Vanity Fair presents Lillian Gish (1919 – 1983 Pictorial)

The particular genius of Lillian Gish lies in making the definite charmingly indefinite. Her technique consists in thinking out a characterization directly and concretely and then executing it in terms of semi-vague suggestion. The acting of every other woman in the moving pictures is a thing of hard, set lines; the acting of Lillian Gish is a thing of a hundred shadings, hints and implications. The so-called wistful smile of the usual movie actress is a mere matter of drawing the lips coyly back from the gums; her tears are a mere matter of inhaling five times rapidly through the nose, blinking the eyes and letting a few drops of glycerine trickle down the left cheek.

Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair August 1919
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair August 1919
Lillian Gish Tease Way Down East - Vanity Fair June 1920
Lillian Gish Tease Way Down East – Vanity Fair June 1920
Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish - Orphans - Vanity Fair November 1921
Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish – Orphans – Vanity Fair November 1921
Lillian Gish Pensive Romola - Vanity Fair November 1923
Lillian Gish Pensive Romola – Vanity Fair November 1923
Lillian Gish - Romola - Vanity Fair August 1924
Lillian Gish – Romola – Vanity Fair August 1924
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair April 1925
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair April 1925
Lillian Gish by Henry Major - Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish by Henry Major – Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish as Mimi - Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish as Mimi – Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter - Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter – Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Lillian Gish - Santa Monica - Vanity Fair June 1927
Lillian Gish – Santa Monica – Vanity Fair June 1927
Lillian Gish - Passport Photo2 - Vanity Fair July 1927
Lillian Gish – Passport Photo2 – Vanity Fair July 1927
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair September 1928 detail
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair September 1928 detail
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair December 1929
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair December 1929
Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya - Steichen Santa Monica - Vanity Fair May 1930
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya – Steichen Santa Monica – Vanity Fair May 1930
Lillian Gish - Book Jacket Photo - Vanity Fair October 1931
Lillian Gish – Book Jacket Photo – Vanity Fair October 1931
Lillian Gish Lady of Camelias - Vanity Fair July 1932
Lillian Gish Lady of Camelias – Vanity Fair July 1932
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair December 1932
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair December 1932
Lillian Gish - Within The Gates - The Harlot Janice - Vanity Fair November 1934
Lillian Gish – Within The Gates – The Harlot Janice – Vanity Fair November 1934
Lillian Gish and Jeanne Moreau - Vanity Fair October 1983
Lillian Gish and Jeanne Moreau – Vanity Fair October 1983

The smile of the Gish girl is a bit of happiness trembling on a bed of death; the tears of the Gish girl, in so far as they arc tears at all, are the tears that old Johann Strauss wrote into the rosemary of his waltzes. The whole secret of the young woman’s remarkably effective acting rests, as I have observed, in her carefully devised and skilfully negotiated technique of playing always, as it were, behind a veil of silver chiffon. She attacks a role, not head-on and with full infantry, cavalry, artillery, bass drums and Y. M. C. A. milk chocolate, as do her sister actresses, but from ambush. She is always present, she always dominates the scene, yet one feels somehow that she is ever just out of sight around the corner. One never feels that one is seeing her entirely. There is ever something pleasantly, alluringly missing, as there is always in the case of women who are truly “acting artists.”

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Lillian Gish: A Night to Recall The Glory Years – By JUDY KLEMESRUD (The New York Times – 1980)

ap wire press photo actress lillian gish london 1980

Lillian Gish: A Night to Recall The Glory Years

By JUDY KLEMESRUD

The New York Times – September 20, 1980

Members of the “Old Hollywood,” who reigned on the screen during the film industry’s glamour and glory years, turned out in force Thursday night to honor Lillian Gish at a party celebrating a retrospective of her films at the Museum of Modem Art. “This must be heaven,” the 84-year–0ld Miss Gish told the star-studded audience after a program that included tributes from some of her friends and excerpts from five of her films, beginning with “Broken Blossoms” (1919) and ending with “The Night of the Hunter” (1955). Miss Gish looked as glamorous as she ever has in any film role. She was wearing a long black floral-printed gown covered by a layer of black chiffon. Her blond hair was swept up and caught in the back by a single white carnation. Several people who greeted her in the receiving line could be heard whispering about “Lillian’s beautiful blue eyes” and her “fabulous white skin.” Helen Hayes, one of Miss Gish’s closest friends, began her tribute in the museum’s auditorium by saying: “What do you say about the godmother of your son, the godmother of your grandson? And she’s a good godmother, too. She does her job.” Sir john Gielgud, whom Miss Gish has often described as her favorite leading man, recalled the time in the 1930’s when he was asked to play Hamlet in New York, with Miss Gish as Ophelia.

Lillian Gish and Sir John Gielgud in "Hamlet"
Lillian Gish and Sir John Gielgud in “Hamlet”

“My response was, ‘Is she still young enough?'” Sir John told the black-tie audience of 350.

Not long after that, he recalled, he was getting ready to go on stage one night when he saw “a tiny little head” peak around his dressing room door, saying, “Am I still young enough to play Ophelia?” She certainly was, he noted. Sir John then peered out into the audience in Miss Gish’s direction and said: “At a time when there are not so many great actresses as there were when I was young, we just cherish those we have left;”

Blanchette Rockefeller, president of the museum, who stood next to Miss Gish in the receiving line, read tributes to the actress from Francois Truffaut, Princess Grace of Monaco, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Eva Marie Saint.

At the party afterward in the museum’s penthouse, many of the guests paid their respects to Miss Gish by stopping by her table to hug and kiss her.

Lillian Gish - John Gielgud
Lillian Gish – John Gielgud

Hugging and Kissing

Ruth Ford, noting what was happening, commented to her escort: “It’s hard to embrace her with a drink in my hand.” So she handed her drink to him and then strolled over to Miss Gish and hugged and kissed her. And of course, since it was September and the first party of the season for many of the guests, and theater people being theater people, there was much hugging and kissing among them, too.

“Mo!” exclaimed Irene Worth, when she ran into Maureen Stapleton at the cheese board. “Irene!” Miss Stapleton exclaimed back. Both actresses emitted slight screams, and then embraced each other. Anita Loos, another good friend of Miss Gish, arrived too late for the tribute In the auditorium but was in time to indulge In the pastries and cheeses at the party. She said she had been at an auction at the Waldorf-Astoria where Charles Hamilton auctioned off her original manuscript for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” as well as a letter to Miss Loos from William Faulkner. The manuscript drew $3,200, the letter $1,900. Among the other partygoers were Morton Gottlieb, the Broadway producer, who arrived, as usual, on his bicycle; Joan Fontaine: Joan Benett; Adolph Green; Betty Comden; Arlene Dahl; Ruth Gordon and her husband, Garson Kanin; Hermione Gingold; Celeste Holm and her husband, Wesley Addy; Nedda Logan; Fritz Weaver; Patrice Munsel; Jack Gilford; Ruth Warrick and Vera Maxwell.

Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz” and who now plays Cora in coffee commercials, sat at a table with Joan Bennett, drinking something that smelled a lot like Scotch and water.

“Oh, it’s Maxwell House coffee – of a kind,” Miss Hamilton said with a laugh. Toward the end of the party, Darrell Ruhl, an actor who made a documentary film about Johnny Appleseed with Mis5 Gish this year, walked up to the actress and said: “If you get a good agent, you might make it.”

a931d-actress2blillian2bgish2battends2b12th2bannual2bamerican2bfilm2binstitute2blifetime2bachievement2bawards2bhonoring2blillian2bgish2bon2bmarch2b1252c2b19842bat2bthe2bbeverly2

Miss Gish laughed.

“I always say that to her,” Mr. Ruhl explained, “and she usually tells me, ‘You’ve got to eat more.'”

The Lillian Gish film retrospective opened yesterday and will run until Oct. 7 at the Museum of Modem Art. It includes 19 of the 100 films the actress made and spans her entire career, from her first film, “An Unseen Enemy” (1912) through her latest film, “A Wedding” (1978).

Lillian Gish - A Night to Recall The Glory Years NYTimes Sep 20 1980
Lillian Gish – A Night to Recall The Glory Years NYTimes Sep 20 1980

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And Right After This Message, Miss Lillian Gish – By Jon Krampner (The New York Times – 1999)

The New York Times – 1999

TELEVISION/RADIO; And Right After This Message, Miss Lillian Gish

By Jon Krampner

Oct. 10, 1999

MOVIEGOERS remember Horton Foote’s ”Trip to Bountiful” as a 1985 film starring Geraldine Page, who won the best actress Oscar for it. But there is an earlier version, a 1953 live television drama starring Lillian Gish, which has been sitting in the film collection at the Museum of Modern Art for 44 years.

The play, which also stars Eileen Heckart, John Beal and Eva Marie Saint, was an episode of NBC’s ”Goodyear TV Playhouse.” And this week (Thursday at 3 P.M. and Friday at 6:30 P.M.) the museum plans to screen a video copy of the one-hour kinescope (a film made of the images on a television monitor during broadcast), complete with original commercials.

It’s an annual ritual for the Modern to show one of Lillian Gish’s works on her birthday (Oct. 14). But what makes this occasion unusual (other than the fact that it’s only the seventh birthday since Gish died) is that the museum is presenting a television show rather than a feature film.

”The idea was to show something outside of what we’ve traditionally shown, which is her silent work,” says Steven Higgins, curator of MOMA’s film and video department. In the recent past, the museum has shown ”Orphans of the Storm” (1922), ”Hearts of the World” (1918) and ”Way Down East” (1920).

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Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television – By William Torbert Leonard – London 1981 (All The Way Home)

Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television

By William Torbert Leonard – London 1981

ALL THE WAY HOME

Pulitzer Prize Play (1961). Best Play, New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1961).

A play in three acts by Tad Mosel, based on James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize novel, A Death in the Family (1960)

Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Arthur Miller - Lillian Gish 1960 New York's - Where
Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Arthur Miller – Lillian Gish 1960 New York’s – Where

Synopsis

Religious, conventional, urban-born, prim Mary Lynch has married exuberant, earthy, rural-bred Jay Follet. Despite tensions created by their disparate temperaments and backgrounds, they have established a deeply happy marriage, reflected in the mutual love of their large families, each other, and their small son, Rufus. Irritated by Mary’s pristine reluctance to tell Rufus about her present pregnancy, Jay leaves to visit his dying father. On the way back to his Knoxville, Tennessee home, Jay is killed when his car crashes. Mary, to whom “God has always come easily, ” finds no comfort in her Catholicism and withdraws into her sorrow. Soon the awareness and understanding of Jay’s zest of living and the stirring of the child within her give her courage to face the future and she tells Rufus about the expected baby.

Final Curtain All The Way Home 61

Comment and Critique

James Agee’s elegiac and touching novel A Death in the Fam¬ ily was published posthumously by McDowell, Obolensky two years after his death from a heart attack in New York City on May 16, 1955, at the age of forty-five. The novel, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1958, was adapted as a play in 1960 by Tad Mosel (George Ault Mosel, Jr.). Mosel won the Pulitzer Prize for his play in 1961, marking the first time in the forty-five-year-old history of the awards that a play adapted from a Pulitzer Prize novel was also the recipient of the award. The play opened to general critical acclaim but was ignored by the public. Three days after the opening, the closing notice went up. The author, producers, director and other personnel waived their royalties and salaries; the Shuberts reduced the theatre rental and the published announcement of the play’s closing added public support. Again the closing notice went up for Saturday April 22, 1961, but on Tuesday, April 18 the play was given the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the Best Play of the Year and, again, survived. The flux of audience absenteeism and hopeful honorariums won the beleaguered play the synonym of “The Miracle on 44th Street.” In the superlative cast assembled for the play, Colleen Dewhurst (who won the “Tony” Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama), Arthur Hill, Lillian Gish, Aline MacMahon, Art Smith and others, was an 81-year-old woman who played the role of Great-Great-Granmaw, Lylah Tiffany, who for eleven years supported herself by playing the accordion on the sidewalk outside of Carnegie Hall. Miss Tiffany repeated her role of the 102- year-old Great-Great-Granmaw in the film version of the play.

The 1963 screen version of the Agee-Mosel play lost much of its magic despite excellent performances from Robert Preston and Jean Simmons as the Follets.

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s December 1, 1971, telecast of All The Way Home, featuring Joanne Woodward and Richard Kiley as Mary and Jay Follet in a well-mounted, beautifully-acted production, captured much of Agee’s feeling and mood and memory of his own childhood in Knoxville of 1915.

Lillian Gish Colleen Dewhurst All the Way Home Signed P

STAGE

Belasco Theatre, New York, opened November 30, 1960. 334 performances. Produced by Fred Coe (in association with Arthur Cantor); Director, Arthur Penn; Settings and lighting, David Hays; Costumes, Raymond Sovey; Assistant director, Gene Lasko Arthur Hill (Jay Follet); Colleen Dewhurst (Mary Follet); Lillian Gish (Catherine Lynch); Aline MacMahon (Aunt Hannah Lynch); Art Smith (Father Jackson); Lenka Peterson (Sally Follet); Clifton James (Ralph Follet); Edwin Wolfe (John Henry Follet); Thomas Chalmers (Joel Lynch); Tom Wheatley (Andrew Lynch); Georgia Simmons (Jessie Follet); Dorrit Kelton (Aunt Sadie Follet); Lylah Tiffany (Great-Great-Granmaw); John Megna (Rufus); Christopher Month (Jim-Wilson); Larry Provost, Jeff Conaway, Gary Morgan, Robert Ader (Boys)

Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Lillian Gish 1960 Boston Panorama Magazine

SCREEN

Paramount Pictures, released October, 1963. Produced by David Susskind; Associate producer, Jack Grossberg; Director, Alex Segal; Assistant directors, Larry Sturhahn, Michael Hertzberg; Screenplay, Phillip Reisman, Jr.; Camera, Boris Kaufman; Music, Bernard Green; Art director, Richard Sylbert; Editor, Carl Lerner Robert Preston (Jay Follet); Jean Simmons (Mary Follet); Aline MacMahon (Aunt Hannah Lynch); Pat Hingle (Ralph Follet); Thomas Chalmers (Joel Lynch); John Cullum (Andrew Lynch); Ronnie Claire Edwards (Sally Follet) Michael Kearney (Rufus); John Henry Faulk (Walter Starr); Lylah Tiffany (Great-Great-Granmaw); Mary Perry (Grand-Aunt Sadie Follet); Georgia Simmons (Jessie Follet); Edwin Wolfe (John Henry Follet); Ferdie Hoffman (Father Jackson)

TELEVISION

Hallmark Hall of Fame, televised December 1, 1971. NBC. 90 minutes. Produced by David Susskind; Director, Fred Coe; Television adaptation, Tad Mosel Joanne Woodward (Mary); Richard Kiley (Jay); Eileen Heckart (Aunt Hannah); Pat Hingle (Ralph); Barnard Hughes (Joel); James Woods (Andrew); Shane Nickerson (Rufus); Jane Mallett (Catherine); Betty Garde (Aunt Sadie); Kay Hawtrey (Sally); James O’Neill (John Henry); Nan Stewart (Jessie); Allen Clowes (Father Jackson)

OTHER PRODUCTIONS.

During the summer of 1961, Marsha Hunt, Frank Overton, Anne Revere, Eugenia Rawls, William Hansen, Gene Wilder and others made a brief tour in the play.

All The Way Home Tryout prog 1

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Lillian Gish in Philip Barry’s ‘The Joyous Season’ By Brooks Atkinson (The New York Times – 1934)

The New York Times – Tuesday, January 30, 1934

Lillian Gish in Philip Barry’s ‘The Joyous Season’ — Opening of ‘Hotel Alimony.’

By Brooks Atkinson.

THE PLAY

THE „JOYOUS SEASON” a play in three acts. by Philip Barry. Settings by Robert Edmond Jones: staged and produced by Arthur Hopkins. At the Belasco Theatre.

  • Francis Battle ………………… Eric Dressler
  • Theresa Farley Battle ……….. Jane Wyatt
  • Martin Farley ……………… Jerome Lawler
  • Patrick ……………………… Barry Macollum
  • Hugh Farley ……………….. Alan Campbell
  • Ross Farley ……………………  John Eldredge
  • Monica Farley ……….. Florence Williams
  • John Farley ………………… Moffat Johnston
  • Edith Choate Farley ………Mary Kennedy
  • Christina Farley ……………….. Lillian Gish
  • Nora ………………………………. Kate Mayhew
  • Sister Aloysius …………………… Mary Hone

Since Mr. O’Neill has described „Days Without End” as a modern miracle play, Philip Barry is entitled to give “The Joyous Season” the same distinction. He does not. In the program at the Belasco, where it was acted !ast evening, he describes it simply as „a new play.” But it presents Lillian Gish in the part of a reverent sister of the Catholic faith. In three acts it shows how the radiance of the sister’s spirit redeems her family from worldly melancholy on Christmas Day. It is a play that lies close to the heart of things and speaks honestly about tremulous matters that are seldom mentioned in the theatre. Some of it is deeply moving; all of it discloses a decency and fineness of feeling. Mr. Barry is not the man to theatricalize a Iesson in faith. But still, in this reviewer’s opinion, a religious topic seems to place an impediment in the freedom of Mr. Barry’s imagination. Inasmuch as “The Joyous Season” is a testament to the joy of faith, why should it lack the tumultuous emotion of ”The Animal Kingdom”, or „Tomorrow and Tomorrow”? Mr. Barry has written with more exultation upon less earnest occasions.

The plot is simplet as becomes the theme. After having been apart from her family for many years in the service of the church Sister Christina is briefly united with them at the Christmas season. Her mother has left Christina in her will the choice of two properties.

Joyous Season 1950 close up

During her visit she has to decide which to accept. Put that is only the framework of the play. The real problem is the spiritual apathy of her brothers and sisters. Once they used to be a gay family of Irish parents in the neighborhood of Boston. But now that they have become a family of distinction there and are all living together on Beacon Street, Christina finds them gloomy, ingrown, moribund and pettish toward each other. Their apathy is almost maglignance. It is separating husbands and wives and poisoning the single idealist with despair. ”The Joyous Season” is the narrative of how Christina’s faith and spirit infiltrate their lives and bring most of them back to a state of awareness and fulfillment.

By setting his play in Boston Mr. Barry bas localized it a good deal. Perhaps it requires a Bostonian to savor completely the moribund family life of the Farley clan-their formal respectability and their interior distaste for each other. “Being a Bostonian is a full-time job at half pay,”says the banker of the family, who is really a custodian of vaults. There is a devious satire in Mr. Barry’s portrait of his family that Bostonians will relish most keenly.

But that is only a trifling matter. What limits the scope of “The Joyous Season” more rigidly is the unevenness of the characterization. Francis and Terry Battle he has described completely. Her stubbornness and callousness of mind, his reticent idealism, the jangled mixture of their lives reveal these young people; and we know enough about them to respond to their problems. Mr. Barry has also written the part of Christina in such generous terms that we can understand her too, and feel the glow of her being. But the others are either generalized types or phantoms in a play. By leaving them in that murky penumbra Mr. Barry has lost a good deal of the lustre of his theme.

Joyous Season 1950

The acting reflects some of the same confusion. As Christina, Miss Gish is superb. Apart from the aura of’ her presence, which illuminates the sort of part she is playing, she has created a character with the imagery of her gestures and the inflections of her passionless voice. Jane Wyatt gives a splendid performance as the turbulent Terry whose moods are blazing and various. Eric Dressler invigorates the part of Terry’s husband with a note of candor and sincerity.

As the eldest brother Moffat Johnston is concrete and discerning. John Eldredge bas a buoyancy of playing that clarifies a good deal the inconclusive part of the brother radical. Kate Mayhew brings a jaunty sentiment to the part of an old family retaineress.

In his design of a dull living-room, Robert Edmond Jones has captured one aspect of the play, but this is not one of his n1ost illuminating settings. It shares Mr. Barry’s hesitation. Much of “The Joyous Season” is stirring and exalting. But in this reviewer’s opinion. it is not the great religious play Mr. Barry can write. It is not flooded with fervent emotion.

The Joyous Season - By Brooks Atkinson

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Hollywood Honors Miss Gish – By Aljean Harmetz (The New York Times – 1984)

HOLLYWOOD HONORS MISS GISH

By Aljean Harmetz

The New York Times – Thursday March 1, 1984

Sitting in a hotel room six floors above the ballroom where she is to be given the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award tonight, Lillian Gish wears pearls and red lipstick. Her long forehead slopes down to amazingly bushy eyebrows, two thick crayon strokes in an unlined face.

The 90-year-old actress has started this day, as she does every day, with an hour of exercise, including sit-ups, although her collapsible slant board has been left behind in her New York apartment. Since 1940, she has fought gravity by lying upside down on the slant board each morning at 7 o’clock.

”Time is your friend; you get wiser,” she says. ”But gravity is your enemy. It sucks you into your grave. Everything important in your body is from here to here.” She puts one hand at her throat and another on the top of her head. ”Eyes, hearing, thought, smell, taste. If the heart were important, it wouldn’t be behind those two little ribs.”

a931d-actress2blillian2bgish2battends2b12th2bannual2bamerican2bfilm2binstitute2blifetime2bachievement2bawards2bhonoring2blillian2bgish2bon2bmarch2b1252c2b19842bat2bthe2bbeverly2

Time has vainly tried to reduce Lillian Gish to mythology – the gilded icon of all that was lovely before movies had a voice: How, for her role in D. W. Griffth’s ”Way Down East” in 1920, she lay for hours on the ice of Long Island Sound with her hair and hand trailing in freezing water. How she denied herself anything to drink for three days before playing her death scene from consumption in King Vidor’s ”Boh eme” in 1926. How she stood under the African sun – 130 degrees and not even a tree for refuge – from dawn until dusk in 1967 for ”The Comedians,” and then, suitably dressed for elegant dining, spent the evening discussing African politics and the religious aspects of Graham Greene’s novels. How her Victorian sense of duty made her choose to nurse her sick mother rather than take the role that Tennessee Williams had written for her, Blanche DuBois, in the play that was to become ”A Streetcar Named Desire.”

462d6-lillian-gish-1984-cbs2btv2bmoma2

Outliving One’s Enemies

If Lillian Gish ever had any enemies, she has outlived them. Longevity has obscured her importance. It is subtly patronizing when one is given credit for simply managing to stay upright after all one’s contemporaries are underground.

One can put Lillian Gish’s career into perspective by observing that if she had stopped working a half-century ago, when she was 40 years old, her contributions to the American cinema would still be astonishing. The man she always called ”Mr. Griffith” used her as his paintbrush when he created the American cinema in films such as ”Birth of a Nation,” ”Intolerance,” ”Broken Blossoms” and ”Orphans of the Storm.” She was the perfect Victorian heroine – fragile, virginal and poignant, alabaster pale with ash-blond hair cascading down her back.

Although the pale blond hair has faded to gray, it still cascades below her waist. ”I’ve never been to a hairdresser,” she says. ”I’ve never had my hair cut, nor have I ever plucked an eyebrow. I don’t wear glasses and I have all my own teeth.”

Her mind skips up and down the decades, stopping to pick up a fragment of memory here, a sprig of her askew Victorian childhood there.

In 1899, when boardinghouses really had signs refusing dogs and actors, her embarrassed aunt warned the 5-year-old actress not to talk about her profession. ”If people knew we were in the theater, their children wouldn’t be allowed to play with us,” Miss Gish recalls. Lillian and her younger sister, Dorothy, were expected to have good manners plus the discipline to go on stage night after night. And ”even when there was not enough money for food, mother embroidered lace on our panties.”

Around 1914, their mother dragged Lillian and Dorothy to see land on the western outskirts of Los Angeles that could be purchased for $300 down. Miss Gish laughs. ”It had been raining. We said, ‘Mother, we worked so hard for our money. Do you want us to spend it on all this mud?’ So we didn’t buy the Sunset Strip.”

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

Her words return to her beloved silent film. ”There was never such a thing as silent film. There was always music, even if the music was only a tinny, tiny piano. Silent film was the greatest invention of the last 100 years. When films learned to talk, we lost 95 percent of our audience, because only 5 percent of the world speaks English. The Roxy Theater in New York held 6,424 people and it was crowded from 10 in the morning until 2 the next morning. Now, my little meat market on 59th Street has been turned into a theater that holds 200 people. It hurts my pride to go into those tiny theaters.”

Lillian Gish is the 12th recipient of the institute’s award, given annually to someone ”whose work has stood the test of time.” She follows John Ford, James Cagney, Orson Welles, William Wyler, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, Fred Astaire, Frank Capra and John Huston. Tonight’s dinner will be filmed for television.

Miss Gish has acted in 50 plays and more than 100 movies, most of them one- and two-reelers at a time when David Wark Griffith was, in her words, ”giving film its form and grammar.” She made 11 movies in 1912, 20 movies in 1913. But she also made films when the silent era was at its peak, including ”The Wind” for the director Victor Seastrom in 1928.

Kevin Brownlow, the silent-film historian, has pointed out that while stage performances can safely be called great because they survive only in memory, film performances can be subjected to scrutiny. More than 50 years later, her performance as a spunky, resolute Virginia-bred girl in ”The Wind,” who is driven to madness by the raw, incessant Texas winds, still seems extraordinary in the delicacy of its nuances and in something that can best be described as strength shining through frailness.

In real life, her strength is legendary. ”I couldn’t ever be ill,” she says, as though good health were merely a matter of will. In all her years in the theater, she missed only one performance – when she stayed with her sister in the hospital because their mother could not be there.

The Night of The Hunter
The Night of The Hunter

Miss Gish describes many of the characters she played – including her Ophelia to John Gielgud’s Hamlet on Broadway – as ”ga-ga babies, innocent little virgins who were nice to look at for five minutes but how did you make them interesting for an hour?” She succeeded by giving most of them a spiritual strength that burned through the sentimental silliness of the plots in which they were embedded. The same radiant strength was there, in a more distilled form, in her roles as protector of two children in ”The Night of the Hunter” in 1955 and as a dying matriarch in ”A Wedding” in 1978.

Hambone and Hillie (promo) Lillian Gish laughing
Hambone and Hillie (candid) Lillian Gish on set

Her newest movie, ”Hambone and Hillie,” will be released in the spring. She plays Hillie; Hambone is a mongrel dog. Brooks Atkinson wrote that, as a performer, she had no vanity. ”How can you have vanity if you look at yourself on the screen?” she asks.

But her lack of vanity stops at the stage door. ”In life, vanity is a virtue,” she says. ”How can you let yourself weigh 300 pounds? The human body is a wonderful thing and it’s the only house you get to live in.”

She reads Jung and William Blake and the morning papers. ”There’s never been a more exciting century,” she says. She is writing one book on religion – ”As I get older, I believe in what I can’t see and understand” – and another, for children, that recreates the Christmases of her childhood: ”How good and kind people in my world were to children who had good manners.”

Looking back at a life dedicated to work, she has no regrets. ”I loved dear men,” she says, ”beautiful men who offered me their names. But I’m so glad I didn’t ruin any of their lives by marrying them.”

HOLLYWOOD HONORS MISS GISH NY Times - March 1 1984
HOLLYWOOD HONORS MISS GISH NY Times – March 1 1984
Lillian Gish m2 - Nell Dorr 1930
Nell Dorr (1893-1988); [Portrait of Lillian Gish with beads in hair and seated view 2]; nitrate negative; Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Fort Worth TX; P1990.47.3505

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Lillian Gish Shines in ‘All the Way Home,’ as She and Sister Have in Many Things – By Brooks Atkinson (New York Times, 1960)

The New York Times, December 27, 1960

Critic at Large

Lillian Gish Shines in ‘All the Way Home,’ as She and Sister Have in Many Things

By Brooks Atkinson

When the curtain goes up on the second act of “All The Way Home” at the Belasco Theatre, Lillian Gish is discovered sitting primly on a sofa, as the deaf and daft mother of a grown family. The audience applauds before she speaks a word.

The audience is applauding one of the pleasantest American legends. For the Gish girls – Lillian and Dorothy have been through the whole cycle of American show business from road companies in the first decade of the century and the silent films in the second to the theatre of today.

Lillian Gish Colleen Dewhurst All the Way Home Signed P

Both of them are about a foot wide and four inches thick, erect and cheerful. Both of them hop around America and Europe whenever anything interests them, and they let out little puffs of enthusiasm as they roll along. They see everything and know everyone. They are as much a part of American folklore as Jack Dempsey, Jimmy Durante and Harry S. Truman. Having been consistently modern for a half century, they give their country continuity.

As one of the players in the season’s most sensitively acted drama, Lillian is very busy now, changing in and out of wig and costume eight times a week; and, like the other actors, talking on the radio whenever she is bidden, “selling. the product,” to use her phrase. But if she were not acting a part or crusading for a cause, she would be busy about something else. Probably she would be putting the finishing touches on her book about D. W. Griffith.

1960's Close Up - Miss Lillian Gish

She has never been bored in her life. Years ago, when she was billed in the programs on the road as “Baby Alice” or  “Baby Ann,” she took her first curtain call on the shoulders of Walter Huston in a melodrama called “In Convict’s Stripes” or another one called “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” she can’t remember which. In tow of her mother, May Barnard, an ingenue, she and her sister traipsed up and down the land. They learned how to count by watching the man in the box office, and how to read schoolbooks under their mother’s tutelage in dressing rooms and day coaches.

Since her mother had a passion for going through factories, both the Gish girls have a Iong background in factory culture, and to this day they never pass a factory without feeling that they ought to go through it.

Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Lillian Gish 1960 Boston Panorama Magazine

When they were in their teens they grew “rather long in the leg” and it was time to make a change. That’s how they ventured into the world of the silent film eventually under the direction of Griffith. Together or individually they appeared in “The Birth of a Nation”, “Intolerance”, “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East” and “The Orphans of the Storm,” all of them regarded as film classics today. ***

Since there was no tradition in film acting, they had to invent one, and they did. For more than forty-five years later they are still known and recognized all over the world. When the Moscow Art Theatre undertook to visit America in 1920’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovitch-Dantchenko studied Griffith films in search of a pantomime style that would make the Russian actors intelligible in a foreign land, and they found a style that they could use.

Classic-1961-Lillian-Gish-ACTRESS-120mm-Film

When Russian actors and dancers come here today, they are inclined to study Lillian as if she were a monument. It is a little disconcerting a gay, incandescent lady who wants to talk and listen.

If she radiates generally goodwill, it is because she is without vanity. That simplifies her life. She does not have to worry about her dignity or about maintaining “public image.” She is less interested in herself than in other people, and she is therefore, still learning.

1961 Wire Photo Actor Lillian Gish Colleen Dewhurst Thomas Chalmers

Having had no formal education she has been a reader of all kinds of books since she first discovered the exciting world of culture in the Twenties. Being aware of the world around her, she has little patience with the introspective school of acting. It does not have enough interest in the audience, she thinks. What moves an actor is a matter of no importance in her view. What moves an audience is.

Final Curtain All The Way Home 61

As one member of a superb company that includes Colleen Dewhurst, Arthur Hill, Aline MacMahon and John Megna, Lillian treats the character she plays in “All The Way Home” as one figure in the delicate fabric of a family play. Everything she does on the stage she does for the play. The applause is for a woman who has always regarded the theatre as an enlightened and practical form of democracy.

The New York Times – Published December 27, 1960

*** Admin note: Dorothy Gish starred only in the last film presented above, (Orphans), she on the other hand was distributed in “Hearts of the World,” “Romola,” and “Remodeling a Husband”, the only movie Lillian Gish directed.

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – by Dick Moore (1984)

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Copyright © 1984

by Dick Moore.

“but don’t have sex or take the car”

Twinkle, twinkle, little star : but don't have sex or take the c
Twinkle, twinkle, little star : but don’t have sex or take the car – Cover

Foreword

At eleven months, I landed my first job. Most of my peers were three or four years old. Others were jobless until eight or ten. Some of us were local kids. Others descended on Hollywood from Detroit or Cleveland or London or Atlanta. A number spent several years developing their talents before tackling Hollywood. Usually, they took their families with them. In the main, we were Depression kids who supported our families, frequently our studios, occasionally the entire movie industry, and at least once—according to President Franklin Roosevelt—the nation. “As long as our country has Shirley Temple,” FDR reportedly said, “we will be all right.” The 1930s and early 1940s in America were a throwback to the Dickensian era a century earlier, when children were perceived as little adults. Important to Hollywood’s economy and to the public’s need for escape, each of us was a representation, a cliche: Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney were irrepressible little adults who could accomplish more than real adults, and solve their problems.

Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple
Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple

Jane Withers was the tough kid who broke the rules; Elizabeth Taylor, the symbol of beauty and serene perfection; Jackie Coogan, the little ragamuffin who broke your heart; Roddy McDowall and Freddie Bartholomew expressed intelligence and refinement; Stymie of “Our Gang” was the little “pickaninny,” the only black among us; Spanky, the fat boy of the Gang, was intended to be laughed at. I was Dickie Moore, innocent and pure, who specialized in reconciling wayward parents and bringing enlightenment to folks like Marlene Dietrich. Hollywood stars were the closest thing to royalty America produced. So as children we tasted a life immensely privileged, but laced with deprivation. All of us were extraordinary people at a very early age. All of us shared common lives and times, huge responsibilities, and salaries that shriveled fathers’ egos. Do you recall your homeroom class? Roughly a score or so of children, right? All studying together, kids sorting out life’s early clues; assembled briefly, then dispersed by differences in class assignments, neighborhoods, and fathers’ jobs.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star but dont have sex or take the car - Dickie Moore
Twinkle, twinkle, little star but dont have sex or take the car – Dickie Moore

Fade In

Crisis gripped the set. The scene called for the actors to give the crying infant a bottle filled with wine. Mother hadn’t been aware of that. “You’re not going to give my little Dickie wine,” she said.

“Don’t worry,” the director said. “It’s only Coca-Cola. We wouldn’t give wine to a baby.”

“You’re not going to give him Coca-Cola, either. He’s only eleven months old,” said Mother.

So production stopped, one hundred people stood around on salary. Paralysis, Hollywood’s most dread disease, suddenly quarantined the set because Mother was protecting my digestion.

John Barrymore, star of the film, who just happened to be on the set that day (he wasn’t in this scene), came over to see what the commotion was about. He peered into the crib at me, the kid with the big brown eyes, then announced majestically, “Jesus Christ, it’s an owl!”

dorothy gish - as photographed for - dorothy and lillian gish - by lillian gish 5
dorothy gish – as photographed for – dorothy and lillian gish – by lillian gish

Our Pay and What Happened to It

Money was the only reason that Lillian and Dorothy Gish—two of the most celebrated actresses ever to appear in theater and films—began acting as children. Tiny, delicate, astonishingly beautiful at eighty-eight, Lillian Gish poured tea for me in her New York apartment as she reminisced about her life when Theodore Roosevelt was President. To support the girls, their mother, who had never worked, got a job in a department store. “She gave Papa the money to pay the man when he came for the furniture we were buying on the installment plan. But he didn’t pay it, so she said, ‘Well, look, I can support three people, but I can’t support four. You go out and get a job, and when you can support us, you come back.’ ” Miss Gish spoke precisely.

Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (mother)
Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (Mother)

To supplement her earnings, her mother rented out the girls’ bedroom to two actresses, who encouraged her to try the stage. The Proctor’s Stock Company hired her as leading ingenue. An actress with a company that needed a four-year-old girl took Lillian with her on the road. Another actress took Dorothy. Each girl earned ten dollars a week; their mother, fifteen dollars. They saved enough to get them through the summer, when theaters closed; air conditioning hadn’t been invented. Came summer, Lillian, Dorothy, and their mother visited Aunt Emily in Ohio: In Ohio, hotels had signs saying: “No actors or dogs allowed.” We asked Mother why. We thought actors were such nice people. Mother said it was because actors often got stranded and had no money to pay their hotel bills, so they slid down the water pipe at night and left without paying their bills.

1919 - Gish Sisters and Mother Mary Robinson McConnell XC - Gerald Carpenter
1919 – Gish Sisters and Mother Mary Robinson McConnell XC – Gerald Carpenter

After I went into the movies, Griffith [D. W. Griffith, in whose films the Gish girls starred] ran out of money while we were filming Birth of a Nation. He had only fifty thousand dollars and the picture cost sixty-one thousand. We all worked without salary because we knew he was honest, and we wanted to help. Mother had saved three hundred, which was a fortune for us, and she went to Mr. Griffith and offered to put it into the picture. But he said, “No, I won’t take it. You might lose it all.” I earned a thousand a week in the movies. Mother said, “You think you’re getting a thousand a week? You’re getting fifty dollars, five percent. See that you live on that.” Mother put the rest away for us.

Jane Powell close up
Jane Powell close up

Sex Can Wait?

Marriage was a way for us to prove that we had grown up. Children don’t get married, right?

Wrong! But we didn’t know it then. Not surprisingly, nearly all of us entered into at least one marriage that failed: Jane Powell, Donald O’Connor, Freddie Bartholomew, Deanna Durbin, Shirley Temple, Jane Withers, Gene Reynolds, Peggy Ann Garner, Bobs and Delmar Watson, Cora Sue Collins, Gloria Jean, Sidney Miller, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Stymie, Jackie Cooper, Jackie Coogan, Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Kathleen Nolan, Ann Rutherford, Darryl Hickman, Marcia Mae Jones, Edith Fellows, Dean Stockwell, Spanky McFarland, Diana Cary, me. Mickey Rooney was married the first time when he was twentyone, to Ava Gardner. “I needed to be married like you need to paint Shea Stadium at midnight,” Mickey told me. “But I’m happy I did it, because it was part of growing up.” Lillian Gish is among a handful of former child stars who were never divorced. Miss Gish believes that “an actress shouldn’t ruin a good man’s life by marrying him,” so she never married anybody.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan
Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan

Do you recall your homeroom class? Roughly a score or so of children, right? All studying together, kids sorting out life’s early clues; assembled briefly, then dispersed by differences in class assignments, neighborhoods, and fathers’ jobs. It was not that way for us. Homeroom was a clutch of tiny, sometimes solo classes strewn from Culver City to Burbank. Spelling and arithmetic spanned whole careers. Our lives touched each other’s, drew apart, touched again, receded—waves hissing on a beach. From Lillian Gish to Margaret O’Brien, ours was a class of intimate strangers bound by the common experience of being child stars.

Baby Peggy
Baby Peggy

Baby Peggy (her real name was Diana Cary) was, in the early 1920s, Hollywood’s first four-year-old self-made millionaire. Her parents probably hold the distinction of running through her money fastest. She was broke at six.

Jackie Coogan
Jackie Coogan

Then came Jackie Coogan, who shares with Shirley Temple the greatest, most enduring fame ever achieved by a child at any age at any time. He was the first child to be merchandised on a national scale. There were Jackie Coogan clothes, Jackie Coogan candy bars, toys—even a Jackie Coogan haircut, which, while copied around the world, could not command a royalty.

Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple

Shirley was the first child to carry the full weight of a talking, full-length, “A” picture on her small but willing shoulders. Her every motion picture was a “Shirley Temple picture.” It wasn’t just a film in which Shirley Temple starred. When I bestowed her first screen kiss, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the world was watching—literally. The event was recorded on the front page of every major newspaper. My timid peck on her cheek was the symbolic loss of the world’s most beloved and famous child, the little girl whose energy, pluck, and irrepressible good cheer allowed folks to forget the Great Depression—at least for ninety minutes. There will never be another Shirley Temple. Today, there are kids who make a splash, but they will never command the lifelong recognition we still have. Their films are not rerun on television. The continuity of product isn’t there. And, in Jackie Coogan’s words, “There’s nothing charming about children anymore.” Our group is still around. Try today to track the people you shared first grade with. Most have evaporated, raindrops in a desert.

Perennially visible, we have no place to hide.

Shirley Temple Postcard
Shirley Temple Postcard

Fade Out

Life on the fast track is the seven o’clock news. When you’re the topic of discussion, no one else exists. But when another story breaks, you might as well be dead. And it doesn’t have a thing to do with you. Why did I want to cry? Was it the pressure of unbearable, still buried feelings, feelings of being nobody now because I was somebody once? Was it a montage from the past, of cameras, people, lights, a buzzing noise all focusing on me, the center of attention; so important, so indispensable, until the director yells, “Cut!” and I am whisked into a blackout while someone else moves into camera range?

Even on the set when two or three years old, I must somehow have been aware that this shattering contrast between darkness and spotlights was unnatural. But you can’t handle such emotions at so early an age. So, belatedly, I found myself fighting back the tears.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star : but don't have sex or take the car
Twinkle, twinkle, little star : but don’t have sex or take the car – back cover

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