Santa Cruz Evening News, Volume 35, Number 123, 26 March 1925
Lillian Gish Eschews Carrots in Federal Court
NEW YORK, March 26. George W. Newgass, once personal attorney of Lillian Gish, motion picture actress, had an uncomfortable time of it in Judge Mack’s court yesterday, under the sarcastic, rapid-fire cross examination of Max Steuer, representing Miss Gish, who is seeking to have her contract with Charles H. Duell, motion picture producer, annulled. Newgass was Miss Gish’s attorney from 1920 until last September. On the stand he insinuated that Miss Gish was a film star only when under the direction of a master mind, and that any other grade of producer would be taking chances with her. Recalled at the request of Steuer, Newgass found himself unable to answer many of Steuer’s questions. He displayed a loss of memory regarding dates, figures and other things about which he was questioned. Steuer finally lost patience with him and openly charged him with evading the questions. Judge Mack took a hand at this juncture and began repeating Sleuer’s questions. Miss Gish, who had been bored at the beginning of the hearing, began to take notice and as her former attorney became more and more discomfited she smiled, first sweetly, and then laughed until tears ran. down her face. Steuer forced Newgass to admit that while he had been working for Miss Gish he had actually been on the payroll as Duell’s lawyer, he also admitted that he had not advised Miss Gish to the importance of her contract with Duell.
NEW YORK, March 26. – Lillian Gish did not munch carrots in federal court today. The film actress disappointed a throng of stenographers who jammed the tiny courtroom in which the suit of Charles H. Duell, motion picture producer, seeking to restrain Miss Gish from making pictures for others is being heard. Taking advantage of a lull in the proceedings, however, Miss Gish explained to newspaper men that she chewed carrots because of their value as “food for the complexion” and to allay her nervousness in the courtroom.
“A Wedding,” rated PG, is currently playing at the Central City Four Theater.
By BERNARD DREW – Gannett News Service
Robert Altman’s “A Wedding” is the frantically enjoyable account of a marriage between a young scion of high (with perhaps a soupcon of low) society and the daughter of a vulgar, redneck nouveau riche and the mayhem which ensues.
As in Altman’s master piece “Nashville,” the panorama covers an inordinately large cast of characters, perhaps a bit too large for us to encompass who and what every person on that screen is or does. There are moments when one might wish to know a little less (or nothing at all) about a character flitting by, and a bit more about some of the major people involved. Right up until the end, there is some fuzziness about a couple of the main characters.
But this is compensated for by the often hilarious vaudeville Altman and his three co-writers John Considine, Patricia Resnick, and Allan Nicholla have concocted for their huge, heterogeneous cast. At times some of the cast seem to be doing a solo turn or scene rather than being part of an integral whole, but I am not going to complain during the current dearth of film comedy, warts and all, “A Wedding” contains moments of inspired lunacy. Altman’s talent is matched by his courage. He has made bad movies but never dull ones.
In “A Wedding,” he maintains the Greek unities of time, place and action. Everything ensues within a 24our period as the wedding commences in church in the morning, while preparations for the reception go on at the groom’s grandmother’s mansion. Then comes the reception itself with all the pandemonium which attends it, lasting through the afternoon, evening and night.
At the outset, grandmother Lillian Gish lies in her bed too ill to attend the wedding but giving last minute instructions to wedding reception coordinator Geraldine Chaplin. Then we see a bit of the wedding ceremony. Half-senile John Cromwell, who has been coaxed out of retirement by friend Gish, is stumbling through the service as the groom, Desi Arnaz, Jr., is becoming one with bride Amy Stryker, who still wears her retainers.
The groom’s mother, Nina Van Pallandt, Gish’s daughter, is a glamorous woman who is married to an Italian of mysterious origin which will be revealed later on. He is portrayed by the superlative Vittorio Gassman. Her sisters are the very regal Dina Merrill, strangely paired with Pat McCormick, who plays an art collector; and Virginia Vestoff, who is conducting an affair with Miss Gish’s black butler, Cedric Scott.
The bride has a younger brother who is an epileptic and an older sister, Mia Farrow, who adds to the confusion of the reception when she announces she is pregnant by the bridegroom, Arnaz.
The most memorable performances are those of Dina Merrill, (in the best thing she has ever done on film), Lillian Gish, John Cromwell, Ruth Nelson as her left wing but still very rich and social sister, Mia Farrow, Geraldlne Chaplin, and Howard Duff. Viveca Lindfors is amusing as a caterer who becomes stoned. You must say this for Robert Altman. He never copies anyone else and he never repeats himself. He’s an original.
San Bernardino Sun, Volume 61, Number 40, 16 October 1954
EXPLAINS CRITICAL ATTITUDE
Lillian Gish Is Back Before Cameras in ‘Night of Hunter’
By Bob Thomas
AGAINST TALKIES – Actress Lillian Gish, shown talking to Charles Laughton, confesses she’s never approved of talking movies. She’s in “Night of the Hunter.” (AP Wire photo)
HOLLYWOOD – I’m always critical of my family. Whatever they do, I want them to be only the best.” That was Lillian Gish’s explanation of why she is sometimes considered a critic of the film industry, She considers it a part of her family, and that isn’t too far fetched. She certainly grew up with it, and it with her.
Miss Gish, whose tender, innocent face is remembered by any one who lived through the silent film era, is back in Hollywood after a considerable absence. She is playing with Shelley Winters and Robert Mitchum in “Night of the Hunter,” which is being directed by Charles Laughton. She, has passed her 55th birthday, but her skin is smooth and she still has the loveliness that mature film fans recall.
She began on the stage at 5 and played in her first movie at 12. She became a star with “Birth of a Nation” and was associated with many of the great D. W. Griffith films that raised movies from infancy to adulthood.
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 125, Number 39, 17 February 1981
Silent Star Says Movies ‘Still in Their Babyhood’
By Ed Blanche
London (AP) – Lillian Gish, one of the original silent Hollywood stars and still working at 84. says movies “are still in their babyhood. We’re still crawling on our hands and knees.” Movies these days, she said in an interview in her suite at London’s Ritz Hotel, are all about ear-chases and “girls who look like they’ve failed an audition for Charlie’s Angels.’ “They’ve lost the concept of beauty that D.W. Griffith handed them on a plate. He gave them form and grammar.” Miss Gish, grabbed at age 12 by the legendary Griffith and later made star of his classic “Birth of a Nation,” said the only people who make good movies anymore are the Russians, because they understand the power of film. “They’re the only ones who take film seriously,” she explained. “Although we don’t always like their politics, they do understand the power of film.” Hollywood these days churns out movies that “technically have gone forward, but intellectually and spiritually have gone backwards.” she said. Miss Gish said she has little time for the realism of the 70s, the explicit sex, the dalliance with drugs and promiscuity, the exploitation and the morose downer concepts of the nuclear age. She said she craves innocence and beauty and a return to the pristine eloquence pioneered by Griffith in the early years of the century.
“There have been only two great geniuses in movies – Mr. Griffith and Walt Disney. Mr. Griffith dealt with the human equation, with people. It’s time we got back to putting beauty on film. The Russians are the only ones doing it now they even transform Siberia into a poem in white.” Modern directors are making a “great mistake they’re playing down to audiences. Mr. Griffith once said that to do that was the end. Movies should uplift and inspire,” Miss Gish continued. “We’re in the first century to bequeath a living, moving history behind us. Just think of actors 100 years from now they won’t have to go back to books. They’ll have it all on film, how we lived, what we did, what we thought. Film is far more important than the invention of the printing press.” Miss Gish, looking petite and fragile in a plain pink, floor-length gown, belies her age. It seems astounding that she has made more than 100 movies, spanning in her lifetime the history of the movies from Griffith’s two-reel silent masterpieces to Robert Altman’s caustic social commentaries. She flew to London on Concorde for the opening of a new musical. “The Biograph Girl,” a triple-history of Griffith, herself and Mary Pickford in the early pioneering years when Hollywood was still a ramshackle adjunct of Los Angeles. “It’s a beautiful show,” she gushed.
“But I thought you had to be dead before they did this sort of thing. I’m sure it will go to Broadway and become a movie and be a big success.” Miss Gish, whose wrinkles cannot mask the sweetness of the face that glowed and shone under Griffith’s direction, is a living history of Hollywood. When she went into movies she was already a showbiz veteran with five years’ stage experience playing in Victorian melodramas, and even appeared with the legendary Sarah Bernhardt on Broadway. She was billed as “Baby Lillian.” But Mary Pickford introduced her to Griffith who promptly added the original “Mizz Lillian” and her sister Dorothy to his cast of Biograph players.
Altogether, she made 43 movies between 1912 and 1922, including Griffith’s “Way Down East” in which she clung to an ice floe for a week waiting to be rescued by heart-throb Richard Barthlemess. Four actors died in the ice on that movie. She was one of the few stars to make the transition to talkies, but eventually got the push from Louis B. Mayer in the 1930s because “I’d been on the great silent pedestal for too long.” But she continued to work, mainly in New York where she still lives. The work was mainly stage plays, but she continued to make movies, including “Duel In The Sun” in 1947 and “The Unforgiven” in 1960. Her 100th movie was Altman’s “The Wedding” two years ago.
EVERYONE is interested in geniuses and how they tick. And the ones who can give the real “lowdown” on them are their secretaries, those long-suffering girls who transfer the pearls of wisdom from lip to paper. Phyllis Moir, who was once secretary to Winston Churchill, prime minister of England, is competent to speak of such men of importance. She has also been secretary to Lord Robert Cecil, Lord Balfour, Sir Nevile Henderson, Lord Derby, and other guardians of the British foreign policy. She worked in the British Foreign Office in London, Rome, and Paris, was the first woman of the clerical staff to be sent out to the British Embassy in Paris. She was chosen to type out, in confidence, the historic Armistice terms of the first World War. But her experience did not end with statesmen. She was also secretary to the stage and screen star, Lillian Gish, at the height of her fabulous career, and to the social arbiter, Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont. She is now a manager of celebrities, founder and president of a lecture bureau in New York City. In the interval between her association with British officialdom, and her services as an editorial associate of Dr. Henry Goddard Leach, in New York, she was a European assistant in administering relief to the Polish refugees in their post-war plight. During her work with Winston Churchill, Miss Moir got her real slant on the ways of “genius.” She traveled with the Churchill family for months. She was on a round-the-clock call, thus gained an intimate insight into the many-faceted personality of the man. She learned, for example, that he often lisped and even stuttered while dictating; that he has pet words which he sometimes overworks a bit, after the fashion of many a boss (his was “prod”); and that he was very impatient, and wanted his letters and speeches typed with lightning rapidity. She found out so much about the “genius make-up” while in Winston Churchill’s employ that she can give out what might be termed the “genius formula.” Anyone who has ever wondered what qualities of character are necessary for the creation of a genius, have only to bend an ear to what Phyllis Moir has to say about her discoveries. “All geniuses have self-confidence,” said Miss Moir. “They have tremendous faith in their own destiny, and they have persistence. “The genius, no matter how many times he is knocked down, gets up and tries all over again. He keeps on trying until he wins out.
“Think how many times Churchill was defeated, only to achieve extraordinary success in the end. After many overwhelming defeats suddenly he has come into his own at the age of 66. “The ordinary Individual lets his own little setbacks get the better of him. He does not put forth any further efforts. He gets depressed, discouraged, and stays defeated. “Another mark of genius is never to brood over troubles, never to know self-pity. That was one of Churchill’s outstanding qualities. He never pitied himself. In his darkest hours he would lose himself in some hobby, such as painting, or backgammon. And in no time at all he would come up smiling, and ready to tackle his problems anew.”
Phyllis Moir . . . To Winston Churchill secretary is only a machine.”
It is Miss Moir’s belief that we have fewer women geniuses. “Women are foolish about setbacks,” she explained. “They go home and cry about them. They are not as resilient as men. They have not yet learned how to ‘bounce.’ “It is unfortunate, but true, that too many women look upon their jobs as mere stepping-stones to marriage. This viewpoint serves as a handicap to success. It places definite limitations upon their efforts. “Men, on the other hand, always feel that the world is theirs, and full of possibilities for them.” What are Winston Churchill’s methods of work? “It didn’t take me long to discover that to Mr. Churchill a secretary is a completely impersonal adjunct. She is a machine that must have no personal needs, who must be on call when he wants her, a being anonymous, perfectly efficient and completely dedicated to the service of Winston Churchill. “But he cast a spell on you that reconciles you to his exacting demands on your endurance, his terrifying impatience and unpredictable fits of irritation. “I would fill two shorthand notebooks in the course of a day, would gulp down a sandwich and coffee, without tasting them, while I went on with my endless typing. I often worked nights. “He had a keen appreciation of good service, however, and was lavish with his praise when it was merited. He was always sincere. “Mr. Churchill himself was a tireless worker. His power of concentration is great. He achieves a state of childlike absorption. The world around him ceases to exist. “He is also blessed with a fine constitution, which stands up under high pressure work. He can tap the reservoir of creative work at any time he chooses.” PHYLLIS MOIR, an intelligent, serene, brown-haired young woman, has written a book, “I Was Winston Churchill’s Secretary,” in which she tells about her close-range observation of Mr. Churchill on and off parade. She admits that “the impact of his personality was so shattering that I felt, when I left his service, that this had been the private secretaryship to end all private secretaryships so far as I was concerned. From now on I knew there could be little excitement or adventure in working for a lesser man.” She can tell just how Churchill coins his unique figures of speech, how he creates the books and articles which have brought him an income of more than $100,000 a year. Churchill, she believes, is a particular genius (she is firm in her belief that this is the word to apply to him), volcanic in action. Discussing some of the other qualities which go to make up the personality of a genius, Miss Moir said. “They always know quite definitely what they want out of life. They have a blueprint in their own minds of the kind of lives they want to live, the kind of success they want to achieve. “Then they work out that blueprint.
As a child, Lillian Gish decided she was going to get to the top. She allowed nothing to interfere with her ambition until she reached her goal.
As they go along they fill in the rest of the plan, the details. That is the method of the unusually successful person. “The others, the mediocre ones of the world, do not know where they are going really, and so they arrive at no particular destination. They had no port in the beginning. They let the ships of their lives just drift. “I once asked Lillian Gish when she first decided she was going to get to the top of the ladder in her field. She said she first made up her mind to that when she was a child. “After that decision, she worked incessantly to get what she wanted. She never had any fun as a child, never let down to play. She had that goal, and she was determined to arrive at it as soon as possible. “It was only when she had reached the top that she let down a little, and began to go to parties and enjoy herself away from her work. She, like Mr. Churchill, never let herself get depressed ‘over anything. When things went wrong, she tried again and again for what she wanted. “She got a tremendous amount of pleasure out of her work, and she also knew how to drive herself. Although she looked fragile, she had a lot of endurance. She could make pictures on the desert when the temperature was 115 and take it.
“She is an extraordinarily difficult person to know, and if I hadn’t gone to live with her … and been with her through some of the most trying times of her life, I doubt whether our casual contacts at the studio would have brought me any intimate knowledge of her. There seems to be a wall of reserve between her and the outside world, and very few people ever get through that wall.
“The little things of life simply don’t worry her at all. Gales of temperament can rage around her—she remains undisturbed…. I have seen her at a time when anyone else would have been distraught with anxiety, come quietly in from the set, eat her luncheon calmly and collectedly (for first of all, Lillian believes in keeping fit for her work), then pick up some little book of philosophy and read it steadily until they sent for her.
“She refuses to believe that there are people in the world who are jealous of her and want to harm her. I remember someone once remarking that a certain person was jealous of her and hated her, and I can still see the look of utter surprise on Lillian’s face. But it never made any difference in her treatment of that person. In fact, I doubt whether she remembered it when she met her again.
“She is intensely loyal to those who have helped her along the path of success. She likes to be alone. She has an inexhaustible fund of patience, and a quiet sense of humor.” PHYLLIS MOIR (secretary to Lillian, 1925-27)
“Think success, dream success, live success.” That was the credo which carried Douglas Fairbanks to Hollywood fame.
“While I was in Hollywood, secretary to Miss Gish, I sat next to Douglas Fairbanks at a dinner. I asked him the plan of his life. He said that, above all, he had wanted, early in life, to be a success. “He said: ‘I think that if a person wants to be successful, he must think success, dream it, live it. He must have it constantly in mind. He must even repeat over and over: ‘I am a success. I am a success.’ ” The truly successful person leads a well-rounded life, according to Miss Moir. “Mr. Churchill, no matter how hard he worked, enjoyed life. He got a lot of fun out of living. He has the best rounded life of anyone I know. I am not an admirer of one-track minds. I, personally, want to get fun out of a lot of things, in addition to my work. “I don’t want to be a secretary again. But, since you ask me to outline the things which go to make a good secretary, I might say that tact is important. “A secretary must have an excellent command of English, and I find that really competent secretaries are at a premium today. So few girls who apply for these jobs can use good English. Their lack of knowledge is really appalling. “I might further add that a good secretary must not have a dominant personality. She must be a shadowy reflection of her employer. “Of course, there are exceptions. Some employers want all their thinking done for them. They demand that someone else take the initiative.” Secretary to a genius? It’s a particularly demanding job. But if you have the intelligence, the ambition and stick to Miss Moir’s prescribed “musts” well, young lady, grab your pencil and paper and take an important, perhaps world-shattering letter, That man at your elbow is apt to be a pretty influential fellow.
Miss Gish came back in “Uncle Vanya,” a comedy by the Russian Chekhov. She had the role of Helena. Of her, Robert Litell said in The New York World: “She is not quite like any other actress I have ever seen, with a lovely repose and certainty, a combination of delicate shades and pastel dignity which make us realize how great the screen’s gain has been all these years, to our loss.”
LILLIAN GISH returns to the stage in the Chekhov comedy after an absence of 17 years. She last appeared on a prosceniumed platform in New York in 1913, along with Ernest Truex and Mary Pickford, in “A Good Little Devil” at the Republic. Since “The Birth of a Nation” her fame in pictures has been secure. Among the notable films which she has illumined, are “Intolerance,” “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East,” “Orphans of the Storm,” “The White Sister,” “Hearts of the World,” “Romola” and “The Scarlet Letter.” Miss Gish made her stage debut at the age of six in a melodrama, “In Convict’s Stripes,” in Rising Sun, Ohio. She was born in Springfield, Ohio, and has never married.
“Uncle Vanya” represents a perfectly balanced cast under consummate stage direction – and for play-goers who are immune to the subtle, brooding enchantment of Chekhoff. It offers a pretty lady whose name was a household word in the great days of David Wark Griffith and the silent silver screen. She, of course, is Lillian Gish, fair haired, slender, spirituelle – an actress who might have stepped out of Tennyson’s lyrics – “She has a lovely face, the Lady of Shalott.”
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 109, Number 275, 21 November 1965
After 64 Years, Lillian Gish Gets Chance To Sing On Stage
By William Glover – Associated Press Drama Writer
New York (AP) Lillian Gish is singing at last.
“Since I began business at age 5,” gently banters the thousand – role veteran, “I’ve wanted to be in a musical and a circus. I’d better be careful, or I’ll end up in the center ring.” Miss Gish ventures into modest melody during portrayal of the dowager empress of all the Russians in “Anya.” due November 29 at the Ziegfeld theater.
The production is based on “Anastasia,” a mildly successful drama a decade ago which investigated the purported survival by one imperial princess of the Bolshevik slaughter in 1917. For Slavic atmosphere, all the tunes are adapted from Sergei Rachmaninoff compositions.
Miss Gish’s special song is “Little Hands.” If she shows a measure of inner fear about doing the number, the 69-year-spry star has no qualms whatever about everything else in the musical.
“I’m doing it because I was asked by producer George Abbott it’s that simple.” she says. Rather ruefully, she recalls, she might have branched out earlier.
“I was the last pupil taken by Victor Maurel he was the great vocal teacher a half century ago. I was only 19 and I’m afraid I didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity.” There were later voice sessions with another eminent instructor, Margaret Carrington. “She taught Barrymore and I went to her off and on through the years.” Always there were plenty of screen and stage calls to keep Miss Gish busy, and in between she was always avid to dash off on further travels. “Going places and reading books are the two greatest things in my life,” she declares. “There are still so many places in the world I want to see.” Miss Gish is unequivocal about the current condition of Broadway.
“I won’t go to see straight plays anymore.” she says. “They are all brown plaxs about brown people in brown sets.” She feels much of the dull atmosphere crept in with elimination of footlights.
War and its horrors have been translated to the screen in many forms, the surge and thunder of battle has been depicted in great spectacles; the side of the soldier told in “The Big Parade” but to Lillian Gish has fallen the task of telling the side of those who, perhaps, suffer most but whose side has never before been presented—the side of the women who face starvation, grief and moral disintegration as a side issue in the struggles of nations. Such is her message in ‘“The Enemy,” Metro – Goldwyn – Mayer’s graphic depiction of Channing Pollock’s famous stage drama —a story of war away from the battlefield; a story of the hatreds, hysteria and breaking down of human relationships that follow like a pestilence in the wake of war propaganda.
On the stage the story was held the drama’s greatest gift to the cause of peace. As a vehicle for Miss Gish the new picture, will play at the Carlsbad Theatre Sunday and Monday, is one of the most gripping plays the famous star has ever appeared in. It presents a new Lillian Gish—a Lillian Gish in a modern role in a modern garb, in an intensely modern story. It tells of the after-war effects of international hatreds in a powerful dramatic theme. At times the star rises to almost sublime heights in the graphic portrayal of the tragic Pauli. Fred Niblo directed the picture, with a notable cast. Ralph Forbes plays Carl, the husband, and Ralph Emerson the English lover.
Frank Currier and George Fawcett have two splendidly-handled character roles as the old fathers of the couple, and Karl Dane and Polly Moran supply relief generously and well. Fritzi Ridgway in the role of Mitzi and John S. Peters as Fritz enact an interesting counterplot in the story, and little Billy Kent Schaeffer plays the child. Willis Goldbeck, noted for his work on “The Garden of Allah,” adapted the story from the original Channing Pollock stage play, And Agnes Christine Johnston wrote the scenario.
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