Dorothy and Mae Tell Secrets – By Will Rex (1916)

Film Players Herald and Movie Pictorial

February 1916

Dorothy and Mae Tell Secrets

By Will Rex

 

In my short, but varied career, I have spent many a pleasant day, but never one like the time I called on the two Triangle favorites, Dorothy Gish and Mae Marsh. Without a doubt they are two of the sweetest, most unsophisticated girls it has ever been my good fortune to meet. They just bubble over with girlishness. And jealousy? The farthest thing from their minds: Mae insists that Dorothy is the greatest little actress on the screen, and “Dot” vice versa. And that is something new in the film world-I know, I’ve been acting and producing for a good many years. Hearing that these two charming children-for that’s what they are-were in New York, and remembering how they used to be the life of the Biograph Company in the good, old days-I phoned, making an appointment with them. Unfortunately Miss Marsh was sick in bed-only a cold, fortunately, but Dorothy, who was acting as her nurse, promised to overlook a point, and arranged that I should see her. What other actress would do a thing like that? Nine out of ten-yes, ninety-nine out of a hundred would tearfully tell a sad tale of Miss Marsh’s illness, and then corner me and tell me the wonderful story of their ‘own lives. Not so, Miss Gish. She tucked in sick little Mae nice and “comfy” and then led me into her room. Of all the pretty pictures I have ever seen that was the prettiest, just her cute little head peeking from under the covers. After the usual greetings-remember I hadn’t seen either of these girls for over a year-I started my cross-examination.

Mae_Marsh_1916

Miss Marsh was the first one questioned; yes, it was the details of the “where-and-when” of her arrival on this wicked old world of ours.

“I was born in Madrid–”

I looked at her in surprise, “Why, I thought you were one of the original ‘Maids of America’!”

She smiled, “Oh, I mean Madrid, New Mexico. And that was nineteen years ago. Yes, that is my right age. Reading through the photoplay magazines I find that I am anything from thirteen to thirty, but nineteen is my right age-really.”

“Really,” !; echoed Miss Gish from the other side of the room.

“Now, Dorothy,” continued Mae, tell the kind man where and when this same wonderful event happened in the Gish family.”

The girl demurred, “Oh, you won’t believe me when I tell you!” ,

I crossed my heart and promised that I would. “It was in 1898, March 11th to be exact, that the stork passed over the Gish home and dropped me in. That was–”

I interrupted her, “I always thought that the Spanish-American War wasn’t the only important happening of ’98; now I know it.”

Dorothy Gish (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Dorothy Gish (Photo by CORBIS/Corbis)

She smiled, and continued, “That was in Dayton, Ohio, and–”

Another chance for an honest compliment came to me, and I made the most of it, making some gallant remark about the great people from Dayton, such as the Wright brothers and the Gish sisters. Dorothy blushed, and made me stop. I asked her when she first realized that she was beautiful and would make a success as an actress. Of course she denied her good looks-what famous beauty doesn’t? But Mae promptly came to her rescue and let me know just how beautiful Dorothy is. She didn’t have to tell me – I have eyes. For that matter, little Miss Marsh isn’t in the background. When the question of the beauty of the members of the “flicker world” comes in discussion you’ll always hear Mae’s name mentioned, and way-up near the top, too. “Well, if you must know,” blushed Dorothy, and when she blushes she’s adorable, “I’ll tell you, I was four years old at the time.” She laughed in triumph. “I certainly didn’t know then whether I was a scarecrow or an object of admiration. At that time I played ‘Little Willie’ in ‘East Lynne.’ Oh yes, I was in that awful melodrama, but my next play was even worse. Sister Lillian and I both were in that horrid show, ‘Her First False Step’!”

“Br-r-r,” I shivered, “Give me the papers or the che-i-i-Id!”

“Now, you stop or I’ll get real mad,” she pouted. I was properly reprimanded and promised to be good.

“Oh, Mr. Rex,” Mae eagerly broke in, “I was having a terribly exciting time then. Tell him about it, Dorothy,”

“Why, you know it better than I do,” complained little Miss Gish.

“But you must remember I am a sick girl,” begged Mae. “Be good and tell him.”

Dorothy promised to be good and tell me. “You see, it was like this: Mae and all the rest of the little Marshes, including Mamma Marsh, were living in San Francisco when they had the awful earthquake”-she shuddered-“and before you could count ten the whole family was homeless. Wasn’t that awful?” I nodded agreement,

“But brave Mrs. Marsh didn’t even get frightened. She gathered up everyone of her halfa-dozen children, and got them to a place of safety, Just think, they lived in a tent for over a month!

Wasn’t that awfully exciting?” Again I nodded.

“Oh, and it was so hard for poor Mrs. Marsh to find food to fill all the hungry little mouths. One day she went to the supply tent, and told one of the soldiers what she wanted. He wouldn’t believe that she was the mother of so many children, and didn’t want to give her the food, But she persuaded him that she was telling the truth, and the sentry was kind enough to turn his back so that she could get what she wanted, Wasn’t he kind, and oh, wasn’t Mrs. Marsh plucky?”

Still a third time I nodded.

“And all the time poor Mae was having this bad luck I was playing in those horrid melodramas. Why couldn’t I have been out on the Coast helping her?”

“Why?” I agreed, never asking how she, who was only a baby, could have helped.

“How long did you play in ‘those horrid melodramas’?” I asked.

the sisters - 1914 — with dorothy gish. 7

“Oh, not for long. You know Lillian and I soon left the stage and went to boarding school in Wheeling, West Virginia-the Allegheny Collegiate Institute. None of the girls there knew I was an actress-not even my room-mate! Wasn’t that funny?”

“Of course, you were a good girl in school?”

She looked at me in pained surprise. “Of course! Only, once I had to stay in after classes, and when I thought I had been there long enough, I started kicking away at the door, and the nasty old teacher just doubled my time. Now, wasn’t that mean?”

“Mean is no name for it,” I agreed.

She smiled approval of my remark, and then Miss Marsh spoke up. “When I was in school-the Convent of the Sacred Heart in California, I was always getting into trouble like that. Really, I was always innocent.” And she rolled her childish eyes.

“Be frank,” I insisted.

“Well, really I never did anything. Of course I was leader of the ‘gang,’ and put chewing gum in the teacher’s books, and threw black-board erasers at her, and forgot to study, and-oh, a lot of other things I’ve forgotten, but really I never did anything I shouldn’t!”

Miss Gish and I looked at each other and smiled.

“Oh, but that isn’t about moving pictures,” complained Dorothy, “tell him what you are doing now,”

“That doesn’t interest Mr. Rex,” was the reply, “does it?”

I said it did.

Mae Marsh, Billy Bitzer and DW Griffith - Intolerance
Mae Marsh, Billy Bitzer and DW Griffith – Intolerance

“Well, I’ve just finished playing in ‘The Mother and the Law’ under the direction of Mr. Griffith, and I’m taking a little vacation now. Just as soon as I go back to the Triangle Coast Studios, I will start rehearsals in a picture under Mr. Ingraham’s direction. I understand, though, that the actual production of the picture will be staged in New York. Now, Dorothy, you tell what you are doing now.”

Thus ordered, the pretty little actress could do naught but reply. “At present I am playing opposite Owen Moore in ‘Betsy, the Joyous.’ That’s the working title of the film, but I don’t know what the real name will, be. Mr. Dwan is producing the picture, which is for the Triangle programme, as is ‘Jordan Is a Hard Road,’ which I just finished on the Coast.”

“Now for ancient history,” I laughed. “What was your first picture, and how did you get in it?”

“Oh, ,do you want that old story!”-and she sighed. “Three and a half years ago I went to visit Mary Pickford at the Biograph Studio. You know Mrs. Pickford, and Mary and Lottie and Jack, Mother and Lillian and I lived together for a short time when we were very small children. I had heard of Mary’s great screen success and called to see a picture in the making. Lillian was with me. Mary introduced us to Mr. Griffith, and soon after he signed us up. We’ve both been with him ever since. The first picture I remember playing in for him was ‘An Unseen Enemy’ with Lillian. Bobby Harron had the male lead. Mae’s first big success was ‘The Sands 0′ Dee,’ and Bobby played lead in that, too,”

An Unseen Enemy - Lillian Gish Dorothy Gish
An Unseen Enemy – Lillian Gish Dorothy Gish

“Quite a boy, Bobby,” I remarked.

Instantly they both agreed. Lucky fellow, he, to have two such lovely girls to sing his praises. Why can’t we all be born so fortunate?

Both insist that Harron is one of our greatest actors, and I agree with them. In fact, all three of us have nearly the same opinion of the screen stars of today. Of course, modesty forbids my saying which actor they think is the greatest (?). Both girls are very fond of the work of Walthall and William S. Hart, while Mary Pickford, Blanche Sweet, Lillian Gish, the Talmadge girls, Bessie Barriscale attd Anita Stewart head the list of the actresses. Of the stage stars, both are of the opinion that no one can surpass Forbes, Robertson, and Jane Cowl and Mrs. Fiske came in for a lot of praise.

Going back to the Studio question, I asked Miss Marsh how she entered the film world.

“About four years ago my sister Lovey was playing for Mr. Griffith and after persuading Lovey for a long time she took me to the Studio one day. I was awfully lonesome and sat ‘way in the corner. Mr. Griffith must have wanted a woe-begone creature in one of his pictures for he soon gave me a job as extra, and then put me in stock. When he left Biograph to go with Majestic, I went with him. I played in hundreds of pictures, and love the work-especially my part in ‘The Birth of a Nation’,”

Mae Marsh Pictures Newspaper England

The conversation turned, and I asked the girls what their favorite hobbies were. Mae loves to sew, and read, and go driving in her big Chandler Six with Sister Lovey as chauffeur. Miss Gish told me that this car of Mae’s was a trick one. One day, she informed me, they were both coming from Mae’s house, when 10 and behold! the car started down the street, gracefully turned a corner, and then turned turtle in a vacant lot. Sounded to me almost like a Ford joke.

Dorothy spends most her spare time in the photoplay theatres, although she gambles a great dealplaying solitaire against herself. She, too, will soon be spinning around the roads in her machine, as she is about ready to buy a roadster. (Note to automobile salesmen: Miss Gish will let you know when she wants a car. You can’t persuade her to buy one till then!) It’s a wonder the girl isn’t afraid of the “gasoline buggies.” One of them injured her severely last Thanksgiving, and because of the accident one of her cute little toes has gone to the happy hunting grounds.

Changing the subject, we spoke of pets. “Mae has the’ cutest cat,” said Miss Dorothy, “and she has honored me by naming it after me. Oh, before. I forget it – she has a little pond in her back yard with gold fish swimming around. One day I saw Bobby Harron fishing in it, and–“

“Oh, Dorothy,” objected Miss Marsh, “you did not.

J. Jiquel Lanoe, Dell Henderson, Charles Hill Mailes, Robert Harron, Mae Marsh and D.W. Griffith
J. Jiquel Lanoe, Dell Henderson, Charles Hill Mailes, Robert Harron, Mae Marsh and D.W. Griffith

Don’t you believe her,” But Dorothy insisted, and as I cannot doubt the word of either girl I will leave it to you readers. A prize of a ticket to any movie show in town to the first person who will prove that Mr. Harron did or did not go goldfishing in Mae Marsh’s back yard, and why. Address this office and put sufficient postage on your letters.

Miss Gish’s pets are a cat, “Tippy,” and a canary, “Tippy, Jr.” Although the names are so similar, there is no family connection, although the cat would have it that way if possible. From accounts I hear of them, they are the real rulers of the pretty Gish home in Los Angeles, which place, incidentally, was formerly the residence of Ruth St. Denis, the dancer. Oh, yes, and I mustn’t forget that both these charming girls have bull-dogs of the same breed and the same name. I hate to tell you the name, it’s so much like mine! Just before I was leaving, Mrs. Marsh and Mrs. Gish came in. If I hadn’t met Mrs. Gish before I certainly would have taken her for a sister of Dorothy’s and Lillian’s, and Mrs. Marsh I did mistake for Mae’s older sister until I was introduced. Truly these are wonderful families, both the house of Marsh and of Gish.

Film Players Herald and Movie Pictorial, Feb. 1916
Film Players Herald and Movie Pictorial, Feb. 1916

Back to Lillian Gish Home page