Dot Gish, Studio Star & Home Tomboy – by Edna Wright (Motion Picture Magazine – June, 1917)

Motion Picture Magazine – June, 1917

Dot Gish, Studio Star & Home Tomboy

by Edna Wright

Have you ever tried to interview a popular Motion Picture star? If so, you can appreciate the remark when I say that for some time I had been trying to “catch” Dorothy Gish. I wanted to coax this heroine of many filmplays to reveal her past history to me, but I didn’t seem to be able to find her idle for a spare moment. At the studio she was always so rushed that I found it useless to try further, after I had attempted it several times ; so one evening, as a final resort, I started out to “catch” her at home. Whether it was good luck or good management on my part I cant say, but, on the very first attempt, I was fortunate in finding both Dorothy and her sister, Lillian, in their apartment.

On entering I found the idol of movie fans looking very “Gishy” in the cunningest little apartment you can imagine. The drawing-room was richly furnished without being overdone, and was just the right sort of dove-cote for the beautiful Gish sisters. Sister Lillian was struggling with a pianola and was being well rewarded for her efforts, as the music sounded anything but “canned,” while Dorothy was reading, stretched out comfortably on a large divan. I did not want to spoil the cozy picture that the famous sisters were unconsciously making; but hadn’t the maid told me to step right in? So step in I did.

Dorothy By Albin

With Dorothy and Lillian Gish cordiality does not stop at the front door, nor, for that matter, end when it closes again. Theirs is true Southern hospitality. I was soon so at home that I wondered if I had not by chance known them all my life, and, while we were laughing and chatting, it suddenly occurred to me that I had better remember the cause of my intrusion. The Gish girls are possessed of that frank whole-heartedness that is so often missing and yet desired by all. It was while I was having my glass filled with ginger-ale for the third time that I began firing the questions at Dottie (pardon the nickname, but you would intrude likewise if you knew her), and I found her a very approachable subject.

Dorothy is the younger of the two sisters, having been born in Dayton, Ohio, March 11, 1898. She made her debut on the stage at the age of three, playing with Rebecca Warren in “East Lynne,” and Robert T. Haines in “Fisk O’Hara.” The footlights claimed Dorothy for five years; however, six years ago the lights changed, and since that time it has been the “overheads.” She entered the film world under the Biograph Company, playing with them until David W. Griffith, forming his Reliance Company, latterly the Fine Arts, offered her a position with him, which she accepted. At the time of her entrance into the silent drama she held the title of “The Youngest Leading Lady in Pictures,” as she played nothing but leads from the start. But since the field is now full of younger players, she has had to forfeit that title. “What are your favorite plays of all that you have seen?” I asked. It did not take Miss Dorothy long to answer: “The Birth of a Nation,’ ‘Intolerance,’ ‘Judith of Bethulia,’ ‘Home, Sweet Home’ and ‘Tess of the Storm Country.’

Dorothy Gish in Battling Jane 1918
Dorothy Gish in Battling Jane 1918

“Dont you adore Mary Pickford?” she went on? “Mary is such a darling; she certainly deserves all the love and admiration bestowed upon her. There will never be any other Mary Pickford.”

This introduced a new phase of Dorothy’s character—that she is not jealous of others’ success, but instead takes a huge delight when laurels come their way.

“Oh, yes; what parts do I like to play best? I prefer comedy-drama, and always have liked the pictures better than the stage. I love my work, for it is always interesting and exciting.

I gathered, from outside information, that around the studio Dorothy is noted for her wonderful courage, and a director has yet to find a time when she has not willingly performed any kind of daring feat, proving that she does love her work. It’s spontaneous with her, too. When the little stalls “worked up, ” at home or a field, she’s considerable of a minx-tomboy, maybe, and many’s the harmless prank she has perpetrated on her friends and director.

Dorothy Gish Cca 1920 CS

Just recently, in a Griffith release, she jumped from a porch onto the back of a prancing horse, upon which was seated a man. It was a risky high stunt, as the jump was a high one and the animal very highspirited.

“You must have a hobby,” I inquired; “all actresses have, you know, so what is it?”

“Well, as for a hobby,” she said, as her eyes sparkled, “why, they keep me too busy at the studio for one, or even to think of one, but Lillian says it is teasing her.”

Here we all laughed, but I think Sister Lillian appreciated the joke least of all.

Not yet out of her teens, and possessing an unfair share of goodlooks, it is no wonder that movie fans all over the world have learnt to love Dorothy. But good-looks are not her entire stock-in-trade by any means. She is artless but experienced in her art, an enthusiastic and tireless worker, versatile to a degree, and possesses the confidence and friendship of all the studio heads.

Dorothy Gish cca 1930 - by Nell Dorr 3
Nell Dorr (1893-1988); [Girl seated with book on lap]; nitrate negative; Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Fort Worth TX; P1990.47.3479

In complexion Dorothy is a decided blonde, has a plentiful supply of sparkling curls, ivory-white teeth, and a pair of huge, blue eyes that make one desirous of jumping into them and splashing around a bit. She is what they call a “cozy creature” around the studio—playful, yet full of her roles; joyous, yet ready for instant pathos or perils in the parts assumed. I learnt that she has an eminently practical side that ofttimes expresses itself in all kinds of outward deeds. One of them was the decorating of her studio dressing-room. Armed with a paint-brush and pail, and armored in painter’s overalls. “Dot” accomplished the unusual task of painting her dressing-room with radiant blue—an artistic job that called forth expressions of wonderment from the studio painting staff. Dorothy could not understand why I was bothering with her history, for like many popular stars, she thought the public was not interested. When I explained that they were, she only laughed. Which proves that she is as unassuming as she is modest. But it was an infectious laugh—pure tomboy—and I’ll wager she doesn’t know at all why she’s charming, on and off the screen.

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Motion Picture Magazine (June 1917) Dot Gish
Motion Picture Magazine (June 1917) Dot Gish
Motion Picture Magazine (June 1917) Dot Gish 2
Motion Picture Magazine (June 1917) Dot Gish
Motion Picture Magazine (June 1917) Dot Gish 3
Motion Picture Magazine (June 1917) Dot Gish

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