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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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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Exploitation on “Broken Blossoms” Is Explained in Detail (The Moving Picture World – December 13, 1919)

Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess - Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess – Broken Blossoms

The Moving Picture World – December 13, 1919

Exploitation on “Broken Blossoms” Is Explained in Detail for Showmen Who Would Get All the Dollars

Indications are that as a money maker for exhibitors, “Broken Blossoms” will hold its place with “The Miracle Man,” “The Hoodlum,” “His Majesty the American,” “Back to God’s Country,” and other big releases now winning for the theatres of the Middle West the biggest attendance they ever enjoyed. The picture was introduced to Iowa in the new Des Moines theatre, of which Arthur Stolte is manager. In Nebraska it was shown by Manager H. M. Thomas at the Omaha Rialto.

Manager Stolte, at the Des Moines, gave the picture an elaborate presentation, following an advertising campaign in which advertisements in two colors were used in the dailies of Des Moines. Green and red were employed in the color scheme in the theatre. Huge Chinese paintings in these colors surrounded by gleaming Chinese lanterns, beautified the outside lobby. The second lobby, or arcade, was filled with mirrors, paintings and lights, and Chinese incense burners added Oriental fragrance to the atmospheric effect.

Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess (Moon Scene) Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess (Moon Scene) Broken Blossoms

Acted Prologue to Film.

The prologue scene represented an actual scene from the picture, showing the act when the Chinese brings the girl into his room. It occupied about seven minutes. Charles Tazewell, a Des Moines student of dramatic art in the university there, played the part of the Chinese.

Lillian Gish (Lucy Burrows) Broken Blossoms backlighting (contour) shot MGM 13168
Lillian Gish (Lucy Burrows) Broken Blossoms backlighting (contour) shot MGM 13168

Maurine Sandahl, also studying in the dramatic school at the university, played the part of Lillian Gish. On one side of the stage the lights were on in a scene showing the room, the Chinaman attempting to express his love for the girl, and his deep regret when his effort meets with no response. As this scene faded out, the lights turned on on the other side of the stage, where the “Chink” was shown bowing before the Buddha. He arose, lighted the incense, tapped the gong, and the lights faded out as the picture was flashed upon the screen.

In opening the picture, the title was started on the screen, when the curtain closed. There were loud drum beats by the orchestra, then a rumble, then the first scene of the prologue brightened into view. The theatre was in green and red all the time, lanterns showing the red and the inverted lighting system showing the green. The girl ushers were dressed in Chinese costume.

Lillian Gish - Lucy, the girl (Broken Blossoms)
Lillian Gish – Lucy, the girl (Broken Blossoms)

Garrick Stages Prologue in Lobby.

The Garrick Theatre, now showing “Broken Blossoms,” the D. W. Griffith production, is attracting much attention with its prologue to the picture, which is staged afternoon and evening in the lobby of the theatre. A girl, dressed in a costume to represent Lillian Gish, and a man dressed as a Chinaman, go through a little sketch that is in harmony with the theme of the play.

Broken Blossoms - Lillian Gish
Broken Blossoms – Lillian Gish

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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

A Tribute To “The Birth Of A Nation” – By Rupert  Hughes (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

The Birth of a Nation (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

A Tribute To “The Birth Of A Nation”

By Rupert  Hughes

United Artists Pressbook, 1915

When a great achievement of human genius is put before us, we can become partners in it, in a way, by applauding it with something of the enthusiasm that went into its making. It is that sort of collaboration that I am impelled to attempt in what follows.

When I saw “The Birth of a Nation” the first time, I was so overwhelmed by the immensity of it that I said:

“It makes the most spectacular production of drama look like the work of village amateurs. It reduces to childishness the biggest things the theatre can do.”

For here were hundreds of scenes in place of four or five; thousands of actors in place of a score; armies in landscape instead of squads of supers jostling on a platform among canvas screens. Here was the evolution of a people, the living chronicle of a conflict of statesmen, a civil war, a racial problem rising gradually to a puzzle yet unsolved. Here were social pictures without number, short stories, adventures, romance, tragedies, farces, domestic comedies.  Here was a whole art gallery of scenery, of humanity, of still life and life in wildest career. Here were portraits of things, of furniture, of streets, homes, wildernesses; pictures of conventions, cabinets, senates, mobs, armies;  pictures of family lif e, of festivals and funerals, ballrooms and battlefields, hospitals and flower-gardens, hypocrisy and passion, ecstasy and pathos, pride and humiliation, rapture and jealousy, flirtation and anguish, devotion and treachery, self-sacrifice and tyranny.  Here were the Southrons in their wealth,   with their luxury at home, their wind-swept cotton fields; here was the ballroom with the seethe of dancers, here were the soldiers riding away to war, and the soldiers trudging home defeated with poverty ahead of them and new and ghastly difficulties arising on every hand. Here was the epic of a proud, brave people beaten into the dust and refusing to stay there.

The Birth of a Nation (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

The pictures shifted with unending variety from huge canvasses to exquisite miniatures.  Now it was a little group of refugees cowering in the ruins of a home. A shift of the camera and we were looking past them into a great valley with an army fighting its way through.

The Birth of a Nation (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

One moment we saw Abraham Lincoln brooding over his Emancipation Proclamation ; another, and he was yielding to a mother’s tears; later we were in the crowded theatre watching the assassin making his way to and from his awful deed. The leagues of film uncoiled and poured forth beauty of scene, and face and expression, beauty of fabric and attitude and motion.

The Birth of a Nation (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

“The Birth of a Nation” is a choral symphony of light, light in all its magic ; the sun flashing through a bit of blown black lace and giving immortal beauty to its pattern; or quivering in a pair of eyes, or on a snow-drift of bridal veil, or on a moonlit brook or a mountain side. Superb horses were shown plunging and rearing or galloping with a heart-quickening glory of speed down road and lane and through flying waters. Now came the thrill of a charge, or of a plunging steed caught back on its haunches in a sudden arrest. Now followed the terror of a bestial mob, the hurrah of a rescue, streets filled with panic and with carnival. Life is motion and here was the beautiful moving monument of motion.

The Birth of a Nation (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

“What could the stage give to rival all this?” I thought. “What could the novel give? or the epic poem?” The stage can publish the voice and the actual flesh ; yet from the film these faces were eloquent enough without speech. And after all when we see people we are merely receiving in our eyes the light that beats back from their surfaces; we are seeing merely photographs and moving pictures. I had witnessed numberless photoplays unrolled, pictures of every sort and condition of interest and value. I had seen elaborate “feature-films” occupying much time and covering many scenes. But none of them approached the unbroken fascination of “The Birth of a Nation.”

The realism of this work is amazing; merely sit at a window and actuality rolls by. The grandeur of mass and the minuteness of detail are unequalled in my experience. And so the first impression of my first view of this was that it was something new and wonderful in dramatic composition and in artistic achievement.

the-birth-of-a-nation-1915-uk-programme
The Birth of a Nation – 1915 UK Programme

In his novel “The Clansman,” the Rev. Thomas Dixon had made a fervid defence of his people from the harsh judgments and condemnations of unsympathetic historians: With this book as a foundation, David W. Griffith built up a structure of national scope and of heroic proportions.

Of course, size has little to do with art. A perfect statuette like one of the exquisite figurines of Tanagra is as great in a sense as the cathedral of Rheims. A flawless sonnet of Milton’s need not yield place to his “Paradise Lost.” A short story of Poe’s has nothing to fear from a cycle of Dumas novels, nor has “The Suwannee River” anything to fear from the Wagnerian tetralogy. And yet we cannot but feel that a higher power has created the larger work, since the larger work includes the problems of the smaller : and countless others. The larger work compels and tests the tremendous gifts of organization, co-ordination, selection, discipline, climax.

One comes from this film saying: “I have done the South a cruel injustice, they are all dead, these cruelly tried people, but I feel now that I know them as they were: not as they ought to have been or might have been, but as they were: as I should probably have been in their place. I have seen them in their homes, in their pride and their glory and I have seen what they went back to. I understand them better.” And after all what more vital mission has narrative and dramatic art than to make us under­ stand ‘one another ‘better ?

the-birth-of-a-nation-1915-us-1921-reissue-lobby-card

Hardly anybody can be found today who is not glad that Slavery was wrenched out of our national life, but it is not well to forget how and why it was defended, and by whom: what it cost to tear it loose: or what suffering and bewilderment were left with the bleeding wounds. The North was not altogether blameless for the existence of slavery, nor was the South altogether blameworthy for it or for its aftermath. “The Birth of a Nation” is a peculiarly human presentation of a vast racial tragedy. There has been some hostility to the picture on account of an alleged injustice to the negroes. I have not felt it: and I am one who cherishes a great affection and a profound admiration for the negro. He is enveloped in one of the most cruel and insoluble riddles of history. His position is the more difficult since those who ardently endeavor to relieve him of his burdens are peculiarly apt to increase them.

“The Birth of a Nation” presents many lovable negroes who win hearty applause from the audiences. It presents also some exceedingly hateful negroes. But American history has the same fault and there are bad whites also in this film as well as virtuous. It is hard to see how such a drama could be composed without the struggle of evil against good. Furthermore, it is to the advantage of the negro of today to know how some of his ancestors misbehaved and why the prejudices in his path have grown there. Surely no friend of his is to be turned into an enemy by this film, and no enemy more deeply embittered.

original-souvenir-birth-of-a-nation-1915

“The Birth of” a Nation” is a chronicle of human passion. It is true to fact and thoroughly documented. It is in no sense an appeal to lynch-law. The suppression of it would be a dangerous precedent in American dramatic art. If the authors are never to make use of plots which might off end certain sects, sections, professions, trades, races or political parties, then creative art is indeed in a sad plight.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” has had a long and influential career. Perhaps no book ever written exerted such an effect on history.  It was denounced with fury by the South as a viciously unfair picture. It certainly stirred up feeling, and did more than perhaps any other document to create and set in motion the invasion and destruction of the southern aristocracy. Yet it was not suppressed because of its riot-provoking tendencies.  And it is well that it was not suppressed.

“The Birth of a Nation” has no such purpose. It is a picture of a former time. All its phases are over and done, and most of the people of its time are in their graves. But it is a brilliant, vivid, thrilling masterpiece of historical fiction. Thwarting its prosperity would be a crime against creative art and a menace to its freedom. The suppression of such fictional works has always been one of the chief instruments of tyranny and one of the chief dangers of equality.

Poster - Birth of a Nation, The_05

I saw the play first in a small projecting room with only half a dozen spectators present.   We sat mute and spellbound for three hours. When I learned that it had to be materially condensed it seemed a pity to destroy one moment of it.  The next time I saw it was in a crowded theatre and it was accompanied by an almost incessant murmur of approval and comment, roars of laughter, gasps of anxiety and outbursts of applause. It was not silent drama so far as the audience was concerned. The scene changed with the velocity of lightning, of thought. One moment we saw a vast battlefield with the enemies like midgets in the big world, the next we saw some small group filling the whole space with its personal drama : then just one of two faces big with emotion. And always a story was being told with every device of suspense, preparation, relief, development, and crisis. I cannot imagine a human emotion that is not included somewhere in this story, from the biggest national psychology to the littlest whim of a petulant girl; from the lowest depths of ruthless villainy to the utmost grandeur of patriotic ideal.

All of the seven wonders of the world were big things. I feel that David W. Griffith has done a big thing and he has a right to the garlands as well as the other emoluments.  “The Birth of a Nation” is a work of epochal importance in a large and fruitful field of social endeavor. In paying it this tribute of profound homage, I feel that I am doing only my duty by American art, merely rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

Below, scanned PDF link (Free Download)

The Birth of a Nation (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

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The Birth of a Nation (United Artists Pressbook, 1915)

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DIANE OF THE FOLLIES – 1916 (reviews)

Diane of The Follies still - D444

DIANE OF THE FOLLIES – 1916

Breaking her (Lillian Gish) even further out of the mold was Diane of the Follies, again directed by Cabanne, with a pseudonymous scenario by Griffith. And judging by the extravagant production stills, the loss of this film is particularly regrettable since they show Lillian as never before seen and never to be seen again. The producers were marketing a completely different Lillian Gish in a film that was “the final proof of her versatility, for the little star who has been sweet, submissive and sobby so often and effectively has suddenly become a dashing and temperamental chorus girl in her newest and most startling vehicle From the quickie Biograph one-reelers of just two years before, Lillian now found herself in a movie rated sumptuous even if we discount the exaggerations of press agents, who touted her nineteen costumes and $75,000 worth of precious jewelry. The film presumably featured “a full musical comedy” staged in a theatre before an audience of fifteen hundred. Its plot recalls the 1912 Oil and Water, in which Lillian had a bit part. Here, Lillian plays Diane, a showgirl who marries and then leaves husband and child to return to the stage when she tires of domesticity. Not even the entreaties of a forgiving husband and the death of her child induce her to give up the Follies. The production stills show her at turns saucy, vampish, impertinent, aloof, all in suitably outlandish regalia. Lillian relished the role: “Naturally, I was happy not to be playing another ‘Gaga-baby a term we gave to sweet-little-girl roles, which were actually difficult to do. It took more effort to play one of them and hold an audience’s interest than it did to portray ten wicked women. (Charles Affron)

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

THERE WERE NO LOVE AFFAIRS

The pictures she made at this time were important only as they were steps of development—program pictures, little remembered today. “Diane of the Follies,” in which she played a kind of vamp and wore remarkable costumes, was more memorable. “But Diane was very easy to play,” she said afterwards. “Anybody can play a character of that sort—it plays itself. It is the part of a good woman, whose colorless life has to be made interesting, that is hard.”

Her own life could hardly be said to be exciting. There were no love affairs. Plenty of opportunities, but she was always too busy for such things, or for the social life, of which there was now a good deal. “I was not gay enough for the parties; Dorothy was sought, for those. They didn’t care much about me.” And once she wrote:

“When Dorothy goes to a party, the party becomes a party: When I go to a party, I’m afraid it very often stops being a party…. She, as I once heard a girl described in a play, is like a bright flag flying in the breeze. “All music, even the worst, seems so beautiful to her. All people amuse her…. I have fun, too, but it is only the fun I get out of apparently never-ending work.” (Albert Bigelow Paine)

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

Diane of the Follies,

written by D. W. Griffith (as Granville Warwick), was Lillian’s attempt at vamping, but this cinematic journey into the private life of a Follies girl was a very guarded excursion. Even with material dealing with showgirls, Griffith was a moralist. With Lillian, his fantasies had limits … Lillian’s character was a radical departure from the “Gaga-baby” sweet little girl types. Follies girl Diane is trapped in a boring marriage to an amateur sociologist who married her to raise her level of intelligence by exposing her to what he thinks is the best of what culture has to offer. When the opportunity presents itself to return to the theatre, she leaves her husband and their daughter, Bijou. Bijou dies, and Diane announces to her husband that they can remain married, but they must never see each other again. One cannot help but comment upon the daughter’s name, Bijou. Had Diane produced twins, would she have named her other daughter Rialto? Was Bijou Griffith’s attempt at humor? Or were his frustrations at not succeeding as a playwright so overwhelming that, had he been a playwright, would his plays have been mounted at theatres named Bijou and Rialto? Was the separation that occurs between Diane and her husband parallel to Griffith’s from his wife?

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

Anita Loos offered her thoughts on Griffith’s literary ambitions: Mr. Griffith, for all of his film successes, was a frustrated playwright. He regarded himself as a playwright. The more success he had as a filmmaker, the more reluctant he was to try to return to the theatre. The theatre world was less secure than pictures. A play closes and is hopefully forgotten. Nobody makes anything from a flop. A movie can partially recoup its losses, should it play small towns for a very short time. Some money can be made, but not much. Mr. Griffith, whether he liked it or not, always thought in cinema terms: big, lots of people to fill the lens. Lillian’s theatre work at that time was very limited, but I think if Mr. Griffith were willing to take the chance, she would have returned to the theatre with him. With Lillian, Griffith or no Griffith, work always came first. It is highly likely that Griffith had attended a few performances of Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies of 1916, which was playing in New York at the time he was working on a film for Lillian that could place her in more worldly- but still acceptable – circumstances. The Follies of 1916, with a cast that included Ina Claire, Fanny Brice, W. C. Fields, Ann Pennington, and Bert Williams, had sketches using a “Shakespearean” theme (Ina Claire as Juliet and Bert Williams as Othello). The beautiful Follies girls in period costumes in front of a Sphinx background must have convinced Griffith that filming in New York and utilizing the Follies name would appeal to a substantial metropolitan audience (as well as audiences across the United States who may never have the opportunity to see any part of a Ziegfeld show). With the inclusion of Lillian as the lead, this latest Triangle film might be a box -office bonanza. Dancer Ann Pennington, who headlined in the Follies of 1916 (and eight other Follies editions), easily remembered meeting Lillian Gish in her dressing room a few times after evening performances. Accompanying Lillian on all of the visits were her mother and Mr. Griffith. Fifty-four years later, in 1970, Pennington still remembered meeting Lillian Gish:

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

Mr. Ziegfeld told us to try and help her [Lillian] for this film about a Follies girl. She [Lillian] was as beautiful up close as she photographed on the screen. She had reddish-blonde hair and large blue eyes that the camera loved. At Fanny’s [Brice] suggestion, we took Lillian and her mother and Mr. Griffith on-stage and watched Lillian walk around a few times, then take a few turns on the runway. She had a very good figure, but she wasn’t Follies girl material. I don’t think Mr. Ziegfeld would have hired her, had she shown up for an audition. She had no … allure, and her balance was a little off. You could tell she never practiced walking to music. Mr. Griffith should have taught her how to walk, but maybe that would be later, when the actual filming started. I always thought she should have come backstage alone. Then we could have talked about our lives, and she could have picked up some simple dance steps. With Watching Mama there, we were very polite, and the conversation never really went anywhere. Lillian was very professional in what she asked and how she asked it. We couldn’t talk about men, and men were certainly a big part of our lives. Men were one of the reason pretty young girls came to New York. They wanted to be in the Follies, and they wanted to meet men. Men who met Follies girls were always wealthy, and they could show you a good time, and, if you played your cards right, you could get one of them to marry you, if you know what I mean … Lillian never became a Follies girl in that film. There was nothing inside her character. She didn’t know what a Follies girl was, or what she had to go through everyday. It isn’t just walking down a staircase, or smiling on a runway to beautiful music and wearing pretty clothes. But Lillian Gish did look wonderful, and the clothing fit very well. It would have been a better picture if Joan Crawford or Clara Bow played that part. Men fantasized about Joan Crawford and Clara Bow. Lillian Gish was only Mr. Griffith’s fantasy. He was very Victorian, and she was very prissy. Why did she always bring her mother? Her mother gave me the impression that being a Follies girl meant you were only slightly better than a chorus girl, and chorus girls were low class …. When I saw the film, I thought Lillian Gish reminded me of an eleven-year-old girl playing dress up! (Stuart Oderman)

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish
  • (Miss Lillian Gish) Lillian Gish ……….. Diane
  • Sam De Grasse ………………… Phillips Christy
  • Howard Gaye ………………….. Don Livingston
  • Lillian Langdon ……………….. Marcia Christy
  • Allan Sears ….. Jimmie Darcy (as A.D. Sears)
  • Wilbur Higby ……………. Theatrical Manager
  • William De Vaull …………………………….. Butler
  • Wilhelmina Siegmann ……….… Bijou Christy
  • Adele Clifton …………………………… Follies Girl
  • Clara Morris …………………………… Follies Girl
  • Helen Wolcott ………………………… Follies Girl
  • Grace Heins ………………………….… Follies Girl
Diane_of_the_Follies_-_1916_newspaper
Diane of the Follies – 1916 newspaper advertisement

Triangle Program at Mission Theatre

“Diane of The Follies” with Lillian Gish as the Vivacious Star

Interesting to women are the marvelous gowns, 67 in number, which are worn by the women in the cast. Nineteen are worn by Miss Gish herself, which makes the play a wonderful fashion show as well as a dramatic entertainment.

The Jewels worn by Lillian Gish were loaned by a jeweler of Los  Angeles. She adorns herself with a pearl necklace worth $30,000.00, a coronet worth $20,000.00, rings worth $7,000.00; and a bracelet worth $3,000.00, in addition to her own Jewelry valued at $15,000. The total is $75,000 worth of precious stones, which every woman will want to see.

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Romola (Motion Picture Magazine May 1925)

Motion Picture Magazine May 1925

ROMOLA

Geo. M. Cohan Theater.

Cohan Theatre Broadway-Times-Square-at-night-1911
Cohan Theatre Broadway-Times-Square-at-night-1911

Opened December 1, 1924. A picturization of George Eliot’s story of the fifteenth century in Italy, featuring Lillian and Dorothy Gish.

Lillian Gish - Romola
Lillian Gish – Romola

The drama is an extravagant passage from history, and, once the second part is introduced, it becomes completely absorbing. There is vitality in Tito’s political intrigues and in his dual love-making to Romola and Tessa, the ladies whose stations in life are so widely separated. This Tito is a sort of prototype of The Show-Off.

William Powell and Dorothy Gish Romola
William Powell and Dorothy Gish Romola

He builds his house on lies and carries on his -falsehoods until his lust for power brings his downfall and death. The picture, however, is not such a triumph for Lillian Gish’s art as was The White Sister. The dramatic foundation is built more upon political intrigue than romance. But Miss Gish lends a beautiful portrait as Romola — and her sister.

Lillian Gish - Romola

Dorothy, gives an animated study, one suggestive of her hoydenish roles in previous pictures. It does not carry the surging heart-beats of The White Sister. since it does not employ so much sympathy and pathos. And there are no great moving scenes, aside from the climax showing Savonarola’s execution. But one can call it a triumph of cinema art. Scenically, it is like peering at a group of rich tapestries by some artist of the Middle Ages. It is a rich, historical pageant. And what a treat for the eye!

Lillian Gish and director Henry King - Romola candid on set
Lillian Gish and director Henry King – Romola candid on set
Lillian Gish - Romola
Dorothy Gish, Ronald Colman and Lillian Gish – Romola
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
Poster_-_Romola
Poster_-_Romola

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