Gish (Mitte), Direktor John S. Robertson, am Set, 1927

 

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Kennedy Center Honors show taped for airing Christmas night – 1982

Desert Sun, Number 110, 10 December 1982

Kennedy Center Honors show taped for airing Christmas night

By MARY CAMPBELL Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Lillian Gish, Benny Goodman, Gene Kelly, Eugene Ormandy and George Abbott, recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, were in a rather unaccustomed seat Sunday night the audience listening while stars from Broadway to grand opera honored them. Betty Buckley, star of “Cats” on Broadway, sang “Memory” from that show, to honor them all and start a two-hour program in Kennedy Center’s Opera House. President and Mrs. Reagan attended. Seats, at $3OO, had been sold out for months, benefitting the Kennedy Center by $500,000, said Claudette Colbert. The show was taped by CBS-TV for showing on Christmas night.

1982 DC Ronald Reagan - Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)
1982 DC Ronald Reagan – Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)

The five honorees had been presented their medallions Saturday night at a banquet in their honor at the State Department. Cary Grant, who was an honoree last year, read their official citations and Roger L. Stevens, Kennedy Center chairman, placed the medallions on broad ribbons around the necks of the recipients. Miss Buckley was introduced by master of ceremonies Walter Cronkite, who said, “A grateful nation honors five Americans whose career contributions to the performing arts have enriched our lives.” The audience also heard a recorded speech by Reagan, a briefer version of the one he gave at 6 p.m. in the Blast Room of the White House at a reception honoring the five. He called them “dreamers who made their dreams come true for the rest of us.” He went on, “The years they devoted to their crafts lifted our lives from the commonplace to share the sublime.” As pictures from George Abbott’s past were shown, director Harold Prince said, “Producer, director, actor, author, play doctor Mr. Abbott is 95 with only 120 shows to his name.” Then a quartet of actors who worked for Abbott on Broadway before their hair turned gray Eddie Albert, Van Johnson, Tom Bosley and Hal Lindon came on. They were soon joined by Jean Stapleton, in the uniform and cap she wore in “Damn Yankees,” and the men’s “You Gotta Have Heart” became a five-part “You Gotta Have George.” Bosley pointed out at the White House reception that this fifth year of the Kennedy Center Honors is the first in which one honoree made another a star. Abbott gave Gene Kelly his first starring role, in “Pal Joey.”

Lillian Gish Kennedy Center
Lillian Gish Kennedy Center

Eva Marie Saint narrated film clips from Lillian Gish’s career including harrowing shots of her on an ice floe where she had refused a stand-in. She said, “Lillian Gish was there at the very beginning of motion pictures. She has been a star from the first time she made films with D. W. Griffith in 1912. Her dreams are lofty, her spirit intact.” Metropolitan Opera soprano Leona Mitchell sang Mimi’s act one aria from “La Boheme.’’ Miss Gish starred as Mimi in the silent film “La Boheme.”

John Gilbert and Lillian Gish (La Boheme)5

Andre Previn spoke of Benny Goodman’s famous 1938 first jazz concert in Carnegie Hall and Lionel Hampton spoke of his being the first person in jazz to integrate his group. The Benny Goodman Quartet, from 1936 when he hired Hampton and pianist Teddy Wilson, was himself, those two and the late drummer Gene Krupa. Peggy Lee, who said Goodman wouldn’t let her resign when both she and the critics thought she should, sang “Where or When” and “Do Right,” proving that Goodman had been right. “Simply one of the greatest conductors of this century” was what Eugene Istomin called Eugene Ormandy. Istomin made his debut as a concert pianist under Ormandy’s baton, during Ormandy’s 44 years leading the Philadelphia Orchestra. Violinist Isaac Stern, one of Ormandy’s most frequently engaged guest soloists in Philadelphia, played the slow movement from Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 3, in G Major,” for the maestro. Yves Montand said of Gene Kelly, “He will always be our American in Paris, and much more. He is in people’s hearts everywhere, an American for the whole world.” Brief film clips showed Kelly dancing with Frank Sinatra and Leslie Caron, singing with Judy Garland and roller skating down a street.

MARY CAMPBELL Associated Press Writer – 1982

kennedy-center-honorees george-abbott-lillian-gish-benny-goodman-gene kelly 01 12 1982
kennedy-center-honorees george-abbott-lillian-gish-benny-goodman-gene kelly 01 12 1982
Desert Sun, 10 December 1982
Desert Sun, 10 December 1982
Lillian Gish - The LIFE Picture Collection 1982
Lillian Gish – The LIFE Picture Collection 1982

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Tribute to Gish telecast – April 17, 1984

Desert Sun, Number 209, 4 April 1984

Tribute to Gish telecast April 17

By Copley News Service

AFI Life Achievement Award A Tribute to Lillian Gish (1984) with AFI founder George Stevens Jr - Photo - Globe
AFI Life Achievement Award A Tribute to Lillian Gish (1984) with AFI founder George Stevens Jr – Photo – Globe

HOLLYWOOD The American Film Institute tribute to Lillian Gish, to be telecast April 17 over CBS, may bring back silent pictures. George Stevens Jr., founder of the AFI and producer of the salute, says among the reasons Gish was chosen to receive the Institute’s Life Achievement Award is her status as a silent screen star. The tribute program is therefore laced with clips from her pretalkie movies, so intriguing that the public may demand to see the rest of each picture.

ap wire press photo lillian gish, george stevens jr, life achievement award 84

Gish’s most famous movie is D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” set during the horrors of the Reconstruction. Lauded by film historians for its innovations it introduced the close-up for example it’s been damned in recent years as a racist exaggeration, a damnable lie, a rotten diatribe. Gish defends the film, taking the attitude that, if anything rotten has been going around, it’s been attacks against the movie from the uninformed.

Copley News Service – April 1984

AFI-founder-George-Stevens-Jr.-and-actress-Lillian-Gish-at-the-American-Film-Institutes-10th-Anniversary-Gala-in-Washington.jpg
AFI founder George Stevens Jr. and actress Lillian Gish at the American Film Institute’s 10th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C..Photos at White House, Georgetown and Kennedy Center..Article title Eye View

 

Back to Lillian Gish Home page