THE DANCE: MET OPERA GALA

By ANNA KISSELGOFF  MAY 14, 1984

The New York Times Archive – Time Machine

MOST people will tell you a centennial comes along only every hundred years. But if you’re the Metropolitan Opera, you celebrate your hundredth birthday twice.

Lillian Gish in the 80's 6

And last night as a followup to October’s big centennial anniversary gala for itself with, naturally, opera singers, the Metropolitan Opera staged an equally stellar gala with some of the biggest names in international dance. Entitled ”Celebration!,” the gala performance commemorating 100 years of performing arts at the Metropolitan Opera reminded us that the Metropolitan had never been exclusively in the singing business.

True – there were singers like Yves Montand, John Denver, Lionel Richie and even Placido Domingo, a pop star if there ever was one, to recall that popular entertainers as well as dancers had not only appeared but also been presented or toured by the Metropolitan.

But the truth is that most people had paid up to $1,000 to see possibly the very last performance that the Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso might give as Giselle, albeit in truncated form. And they had been rightly attracted by the idea of seeing Dame Margot Fonteyn, the radiant Sleeping Beauty of 1949, still radiant when awakened this time from a briefer nap onstage by her Pygmalion, Sir Frederick Ashton. If you thought Alexandra Danilova and Frederic Franklin would make a cameo appearance to recall their exciting seasons as stars in the same old house with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, you were right.

Alexandra Danilova - Fredric Franklin
Alexandra Danilova – Fredric Franklin

But perhaps you didn’t expect Lillian Gish to fulfill a lifelong fantasy and find herself in a ballet of sorts, pretending to be asleep in a chair, as a young man in a rose-petal costume whirled around her.

If the impression is coming across that a good percentage of those onstage were hardly at the age when dancers are at their peak, it would not be incorrect. In addition to those ages 60 through 80 or thereabouts, a notable few who still managed to go through their paces were in their mid- 40’s and their mid-50’s.

As wonderful as it is to welcome back the dancers one loved most, it is just as realistic to say that this was not a gala that faithfully represented the state of dance as it is today in its completeness.

Nonetheless, it was a gala that carried on in the true Metropolitan Opera tradition. It was thanks to Otto Kahn, the Metropolitan Opera’s chairman, that Anna Pavlova made her debut in the United States at the opera house in 1910. Typically, she appeared onstage just before midnight after a four-act opera.

Anna Pavlova 1912
Anna Pavlova 1912

Those who thought they could begin nibbling at a reasonable hour on the lobster, asparagus and chocolate truffles to which a top-price ticket entitled them, found that the gala lasted four hours. In the end, they managed, despite a soaking rain, to enter the white party tent, 150 by 200 feet, outside on the Lincoln Center Plaza just before midnight.

Atmosphere, however, was what counted most. As Kenneth Schermerhorn, who is also the American Ballet Theater’s chief conductor, raised his baton in the pit at the start of the evening, Isadora Duncan’s own Metropolitan debut flitted across the mind. Invited to dance Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the opera house in 1908 by the famous conductor Walter Damrosch, Duncan had this to say in her memoirs:

Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan – Grande Marche

”When I looked down from the stage and saw the great brow of Damrosch bent over the score, I felt that my dance really resembled the birth of Athena, springing full-armed from the head of Zeus.”

One wonders what Yoko Morishita, the Japanese ballerina, was thinking of when she saw Mr. Schermerhorn’s brow – probably if it’s Sunday, it must be New York. She had flown in the same day from Tokyo to dance with Ballet Theater’s Fernando Bujones in the ”Corsaire” pas de deux.

Maniya, Makarova, Morishita and other Giselles in Manila
Maniya, Makarova, Morishita and other Giselles in Manila

As it happened, Mr. Bujones and Miss Morishita, along with Natalia Makarova in another pas de deux, provided the only dancing that could be compared to greatness. Miss Morishita is a thorough professional and perfection is in her every move. As for Mr. Bujones, he is simply one of the finest dancers in the world and he delivered the goods, excitingly and eloquently, that the audience had been waiting for all evening. This was dancing.

There was also nostalgia and sentiment. There were two moving moments. When Alicia Alonso and her Cuban partner, Jorge Esquivel, danced an adaptation of the pas de deux from Act II of ”Giselle,” there were some in the audience who felt history had come full circle. Miss Alonso danced her first Giselle in 1943, at the Metropolitan with Ballet Theater. She had always wanted to dance her last Giselle, a role with which she has been identified for 40 years, in New York.

Alicia Alonso, Jorge Esquivel en Carmen
Alicia Alonso, Jorge Esquivel en Carmen

The fact that she is partially blind and just past age 60 is well known. New Yorkers have not seen her for more than five years, and if one did not expect her to be fully the same, it was not surprising that the essence of the role is still with her. If anything she seemed more like a 19th-century lithograph than ever, and as usual her fabulous entrechats brought down the house.

A similar moment occurred when Miss Makarova, who is rumored to be retiring from classical roles, danced the adagio from Act II of ”Swan Lake.” For this occasion, she brought out of retirement Ivan Nagy, her former partner at Ballet Theater. Granted, Mr. Nagy retired in the 1970’s in his 30’s, but it was good to see him back, as considerate as ever with a ballerina whose crystalline dancing was lyrical in every move. Her onstage musicians, incidentally, were Itzhak Perlman and Lynn Harrell.

Natalia Makarova as Juliet
Natalia Makarova as Juliet

The evening opened with Dvorak’s Carnival Overture by the opera orchestra, followed by the Martha Graham Dance Company in ”Diversion of Angels,” Lynn Seymour wonderfully militant and tragic in Sir Frederick’s ”Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan” and Miss Gish with the high-leaping Patrick Dupond of the Paris Opera Ballet in ”Le Spectre de la Rose.”

PARIS BALLET CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION Lillian Gish and Patrick Dupond of the Paris Ballet - Le Spectre de la Rose Sunday afternoon, at the New York Metropolitan May 14 1984

Jean-Charles Gil of France’s Roland Petit Company held the stage strongly in a quirky solo by Mr. Petit to music, believe it or not, by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Jerome Robbins came onstage to present a bouquet to Alexandra Danilova. The Royal Danish Ballet sent Lis Jeppesen and Arne Villumsen for the balcony pas de deux from Sir Frederick’s ”Romeo and Juliet.” Marcia Haydee, Richard Cragun, Antoinette Sibley, David Wall, Karen Kain, Rudolf Nureyev, Erik Bruhn, Carla Fracci, Tamasaburo Bando, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, jiving with Mr. Richie and his musicians to ”All Night Long” rounded out a superstar cast.

Alexandra Danilova - The Making of Markova
Alexandra Danilova – The Making of Markova

Produced by Jane Hermann, the Metropolitan’s director of presentations, and staged by Donald Saddler, it was an evening that stressed the past more than the present. Like dance, it had its treasured ephemeral moments – notably Sir Frederick handing Dame Margot four roses, one by one, in a gloss upon the Rose Adagio in ”The Sleeping Beauty” before they tripped off in a sequence known, after its creator, as the Fred Step.

Fantasy merged into reality, however, when the those who came in black-tie (many did not) made their way toward the dinner tent. ”I thought it was great,” said Lee A. Iacocca, chairman of the Chrysler Corporation. ”I enjoyed it all. I don’t get to do these things too often. Lionel Richie livened things up. It was a great thrill to be here.”

Former Gov. Hugh Carey thought the evening was ”the usual great New York display of talent,” and Barbara Walters ventured that the gala was ”beautiful but long,” and ”wonderful nostalgic commentary for those of us who could remember, but it’s a little long for those of us who have to go to work the next day.”

Legend of stage and screen, Lillian Gish, appears with Patrick Dupond and fulfills a lifelong dream at the Metropolitan Opera Gala, celebrating 100 years of performing arts at the Met. In her introduction, Miss Gish recalls a performance of “Le Spectre de la Rose” with Vaslav Nijinksy that she had attended with her sister Dorothy and Charlie Chaplin over 65 years before.

Vaslav Nijinsky in the ballet Le spectre de la rose as performed at the Royal Opera House in 1911
Vaslav Nijinsky in the ballet Le spectre de la rose as performed at the Royal Opera House in 1911

Taped on May 13, 1984. ” ‘Le Spectre de la Rose’ is a ballet of the Ballets Russes based on a poem by Théophile Gautier. The music, by Carl Maria von Weber, was taken from his short piece Invitation to the Dance. Choreography was by Michel Fokine and set and costume design by Léon Bakst. It premiered on April 19, 1911 by the Ballets Russes in the Théâtre de Monte Carlo.

The story is about a debutante who falls asleep after her first ball. She dreams that she is dancing with the rose that she had been holding in her hand. Her dream ends when the rose escapes through the window. The dancers at the original performance were Vaslav Nijinsky as the Rose and Tamara Karsavina as the Girl.”

Lillian Gish Patrick Dupont

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Retain the name of The Gish Theater! Please sign the petition!

Follow this link to sign the petition

I strongly oppose the effort to rename Bowling Green State University’s Gish Film Theater honoring two talented native Ohioans, Lillian and Dorothy Gish.  Recently a similar petition was taken to the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. The Gish sisters made distinguished, unmatched contributions to the performing arts, including motion pictures, stage, radio, and television. The removal of the name of the Gish Film Theater would be a sad, ignorant, misinformed waste and an insult to these great women’s legacy. There are campus activists at BGSU who want the Gish Theater name removed because of Lillian Gish’s role in the controversial D.W.Griffith film, “The Birth of a Nation.” Miss Gish was not a producer, writer, or director  and therefore had no role in its content.  She was a twenty-one year old actress fulfilling her contractual obligations.

Regarded as THE PREMIER SILENT FILM ACTRESS, Lillian’s oeuvre encompasses roles that are anti-racist and pro-feminist including such classics as “Broken Blossoms” and “Way Down East,” while Dorothy, who was one of the silent screen’s most popular actresses and did not appear in The Birth of a Nation, had a significant part in the anti-Klan film, “The Cardinal.” To remove these sisters’ names from the theater would be a blow to artistic expression and would not further the cause of racial justice and women’s contributions in film.To blacklist a performing artist simply for appearing in one film or play, as in the disrespectful phrase, “Ditch the Gish,” is outrageous, narrow-minded and sexist. It is clearly an embarrassment to the establishment from which it came, and the decision-makers should be cognizant of that, as well as Lillian Gish’s great legacy and trail-blazer as a successful woman in film who transitioned beautifully from the ‘silents’ to the ‘talkies.’ She was, and always will be, a fine example and credit to the film industry.

Instead of renouncing the well-deserved honor bestowed on these two great actresses with the establishment of the Gish Film Theater in 1976 there should be a ‘re-awakening’ celebration of the Gish sisters’ achievements instead, which could be accompanied by lectures on these women by well-known film historians and the showing of such anti-racist and pro-feminist movie classics as “The Cardinal,””Broken Blossoms” and “Way Down East.” This could have such a beneficial ripple affect on the entire campus, even beyond the Film, Drama, and Women Studies Departments, which it would directly benefit. Retaining the name of the Gish Theater would also increase Bowling Green University’s respect and admiration as an institution, world-wide.

Ralph Wolfe and Eva Marie Saint Return to Bowling Green Fall 1976
Ralph Wolfe and Eva Marie Saint Return to Bowling Green – Fall 1976

I had the privilege of meeting Lillian Gish when I was a graduate student in painting at Bowling Green State University on October 14, 1979. It was her 80th birthday and she gave a warm, articulate lecture on “Way Down East” at the Gish Theater, a silent film in which she played the heroine.  Afterwards I asked if I could take her picture for my sister, Jane Gaines, now a published film historian who teaches at Columbia University.  She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Let’s have a picture taken of the two of us for your sister. I had a sister once, and I miss her very much!”

These kind women’s legacy in film needs to be REMEMBERED and HONORED at Bowling Green State University and in their state of Ohio and the rest of the world, NOT ERASED!

Anne Gaines and Lillian Gish 1979

Follow this link to sign the petition

The Gish Film Theater Hanna Hall - View from the projection room
The Gish Film Theater Hanna Hall – View from the projection room

Reasons For Signing The Petition for retaining the name of The Gish Theater

 

“DITCH THE GISH” – Strategy

The Gish Theater Saga

 

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We need to remember the long-suppressed history of women including their pioneering contributions to cinema.

SPOILER WARNING !!!, this material is related to the attack that targeted Miss Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy, their reputation and memory.

If the present period is one of heightened concerns about race, it is also one with a reawakened feminism, a fresh emphasis on the need to recover and remember a long-suppressed history of women including their pioneering contributions to cinema. In the age of the MeToo movement, one sure way to rebuild support for the Gish Film Theater is to remind people of the roles of Lillian and Dorothy as strong, emancipated women at a time when females were struggling to obtain the vote and define themselves as something other than the property of their husbands. The sexist overtones of the hashtag, “Ditch the Gish,” means that the Black Students Union have lost whatever moral high ground they thought they might have gained by harping on the Klan and the “Birth” controversy.The New Gish Theater BGSU Front

Please consider that all the material related with this above mentioned attack is marked on https://lilliangish1893.com/ as SPOILER. If interested only in the seventh art and theatre please do not read it.

Thank you kindly for visiting Miss Lillian Gish fan page.

Black Student Union on Twitter - Hashtag - DITCH THE GISH
Black Student Union on Twitter – Hashtag – DITCH THE GISH, upper left corner a logo (fist combined with the map of Africa, colors Red-Green-Yellow)

The Gish Theater Saga

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Eva Marie Saint cancels trip to BGSU

SPOILER WARNING !!!, this material is related to the attack that targeted Miss Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy, their reputation and memory.

POSTED BY: DAVID DUPONT MARCH 21, 2019

An Evening with Eva Marie Saint, scheduled for Friday, March 29, has been cancelled.

Dean Raymond Craig of the College of Arts and Sciences wrote in a notice addressed to Friends of BGSU Arts that: “Ms. Saint regrets that she will not be traveling to Bowling Green State University this spring.”

The Academy Award winning actress and graduate of BGSU was schedule to perform with students during the evening event.

2018-Eva-Marie-Saint

Dave Kielmeyer, spokesman for the university, said that the change of plans was not related to the controversy over the name of the Gish Film Theatre. Plans for the event just were not coming along as well as the university would want, he said. “It’s as much on us.”

Saint’s appearance was originally scheduled as part of the rededication of the Gish Film Theatre in its new space in the Bowen Thompson Student Union. However, that was cancelled when members of the Black Student Union questioned the venue being named in part for Lillian Gish, who starred in “The Birth of a Nation.” The 1915 D.W. Griffith silent movie epic has been tied to the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and widely criticized for its racist depictions of African-Americans.

Eva-Marie-with-students-1024x683

“…But as that in effect amounts to an embarrassing situation it might be that the university administrators, as horrible as this is to say, will feel less embarrassed by simply pretending the Gishes never existed and eliminating any sign of them on the campus. If in a glaring anticlimax they do return the Gish Film Theater to its original location or some other less prominent place, then the grand reopening they had in January with Eva Marie Saint becomes in itself a source of discomfort.
   I can only say that if there is enough pressure from those who care about Lillian and Dorothy Gish and their place in history, then it may become clear to the BGSU administration that they will face far greater embarrassment all over the world if they drop the name than if they retain it. For this reason, I feel an online petition is the best way to go to prevent this from happening.”
   William M. Drew
grooms_image_2
“…As for your suggestion of a possible museum for the Gish sisters, the problem with that is there are very few such memorials dedicated to pioneer film artists. Off hand, I can think of only three in the Los Angeles region that house museum displays–the homes of Nell Shipman, William S. Hart, and Will Rogers who also has a major memorial in his hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma. Several of the old studios where structures and other sites survive have had museums dedicated to them, too. In my own Bay Area, there is the Essanay studio in Niles, California, Hollywood has the famous DeMille barn that marked the start of Paramount, while on the East Coast there are the American Museum of the Moving Image located in Paramount’s Astoria studio, the Fort Lee Film Commission with a museum dedicated to the East Coast Hollywood, the Norman Studios Silent Film Museum in Jacksonville commemorating the years the Florida city was a center of film production, and the Wharton Studio Museum in Ithaca, New York devoted to the many films produced there in the 1910s.
  With the exception of Fort Lee, none of these sites have anything to do directly with Lillian and Dorothy Gish. The three studios where they worked with Griffith–the Biograph in Manhattan, the Fine Arts in Hollywood, and the Mamaroneck in New York–have all since vanished. In Hollywood, they lived mainly in rented bungalows and never established a big permanent residence like Pickfair. In New York City, they lived in an apartment for years, but that is not likely to become the site of a museum. So, for the foreseeable future, the Gish Film Theater and Gallery in Bowling Green is probably the closest thing to a museum display that commemorates them–that is, if it is allowed to continue there.”
William M. Drew
Gallery: Orienta Point, Mamaroneck (former Griffith Studios and sets from “Way Down East” and “Orphans of The Storm”)

As a film historian \ I am very concerned about the current agitation at Bowling Green

SPOILER WARNING !!!, this material is related to the attack that targeted Miss Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy, their reputation and memory.

By William M. Drew

I am writing you to express my concern about an attempt to remove the names of the Gish sisters from a campus theater in Ohio as a consequence of the constant, non-stop demonization of D. W. Griffith over “The Birth of a Nation.” I am hoping that, by alerting you to this, you might be able to get the word to others in the academic community seriously committed to the study and appreciation of film art. Perhaps this can lead to a coordinated protest so that this effort will not succeed.

What has happened is as follows. Back in 1976 when the United States was still a democracy, people at Bowling Green State University, Ohio decided to name a campus theater after Ohio native daughter Lillian Gish. Lillian refused the honor unless it also included her sister Dorothy so they then named it the Gish Film Theater with which Lillian was quite happy. The theater was in operation for many years and Dr. Ralph H. Wolfe put together a collection of memorabilia associated with the Gishes which was on display there. As the theater was in need of renovation by 2016, however, it was felt its function, including the name, should be transferred to another location.

Eventually, they found what they felt was an ideal campus location for the Gish Film Theater–a building that is also used by the students union. So in January of this year, 2019, the Gish Film Theater reopened at its new site in a dedication hosted by Eva Marie Saint, now 94 and a longtime friend of Lillian Gish, who had come all the way to the university for this special event.

Eva-Marie-with-students-1024x683

Soon after, however, campus activists led by the Black Students Union began demanding that the name of Gish be dropped from the theater because Lillian had played the leading feminine role in “The Birth of a Nation.” They claimed that the reason they had not objected to the Gish name being attached to the theater previously is because it was in a much less visible, almost hidden part of the campus than it is now. Pressure has continued to mount and the university president says he will render a decision on whether the Gish name stays or is removed in May.

Students attending to Black Issues Conference - Gish Theater

As the saying goes, we’ve seen this movie before. In 1998, 21 years ago, there was a similar controversy on another college campus, Northern Kentucky University in Covington, over Red Grooms’ sculptures of D. W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer filming Lillian Gish on the ice in “Way Down East.” The sculptures had occupied a prominent situation on the campus since being placed there in 1979. For years, they brightened the otherwise dreary-looking campus without any controversy. But with Griffith’s reputation beginning to disintegrate in the 1990s as more and more attacks were launched against him in the media, perhaps it was inevitable that this would have an adverse effect on any monument or memorial to him even if, as in this case, it had nothing whatever to do with “The Birth of a Nation.” With students and academics demanding that NKU get rid of this monument to a “racist” filmmaker, the college administrators bowed to their demands and the sculptures were removed and then dismantled.

grooms_image_2

With this perhaps as a precedent, the following year in December 1999 Griffith’s name was removed from the Lifetime Achievement Award that the Director’s Guild of America had been giving to outstanding filmmakers since 1953. The Guild said that they were doing so because Griffith had perpetrated “intolerable racial stereotypes” in his films. Unlike the NKU controversy which attracted little attention outside the northern Kentucky/southern Ohio region, the DGA’s decision was widely reported, eliciting a variety of comment, pro and con. In the ensuing years, while the denunciations of Griffith over “The Birth of a Nation” have never ceased and with very little attention paid to his other works, there have not been similar efforts to dishonor him publicly for the simple reason that there are few memorials of any kind to commemorate his existence. There are no other awards bearing his name, no grand museum honoring his life and work, no cities and parks named after him nor theaters, either, no towering statues of him. It seemed that all those who had come to despise him could do was continue writing and producing vitriolic books, articles and documentaries about him in which he was forever blamed for just about all of America’s racial problems.

14372347_1094260243990605_7768109129607768680_o

Now that the Gishes are being targeted, I suppose I should utter that old cliche that I’m not surprised. But actually I am. For example, there is the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize established by provisions in Lillian’s will to reward worthy artists. One of its more recent recipients was none other than Spike Lee who had no objections at all to receiving an award bearing the name of the actress who played Elsie Stoneman in “The Birth of a Nation.”

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With no apparent controversy over this prestigious award and with numerous film critics and historians continuing to bestow on Lillian Gish the praise that they now generally withhold from Griffith who is more often than not reviled these days, I had actually thought she was immune to this kind of attack. But since the few memorials to the director have long since vanished, it is evidently Lillian’s turn to be denounced and dishonored as a surrogate for Griffith. And if they succeed in removing any honors to Lillian and sister Dorothy who, unlike Lillian, was not in “The Birth of a Nation,” will they then target Mary Pickford who was not in “The Birth of a Nation,” either, but who also did indeed work for Griffith?

d.w. griffith, mary pickford, charlie chaplin (seated) and douglas fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing united artists motion picture studio

I don’t think it is hyperbole to observe that what we are seeing these days with all the attacks on memorials to iconic historical figures is an American equivalent of the Cultural Revolution that decimated China’s civilization in the 1960s and with much the same stated objective. While this kind of frenzy scarcely began amidst the meltdown caused by the disgraceful and incompetent administration of Donald J. Trump as witness the earlier anti-Griffith agitation of the late 1990s, there is no question that his repellent antics have only intensified the madness of the so-called resistance. If unchecked, it could spread to many other outstanding cultural figures, not only in cinema but in the older arts as well.

Pickford, Griffith, Chaplin, Fairbanks - United Artists
Pickford, Griffith, Chaplin, Fairbanks – United Artists

Mark Twain could come under fire, not for “Huck Finn” but for “Tom Sawyer” due to the racially stereotyped character of Injun Joe. You could have activists running around Oakland demanding that the name of Jack London Square be changed because several of the writer’s statements seem racist to some. Not long ago I came across a college paper in which the “scholar” tried to argue that, based on passages in their works, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were all racists or bigots. That this analyst appeared to be confusing the attitudes expressed by some of their characters with the personal views of the authors was clear enough to me. But in a time when critical thinking and reasoned debate has all but disappeared in this country and many other Western nations, this approach has become all too common.

United Artists Corporation Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, David Wark Griffith
United Artists Corporation – Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, David Wark Griffith

I believe therefore that it is imperative for all those concerned with cinema art to express their opposition to this attempt to remove the Gish name from the theater. If this attempt by the professionally outraged is not halted in its tracks, it will simply encourage more and more such assaults on our cultural heritage. From a feminist standpoint, it effectively applies an “Adam’s rib” conception to both Gish sisters in which they are no more than projections of a now despised and much misunderstood male artist without any individuality or creativity of their own. In an era in which women’s voices and contributions are supposed to count, scapegoating Lillian and Dorothy Gish for a portrayal in just one film that was conceived, not by Griffith but by the crackpot writer Thomas Dixon, Jr., the only person connected with “The Birth of a Nation” who merits censure, is utterly ridiculous.

the sisters - 1914 — with dorothy gish. 4

One of the high points of my viewing classic films was the time in 1995 when I witnessed a revival of “Way Down East” that proved electrifying in its emotional effect on the audience. The denunciation of the sexual double standard and the traditional male patriarchy elicited loud cheers and applause. I have never experienced such a response to any other film in all the years I attended theatrical screenings. It was this film that inspired those fighting for women’s rights all over the world including China in the 1920s where it proved enormously influential. But the continued attacks on Griffith which are now starting to engulf Lillian Gish as well have caused this to be almost completely forgotten.

I would very much appreciate it if you would consider contacting those of your colleagues in the film history field who conceivably could circulate a petition requesting that the name of the Gish Film Theater remain intact. If enough people sign it, I believe we might be able to prevent this effort at name change and public dishonor from going through.

As a film historian who enjoyed a very nice correspondence with Lillian Gish over the years and who has written extensively about D. W. Griffith, I am very concerned about the current agitation at Bowling Green State University to drop the name of Gish from the Gish Film Theater as a result of the never-ending controversy over “The Birth of a Nation.” Sadly, given the past history of such incidents where this issue is concerned, it is likely that the university will give in to such pressures unless there is a strong enough counter-protest to defeat this attempt.

  I have in mind getting up a petition that could be sent around for cinephiles and others concerned about the arts to sign. It could then be forwarded to the university president and if there are enough signatures on it, it might have the desired effect. I have other information about the Gishes, D. W. Griffith and many others from those years I will be happy to share with you. In the meantime, I am including in this e-mail a copy of a letter I’ve started sending out to film academics and others with a particular interest in this. It gives a background history for the situation that has now arisen. 

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you about this rather urgent matter soon. I will be very interested in any suggestions you may have.

 

Sincerely,

    William M. Drew

 

The Gish Theater Saga

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For me, Lillian Gish put BGSU on the map!

SPOILER WARNING !!!, this material is related to the attack that targeted Miss Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy, their reputation and memory.

From: Adrian Paul Botta <adrianpaulbotta@gmail.com>
Date: March 17, 2019 at 8:21:31 AM EDT
To: Rodney Rogers <rrogers@bgsu.edu>, davidk@bgsu.educirculation@toledoblade.com,  kprysybylski@toledoblade.comroman.v.jackson@jpmorgan.com,  julia.esposito@finnpartners.comelizabeth.lrz@gmail.com
Subject: [EXTERNAL] Keep Gish name, respect American History!

My name is Adrian Paul Botta, even if I’m more than ten thousand miles away, I’m very sad and frustrated after reading all that is happening at Bowling Green State University. I grew up as a poor kid behind the Iron Courtain in the seventies. First time I’ve had the chance to see Miss Lillian Gish was in a old Cinema Magazine and since then I’m in love with her memory, trying to find out facts from her prodigious career. So I read about her childhood in Springfield, Massillon, then Baltimore, her ascension and her ups, and downs known being the fact that actors of that era were the main propaganda instruments. Miss Lillian Gish, a career that span over eighty years, more than we “mortals” have lived biologically.

gish-1-x-theater

So I’ve heard of Dr.Ralph Haven Wolfe and his initiative to invite Miss Lillian to visit BGSU. After she kindly accepted that a theater, a student workshop would bear her name, she donated memorabilia and with generous contribution from many personalities like Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Eva Marie Saint, another photographic collection from Museum of Modern Art found a home at BGSU – Gish Theater.

Thus Miss Gish put for me on the map Bowling Green State University. Never heard of that Institution before, kindly forgive me but it’s not so renown as Yale, Harvard, West Point or some other well known universities from the civilised world.

BGSU_demolition

To make the long story short, for me as European is very hard to comprehend what’s happening with the Gish Film Theater. She brought BGSU name in world attention, linking it to her fame. She ACCEPTED for the theater to bear her name. For her, a lot of personalities made donations, funds for expanding the theater.

Suddenly a group of wannabe’s decided to enter through hystory’s back door destroying a reputation, a memory of one of the greatest personalities in American culture, the so called “American Institution”. By the way this brings in my memory that fellow who shot in 1980 John Lennon in the back, (Dakota Building archway). “Grand” way to write one’s name in the History Book.

Gish 2 X Theater

Now if I’m not mistaking, Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize was presented to a number of African American artists, among them Spike Lee, who received 300.000 US Dollars for “Malcolm X”. And if I remember correctly, Lee accepted the prize.

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Kindly consider my opinion as many others from a lot of different countries. I believe Miss Lillian Gish represents America, (for me certainly does, the better part of America anyway). It’s not enough that only some of the Gish museum is on display in the Union, the rest of it is in the archives – the Jerome Library and in the Brown Pop Culture Library? Her legacy torn apart, certain amount of contributors investment lost …

Gish-Film-Theater-1024x537

The Union theater also does not have the historical significance of the Gish, as Lillian Gish had visited BGSU when the theater was first dedicated to her. The Gish has been a symbol for film culture and history for over 40 years. It was a workshop, where young artists could compare and debate their work as well. I close this letter with a heavy heart, hoping that common sense will prevail, and BGSU will remain a neutral cultural institution, dedicated to provide opportunities for different views.

Above letter (edited) was published by Toledo Blade on March 31, 2019 as follows:

Toledo Blade - Letters to the editor - March 31 2019

The Gish Theater Saga

 

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Lillian Gish autographed - 1920s
Lillian Gish autographed – 1920s

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

The Gish Theater Saga

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Gish sisters are an important part of film history

SPOILER WARNING !!!, this material is related to the attack that targeted Miss Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy, their reputation and memory.

The New Gish Theater BGSU Front

photo by Reghan Winkler

(BG Falcon Media) Wally Pretzer Mar 14, 2019

The Black Student Union at BGSU would like to see the Gish Film Theater name removed from the Student Union. These students should know that the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize has been awarded to several African Americans, including Spike Lee.

In 1915, D.W. Griffith produced “The Birth of a Nation”, a racist movie that put the Ku Klux Klan in a favorable light. Lillian Gish played a nurse from the North caring for wounded soldiers. Because of her appearance in the film, the Black Students Union has implied that she is a racist; her sister, Dorothy, who was not in the film, is, by association with her sister, also, apparently, considered a racist. “The Birth of a Nation” has never been shown in the Gish Film Theater. President Rodney Rogers, assisted by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Ray Craig, appointed a task force of students, faculty and other stakeholders to review the controversy to decide whether the name should be removed.

gish-1-x-theater

What is appalling is that there is this movement afoot to defame the stellar film achievements of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, born and raised in Ohio. There is no doubt in my mind that if these black students succeed in their defamation of the characters of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, they will have destroyed important film history. Ralph Haven Wolfe founded the Gish Film Theater in 105 Hanna Hall in 1976. Ms. Gish came to the BGSU campus at least four times to be honored.

Gish-Film-Theater-1024x537

If the Gish Film Theater name is removed, I think that it will indicate to the world that Bowling Green State University, as an institution dedicated to providing opportunities for differing views, has failed in that endeavor.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

https://www.bgfalconmedia.com/forum/ltte-gish-sisters-are-an-important-part-of-film-history/article_fb28098a-467b-11e9-9db3-4bf871e2732c.html

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

The Gish Theater Saga

The Gish Theater Saga

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

 

The Gish Film Theater Saga

Ralph Wolfe in the lobby of the Gish Film Theater in October 2016

Ralph Wolfe in the lobby of the Gish Film Theater in October 2016

SPOILER WARNING !!!, this material is related to the attack that targeted Miss Lillian Gish and her sister Dorothy, their reputation and memory.

Articles are posted in reversed order (ascending)

Prologue:

If the present period is one of heightened concerns about race, it is also one with a reawakened feminism, a fresh emphasis on the need to recover and remember a long-suppressed history of women including their pioneering contributions to cinema. One sure way to rebuild support for the Gish Film Theater is to remind people of the roles of Lillian and Dorothy as strong, emancipated women at a time when females were struggling to obtain the vote and define themselves as something other than the property of their husbands.

Trying to talk to BSU protesters, to reason with them, seemed almost as futile as saying to the flames at Notre Dame, “Please stop burning up everything in this wondrous artistic monument.”

The Birth is on sale again on all major online sites (Amazon, Ebay), that’s because , as it happens it was restored to full HD. And that is what BSU really achieved.

D.W. Griffith had previously produced and directed Biograph’s The Rose of Kentucky (1911), which showed the Ku Klux Klan as villainous – a sharp contrast to “The Birth of A Nation”, made four years later, in which the KKK was portrayed in a favorable light.

LILLIAN GISH social media groups have constantly requests for membership from Sudan, Ghana, Somalia, the REAL African citizens who are enjoying Lillian’s silent films because (She was right) those movies are interpreted in universal language of “dancing emotions”.

That night, however, the horrors of war seemed far away. We were young and in Paris, and Paris in the dark was beautiful. We walked until the lovely dawn bathed the city, along the Seine where Notre Dame suddenly loomed up, down the avenues and boulevards, across the bridges, past the great monuments and fountains.” –Lillian Gish, “The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me”

THE GISH FILM THEATER - Hanna Hall
THE GISH FILM THEATER – Hanna Hall

B(G)SU “Task Force” report, recommends as expected, removal of The Gish name from the theater RE-located in Bowen – Thompson Union Building. Recommendations were based on one movie,  “Birth of A Nation”, despite the fact that “The Black Student Union does not in ANY WAY bear ill will toward the Gish Sisters OR their legacy in American cinema/film history.” Link, below:

 

BGSU “Task Force” Report, April 20, 2019

 

And The Master, proud of his creation …

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 9:05 pm

Closing out the statement of acceptance of the report, Rogers wrote “Building a just learning community requires effort and commitment by each of us. I’m proud of the way our community has come together to discuss and explore these issues in a thoughtful and respectful way.”

Standard answer sent to all letters addressed to Rodney Rogers
Standard answer containing THE TITLE of the orange poster placed at The Gish entrance (Thompson BGSU)

Gish name gone from BGSU film theater

Gish name gone from BGSU film theater – BG Independent News

By DAVID DUPONT 

BG Independent News

The Gish name will be removed from the theater in Bowling Green State University’s student union.

The Board of Trustees today (Friday, May 3) acted on the recommendation of President Rodney Rogers. In making the recommendation Rogers was concurring with the findings of a report by a task force set up to studying the name of the film theater, which had until this fall, been located in Hanna Hall.

The Black Student Union challenged the name of the theater because Lillian Gish had a starring role in D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation.” That silent film, set in the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction,  depicts African Americans in demeaning and dehumanizing ways and celebrates the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Based on the novel, “The Clansman,” the film played a role in the Klan’s revival and spread to the north. It was a blockbuster at the time.

The Black Student Union’s campaign to have the name changed, which included two town hall meetings on the issue, was sparked by the showing of the film “13th,” a  documentary film that explores the interrelationship of slavery, the regime of Jim Crow restrictions on blacks, racism, and the prison-industrial complex.

Kyle Thompson, vice president of the Black Student Union, talks with President Rodney Rogers
Kyle Thompson, vice president of the Black Student Union, talks with President Rodney Rogers

Does BGSU have a (moral) right to keep in custody the “Gish” memorabilia?

………………

BGSU task force recommends that Gish
Theater get a new name
By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News (part of the article)

“Changing the name of the theater at BGSU will not erase film history, US cultural history, ‘Hollywood history,’ or the legacy of the Gish sisters.”

The Gish name will not be erased at BGSU. A scholarship given in her name, the honorary degree bestowed on her in 1976, and the archives of Gish material will remain.

Also, the task force calls for a display in the lobby of the theater or inside the venue that addresses the legacy of the Gish sisters  as well as the history of theater, including why it was renamed, and a discussion of the place “The Birth of Nation” holds in developing American attitudes toward race.

The task force said in particular it did not want to diminish Lillian Gish’s career.

The entire article – link below:

BGSU task force recommends that Gish Theater get a new name – BG Independent News

The Gish Theater 1976 - 2018 Hanna Hall BGSU
The Gish Theater 1976 – 2018 Hanna Hall BGSU

Toledo Blade, May 7, 2019

To the editor: BGSU should decline Gish money

The Bowling Green State University’s trustees have bowed to pressure from the Black Student Union and removed the Gish name from the theater’s marquee. Evidently the trustees and the Black Student Union don’t feel bad about keeping the money from a Gish Endowment and Scholarship program that supports film students and studies.

If they feel strongly enough to remove Gish name, they should stand strong with their beliefs and reject the endowment. That sounds like hypocrisy to me.

Perhaps the Gish Endowment Fund will voluntarily remove BGSU from it’s moral dilemma? I’m sure there is another institution that could [and would] proudly use that endowment to honor the Gish name.

JACK SNYDER

Erie

Petition to Rodney Rogers - RETAIN THE NAME OF THE GISH FILM THEATER AT BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY

ONLINE PETITION TO SAVE “THE GISH”

Lillian and Dorothy Gish’s legacy in film needs to be REMEMBERED and HONORED at Bowling Green State University and in their state of Ohio and the rest of the world, NOT ERASED!

Link for The Gish Theater Petition

Reasons For Signing The Petition for retaining the name of The Gish Theater

Task force on Gish recommends renaming theater

BG Falcon Media

  • Updated 

The task force related to the location and name of the Gish Film Theater reported its recommendations Friday. The report recommended renaming the theater; including educational materials in a display; screening programming with a focus on “social change, silent film, and classic Hollywood film;” and considering campus facility name dedications with historical context in mind.

President Rodney Rogers announced in a press release that he will review the report and consider its recommendations. He will also discuss the task force’s findings with relevant BGSU administrators and constituents.

“I appreciate the time and effort that the task force members put in over the past six weeks. I thank them for their work,” Rogers said in the press release.

The report calls for BGSU to rename the theater “to support the University’s mission and values, as it embraces the importance of the theater not only to film students but to all academic units and student organizations.”

Members of the Gish Task Force referenced BGSU policy to “determine appropriate actions” regarding the theater. They focused on two policies, including: University Policy 3341-9-2: Naming and University Policy 3341-5-36: Racial & Ethnic Harassment.

BGSU policy outlines procedures for naming on-campus facilities. As referenced in the report, the name of a demolished facility won’t be transferred to a new facility unless a “useful facility is relocated to serve the greater interest of the university.”

the basics of the findings include the following:

  1. “The reference to The Birth of a Nation and the images of Lillian Gish in the display area outside the theater contribute to an intimidating, even hostile, educational environment. The display, with its oversize images and text, are prominent in a well-used space and evoke the film and its racist legacy.”

  2. “The stereotypes of African Americans in The Birth of a Nation are offensive, and the film presents a white supremacist vision.”

  3. “Lillian Gish’s role in the film is central, and thus her image evokes and embodies the racism explicit in The Birth of a Nation.”

The “Task Force”:

• Sacarra Bridgeforth, Undergraduate Student, Film
• Ana Brown, Interim Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Coordinator for Diversity and
Retention Initiatives, Office of Residence Life, and Advisor to Latino Student Union
• Charis Hoard, Undergraduate Student, Black Student Union
• Dr. Lesa Lockford, Professor and Chair. Theatre and Film
• Laura Moore, Director of Stewardship (Ex-Officio)
• Daniel Ricken, Graduate Student, Theater
• Isaiah Smith, Undergraduate Student, Black Student Union
• Sadi Angel Trouche, Undergraduate Student, Latino Student Union
• Cali Vaugh, Undergraduate Student
• Daniel Williams, Associate Professor, Theatre and Film
• Michelle Sweetser, Head, Archival Collections

 

College Republicans recommend changing Gish Theater name

College Republicans Executive Board Apr 8, 2019 Updated 11 hrs ago

After speaking with the BSU and learning of their desire to change the name, we have decided to stand beside them in their efforts. This does not mean to imply that we wish to erase history; rather, we hope to reconcile with the past atrocities committed in our nation against African Americans.

Artist Joe Ann Cousino unveils her sculpture of Lillian Gish in March, 2007
Artist Joe Ann Cousino unveils her sculpture of Lillian Gish in March, 2007

Black Student Union opposes Gish name in Union theatre

Black Student Union 2019 apr 7

Black Student Union Executive Board

Apr 7, 2019 Updated 9 hrs ago – BG Falcon Media

The Black Student Union at BGSU is an organization meant to represent the interests of Black students and other underrepresented communities to which Blackness is intersectionally affiliated. \   The Black Student Union does not in ANY WAY bear ill will toward the Gish Sisters OR their legacy in American cinema/film history. \    The new theater display is more visible, open and noticed. \   As a representative body, the Black Student Union’s OFFICIAL POSITION regarding the Gish Film Theater name is OPPOSED.

Gish Theater task force continues work – April 3, 2019

The task force charged with looking into whether the name of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Theater  at Bowling Green State University should be changed is on track to present its report to university trustees when they convene in early May. At Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Provost Joe Whitehead said that the task force is made up of six students and six faculty and staff.  The task force was assembled by Arts and Sciences Dean Raymond Craig.

Whitehead said the task force will “assess the impact of the naming on the campus and the community.” One key concern, he said, is to study the historical context of Gish’s career and her time as well as the context “of the time we live in.” Gish was a star in the silent film era, whose career continued on the stage, screen, and television. Throughout her life she advocated for an appreciation of silent movies and for film preservation.

Update: APRIL 3, 2019 – By David Dupont (BG Independent Media)

Meanwhile on Twitter:

BSU - Fight is not OVER
# DITCH THE GISH

Students push to rename theater at Bowling Green State

Updated 

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) — The Black Student Union at an Ohio university is pushing the school’s president to rename a theater honoring an actress who starred in “The Birth of a Nation,” considered one of the most racist movies ever made.

The Toledo Blade reports Bowling Green State University’s Gish Film Theater was named after actresses Dorothy and Lillian Gish 40 years ago.

Lillian Gish starred in the 1915 black-and-white silent film, which served as a tribute to the Ku Klux Klan and helped revive the white supremacist group.

Black Student Union President Kyron Smith says the push to rename the little-used theater comes after its relocation to the student union.

University President Rodney Rogers says a task force of students, faculty and other stakeholders will make a recommendation for an immediate change.___

Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/

Black Student Union on Twitter - Hashtag - DITCH THE GISH
Black Student Union on Twitter – Hashtag – DITCH THE GISH, upper left corner a logo (fist combined with the map of Africa, colors Red-Green-Yellow)

The+Gish+Film+Theater

The university’s president, Rodney Rogers, released a statement Feb. 20 just hours before the school welcomed Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Opal Tometi, the leading key speaker for the university’s third annual “Beyond The Dream” series celebrating diversity and inclusion.

In his statement, Mr. Rogers said the administration had been approached by the university’s Black Student Union leaders regarding “the propriety of the naming.”

Black Student Union president Kyron Smith said it started with a Feb. 10 tweet, posted on the organization’s Twitter page.

BSU shows “The 13th” at the BTSU theater and then they change the name to the Gish Film Theater…

For more than 40 years, the theater has honored actresses Dorothy and Lillian Gish. Members of the Black Student Union questioned the theater’s name because Lillian Gish is so well-known for starring in The Birth of a Nation, a 1915 silent-movie tribute to the Ku Klux Klan that is credited with reviving the white supremacist group.

The university had relocated the Gish Theater from its home of more than four decades in Hanna Hall to the Bowen-Thompson Student Union — a central hub for students on campus — and renamed the union theater the Gish Film Theater.

Many black students were aware of the name’s legacy, but it became more of a hot-button issue after the name was transferred from a “rarely visited” theater to the student union.

“We have always had an issue with the name, but it was an old building that was rarely visited. It being moved to the union is really just a slap in the face, at this point,” Mr. Smith said.

The initial tweet was followed by a formal email to President Rogers, and later, a conversation with the university president and faculty.

Following the meeting, Mr. Rogers issued a letter calling for students and faculty “to engage in dialogue, reflect, and work to understand the historical complexities of this naming.

“Many regard Ms. Gish as the greatest actress of the silent film era and may also argue that she should be judged by the totality of her work according to the values of the time in which she lived,” Mr. Rogers wrote. “However, I believe her close ties to [Director D.W.] Griffith and her involvement in The Birth of a Nation requires us to reassess the naming of the Gish Film Theater.”

A town hall meeting was held Feb. 21, hosted by the Black Student Union. Mr. Smith said the goal was to give students a platform to share ideas for a resolution. Although a few faculty members attended the meeting — originally intended for only students — the responses of both groups were insightful.

In closing, Mr. Rogers wrote that a task force of students, faculty and “other University stakeholders” will not only make a recommendation for immediate change, but also address the ways the university can “use this opportunity to better position” itself to “face similar issues.”

During his visit to BGSU last week, journalist and activist Shaun King implored the task force to change the name of the theater.

“I plead with that task force, don’t be dumb,” Mr. King said during his keynote speech during the Black Issues Conference. “Do your job. Do it methodically. Do it in the way you know it needs to be done. But get it right. To show the students on this campus that you value their emotional well being more than the history of this campus.”

Mr. King also encouraged students to continue pushing back.

“When there is a place on this campus that causes pain for some people to even step into the room — that’s not OK,” he said. “So start here. Make this place better. Make this campus better. Make Bowling Green better. Make Toledo better.”

Gish-Film-Theater-1024x537

Opinions – Pro – The Gish Film Theater:

Gish Theater Letter - standard answer the title of the orange poster at the Gish entrance
Standard reply sent to all letters addressed to President Rodney Rogers (BGSU)

April 20, 2019

To Raymond Craig, Alex D. Solis, and President Rodney K. Rogers:

I have just seen your task force recommendation on the reasons for changing the name of the Gish Film Theater. First of all, I want to congratulate you. You have come up with a document advocating totalitarianism in as perfect a manner as any I have ever seen. However, because I am not only a fairly knowledgeable film historian but also someone who believes in the old-fashioned principles of democracy that includes reasoned debate, critical thinking and taking all available facts into consideration, I would like to present some additional information that was not considered in this recommendation.

Since you do mention my name as having presented documented evidence that there were a number of Klan revivals prior to the release of “The Birth of a Nation,” I would like to insert into the record documentation that the major reason for its later more massive resurrection was not the release of the film in 1915 but rather the participation of the United States in World War I in 1917-18. As I have been attempting to coordinate an online effort to stop the insane course upon which you have embarked, I have not had time to gather all the relevant articles from 1918 that I had intended sending you. So at this point I will attach the following page from the May 26, 1918 edition of the “New York Tribune” containing the article, “Ku Klux Klan Returns to Fight the Hun.” There are many more articles of this kind from 1918 with information about the revived Klan’s activities all across the country, actions stemming not from a popular movie but rather from the coordinated effort of the US government to mobilize the public to fight a war. Had the USA in 1919-20 been able to return to the pre-war environment dominated by Progressive reform, it is likely that the 1918 resurgence of the Klan would have been only temporary. Alas, a combination of factors–the Red Scare of 1919-20, the enactment of Prohibition, the constant agitation against “foreigners” that resulted in the Johnson-Reed act of 1924–all sustained a climate in which the Klan continued to thrive. However, you, like many of the recent sources upon which you draw, continue to ignore the actual historical record, preferring to utilize a simplistic presentation of the past in order to justify your twisted move to publicly disgrace Lillian and Dorothy Gish.

 

In attempting to rationalize your move to remove the Gish name from the theater, you make the dubious claim that Lillian’s role in “The Birth of a Nation” is her most significant one, the part that defines her. To anyone who knows anything about Miss Gish’s career, that is utterly absurd. While Lillian’s performance as Elsie Stoneman in “The Birth” is considered good as far as it goes, it has never been ranked by serious critics and historians as one of her most outstanding roles. In this film, she was the traditional ingenue and the best feminine performance in “The Birth” is usually considered to have been given by Mae Marsh as the half-crazy Flora Cameron. It was Lillian’s subsequent performances, both for Griffith–“Hearts of the World,” “Broken Blossoms,” “True Heart Susie,” “Way Down East,” “Orphans of the Storm”–and for other directors–“The White Sister,” “La Boheme,” “The Scarlet Letter,” “The Wind”–that rank among the greatest in film history and that won her world-wide respect as the silent cinema’s premier dramatic actress. This does not even take into account her many memorable performances in such later films as “The Night of the Hunter” and “The Whales of August” to say nothing of her work in other media.

 

Also, since the theater honors two actresses, not one, how does Lillian’s performance in “The Birth of a Nation” define Dorothy Gish who was not even in the film but did conclude her career with the anti-Klan film, “The Cardinal?” You have clearly taken your guilt by association to an unprecedented level by attempting to trash another actress whose only crime is that she was related to an actress who, in turn, was guilty of nothing more than appearing in a film that itself has been scapegoated for all of America’s racial woes.

 

That this move to remove the Gish name from the BGSU campus is sexist and misogynist has been apparent to me for some time. It was glaringly apparent in the use of the sexist hashtag, “Ditch the Gish,” as a designation for this campaign. It is further evident in your citation of Bill Cosby as a supporting source for your planned measure to get rid of the Gish Film Theater. Perhaps you are unaware that Mr. Cosby is a convicted criminal, found guilty of numerous felonies that include sexual assaults on women. If you are aware of Mr. Cosby’s record, why did you include him as a source when there are innumerable others from a variety of perspectives that you could have referenced? Obviously, however, this orchestrated campaign to tarnish the names of two brilliant women who furthered the cause of feminine emancipation in the 20th century is profoundly sexist. As such, if the university acts on your recommendation, it will go very hard with BGSU and will bring lasting shame and discredit to the university.

 

You do not mention that, in advocating the removal of two actresses because one of them simply acted in a film you did not like, you are taking the unprecedented step of symbolically blacklisting and publicly dishonoring two distinguished performers for no other reason. Even during the era of the Hollywood blacklist, actors and actresses were not banned or disgraced merely because they had prominent roles in films that were then being branded as subversive and “un-American.” To the best of my present knowledge, even in Germany during the Third Reich and the Soviet Union in Stalin’s time actors and actresses did not find their entire careers under a cloud for no other reason than their having appeared in just one film that the dictatorships found objectionable.

 

In your comments on both the Gishes and D. W. Griffith, you seem to be entirely unaware or dismissive of all the other films they made. Never once do you make reference to the content of these other films, their social and political impact, or how they were received, whether in the United States or around the world. I am attaching to this e-mail a review of Griffith’s “Intolerance” in the November 18, 1916 edition of the “California Eagle,” then the largest African-American newspaper on the West Coast. You will notice that, despite the paper’s criticism of Griffith’s prior film, “The Birth of a Nation” (shown in California under its original title, “The Clansman”), the reviewer is able to make the distinction that the BGSU task force has not–namely, that Griffith, hailed by this African-American critic as “the greatest humanitarian of the age”–was capable of so much more than one would assume from the extremely narrow focus of your report.

 

You have no awareness of the fact that Griffith’s “Broken Blossoms” (1919) in which Lillian Gish gave such an outstanding performance was savagely criticized at the time by white supremacists who saw its depiction of the friendship between the Chinese Buddhist hero and the victimized white girl of the London slums as undermining traditional racial barriers. One of their number, the well-known Australian journalist E. C. Buley, wrote an op/ed piece, “‘Lil’ White Girl,’ A Protest Against a Popular Film,” published in the April 9, 1920 London “Daily Mail,” in which he maintained that “the inverted morality” of Griffith’s film could further cohabitation between young white girls and Chinese men. He said that “Broken Blossoms” had cast a “glamour of romance” over the “life of a white woman with a Chinese” which he claimed in reality was an “abomination” that was “repulsive, unnatural, and dangerous.” Buley concluded his racist editorial by declaring: “I don’t care how artistic and tragic and realistic ‘Broken Blossoms’ may be; I maintain that it is a dangerous thing that the sentiments of the young girls of this country should run the risk of being perverted to a wrong view of the mixed marriage question. If it were a cruder and less convincing production, protest would be unnecessary. The art of the thing constitutes its danger.”

 

But while “Broken Blossoms” aroused the ire of white supremacists in the West, it was enthusiastically received in Asia where audiences and critics saw it as a welcome contrast to the negative stereotypes of Asians that were so common in American and European films of the time. When it was shown in Shanghai in 1923, the Chinese critic Rui Kaizhi wrote: “After watching ‘Broken Blossoms,’ I developed an even greater admiration for Griffith’s noble idea and Lillian Gish’s performance. The reason I admire Griffith is that he has a large heart and dares to practice what he believes. Most Americans despise the Chinese, but Griffith elevates and praises them while depicting Englishmen and Americans as evil and ugly. . . .His insights and moral judgment are far beyond his contemporaries in the spheres of filmmaking and the law.”

 

I will be glad to furnish you with yet more material on the positive impact of Griffith and the Gish sisters on the world. I should also point out that on the other side of the ledger Griffith’s critics in the 1920s included the revived Ku Klux Klan who in one of their publications criticized “Orphans of the Storm” as inimical to their beliefs due to its sympathetic portrayal of the revolutionary leader Danton. The Klan later condemned the “filth promoting Griffith” for what they called his “vilely suggestive and abominable” film, “The White Rose,” which they labeled an “anti-Protestant play.”

 

Given the entirely biased and one-sided nature of the task force’s report, it may be that this and other information I can send you is so much wasted effort. However, if the board of trustees yield to the demands that BGSU get rid of the Gish Film Theater, do not think that this will be the end of the matter. Presently, those of us strongly opposed to such a move are circulating a petition online requesting that the Gish Film Theater be retained. If the measure to remove the Gish Film Theater from the BGSU campus is implemented, we will then circulate another petition demanding that the name be restored. We are open to a reasonable compromise by which the Gish Film Theater could be relocated to a building on the campus other than that used by the student unions. But if even that proves unavailing, we will then begin sponsoring an effort to reconstitute the Gish Film Theater elsewhere than at BGSU with memorabilia and displays that honor Dr. Ralph H. Wolfe for his work in establishing the theater in 1976. Given the shabby way in which I feel that Dr. Wolfe has been treated in this matter, I personally believe that if the Gish Film Theater is removed from your campus, all the cinematic memorabilia he obtained for BGSU should be relocated to another institution such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

There is no way I will let this matter rest if the Gish Film Theater is obliterated from the campus of BGSU. The entirely one-sided and simplistic presentation of Griffith and the Gishes in the task force’s recommendation; the blatant sexism evident in the objectification of the Gish sisters, the use of the hashtag, “Ditch the Gish,” to designate the campaign to remove their name from the theater, and the citation of Bill Cosby, a convicted felon who committed many crimes against women, as a legitimate source; the cynical, opportunistic alliance in support of the name removal that the Black Students Union has formed with the College Republicans, a group that is part of a political party now headed by the notorious racist demagogue, Donald J. Trump–all of this I will endeavor to bring to the attention of the world should the Gish Film Theater be terminated on the BGSU campus.

 

I will continue to write, including more e-mails, and do everything else within my power to ensure that the Gish Film Theater will be retained on the campus of Bowling Green State University.

Sincerely,

William M. Drew

 

Links to US Newspapers, below:

Intolerance vs. Clansman

seq-45 1918 Ku Klux Klan revival NY Tribune

 

The Blade: Mar. 6, 2019

To the editor: Keep Gish name at BGSU

I am writing to voice my opposition to the renaming of the Gish Film Theateron the campus of Bowling Green State University. The body of work of the two sisters is so much more than one film Lillian appeared in in 1915. There is an award that the sisters established named the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. To quote Lillian Gish, “It is my desire that the prize be awarded to a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Several African-Americans have been awarded this prize, including Spike Lee in 2013. He said at the time that he was influenced by two of Lillian Gish’s films, Night of the Hunter and Birth of a Nation. I urge BGSU not to remove the Gish name from the theater.

BARBARA CARR

Oregon

…………………………………..

Letter to the editor: Gish not responsible for ‘Birth of a Nation,’ its impact

BG Falcon Media

Gretchen L. Gaige

Mar 28, 2019 Updated Mar 28, 2019

I understand a Task Force is discussing the possibility of eliminating the Gish Memorial Theater. It’s interesting to note that while it is decried that Lillian Gish was somehow responsible for D.W. Griffith’s admittedly one-sided account of the KKK because she plays a role in his film, few would bother to pillory someone, say, like Margaret Sanger. Her view of the value of Black American lives was so low that she brought her eugenics plan to the Klan for their support! She saw blacks and poor whites as merely social problems and advocated the death of their young in the womb as a “Final Solution” — OUR young!

Please, guys, let’s retain our perspective! Let’s not trash Gish’s career in film — an art form that is subjective. She was an actress, not a social activist. Many of her roles portrayed the fragility of the human condition.

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I’m very sad and frustrated after reading all that is happening at Bowling Green State University. Growing up as a poor kid behind the Iron Curtain in the 70s, the first time I saw Miss Lillian Gish was in a old Cinema Magazine and since then I’m in love with her memory.

For me as European it is very hard to comprehend what’s happening with the Gish Film Theater. She brought world attention to the university, linking it to her fame. She accepted the honor of the theater bearing her name. She made donations to the theater and many other celebrities followed suit.

Suddenly a campus group wants to destroy a reputation, a memory of one of the greatest personalities in American culture.

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize was presented to a number of African American artists, including Spike Lee, who accepted the prize.

I believe Miss Lillian Gish represents America. For me, she certainly does, the better part of America anyway. The Gish Theater has been a symbol for film culture and history for over 40 years. It was a workshop, where young artists could compare and debate their work as well.

I close this letter with a heavy heart, hoping that common sense will prevail, and BGSU will remain a neutral cultural institution, dedicated to providing opportunities for different views.

ADRIAN PAUL BOTTA

Bacau City, Romania

To the editor: Keep Gish name on BGSU theater

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Mr. Solis, I am sending you this e-mail as you responded to Mr. Adrian Botta  regarding the Gish Theater. I e-mailed several BGSU people, including the president and got no response. Mr. Botta is not alone in his feelings about the attempt to dishonor Miss Gish. I would like to point out that several African-Americans have received The Gish Award, an award established by Miss Gish. I wonder if the Black Student Union even knows who Bill T. Jones, Ornette Coleman or Suzan-Lori Parks are ? I’m sure they know who Spike Lee is. They are all African- Americans who have received the Gish Award. If these people could accept this award with her name on it, why is there a problem with leaving her name on the theater ? Is the BSU better than those people ? I really have no hope that her name will remain on the theater. These days everyone bends over backward to keep from hurting anyone’s feelings. I do have a few questions if that happens. Who will name the theater ? Will the donors to the Gish theater be informed that this is happening ? Will the donor list on the wall also be removed ? After all it won’t be the theater they donated to. In closing, if the BSU is so upset about Miss.Gish’s appearance in a movie from over 100 years ago how do they ever plan to live in the real world ? I feel sorry for them, they are focused on one role in a career that is incredible. Guilt by association , right ? Shame on them. Sadly,

Elizabeth Novinsky
Just e-mailed this to the Asst. Director of Presidential communications office of the president BGSU.

Clipping - Save Gish Honor Newspaper (Printed) Apr.04.2019
Clipping – Save Gish Honor – The Blade Newspaper (Printed) Apr.04.2019

The task force composed of 12 people, 6 students and 6 faculty and staff, is scheduled to deliver its recommendation at the Board of Trustees meeting in May.

Standard answer sent to all letters addressed to Rodney Rogers
Standard answer containing THE TITLE of the orange poster placed at The Gish entrance (Thompson BGSU)
Black Student Union on Twitter - Hashtag - DITCH THE GISH
Black Student Union on Twitter – Hashtag – DITCH THE GISH, upper left corner a logo (fist combined with the map of Africa, colors Red-Green-Yellow)

 

 

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Eva Marie Saint cancels trip to BGSU

POSTED BY: DAVID DUPONT MARCH 21, 2019

2018-Eva-Marie-Saint
2018-Eva-Marie-Saint

An Evening with Eva Marie Saint, scheduled for Friday, March 29, has been cancelled.

Dean Raymond Craig of the College of Arts and Sciences wrote in a notice addressed to Friends of BGSU Arts that: “Ms. Saint regrets that she will not be traveling to Bowling Green State University this spring.”

The Academy Award winning actress and graduate of BGSU was schedule to perform with students during the evening event.

Dave Kielmeyer, spokesman for the university, said that the change of plans was not related to the controversy over the name of the Gish Film Theatre. Plans for the event just were not coming along as well as the university would want, he said. “It’s as much on us.”

Saint’s appearance was originally scheduled as part of the rededication of the Gish Film Theatre in its new space in the Bowen Thompson Student Union. However, that was cancelled when members of the Black Student Union questioned the venue being named in part for Lillian Gish, who starred in “The Birth of a Nation.” The 1915 D.W. Griffith silent movie epic has been tied to the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and widely criticized for its racist depictions of African-Americans.

 

Gish name for venerable BGSU venue challenged

 

First it was moved from its original location, and now the Gish Film Theater may lose its name.

In a message today (Feb. 20) to the university community, Bowling Green State University President Rodney Rogers said that concerns have been raised about the theater being named in part after actress Lillian Gish, whose extensive credits on film, stage, and television, include starring in “Birth of a Nation.”

The 1915  film by D.W. Griffith celebrates the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and is cited as a factor of the revival of the Klan in the early 20th century.

Last week, he wrote, members of the Black Student Union approached the administration “about the propriety of the naming.”

In his statement, Rogers wrote: “The film … is widely recognized as racist and discriminatory, advancing and inflaming the prejudicial stereotypes of the time period. The controversial film and its commercial success is believed to have helped revive the Ku Klux Klan. … I can unequivocally affirm that the values and the views expressed in the film do not align with those of Bowling Green State University.”

The Black Student Union will host a town hall at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in 210 Mathematical Sciences Building to discuss the issue.

The theater was named for Gish in 1976 after the auditorium in Hanna Hall was transformed as a home for the university’s growing film program.

Lillian Gish visited at that time, the first of four visits to campus. She had  insisted that the theater be named for her sister, Dorothy, also a renowned actress. The Gish sisters were born in Springfield, Ohio, to an actress and made their stage debuts in Risingsun.

All this seemed good reason to English Professor Ralph Wolfe  for the theater to be named for them. Wolfe was the guiding light behind the development of the theater and opposed moving to make way for the Maurer Center, which will be the home for the College of Business.

Rogers said he has asked Dean Ray Craig, of the College of Arts and Sciences, to lead a task force of students, faculty, staff and “other University stakeholders” to make recommendation before the Board of Trustees meeting in May.

A rededication ceremony scheduled to be held March 29 will not be held “so we can explore these issues,” David Kielmeyer, university spokesman said. BGSU graduate and Oscar-winning actress Eva Marie Saint was to participate in the event. Saint and Lillian Gish performed together in the television version of “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Kielmeyer said: “We are currently finalizing details for another event, featuring Eva Marie Saint and our students, to take place on March 29 in the Wolfe Center for the Performing Arts. Seating for the event will be limited. We’ll provide more details soon.”

 

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Eva Marie Saint to help dedicate new Gish Theater

BGSU alumna and Academy Award-winning actress Eva Marie Saint will return to campus as part of the celebration of the re-opening of the Gish Film Theater—the newly renovated cinema now located in 206 Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Friday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

The original Gish Film Theater in Hanna Hall was dedicated in 1976 to honor the achievements of Ohio natives Dorothy and Lillian Gish, renowned actresses of the stage and screen.

The evening will include a reception at 6 p.m. and a special appearance by Saint, who appeared with Lillian Gish in the classic television movie, “The Trip to Bountiful. “

— David Dupont, BG Independent News

gish-1-x-theater

The Gish Theater

– 2018 … The Beginning of the End …

Still there … in the campus … (click this link for Video)

March 27, 2018 … A tribute and documentation of some of the final semesters the Lilian and Dorothy Gish Film Theatre will have at Bowling Green State University (VIDEO)

Confusion and miscommunication have plagued the renovations of Hanna Hall and the relocation of the Gish Film Theater. As part of the University’s plans to update the interiors of its “traditions” buildings, Hanna Hall is scheduled to receive interior remodels, possible additions to the structure and the relocation of the College of Business into the building. Ralphe Wolfe, the curator at the Gish, said he was left out of the loop when the decision was made to renovate Hanna Hall. Wolfe spoke with Mazey in September 2015 and told her he had no idea the renovation was occurring. He said Mazey told him he was “out of town” at the time.

“I thought, ‘I do have a cell phone and an email address’…so it was kind of sprung upon me,” Wolfe said.
He was originally under the impression that the theater would be worked around as the rest of Hanna Hall was prepared for the College of Business. He said the original plan was for the College of Business to have a new building, but President Mazey was unable to raise funding.

The Gish Theater

Named for the sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish, renowned actresses who began their careers during the era of silent film, the Gish Film Theater was opened for film instruction in 1975.

“(The Gish) has been the center for all of film culture since the 1970s,” said Cynthia Baron, a professor in the theater and film department.

The sisters were originally from Ohio and began their acting career in Rising Sun, Ohio in Wood County. Wolfe himself worked with Lillian to garner her support for her and her sister’s namesake.

“I realized…she’s an Ohio native and she began her career in Rising Sun…so I thought this (was) a great historical connection,” Wolfe said.

Currently, the construction plans are to relocate the Gish to the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, to a theater on the second floor.

“The board in the February (2017) meeting will be considering a renovation and an addition to Hanna Hall…but it will require the relocation of the Gish Theater,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Rodney Rogers. Rogers said the traditions buildings have never had a full-scale renovation such as they are receiving now, and were long due for the attention.

“As we’ve looked around at various choices, it seemed like putting (the Gish) in the Union made a great deal of sense because we have the outline of a theater now,” said Rogers.

However, this has raised concerns among the theater and film department, especially for Wolfe and Baron.

“(The Union theater) is used for a whole range of other events…things that are connected to what’s happening in the ballroom,” said Baron. “I’m not seeing how this is going to work out very well.”

Baron also said it is one of the few remaining locations with a single screen that is necessary for screening films. The theater in the Union, she said, is “radically” different from the Gish, in regards to their physical layout.

Wolfe expressed concern at the handicapped accessibility and whether or not there would be room for the organ and piano used to accompany the silent film screenings.

Rogers admitted some renovations to the Union theater would need to be done to accommodate both the new and old technology used to screen current and silent films.

“I might believe that having it in the Union, it’ll be higher profile because a lot more people come to the Union…than, perhaps, Hanna Hall,” Rogers said.

Despite understanding the need for the updates in Hanna Hall, Baron still expressed concerns that the students in the film and theater department, specifically the student filmmakers, were not being considered.I do know that the students are extremely distressed,” said Baron. “They feel like their home is being taken away from them.

Wolfe said the Union theater also does not have the historical significance of the Gish, as Lillian Gish had visited when the theater was first dedicated to her.

The theater in Hanna Hall is home to a museum of sorts that showcases pictures, objects and movie posters associated with the Gish sisters and their film careers.

Rogers said some of the museum would certainly be on display in the Union, but the rest of it would be in the archives in the Jerome Library as well as in the Brown Pop Culture Library.

The individual seats in the Gish were also dedicated to donors who helped fund the Gish, some with well-known names like Sally Fields and Tom Hanks.

Baron said she thought the donors who helped fund the theater would be particularly upset by the relocation, but the “University (did) not want those people contacted.”

While the Gish would be converted for the College of Business, Rogers said he hoped the new “location might bring (more) notoriety.”

But this has not put Baron’s or Wolfe’s minds to rest.

We are not consulted,” said Baron.

“(Mazey) wanted to have a campaign to raise money for a new building, she didn’t get it,” said Wolfe. “And so, her failure trumps my success in here.”

Gish Theater curator left out of the loop

Where is the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater RE-Located?

The Gish Theater – Little Dreams Grow … (kindly hit this link to watch the video)

ian opaczewski
Published on Mar 27, 2018

A tribute and documentation of some of the final semesters the Lilian and Dorothy Gish Film Theatre will have at Bowling Green State University. To the Ohio Students this space is more than a theatre, it  is a gateway to new possibilities and an advent of things to come. Tradition, honor, and respect are are values taught within the space as students display their work.The theatre is also a tribute to one of  films most notable stars, Lilian Gish. A museum details many of her accomplishments and holds one of a kind film relics. It has been a symbol for film culture and history for over 40 years and soon will be removed with an unknown relocation.

Posted By: David Dupont September 24, 2017

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Ralph Wolfe, the founder and, until recently, the curator of the Gish Film Theater, has mixed feelings about the venue’s move from its home in Hanna Hall.

“I am grateful for the preservation of the Gish sisters name and the fact that there will be a theater on campus,” he said.

The Gish Theater will be moved to the theater space in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Some of the memorabilia of the Gish sisters, now in the Gish lobby, will be displayed in the space. Other items will be sent to the Jerome Library. Wolfe said that through his efforts BGSU has the largest collection of Gish sister memorabilia anywhere other than California and New York.

This and other details of the administration’s plans are the source of Wolfe’s disappointment.

The university plans to renovate a room in Olscamp Hall to be used for film studies and take the place of the Ralph Wolfe Viewing Center, which contains a collection of more than 3,000 video cassettes and DVDs. The room will be named in Wolfe’s honor.

He’s also concerned what will happen to the commemorative seats that recognize donors to efforts to fund the theater and its $500,000 endowment.

Wolfe said he was not consulted about the arrangements. “I had no involvement whatsoever.”

Describing the approach as “top-down management.”

Also last year, the title of curator of the Gish, which had been bestowed on him in 1982 by President Paul Olscamp at the initiation of the BGSU Foundation, was not approved. He was never told why.

On Friday Bowling Green State University issued a press release outlining where programs now in Hanna Hall will be relocated as the 96-year-old building undergoes renovation and expansion to become the Maurer Center, the new home for the College of Business.

The Women’s Center and the Geography Department will move to Hayes Hall. (Story here.)

Posted By: David Dupont September 21, 2017

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS

Bowling Green State University is making final preparations for the transformation of Hanna Hall into the Robert W. and Patricia A. Maurer Center, the new home for the College of Business.

A transformational gift from the Maurers of Bowling Green provided major support for the new facility that will bear their names in recognition of their longtime service and generosity to BGSU.

The $44.5 million renovation and expansion will include high-tech classrooms, an atrium gathering place, a student success center, a café and a wide range of meeting areas and other amenities to keep BGSU at the forefront of educating business students.

Construction will begin in fall 2018.

In preparation, the current occupants of the building – the Department of Geography, the Gish Film Theater and the Women’s Center – will be relocated to new homes at the end of the current academic year.

According to Provost and Senior Vice President Rodney Rogers, the geography department will move to Hayes Hall to be closer to the Department of Geology, which along with the Department of the Environment and Sustainability makes up the School of Earth, Environment and Society. Eventually the entire school will be brought together.

The Gish Film Theater will be moved to the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater. The theater will continue to recognize the contributions of Ohio actresses Dorothy and Lillian Gish with a display featuring photographs and other items from Lillian Gish’s estate. The rest of the Gish collection will be housed in University Libraries.

“This project allows us to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students while honoring the legacy of the Gish sisters,” Rogers said. “Moving the theater to the center of campus will highlight the Gishes’ contribution to early film for our students and the community.”

In addition, a lecture hall in Olscamp Hall will be updated to meet the teaching and learning needs of the University’s film program. The remodeled classroom and group viewing space will be named for Dr. Ralph H. Wolfe, replacing the current center in Hanna Hall.

Over his 50-year affiliation with BGSU, Wolfe, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Gish Professor of Film Studies, championed film studies and was instrumental in the establishment of the Gish Film Theater. The BGSU Board of Trustees approved the naming of the viewing center in his honor in 2009.

BGSU announced last spring that the Women’s Center will also be moving to the center of campus to Hayes Hall— a more prominent location for a center that serves students, faculty and staff across the University.

Once completed in the summer of 2020, the Maurer Center will create an active space for faculty, students and business professionals to engage, collaborate and grow. Accessible interior spaces will promote interaction while classrooms, labs, offices and collaboration spaces will encourage spontaneous learning.

Provost Rodney Rogers stated in the release: “This project allows us to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students while honoring the legacy of the Gish sisters. Moving the theater to the center of campus will highlight the Gishes’ contribution to early film for our students and the community.”

In response to Wolfe’s concerns, Rogers stated: “We appreciate Dr. Wolfe’s longtime passion and contributions to the Gish Film Theater and the Gish collection, which have brought tremendous recognition to the University. We look forward to his continued involvement and counsel as we transition the theater and collection to their new homes.”

Last October the theater celebrated its 40th anniversary. (Story here.)

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

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Posted By: David Dupont October 18, 2016

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Sunday’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Lillian and Dorothy Gish Film Theatre on campus took place under a shadow.

The theater in Hanna Hall faces relocation as Bowling Green State University makes plans to convert the 95-year-old building into a new home for the College of Business Administration.

That would mean the removal of the theater, its affiliated gallery and the Wolfe video collection and viewing room from Hanna Hall.

University officials have promised to find a new home for the facility on campus.

Wolfe, who is the founder and curator of the theater, said that he’s been told the theater would move into the theater space now in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. But that would not have room for the collections of memorabilia and the video collection, he said.

“The theater space in the student union can in no way rival the aesthetics of this space and will not have the gallery documenting the history of American film,” Wolfe said.

He said he saw no contradiction in the theater remaining after Hanna Hall becomes the home for the College of Business, given the film industry is so large.

Lillian Gish herself has visited the venue four times, first in 1976 when it was first named for her and her sister, and the last time in 1982 when the lobby and gallery space was dedicated, Wolfe said.

At that time, Academy Award-winning actress Eva Marie Saint also attended, the first time she’d returned to campus since her graduation in 1947.

James Frazer, Gish’s manager, who was the special guest for the occasion, said she was proud of the theater at BGSU. He traveled around the world with her as she promoted her view of American film, and that vision lives on in the theater. “This gives the right impression to the world.”

“Lillian Gish’s spirit resides in Hanna Hall,” Wolfe said.

University spokesman Dave Kielmeyer said that the student union is an option for the new location of the theater, but plans have not been finalized.

He said it would be spring before any further plan on Hanna Hall is presented to the board of trustees.

The celebration included a talk by Frazer about his career which began with a teenage infatuation with an actress, led to playing kid parts in Westerns, and culminated decades later with his affiliation with Gish. He traveled with her around the globe where she made presentations.

It was at one of those in 1971 at then Findlay College where Wolfe, a professor of English at BGSU, first met the legendary actress. She and her sister were born in Springfield, and she made her stage debut in Risingsun, before her mother moved her and her sister to New York, where the mother pursued acting, followed by her daughters.

Shortly after seeing Gish in Findlay, Wolfe approached then BGSU president Hollis Moore about awarding an honorary degree to Gish.

When the auditorium in Hanna Hall was renovated in 1976 to support the new film studies program, he recommended it be named for Gish.

The trustees agreed if Gish would attend the dedication. Wolfe reached her through Frazer. Gish said she was honored, but would be more honored if the theater was named for her sister as well.

She visited BGSU for the first time for the dedication and to receive an honorary doctorate. She returned the campus three more times, the last occasion in 1982.

The Gish space expanded as programs were moved out of the building. The Wolfe viewing center was opened in 2009.

An endowment, which was started with $500,000 in private donations including many from some of the biggest names in Hollywood, was established to support programming. Wolfe noted programming at the theater is free, as Gish wanted, and now includes three film series. Proceeds from the endowment were also used to create the viewing center which has a collection of video cassette recordings donated by Wolfe.

The celebration included the showing a tape of the broadcast of the ceremony in which Gish received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, where she was honored not just for her acting, but her business acumen and her dedication to film preservation.

Now it falls to Wolfe and his supporters to try to preserve the theater that bears her name.

Gish 1 X Theater

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It was through Wolfe’s efforts that the university granted the legendary actress Lillian Gish an honorary doctorate. When the auditorium in Hanna was converted into a film theater to support the new film studies program, he approached her about naming the venue in her honor.

She said she’d prefer if it were named for her and her actress sister, Dorothy. She came to campus in 1976 to receive the honorary degree and participate in the dedication of the theater.

It was the first of four visits. The last was in 1982 when the lobby was dedicated. At that time, she brought BGSU alumna Eva Marie Saint with her. It was the first time Saint was back on campus since her graduation in 1947.

Films will continue to be shown in the venue through the end of the academic year in spring.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

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Lillian Gish and her art are finding a home at BGSU

Can anything be written about a legend?

(article posted on BGSU website before the decision to relocate the Gish Theater)

Lillian Gish, famous the world over for her work in silent films, stage productions and sound motion pictures, has probably been asked more questions by more reporters than any other actor or actress in America. And with good reason, because no other actor or actress alive today has appeared in as many productions, in every decade of this century, as Lillian Gish.

Despite her fame and abundant talent, this wisp of a woman with the strong, rich voice is disarmingly humble. The actress seems delighted to be honored by Bowling Green, the university only 20 miles from the site of her professional debut in Risingsun. An Ohio native, Miss Gish has been officially recognized several times by the university. She, in turn, has unofficially adopted Bowling Green as her favorite university – endowing a scholarship fund, presenting her lecture series, visiting campus four times since 1976 and delighting the University community with her spunky comments and vivid recollections of a long-ago era. The occasion of her most recent visit was the October dedication of an impressive collection of photographs in the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater in Hanna Hall. Commemorating the enduring career of the pioneer cinema star, the collection was originally displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, for the 1980 Lillian Gish Retrospective.

Elegantly dressed in a black velvet suit and a lacy white blouse, Miss Gish relaxes in a loveseat in the University Guest House before the evening ceremony in Hanna Hall begins. Her manager, James Frasher checks last minute details as special invited guest Eva Marie Saint arrives, back from a tour of the campus, which she had not seen for 36 years. Miss Gish sits back, preparing to begin the interview, then looks down in chagrin.

“Oh, dear, I’m about to lose a button,” she announces, her voice carrying across the room as though she were giving an important line in one of her films. “Does anyone sew?”

Actress Saint comes to the rescue, offering to sew the dangling button in place.

“Oh, my dear, they told me you were wearing black velvet, too,” Miss Gish worries as she takes off her jacket.

Saint, dressed in a soft brown suit, laughs, “Lillian, we’d look like the Bobbsey Twins if we both wore black velvet tonight.”

“Yes, well, I suppose you’re right. That would have been all right, though,” Miss Gish smiles.
Her celebrated lack of vanity is apparent and a bit touching in her wish to dress like her friend.

The two actresses, who first worked together in The Trip to Bountiful in 1953, are obviously fond of each other. Miss Saint quickly sews on the button and helps Miss Gish back into her jacket.

“Oh, that’s so good of you, my dear.” She is sincere, open and charming.

It is becoming obvious why one never reads or hears disparaging stories of the actress, well known for her admirable ability to easily make and keep friends. While Gish is busy, her manager recalls the day in 1969 when he was hired to manage Gish.

“My father said, ‘Be careful, that woman will change your life.’ And she has. She’s made me realize the beauty of life. I’m younger today than when I started working for her. That’s her great gift. That’s why she tunes in to young people. College kids respond to her,” Frasher says.

“She has great vitality and generosity. Coming to Bowling Green is truly exciting to her. She loves seeing the people, the trees, the town, the University. She has a very special feeling about Bowling Green – the people here have been so good to her, and she wants to return the good wishes. She doesn’t visit any other university as often, or show as much interest.”

Gish returns. She is an impressive woman at 5’7″ and carries herself with dignity. Always attractive, her delicate features radiate an inner joy, retaining the beauty of the young actress who played opposite such leading men as Lionel Barrymore, Richard Barthelmess, John Gielgud, Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster and others.

“Oh, tell them how happy and proud they’ve made me,” she instructs when asked how she felt about the University’s acquisition of the photo collection.
“Of all theaters, if I could have my choice, it would be this one.”

Her pride in the theater is obvious, mainly because it also honors her sister Dorothy and her mother, Mary McConnell Gish, as well as Lillian. She is devoted to their memories.

vThe Gish Sisters (2)
Lillian, as a child, with Dorothy and her mother

“I like people from Ohio,” Gish declares. “Of course, since I was born here, I may be prejudiced, but I do think they have the best manners and are more considerate of the other fellow than most people are. I got my start just down the road here, in Risingsun, so I really feel like I’ve come home when I come here.”

She doesn’t have much to say about modern films, but her disappointment in the current products of the media so beloved to her is evident.

“Film is the universal language. It can do great things. We have advanced, technically, in films enormously, but intellectually and spiritually, we have gone in the opposite direction.” She pauses, then continues.

“I feel strongly that actors and actresses today need to take responsibility for what they say and do in film, even if they are only acting. They don’t have to do the script. Look at the crime in our country. A little boy of nine holds up a bank. Where did he learn that? I’m not saying, but I have an idea.”

“Film is the most powerful thing that has been invented in this century,” she continues.

“Many of the actors are still concerned about messages, but the business end has taken over. There have always been fights between the artists and the businessmen. Not many people have both talents.”

16112749_1213800508703244_2546695881285175690_o
Hambone and Hillie.

She has a bit of advice for University students hoping to make a career in the performing arts.

“Use your body as an artist uses his canvas. Learn to use it to speak. Study dancing. Take care of it.”

She has obviously taken excellent care of her body and is in wonderful health. Beneath her apparent delicacy is a strong woman with strong convictions. Although she must have expressed the same thoughts hundreds of times, she is animated and enthusiastic when discussing her goals and interests.

“Live equally in your body, mind and spirit,” Miss Gish advises.
“You must feel your faith inside, and live it outside. I know there’s a higher power watching out for me.”

She has been a member of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York for many years and attends whenever she is there. As for her traveling lifestyle, she says, “Mother used to tell us that even if we couldn’t find Qur own church, any church was better than no church at all!” Her deep Christian convictions have helped her lead a fruitful and joyful life, she adds. Her father’s family was German Lutheran and her mother’s, Episcopalian. Miss Gish recently wrote an article for “Guideposts,” a Christian magazine with a large national circulation, and is now working on a book about the history of religion in film.

Because her father deserted the family when Lillian was a toddler, she learned to take care of herself at an earlier age than most youngsters.

“I learned to work as if everything depended on me, and to pray as if everything depended on God,” she says. “Theater people are wonderful, though,” she adds.
“They watched out for my sister and me when we were little girls. No one ever dared to swear in front of us unless he wanted a beating. The men would put their coats down on railroad benches for us to sleep on. We always had someone looking out for us as we moved from town to town.”

Her life is still as busy and interesting as it was in those early days. People and projects fill her days. She never married, but men have been in love with Lillian Gish since she first appeared on screen as a teenager in 1912.

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With Lindsay Anderson during filming of “Whales of August.”

“I have loved many men, but have never been in love with any of them,” she says. “I never had the time.”
With more than 100 movies, 50 stage productions, two books and numerous articles and other projects behind her, she didn’t have much extra time. She has worked hard and tirelessly over the years. “It was D.W. Griffith (the pioneer director) who taught me that working is more fun than playing,” she says of her mentor.

AIways fiercely faithful to her friends, Miss Gish didn’t forget the man who gave her her start, even when the rest of the world did. Her career blossomed after the 1915 classic, Birth of a Nation. Griffith, however, eventually drifted into poverty- his brilliance dulled by alcohol and broken dreams. Although there were many stories that she and Griffith were in love, she recalls him fondly as just a dear friend and teacher. The actress regards the veteran director as a true genius of silent films. When he married a much younger and rather helpless woman, Miss Gish took both the ailing Griffith and his bride under her wing and helped care for them until Griffith died. The “talkies” were his downfall.

Miss Gish first resisted the new sound motion pictures and went back to stage work. She still prefers silent film, believing it to have great power and impact on audiences. Finally, though, she began acting in sound films and was a great success.

Lillian Gish seems to have led a charmed life. From the day her film Birth of a Nation was released in 1915, she has been a star. Her pictures have made millions of dollars. She is renowned as a superior stage actress. She made her 103rd movie, A Wedding, in 1978 with Robert Altman and is planning still more films. An Academy Award – the Oscar – was presented to Miss Gish in 1971. In addition to all this, she has traveled throughout the United States, Europe, Russia and Australia, narrating her presentation on the history of film at nearly 400 universities. That she manages to include visits to Bowling Green into her hectic schedule is a tribute to the University which has dedicated and renovated a theater in honor of the Gishes.

Ralph Wolfe, a University English professor, first suggested naming the theater in honor of Miss Gish, to commemorate her first performance in Wood County at the age of five. Then-University President Hollis Moore was in favor of the idea, so Wolfe contacted Miss Gish’s agent, Frasher, and she accepted, on the condition that the theater be named not only for her but also for her sister. Thus the “Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater” was dedicated on June 11,1976. The next day Moore presented Miss Gish an honorary Doctor of Performing Arts degree during spring commencement exercises.

Since that first visit, Miss Gish has shown true interest in the University, especially the Film Studies Program. When Wolfe established a scholarship for the annual film, studies award, Gish endowed it. She returned to Bowling Green in the fall of 1976 for the theater’s opening and again in 1979 to accept the Popular Culture Association Achievement Award and speak at a campus film restrospective at the theater.

The first phase of the theater renovation project included the construction of a marquee, an improved movie projection area and a lobby for featuring the Gish photographs. The improvements were made possible through private funding. Alumni Howard Beplat, James R. Good and Ronald Cohen of New York City, and Wolfe, who lives in nearby North Baltimore, donated the funds to obtain the photographic collection from the Museum of Modern Art. Wolfe had been invited to the 1980 retrospective and contacted the curators about the possibility of adding the Gish photos to the University theater. Through the joint efforts of Moore, Wolfe, the alumni office and the Museum of Art, Bowling Green now owns the collection, which includes stills from some of the Gishes’ most famous films.

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Lillian in “Way Down East”

The second and final phase of the theater renovation will also be dependent on private funding. Improvements planned include the installation of new theater seats. Gish is delighted with the entire project. “It would make Mother and Dorothy so proud,” she says.
She poses for a quick photograph. “Don’t shoot up at me, dear. I’ll play up to you,” she insists pleasantly. After the photograph, the trio – Gish, Saint and Frasher – hurry out the door of the Guest House off to Hanna Hall. “Oh, look,” Miss Gish points, delighted at several small squirrels tumbling through the grass on campus. She has the curiosity and “joie de vivre” of a young girl, and it’s infectious.

Inside, the Gish Film Theater is packed with nearly 200 invited guests. Visibly touched by the honors shown the Gishes, the actress tells the audience that she knows her mother and sister are present, too. “We three thank you,” she says. Special guest Miss Saint, a 1946 alumna, is also recognized as the University awards her an honorary doctorate. Miss Gish helps President Paul Olscamp present the award to Miss Saint. Following the ceremony, Miss Gish, despite her hectic day, patiently greets guests and signs autographs. Alumni, faculty and friends mingle, enjoying the photo collection, tasting refreshments, waiting to meet the honored actress.

After a lifetime of hard work, Lillian Gish certainly deserves to retire and relax. However, she has no intention of slowing down.

In December Miss Gish was the recipient of a prestigious Kennedy Center Achievement Award, and during her stay in Washington, D.C., she was the guest of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

The actress is not content to rest on her honors and accomplishments. Her future plans include writing another book, working on television specials and possibly another film. She also continues to travel with her lecture program. The future looks promising. Her legend continues to grow. With all these plans ahead will Miss Gish have time to visit Bowling Green again? “Oh, yes, if I’m invited and am free, sure,” she smiles. “I enjoy it here very much.”

Lillian Gish blows a Kiss to BGSU Former President Olscamp

Lillian Gish blows a Kiss to BGSU Former President Olscamp
Little Dreams Grow – The Gish Theater  (kindly follow the link to watch the video)
Ian opaczewski
Published on Mar 27, 2018

A tribute and documentation of some of the final semesters the Lilian and Dorothy Gish Film Theatre will have at Bowling Green State University. To the Ohio Students this space is more than a theatre, it is a gateway to new possibilities and an advent of things to come. Tradition, honor, and respect are are values taught within the space as students display their work.The theatre is also a tribute to one of films most notable stars, Lilian Gish. A museum details many of her accomplishments and holds one of a kind film relics. It has been a symbol for film culture and history for over 40 years and soon will be removed with an unknown relocation.

 

The Gish Theater – 1976 – 2018 The Gish Theater – 1976 – 2018