FLASHBACK – A Brief History of Film – “The Scarlet Letter” Louis Giannetti/Scott Eyman 1986

  • FLASHBACK – A Brief History of Film – “The Scarlet Letter”
  • LOUIS GIANNETTI (Case Western Reserve University)
  • © 1996, 1991, 1986 by Prentice-Hall. Inc. Simon & Schuster / A Viacom Company Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632

If the standard truism about america being a nation of immigrants is even close to the truth, it was never more so than in the years before World War I. In Europe, royalty was living out the last moments of what social historian Frederic Morton called “A Nervous Splendor.” In America, the upper and middle classes alike were enjoying what Mark Twain had rightly called “The Gilded Age.” Under a succession of presidents frankly power brokered by kingmakers like Marcus Hanna, American industry and its gospel of the dollar began to spread across the world, even as the country fell into an aesthetic trough. The theater was moribund, subsisting on threadbare melodramas as vacuous as they were popular, marking time until Eugene O’Neill’s poetically morbid meditations on human frailty made later writers like Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee possible.

Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson in The Scarlet Letter 1972

The Scarlet Letter (VS.A., 1926), with Lillian Gish and Henry B. Walthall, directed by Victor Seastrom. By the time she made “The Scarlet Letter” time and tide were both running against Lillian Gish, for it was the era of the flapper, of the carefree Clara Bow. At Gish’s own studio, the exotic Greta Garbo was the new sensation. At the age of thirty-two, Lillian Gish was about to be fobbed off as a prissy antique, in spite of the tact that she was doing some of her finest work. Gish insisted on the Swedish emigre Seastrom as director because she believed his Scandinavian temperament was aptly suited to Hawthorne’s powerful morality tale of Puritan repression. Gish proved to be as astute a production executive as she was an actress. (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) ***

A genius of innuendo, a crafty careerist, Lubitsch immediately assumed the role he instinctively felt Americans expected of a European, the naughty sophisticate. In a series of social comedies for Warner Brothers, most of which took their blase attitude from C’haplin’s A Woman of Paris, Lubitsch satirized sex, fidelity, and bad faith in intimate relations. Mostly, Lubitsch appreciated elegant manners.

The Swedish cinema was very nearly decimated by the departure of art director Sven Gade, directors Victor Seastrom (1879-1960) and Mauritz Stiller (1883-1928), and leading man Lars Hanson (1887-1965). When Stiller set sail for America, he was accompanied by his protegee and leading lady, a tall, somewhat horsy young actress who photographed like a goddess from Olympus—Greta Garbo, nee Gustafson. Stiller’s protegee did better than he did. Driven, high-strung, he was fired by MGM after ten days’ shooting on his first picture. He went over to Paramount and made the intense Hotel Imperial (1927) with Pola Negri. Stiller made one more film in the town that he felt had betrayed him. Then, a sick, defeated man, he went back to Sweden to die.

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

Of the Swedish enclave, it was Seastrom who seemed to acclimate himself most comfortably, successfully directing stars as varied as Lon Chaney, Garbo, and Lillian Gish. Seastrom’s films were notable for their unrelenting psychological intensity and painstaking character development that never became mere clinical observation (3—12). This avuncular, well-liked man appears to have been one of those lucky people who could achieve success at whatever they turned their hand to. Shortly before his death, Seastrom starred in Wild Strawberries (1957) for his friend and idolater Ingmar Bergman. The undemonstrative but palpable humanity that Seastrom achieved in his directing was revealed to be a function of his own personality, as he provided the vital spark for one of the normally dour Bergman’s warmest works.

Director Victor Sjostrom, cameraman John Arnold and Lillian – backstage The Wind

*** Admin Note: By October 1927, with The Wind finished but the studio postponing its release, Gish was writing that “I hardly think that I will continue with Metro. Theirs is such a large organization that I feel they haven’t the room or the time for me.” Shortly afterward, MGM let the greatest film actress of her generation go—not because her films didn’t make money, but because they didn’t make enough. Gish was “difficult” and single-minded about her work, which was more important to her than the MGM method. (Scott Eyman)

THE SCARLET LETTER, Lars Hanson, Lillian Gish, 1926

Lillian Gish never truly became a major box office star for Metro, but she added greatly to its prestige. And there was one more all-out battle for a Gish kiss. This time she was filming the American classic “The Scarlet Letter” which gave her the type of long-suffering scenes she did  best. Of course the film had to graphically show how Gish, as Hester, became pregnant and was forever forced to wear the adulteress’ A. She pleaded, she trekked to Mayer’s office three times, she offered her own versions of the script, and, grasping at straws, suggested that it be explained in the titles that ran before the scenes in the still silent movies. “No, absolutely not,” Mayer told Thalberg, who was now overseeing the Gish vehicles. “Irving, the way Lillian is working her way through these love scenes, the audience is going to think that the ‘scarlet letter A’ stands for abstinence.” (Peter Harry Brown & Pamela Ann Brown)

Mr. Goldfish /Goldwyn forgot his birth, “his” MGM built on “Birth of a Nation”. Ruling his empire as only a dictator would for years, as long as “his stars” did as Mayer wished, their own road was paved with the yellow bricks Judy Garland would sing about later. Then, when the good roles began going to other actresses, Mayer humiliated them by reminding them how often MGM had come to their “rescue.” Even big stars, some of them with immortal names, were subject to this form of creative blackmail. To enforce his domination, he had servants with sharp plumes ready to smear and tarnish any star reputation. Thus, Lillian Gish returned to her first love, the theater, and the cinema lost her for the better part of a decade. She never left the footlights, even when she returned on filming sets again. Her impressive stageography can be studied, accessing the link below:

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Jam Courtroom to Get Glimpse of Lillian Gish

Chicago Tribune – Saturday, March 28, 1925 – Page 3

Jam Courtroom to Get Glimpse of Lillian Gish

New York, March 27 – [Special] – In the hop of seeing Lillian Gish on the witness stand in the suit brought by Charles H. Duell to prevent her acting for other companies, admirers of the film star flocked in such numbers to the courtroom in the Woolworth building, that the corridor and the courtroom had to be cleared.

Miss Gish sat unperturbed through all the craning of necks in the back of the room. Her face was white. She showed no signs of nervousness, but it was evident that she did not look forward with pleasure to her appearance on the witness stand.

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

The crowd, however, was disappointed in its hope of seeing Miss Gish on the witness stand. Hammond Duell, counsel for his brother, did not call the screen actress. The situation had changed and he said he might not want to question Miss Gish before Tuesday.

J. Boyce Sraith, who was secretary of Inspiration Pictures when Charles H. Duell was president and Miss Gish was one of the stars, remained on the stand for most of the day. He was succeeded by Miss Blanche C. Brigham, secretary to Mr. Duell. After Miss Brigham had identified correspondence between Duell and counsel for Miss Gish, court was adjourned until Monday morning.

Wins Suit

Los Angeles California, April 24 – (AP) – Lillian Gish, screen actress, won the $5,000,000 breach of contract suit brought against her by Charles Duell, producer, today. A jury verdict for the defendant in the trial was returned when the court instructed that such a verdict be given on the grounds that all the issues of the case previously had been adjudicated in the federal court of New York.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

“The Enemy” Pros and Cons (Chicago Tribune 1928)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday, April 22, 1928 – Page 91

Film Depicts War Minus the Glamour

“The Enemy”

Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Directed by Fred Niblo, Presented at the Chicgo theater tomorrow.

The Cast:

  • Pauli Arndt …………..………… Lillian Gish
  • Carl Behrend ………………. Ralph Forbes
  • Bruce Gordon ………….. Ralph Emerson
  • Professor Arndt ……….…. Frank Currier
  • August Behrend ….….. George Fawcett
  • Mitzi Winkelmann …… Fritzi Ridgeway
  • Fritz Winkelmann ……… John S. Peters
  • Jan …………………….…………….. Karl Dane
  • Baruska …………….…………. Polly Moran
  • Kurt …………….………. Billy Kent Shaefer

By Mae Tinee

Director Fred Niblo (left) Lillian Gish (center) – The Enemy – behind the scenes

Good Morning:

And now comes “The Enemy” to put its influence on the side of the outlawry of war. The picture, adapted from Channing Pollock’s play, does not have war outlawry as its subject, but it’s portrayal of Hate as “the enemy”; its argument that profiteering and not patriotism is, in the last analysis, the spirit behind the wars of nations, makes strong food for the thoughtful.

Again one sees gallant youth marching to death on bloody battlefields for “God and country.” So many boys! So many countries! Only one God, to whom all are praying for aid and vengeance! And safe and snug at home – the profiteers! – crooning exultant lullabies to their war babies. That is what “The Enemy” is about. The action takes place in Austria, before, during and after the world war. With the exception of a few instances in which the director became rather awkwardly entangled with his material, Mr. Niblo has made his picture a telling one that whams the author’s meaning home with force and pain.

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes – The Enemy

The Story is Laid in Vienna.

The principal characters are Pauli, a gentle German maiden, daughter of an old university professor, dearly beloved by the student lads who come to Vienna to study from every other country in the world. A kindly philosopher is Prof. Arndt; a believer in all the powerfulness of love …

Pauli; the professor – then Carl Behrend, the German youth who has been Pauli’s sweetheart from babyhood; Bruce Gordon, an English student and Carl’s best friend, who also loves Pauli, and August Behrend, Carl’s father, the profiteer.

The other players are important asides, but the ones named bear the brunt of the story on their shoulders.

On the eve of the war the student body of the university at Vienna breaks class. There is an atmosphere of great good fellowship and later, at dinner at Pauli’s, the love of Pauli and Carl is wholeheartedly toasted and by none more cordially by Bruce Gordon who has accepted the fact that Pauli can never be his.

Into this gathering, like a bomb bursting in the air, comes the announcement that war has been declared. Bitter argument starts that ends in a fight between the students. Bruce leaves to serve his country.

Pauli and Carl are married – the music of their wedding march broken in upon by strains of martial music as the soldiers march to the front. And Pauli spends a sleepless wedding night, her anguished eyes on the clock that soon will strike the hour of five when her husband must leave her, perhaps forever.

Lillian Gish, Ralph Forbes, Fritzi Ridgeway, Frank Currier, George Fawcett, John S. Peters – Wedding scene – The Enemy

War, as It Was Behind the Lines.

After that the picture shows war as it was at home while the guns on the battle front were taking their toll. Starvation. Suffering of all kinds.

Pauli’s father is dismissed from the university because of pacifist utterances, and the Arndts and their devoted maid, Baruska, know utter poverty. Behrend, the profiteer, offers money that is refused.

“It is stained with the blood of women and children. The price for a corner in wheat. And you call yourself a patriot!” says Arndt.

“It is war,” says Behrend, shrugging, and takes his departure.

I need to go no further into detail regarding events that cause Pauli to make a good woman’s ultimate sacrifice in order that her baby may have milk; her terrible joy when it dies; or the fighter incident of the parrot who cries, once too often “Hurrah for the glory of war!” at a time when something is needed to strengthen the soup.

Nor of course, do you care to know about the ending.

Lillian Gish – promotional for “The Enemy”

As Pauli, Miss Gish has (I believe) her first modern role. Her characters have always lived in the past – Hester Prynne, Mimi, Romola, Annie Laurie … Personally I prefer her in portrayals of femmes of an earlier day. She is fundamentally, the most unmodern person in the world and is no more to be brought up-to-date than a crinoline. Her Pauli was, to me, somewhat of a ghost lady, to be approved  of and pitied in shadowy fashion. A ghost lady whose troubles chill the heart like a cold mist but are incapable of awakening that heart to strong, passionate, protesting response. She may affect you differently, but that’s how I felt about her. ***

Ralph Forbes you will find lovable and convincing, as is Ralph Emerson – great nephew, by the way, of the Emerson who has meant so much to so many of us.

Frank Currier is a dear as the professor, and George Fawcett a devil as the profiteer. Polly Moran and Polly the parrot contribute bits of needed mirth. And maybe you will care more for the others in the cast than I did.

Intelligent thought has been given stagings and the picture is excellently photographed. It is a production you will not lightly forget.

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes in “The Enemy” (MGM, 1927)

*** Admin note: Below are written some of the opinions of others, well known others, who indeed were affected by Miss Gish’s performance somewhat different than Miss Tinee here. Also if one cares to read more detailed and well documented reviews of above mentioned film, kindly access the home page and search for “The Enemy” (upper right corner)

“Although Miss Gish’s acting is on her own familiar lines, she has, as always, that valuable asset of restraint. Fred Niblo, who was responsible for the film version of “Ben Hur,” does not display in his direction any great imagination in the handling of the players nor in the continuity of action.” (Mordaunt Hall – NY Times)

“Lillian Gish ceases to be the ethereal goddess. She is an every-day woman who sacrifices her man, her child and finally her honor, for the necessity rather than glory of battle. As the Austrian bride of an Austrian soldier she proves that she is a really great actress. Her love scenes with Ralph Forbes are superb with genuine emotion; her sufferings as realistically tragic as though she had lived behind the German trenches.” (Photoplay – The Shadow Stage)

“Lillian Gish A Hit in her First Big Modern Role” (Loew’s Ohio Newsette UA 1928)

“Most of the interest goes to Lillian Gish, who never has done a more honest bit of acting. It is earnest, sincere, and save where the author grows over hysterical, convincing. It rises superior to her “Hester Prynne” and atones for “Annie Laurie.” (MOVING PICTURE WORLD December 31, 1927)

“The star is Lillian Gish and, as is her custom, she acts with fine poise and restraint and yet releases an admirable suggestion of pent-up emotions.” (Laurence Reid – Motion Picture News – December 31, 1927)

“Lillian Gish comes to the Strand theatre in her first modern role on the screen. Heretofore the famous star has always lived in the past, so far as her plays were concerned; in fact, it was often held that her type of wistful appeal could only be brought out in period plays and stories harking back to the days of long ago. But in “The Enemy,” she is even more effectively dramatic as a modern woman than even as a Romola or Mimi or Hester Prynne.” (San Pedro News Pilot, Volume I, Number 98, 27 June 1928)

“Beneath her frail exterior, Lillian Gish conceals an indomitable spirit and unshakable courage and willpower. Long ago, when she left D. W. Griffith’s direction, disaster was predicted. Few believed that she could stand alone, away from the man under whose guiding genius she had risen to the first rank of screen stars. But Lillian was no Trilby, to collapse when Svengali’s spell was removed. She determined to show a critical world that she had brains of her own and could use them. She made her first independent film, and to-day Lillian still ranks amongst the first-class stars.” (Picture Show Annual – 1929)

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Opposing Views On Nation’s Role In War Are Given (Chicago Tribune – 1941)

Chicago Tribune – Thursday, April 17, 1941 – Page 2

Opposing Views On Nation’s Role In War Are Given

W-G-N Broadcasts Talks

By Kerwin, Miss Gish

The opposing viewpoints of the America First committee and the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies was given by Miss Lillian Gish, the actress, and Prof. Jerome G. Kerwin of the political science department of the University of Chicago in a coast to coast broadcast last night over W-G-N and the Mutual network.

Miss Gish, star of the play “Life With Father,” representing America First, called for a referendum to decide whether the freedoms of democracy be brought to this country “before we set out to bring them to other lands.” Prof. Kerwin, speaking for Aid the Allies committee, presumed that the American people already have reached the stage where they are willing to risk peace momentarily that they may preserve the heritage of peace for years to come.

Miss Lillian Gish, the actress, and Prof. Jerome G. Kerwin W-G-N Radio - 1941
Miss Lillian Gish, the actress, and Prof. Jerome G. Kerwin W-G-N Radio – 1941

Miss Gish’s Argument

“Why not bring freedom of speech and religion, freedom from fear and want, to our own land before we set out to bring them to other lands by letting the people of the United States, who will have to pay, decide by vote on the issue of war?” Miss Gish asked. “If there is any foresight or justice in Washington, the question will be put to a vote.

“In 1936 I voted for Mr. Roosevelt. I didn’t vote in the last election, however, because I felt that both candidates were more interested in other countries than their own.

“We won the last war, but what did we get out of it? Three hundred forty-six thousand dead and wounded, an over-all cost of 45 billion, prohibition with its attendant hypocrisy, lawlessness, gangsters, ten thousand bank failures and a depression from which we have not yet recovered.

Recalls Washington Words

“Now is a good time for us to recall George Washington’s words – that the nation which holds toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave – a slave to its animosity or its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interests.”

Prof. Kerwin asserted that if the American people would believe the news reports from Europe rather than doubt them, there would be few who would oppose aid to those now standing out against the German menace “even at the risk of war.”

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 17 Apr 1941, Thu Page 2 - Ne

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

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


Back to Lillian Gish Home page

“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

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Lillian Gish’s Protest against Racism in US – Chicago Tribune, Apr. 28, 1940

Contralto Marian Anderson - Lincoln Memorial, April 9, 1939
Contralto Marian Anderson – Lincoln Memorial, April 9, 1939

Marian Anderson (February 27, 1897 – April 8, 1993) was an American singer of classical music and spirituals. Music critic Alan Blyth said: “Her voice was a rich, vibrant contralto. Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States. On 9 April 1939, Marian Anderson stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”. A crowd of 75,000 listened to her, and millions more tuned in on the radio. She sang where she did because she had been refused the use Constitution Hall by its owners. Marian was black, and the owners had a white-artists-only clause.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)28 Apr 1940, SunPage 58 - New
Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 28 Apr 1940, Sun Page 58

Lillian Gish, of “Life With Father,” resigned from the D.A.R.. along with her mother and sister, when Marian Anderson, the great Negro contralto, was not permitted to appear in Constitution Hall, the D.A.R. auditorium in Washington, D.C. Miss Gish explains her resignation with a beautifully classic turn: “I don’t quite know what we were doing in the organization in the first place.”


This was the real Lillian Gish. An artist who starred in Birth of A Nation (as Elsie Stoneman – a nurse) when she was 22 years old. An actress who supported her mother and sister when their father left them, in a time when film was considered cheap amusement meant for entertaining a county fair crowd. Theatre actors were ashamed then to act in “flicker shows.”

This was the real Lillian Gish. An artist who fought against war (any war), to spare American lives and to protect American families from destruction.

Gish Film Theater Plaque

And THIS IS THE NAME – so called “Task Force” decided to remove from the Film Theater at Bowling Green University Ohio (BGSU). I sincerely wish that their “management” will read this article written by an European based 10.000 miles away from United States.

Kindly access the link below to read the whole Gish Film Theater saga. In the left column there is the whole story composed from selected articles written by David Dupont, and in the right column there are all the declarations, letters and desperate appeals made then by the brave few who tried to defend Lillian Gish’s memory. I wish to emphasize that all these declarations and letters to BGSU management were written long before James Earl Jones, Helen Mirren, Martin Scorsese, Malcolm McDowell and Lauren Hutton’s protest against dishonoring Lillian Gish’s name.


Ditch The Gish (The sad story of Gish Film Theater)


Back to Lillian Gish Home page



In the Cyclone Belt – By Norbert Lusk (Picture Play 1929)

Picture Play February 1929 Volume XXIX Number 6

The Screen in Review

By Norbert Lusk

Lillian Gish, and the troubles of the Metro-Goldwyn sales force in disposing of her last picture. They tried to sell it by leaving out all mention of her name and boosting it as a rip-roaring Western.


In the Cyclone Belt.

Gloomy and even morbid, “The Wind,” Lillian Gish’s final picture for Metro-Goldwyn, is nevertheless a fine and dignified achievement. Its lack of lightness will stand in the way of its success with the many, but the enjoyment of the – few — presuming that serious moviegoers are in the minority — is assured.


It is a study of the dramatic effect of climate on character, better portrayed than in “Sadie Thompson,” as a matter of fact ; but there the comparison ends. Miss Gish’s heroine is no flamboyant creature, but a timid girl from Virginia, who comes to live on her cousin’s ranch in Texas, which she fondly believes to be another Garden of Eden. Instead Letty finds herself in a barren, sand-swept country, where human existence is forever at the mercy of the devouring elements. When life is not imperiled by the violence of the wind, morale is undermined and sanity threatened by the monotony of it. This is portrayed as only the screen can portray an atmospheric condition.

Lillian Gish in The Wind

Letty incurs the jealousy of her cousin’s wife through the fondness of the children for her, and is driven from the ranch. In desperation she accepts marriage with Lige a well-meaning boor, in preference to death in the storm. She cannot disguise the repulsion she feels for the fellow, but he proves his decency by leaving her to earn enough money to send her back to Virginia. In Lige’s absence the villainous intrusion of Roddy causes her to shoot him and hurl the body into the rapidfy shifting sand, where it is quickly buried.

Letty Mason burying Wirt Roddy (Lillian Gish - The Wind)
Letty Mason burying Wirt Roddy (Lillian Gish – The Wind)

With such a tragic beginning, it really doesn’t matter whether the ending is happy or not. so I shall leave you to find out. But whether Letty and Lige are reunited is, after all unimportant in estimating the skill of the director, Victor Seastrom —also responsible for “The Scarlet Letter,” you remember—or the sensitive dynamics of Miss Gish’s acting.

Miss Lillian Gish - still frame (The Wind)
Miss Lillian Gish – still frame (The Wind)

Or, for that matter, the superb performance of Lige by Lars Hanson, who regretably has shaken the dust of Hollywood from his feet and returned to Sweden.

Lars Hanson (Lige Hightower) and Lillian Gish (Letty Mason) - The Wind
Lars Hanson (Lige Hightower) and Lillian Gish (Letty Mason) – The Wind

Unrelieved by the ghost of a smile, the picture is a somber cross-section of a life that is little known to those who prefer to see conventional heroines in the routine of familiar romances.

But its relentlessness is gripping. Sound effects are justified here, for they are concerned with the wind, which dominates the picture and every character in it. Montagu Love, Edward Earle, Dorothy Cumming, and William Orlamond are fully equal to the distinguished occasion. (Norbert Lusk)


*** The seriousness with which Lillian Gish took her work was undermined at MGM in 1927 when it was suggested that a scandal might improve her performance at the box office. “You are way up there on a pedestal and nobody cares.” said the producers. “If you were knocked off the pedestal, everyone would care.” Lillian Gish realized she would be expected to give a performance off screen as well as on. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I just don’t have that much vitality.” Shortly afterward, she returned to her first love, the theater, and the cinema lost her for the better part of a decade. Nothing new under the sun … History (always written by the victors) repeats itself. After Lillian Gish filmed “His Double Life” (1933), she didn’t make another film for ten years. When she did return in 1943, she played in two big-budget pictures, Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942) and Top Man (1943). The Cobweb (1955) marks the return of Lillian Gish to MGM after a 22-year absence.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page