Wages Court Fight with Rich Man (Chicago Tribune – 1925)

Chicago Tribune – Monday, February 16, 1925 Page 3

Wages Court Fight with Rich Man

Lillian Gish, movie actress, with her mother attends hearing in New York on injunction suit brought by Charles H. Duell, her former employer, to prevent her from avoiding her contract with his film corporation. Miss Gish says she will quit the screen before working again for Duell’s concern. Decision on the case was reserved by the court.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 16 Feb 1925, Mon Page 3 - Ne

… Max D. Steuer characterized Duell as a “deep-eyed scoundrel” for whom the actress would never work again even if it meant giving up her screen career …

… Steuer declared that Miss Gish’s contract was “grossly one-sided.”

Miss Gish appeared in court with her mother and listened intently to her lawyer’s argument. Holland S. Duell, brother of the plaintiff, testified in support of the producer’s complaint, declaring Miss Gish had already been stated in two successful pictures under the terms of the agreement which she wished to cancel. Steuer asserted that by five modifications of the contract, Miss Gish was defrauded of $120,000 by Duell …

Lillian Gish and her lawyer Max Steuer - the Duell trial in 1925
Lillian Gish and her lawyer Max Steuer – the Duell trial in 1925

Finally, on April 2, 1925, extras were on the streets at noon carrying this headline:

“Duell Held as Perjurer; Lillian Gish Wins Suit”


LILLIAN GISH SUED by Charles H. Duell


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Lillian Gish Of Early Film Days to Appear on W-G-N Today – By Larry Wolters (Chicago Tribune – 1940)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday, February 25, 1940 Page 4

Lillian Gish Of Early Film Days

Noted Actress to Appear on W-G-N Today.

By Larry Wolters

“I never turn on the radio without thinking what a miracle it is – what a miraculous age we live in. Radio is so wonderful that I don’t think I shall ever be able to take it for granted.”

These are the words of Lillian Gish, whom every one remembers as one of the brightest stars of the silent movie era. Nowadays she is adding to her reputation with fine performances on the stage. Currently she is being acclaimed for her work in Clarence Day’s smash comedy hit, “Life With Father,” in which she is co-starred with Percy Waram, noted British actor, at the Blackstone theater.

Less known to the public is the fact that Miss Gish is extremely enthusiastic about the radio. She delights in radio work – but only if she can have plenty of rehearsal sessions. And she is a regular listener. In fact she carries a portable set around with her. She listens on this receiver on trains, in her dressing room. And it was in evidence the other afternoon in her suite at the Blackstone hotel.

Lillian Gish, at radio studios, where she performed LITTLE WOMEN on April 21, 1935

Radio Growing Better

Radio programs are growing better all the time, Miss Gish believes. And she wants the play in which she and Mr. Waram are to present on the Fifth Row Center broadcast on W-G-N and the Mutual network from 5 to 5:30 p.m. today to measure up to radio’s best.

With that end in view Miss Gish on last Tuesday, the day after her play opened, issued a request for the script of the radio adaptation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal” in which she is to appear this afternoon. She wanted to go to work studying it at once. And she asked at least one additional rehearsal besides those which had already been scheduled by W-G-N’s dramatic staff.

Miss Gish is particularly interested in doing “The School for Scandal” because it was presented at McVicker’s theater with John Drew, Joseph Jefferson and Mrs. Fiske playing in it a half century ago – in the Victorian era – the same period in which the Day family of “Life With Father” flourished.

“Clarence Day probably saw the play when it ran at McVicker’s,” Miss Gish mused.

From left, Sylvia Field, Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish, Helen Chandler, at radio studios, where they will perform LITTLE WOMEN on April 21, 1935

Cites Enthusiasm of Radio

Radio today reminds Miss Gish of the early days of pictures.

“Broadcasting is just beginning to find itself,” she explained. “Like the movies in their earlier days radio and radio people are filled with tremendous enthusiasm.”

Mish Gish said that she thought the standards of radio drama were not yet up to those of music on the air.

“We have the very best music – the finest symphonies and artists on the air regularly,” she said. “I think perhaps in the dramatic end of radio the same mistake is being made that pictures made in their early days – playing down to the audience. That isn’t done on musical programs.”

Radio is lifting the musical and dramatic taste of the nation, Miss Gish continued, and is improving the talk of millions.


Honey Colored Hair.

“The flawless speech heard so regularly on the radio,” she asserted, “is having an uplifting effect on pronunciation and inflection of speech everywhere.”

Now a bit of the personal side. Lillian Gish is still the fair, fresh, wisp of a girl of long ago. Her hair is honey colored. The fragile, frail air about her vanishes in a very few minutes in her presence. She is animated, ingratiating, and has much personal charm. And she has many enthusiasms.

For instance, she is very keen about the word of Ivan Maestrovic, the Jugo-Slav sculptor. She is especially fond of his Indians which she can look upon from her window – a few hundred feet up Michigan avenue at Congress street. She enjoys riding. Gets more kick than you can imagine out of a hair wash, with a special massage and then having it done.

Life With Father - Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish as Vinnie Day

Flowers in Profusion

She loves flowers. Her suite is always filled with them. There were at least a dozen varieties the other day – American beauty roses; sweetheart roses, freesias – yellow, white and pink, several varieties of stock, narcissus, mimosa, hyacinths, primroses among them.

But most of all she enjoys travel.

“I saw all of America doing 10-20-30 cent houses from the time I was 5 until I was 12,” she explained. “So I haven’t been seeing so much in recent years of our own country.”

Most interesting region she has ever visited, she said, was a stretch of the Balkans – down thru Yugo-Slavia, Bulgaria, northern Greece and Macedonia. With her sister Dorothy, who is spending some time with her in Chicago, they made this trip a few years ago in a car.

Sister Shows Way.

“We were told it couldn’t be done. There were no roads, few bridges,” Miss Gish said. “So we went ahead and did it. Sometimes we walked across bridges on foot. And then let the car come along afterward. We weren’t always sure the car would get across.”

Dorothy Gish showed her sister the way to W-G-N studios. Dorothy knows it well because she played in the serial “The Couple Next Door” on W-G-N-Mutual several years ago.

Harold Stokes and the W-G-N Dance orchestra will provide the musical setting for Miss Gish and Mr. Waram’s appearance today. They will be supported by a cast of W-G-N actors.

*** Admin note: in order to keep article originality and the atmosphere of the 40s, no corrections were made to the text, even if some words are spelled different in “modern” writing.

Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish cca 1919 clipping

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Everything’s Quite Lovely in “Way Down East” – By Mae Tinee (Chicago Tribune – 1920)

Actress Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Kate Bruce, D.W. Griffith, Mrs. David Landau, Burr McIntosh, Lowell Sherman in a scenne from the movie Way Down East
Actress Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Kate Bruce, D.W. Griffith, Mrs. David Landau, Burr McIntosh, Lowell Sherman in a scene from the movie Way Down East

Chicago Tribune – Wednesday, December 15, 1920 Page 28

Everything’s Quite Lovely in D.W.’s Latest

“Way Down East”

Produced by D.W. Griffith

Presented at Wood’s Theater

The Cast:

  • Anna Moore ………….…………………… Lillian Gish
  • Her Mother ……….……………. Mrs. David Landau
  • Mrs. Tremont ………..………… Josephine Bernard
  • Diana Tremont ……….….. Mrs. Morgan Belmont
  • Her Sister ……………………..……….. Patricia Fruen
  • The Eccentric Aunt ………………… Florence Short
  • Lennox Sanderson …….…………. Lowell Sherman
  • Squire Bartlett …………………..…… Burr McIntosh
  • Mrs. Bartlett …………………………..……. Kate Bruce
  • David Bartlett ……..………… Richard Barthelmess
  • Martha Perkins ………………………….. Vivia Ogden
  • Seth Holcomb ………….………………. Porter Strong
  • Reuben Whipple …………….………. George Neville
  • Hi Holler …………………..……………… Edgar Nelson
  • Kate Brewster …………..…………………… Mary Hay
  • Professor Sterling ………….….……. Creighton Hale
  • Maria Poole ………………..…….……… Emily Fitzroy

Way Down East Wedding Salon Hotel

By Mae Tinee

“Way Down East,” as elaborated by David Wark Griffith from the stage play by Lottie Blair Parker, as personally supervised by Mr. Griffith, and as presented under the special direction of Mr. Griffith at Woods theater, which does not happen to belong to Mr. Griffith, is a vurr’ good movie.

Personally, I think “The Miracle Man” was better. I enjoyed “Dinty” more. But “Way Down East” ranks with the best sellers because it deserves to.

Where Mr. Griffith falls down is on the time limit. The average movie fan can do nicely without intermissions and would prefer to see his picture and have done with it. Which doesn’t mean that he doesn’t appreciate the picture. But these be busy days, and from 2:25 – they didn’t begin the matinee on time yesterday – until 4:55 is too long to keep you guessing how anything’s going to end. Isn’t it?

As the old, old story of the innocent girl betrayed through a mock ceremony unreels it reveals much beautiful scenery, much fine acting, and the kind of photography and arrangement for which Griffith is famous. Note the kinemacolor effects, etc. The music is fine. The projection is splendid.

Way Down East - "I baptize thee Trust Lennox ..."
Way Down East – “I baptize thee Trust Lennox …”

Lillian Gish does the best work of her life so far this time. She keeps you with her from start to finish. You are sick with pity for her as you watch her rocking her dead and nameless baby in the lone hours of the night, trying to warm the cold little hands at her breast. ***

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Richard Barthelmess, Lillian Gish and Lowell Sherman

Lowell Sherman as the betrayer is a convincing cuss. Conspiring against virginity, he goes on his dastardly way in a constant state of either susceptibility or satiation.

Richard Barthelmess, nice, clean young chap that he is, always pleases in the role of the man who loves one true, and his perfectly new bride, Mary Hay, in a minor role, imps through the film in a boyish fashion that’s mighty taking.

All the character parts are remarkably well taken. You will get much joy from the village gossip, a simpering, moth eaten trouble maker, as portrayed by Vivia Ogden.

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

Mrs. Morgan Belmont merely walks on and off, sits down and gets up a few times, but she does it nicely.

And that’s about all, I think. Except to say that the audience had a wonderful time during the blizzard, when Mr. Barthelmess at the risk of life and limb saves his trampled lily from the ice break. Here’s where the picture becomes real, honest to goodness “mellerdrammer” and eats itself up!

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish – Final scene, rescued from the blizzard

*** Admin note: Article above is treating very superficially this masterpiece of the screen. For example Anna Moore’s “nameless dead baby” was baptized Trust Lennox by Lillian Gish in a memorable ceremony that was various journalists subject for years, praised by critics. As for the duration of this film, in modern super productions like 50’s Ben Hur, Gone With The Wind, War and Peace and others, intermission and two hours plus duration is common. This proves once again the genius and future vision of D.W. Griffith.

“Griffith, who was the first to develop the cinema as an epic art, was also, in effect, an American Impressionist who used the camera to capture the natural landscape. One of the two main visual tropes I identify with Griffith is the wind in the leaves, of which there’s plenty in “Way Down East.” Like the French Impressionists, Griffith was also devoted to portraiture, or the inner landscape. Though he didn’t literally invent the close-up, he developed it as a crucial aspect of cinematic grammar, and, artistically, conjured from it an extraordinary range and depth of emotion—not least because of his great actress, Lillian Gish, whose face is the center of this movie. Griffith’s Homeric artistry and his painterly insight—his view of the conflict between nature’s horrors (those of a blizzard and those found in the hearts of predators) and its glories (the peaceful landscape and the heart of true virtue)—come to full flower in “Way Down East.” (Richard Brody – The New Yorker)

“There is something splendidly audacious about the big undertakings of Griffith, about every one ol them. He is a very canny combination of showman and artist ; He knows pretty well what type of thing will catch and hold the public interest at any given time, and I have a shrewd idea : that he had his hand on the pulse of the movie – going public when he chose this vehicle for the first of his new series, and decided to “go the limit ” on it. So, without having seen a foot of the finished film, I shall venture one more prophecy that Way Down East in its revival on the screen will repeat the wonderful record which it made on the stage two decades ago.” (Charles Gatchell – The Picturegoer – September 1921)

“Mr. Griffith could be depended upon for bringing out the full pathos of Anna’s tragedy. His genius for this sort of thing has always been great. And, as usual, he has had the advantage of Miss Lillian Gish’s unlimited cooperation. It is a truly astonishing thing about this young artist that one can always say that her latest work is her best. One wonders how high she can still climb on the ladder of superb screen acting. Or perhaps it is a question of how far Mr. Griffith and Miss Gish could go together, for it is often impossible to tell in their work where direction ends and interpretation begins. The rest of Mr. Griffith’s cast is, as usual, well balanced, and shows some fine individual work. Mr. Griffith cannot touch any story without putting his stamp upon it. His version of Way Down East will travel far and long. When it has travelled long enough he may perhaps again find courage to try his hand at another Broken Blossoms.” (Exceptional Photoplays, No. 2 (December 1920), page 3.)”

Photo Gallery – Way Down East – Behind the scenes

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Old Movie Days Recalled – By Mary Middleton (Chicago Tribune – 1963)

Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, January 8, 1963 Page 25

Old Movie Days Recalled

Lillian Gish Feted at Luncheon

By Mary Middleton

“Lillian Gish, she’s my dish!” chanted the parrot Mrs. Solomon B. Smith took to Mrs. Homer P. Hargrave’s luncheon for the actress yesterday. “I lived with a parrot for 20 years,” Miss Gish exclaimed. “We named it John – and it laid an egg!”

Lillian Gish and her parrot

Mrs. Smith’s parrot wasn’t real; it was a mechanical bird with a tape recorder in its base which also told listeners that Miss Gish is starring in “A Passage to India,” opening Friday in the Goodman theater. The play’s setting was inspiration for the curried chicken luncheon, for the Indian airlines ticket folders that were guests’ place cards, for the poster of the Taj Mahal which was hung in the little foyer of the Hargraves’ apartment, and for the Chinese fortune cookies that opened to reveal predictions of Miss Gish’s performance in Chicago.

Way Down East - filming the "Ice Floe Scene" (Lillian Gish)
Way Down East – filming the “Ice Floe Scene” (Lillian Gish)

Stars of the Silent Era

There were some reflections on the old days of movie making – after all, the hostess is the former Colleen Moore of silent movie fame and Miss Gish’s career spans most of this century and includes a role in the 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.”

Charming petite, and twinkling, Miss Gish related some of the dangers of movie making in the old days – “We wouldn’t have thought it fair to have doubles. Five people lost their lives when we made ‘Way Down East,’ it was so cold. But movies were more fun then,” Miss Gish went on. “Now it’s a business. Movies made more money then, too – ‘Birth of a Nation’ made more than 100 million dollars – and those films built all the big movie palaces in Hollywood.”

Colleen Moore and Lillian Gish '60s
Colleen Moore and Lillian Gish ’60s

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 08 Jan 1963, Tue Page 25 - N

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The Real Lillian Gish – By Eleanor Nangle (Chicago Tribune – 1940)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday, April 7, 1940 – Page 124

The Real Lillian Gish

Cloak of Frail Femininity Covers Strong Character

By Eleanor Nangle

We had thought until we met Lillian Gish, that Mrs. Clarence Day, as portrayed in “Life With Father,” represented the ultimate in feminine wisdom and winsomeness. But there is curious, happy similarity between the woman and the character she plays. Which is probably one of the reasons Miss Gish is such a superlative success in her role of Vinnie Day.

Lillian Gish as Vinnie in Life With Father - Chicago Tribune - 1940

Miss Gish, like Vinnie Day, has o totally deceptive cloak of helpless femininity. She looks physically frail, and one always thinks of her as tiny. As a matter of fact she enjoys superb health, weighs a solid 112 pounds, and is 5 feet 6 inches tall. The day we talked to her she was wearing, in the restful privacy of her hours of leisure at home, tailored slacks piped in white – the kind of costume that would make the average woman look taller. But she still seemed tiny to us, which shows you what illusion can be created by manner, fine bones, and a sweet, small face.

Lillian Gish - as Vinnie in Life With Father - Chicago Tribune 1940

She looks one of the least athletic persons in the world. But she’s an unusually good fencer. If she had the time to devote to this, her favorite exercise, she has her instructor’s word that she’d be good enough to go into the Olympics. She thinks fencing the ideal sport, with a favorable effect on the mind as well as the body. It seems a little incongruous, this, coming from a gentle, quiet little person seated demurely behind a low bowl filled with at least a dozen bunches of wood violets!

And, like Vinnie again, Miss Gish is a marvelous listener. Her interested eyes pay flattering tribute to the speaker. For one who has a unique intelligence and a vast breadth of interests she suffers fools graciously. Fundamentally she’s a surprisingly serious person who thinks things thru and has a perfect sense of values.



Lillian Gish as Vinnie in Life With Father - Chicago Tribune 1940

She finds it rather wonderful to hear the laughter that rocks the “Life With Father” audiences, because she is more sensitive than most to the fact that these are tragic times. Tho she seems the sort of person who should think of nothing heavier than the flavor of the next piece of candy her small fingers will draw from the box on her lap, she is actually intelligently absorbed in European affairs. There is no fiction in sight; all clippings stacked around her room are concerned with things international. She’ll tell you very gently that this is due to the fact that since she walked out  on the movies she’s lived a lot in Europe and gotten rather fond of it. That isn’t the real reason at all; she’s just a serious student.

She dresses well but unostentatiously. She’s dressed by a woman in New York who has her measurements and sends things as they are needed. No clothes splurges. But she’s completely feminine about perfumes and bath trimmings. She adores them.

And she loves to wear costumes, taking almost as much delight as the audience in the be-bustled gowns Vinnie wears. She assumes a posture for them, you might be interested to know, slanting her body forward, keeping her elbows at her sides, and assuming a walk entirely unlike her own natural, easy gait. She makes it look easy, but it isn’t. Almost her favorite episode in “Life With Father” is the scene she isn’t in. Those five minutes when she is ill upstairs are the only rest period she gets in the whole show. But she’s such a marvelous actress that only she is conscious of the physical strain of running up and down stairs 21 times in an evening’s performance!

There’s much more than meets the eye to Lillian Gish. Like the adorable Vinnie, she’s full of surprises.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 07 Apr 1940, Sun Page 124 -

Photo Gallery – “Life With Father”

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“Against War” – Executives Club To Hear A Talk By Lillian Gish (Chicago Tribune – 1941)

Chicago Tribune – Wednesday May 7, 1941 – Page 8

“Against War”

Executives Club To Hear A Talk By Lillian Gish

Lillian Gish, stage and screen actress who had repudiated her part in propaganda films that helped involve the United States in the world war, will be the guest speaker Friday at a luncheon meeting of the Executives Club of Chicago in the Hotel Sherman. She will speak on the subject “Against War.”

Phillip F, La Follette, former governor of Wisconsin and a leading non-interventionist, will be the principal speaker tomorrow night at an America First committee rally in the Hinsdale High school gymnasium.

The Rev. John A. O’Brien professor of apologetics in the graduate school of the University of Notre Dame, will speak before another America First rally at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the auditorium of the Arlington Heights school, Euclid avenue near Northwest highway in the suburb.

WWII Scribners COMMENTATOR Magazine 1941 War Propaganda
WWII Scribners COMMENTATOR Magazine 1941 War Propaganda

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“Over There” with the Nobility and an All Star Cast (“The Great Love”) – By Mae Tinee – Chicago Tribune – 1918

Great Love Poster 3 a

Chicago Tribune – Sunday 11 August 1918 Page 46

“Over There” with the Nobility and an All Star Cast

“The Great Love”

  • Produced by D.W. Griffith
  • Directed by D.W. Griffith
  • Presented at the Orchestra Hall

The Cast:

  • Jim Young of Youngstown …..…..….. Robert Harron
  • Sir Roger Brighton ……………..…. Henry B. Walthall
  • Jessie Lovewell ………………..……………. Gloria Hope
  • Susie Broadplains ………………….………. Lillian Gish
  • John Broadplains …………………… Maxfield Stanley
  • The Rev. Josephus Broadplains ..… George Fawcett
  • Mlle. Corintee ……………..…………. Rosemary Theby
  • Mr. Seymour of Brasil, formerly of Berlin …

… George Seigmann

By Mae Tinee

“The Great Love” is more absorbing than the average super-feature for three reasons. Because of its intimate and authentic relation to the great war. Because of the titled English folk who make their debut into motion picture during its seven reels. Because D.W. Griffith produced it. It abounds in the “touches” which have made this producer famous and is a thing of beauty as to its setting and scenery. The truth of the matter is, however, that Mr. Griffith has made many better pictures.

Great Love Poster 2 a

The cast of “The Great Love” is practically the same as that enacting “Hearts of the World.” It has the addition of Henry Walthall, who more heavily lined and world weary than when he left the Griffith fold, is back again doing excellent work, although cast as the leading villain in the piece.

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

The English society folk appearing, whose names Mr. Griffith rolls like sweet morsels under his tongue, include Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Monaco, the Countess of Masserene, Lady John Lavery, the Countess of Droghda, Lady Diana Manners, Miss Elizabeth Asquith, the Hon. Mrs. Montagu, Miss Bettina Stuart-Wortley, and Miss Violet Keppel. The ladies are shown at a charity bazaar, in hospital and munition work.

The Great Love, Lillian Gish and Henry Walthall
The Great Love, Lillian Gish and Henry Walthall

And now the story:

Jim Young of Youngstown, Pa., white-hot over the German atrocities in Belgium, enlists in the British army. In the army camp on the outskirts of London he receives his training. He is sauntering through a suburb while on leave of absence when he meets a young person called Susie Broadplains, daughter of a curate. Susie is a silly little thing whose aspiration to become a great coquette is much hampered by the difficulties she has in managing her hands and feet. Though badly dressed and combed, Susie realizes to some extent the softening effects of tulle, and when in doubt ties herself up in it and feels that the world is hers. She and the young American – himself just a gawky boy – become deeply interested in one another. There is almost an engagement between them when he is sent to the front.

Lillian Gish - The Great Love (1918)
Lillian Gish – The Great Love (1918)

If Susie’s aunt hadn’t died and left her 20.000 Pounds, when Jim Young of Youngstown Pr., returned he would have found conditions unchanged, I suppose. But a little lump of money like that is bound to cause a splash. So Susie is marceled and courted by others than himself when the soldier returns. Chief among her suitors is an unscrupulous fortune hunter, a Sir Roger Brighton, who is much involved with a bunch of radicals, who wear the camouflage of pacifism only to conceal their machinations in behalf of the German government.

And now we come upon plots and counterplots, scenes of battle and airship raids, with the story of Susie and her suitors threading through it all. The production is weak as to plot, but you don’t in at the least mind this, for the reasons I quoted in the first paragraph. If you have liked Lillian Gish before you will care for her more than ever as little Susie Broadplains. I, myself, whom she has always given the fidgets, thought her work splendid. I want you to specially notice two of the close-ups of her. In them she is exquisite.

The Great Love 1918 - Original Film Poster
The Great Love 1918 – Original Film Poster

Such players as Robert Harron, George Fawcett and George Seigmann need no commendation, but one likes to hand it to them just the same. They are splendid. Gloria Hope as the wronged sweetheart of Sir Roger and Rosemary Theby as a German agent were excellent.

Now when I saw the picture, the censors were making considerable fuss about several scenes and one subtitle. Uncalled for fuss! There was nothing in the production the morning I saw it from start to finish that the average clean minded citizen should object to.

Great Love Poster 1 a

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Lillian Gish Plays Hawthorne Heroine – By Mae Tinee (Chicago Tribune – 1927)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday, March 20, 1927 – Page 43

Lillian Gish Plays Hawthorne Heroine

“The Scarlet Letter”

Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Victor Seastrom. Presented at the Chicago theater TOMORROW.

The Cast:

  • Hester ……………………..…..…………. Lillian Gish
  • Reverend Dimmesdale …………… Lars Hanson
  • Roger Prynne …….………….. Henry B. Walthall
  • Giles …………………………..………..…… Karl Dane
  • Governor ………………………. William H. Tooker
  • Mistress Hibbins ……….…….. Marcelle Corday
  • Jailer ………………..…………….…….. Fred Herzog
  • Beadle ……………………….…………. Jules Cowles
  • Patience ……………………..………… Mary Hawes
  • Pearl ……………………………………….. Joyce Coad
  • French Sea Captain ……….…. James A. Marcus

By Mae Tinee

Good Morning; Lillian Gish looks like a saint and Lars Hanson looks like Paul Ash in this much “adapted” version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story. And I reckon why the film isn’t being presented at the Oriental is because Messrs. Balaban and Katz know the Oriental fans could never bear to see Paul suffer. SO – because Mr. Hanson, who looks like Mr. Ash, has so much to endure as Rev. Dimmesdale – he’s at the Chicago. (Maybe.)

THE SCARLET LETTER, Lillian Gish (hands clasped front left), Victor Sjostrom (aka Victor Seastrom) (hand in pocket front right) with the crew on-set, 1926
THE SCARLET LETTER, Lillian Gish (hands clasped front left), Victor Sjostrom (aka Victor Seastrom) (hand in pocket front right) with the crew on-set, 1926

Those of you who haven’t read the book may find the film version of “The Scarlet Letter” to your liking. But if you are familiar with the story of Hester Prynne, I’m afraid you’re going to be up on your ear over the liberties that have been taken. The screen production is a life sized portrait of a movie magnate showing Nathaniel Hawthorne how.

There has been much bristling officiousness and the result is the most ordinary sort of melodrama instead of a picture of power and subtlety. “The Scarlet Letter” SHOULD have been one of the great pictures of the day.

Though Lillian Gish is truly beautiful in her doctored role and gives a thoughtful and finished performance, she is as different as possible from the author’s conception of his heroine who was – “tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes … characterized by a certain state of dignity.

A Story of Old Salem

Hester Prynne was a seamstress in Salem, a New England settlement of early Puritan days. The place, you know, where they burned the witches and made Sunday such a bugaboo that no descendant of a Puritan father has to this day entirely shaken off the influence of those Sunday Morning Blues to which his forefolks clumped their mournful way to meeting along around the close of the seventeenth century.

She bore a child out of wedlock, refusing to name the father, who, the picture almost immediately shows you, was the young, earnest, and greatly beloved minister of the community. For her sin she was ordered by the town fathers to wear always and forever on the bosom of her meek and proper dress the scarlet letter “A,” which should stamp her for all beholders to see as a woman taken in adultery.

Lillian Gish (Scarlet Letter, HiRes)_02
17th February 1926: Lillian Gish (1893 – 1993) is punished for bearing a child out of wedlock in the film ‘The Scarlet Letter’, a 17th century melodrama directed by Victor Sjostrom.

(I’m going to write in the present tense if you don’t mind. It’s easier, somehow or other.)

The minister, who loves her deeply, begs to be allowed to declare his own guilt and share her shame. This, Hester steadfastly refuses to let him do, declaring that her greatest punishment would be to know that she had interfered with his work and destroyed his influence. Besides, she is aware of what he is not, that the man to whom she had been married in England – an old surgeon – but whose wife she had never been, has arrived in Salem and, under an assumed name, is hovering about them like a black and leisurely vulture, biding his time to pounce.

This sinister, implacable, waiting man is present through the entire original story. In the picture he appears near the end providing a “WHO-IS-THIS-MAN!”, “STOP-HE-IS-MY-HUSBAND!” scene. That poor Yorick of the melodramas which you know so well.

Henry B Walthall - The Scarlet Letter
Henry B Walthall – The Scarlet Letter

Little Pearl, the Only Bright Spot

The tragedy develops amid the stern, monotonous, petty routine of the Blue Law ridden settlement, the only bright spot in the lives of these three actively unhappy people being little Pearl, that “child of sin,” who, by some strange rank of Fate is a joyous madcap, utterly uncowed by the outcast condition of her mother and herself.

The denouement, as you can imagine, is a dramatic one. The picture ends sadly where the book does not – which amazes me – for the author provides a comparatively happy ending, and WHEN before have the movie makers rejected a happy ending? As a rule they will make one for themselves if the story writer has not been so considerate as to provide a fadeout that will send audiences forth smiling.

The Scarlet Letter Lillian Gish
Lillian’s Protegee The story of “The Scarlet Letter” gave Lillian Gish, as Hester Prynne, many scenes with little Joyce Coad, who plays Pearl. And Miss Gish believes that Joyce, who is the winner of a California baby contest, will win an esteemed place for herself on the screen. Photo Motion Picture Magazine (Aug 1926-Jan 1927)

In the novel little Pearl, it is told, becomes one of the richest heiresses in England and Hester Prynne, having seen her darling cared for, returns to the scene of her shame and becomes a woman generally beloved. In the lapse of the toilsome, thoughtful, self-devoted years that made up Hester’s life the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s bitterness and became a type of something to be sorrowed over and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence, too. And as Hester Prynne had no selfish ends nor lived in any measure for her own profit and enjoyment, people brought all their sorrows and perplexities and besought her counsel as one who herself had gone through a mighty trouble.

Hester Prynne worried for her ill daughter - Lillian Gish - Scarlet Letter
Hester Prynne worried for her ill daughter – Lillian Gish – Scarlet Letter

Passing Up Some Fine Chances

To this “tall woman in a gray robe” there came from England letters with armorial seals … “and once Hester was seen embroidering a baby garment with such a lavish richness of golden fancy as would have raised a public tumult had any infant thus appareled been shown to our sober-hued community.” …

Can you FEATURE how any movie maker ever passed up the chances offered in those last three paragraphs? Mi-gosh, I can’t.

So much for the stories – Mr. Hawthorne’s and Mr. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s.

The acting throughout is splendid. I foretell great popularity for the Ash-en Mr. Hanson. Sets and costumes are picturesque and of the period. Such scenery as there is lovely and the photography is everything in the world it should be. Also there are some comedy situations which I sincerely hope you may enjoy.

In closing, fans dear, may I remark regarding this film that

“If with joy you’d on it look,

Prithee, do not read the book!”

See you tomorrow!

The Scarlet Letter Hvar 8 Dag Swedish Mag 1926
The Scarlet Letter Hvar 8 Dag Swedish Mag 1926

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