Exit Venus—Enter Lillian Gish (Picture Play Magazine – October 1921)

Lillian Gish as Anna Moore - wearing her Wedding Dress 3 - Way Down East
Lillian Gish as Anna Moore – wearing her Wedding Dress – Way Down East

Picture Play Magazine – October 1921 Vol. XV No.2

Here Is Beauty!

“There is no rank in beauty” Picture-Play proclaimed a short time ago when it dared to print a choice of eight reigning beauties of the screen., “There is rank in beauty—and one unquestionably leads them all” chorused our readers in reply. And that one—but read and learn what the members of the audiences from Hoboken to Hong-Kong think of beauty as mirrored on the screen.

Lillian Gish starring in "The Enemy" Promotional
Lillian Gish starring in “The Enemy” Promotional

Exit Venus—Enter Lillian Gish.

It will be a severe blow to many who think that they have unusual penetration to learn that Lillian is also the admired of the many as well as of the few. Some there are who thought that they alone could appreciate her. “Of course she is not a popular type,” was often remarked, “but to me she is the loveliest of all.”

Lillian Gish Hoover Art Frame 1

That illusion may now be cast away, for if the hundreds of letters which we received from the fans mean anything she has proved to be the popular favorite among the screen beauties. The Venus type has departed, not to give place to the luscious beauty of a bathing nymph, but to yield to the more potent charm of ethereal loveliness such as Lillian’s. John Barrymore has paid high tribute to her “Enchaining loveliness.” Paul Helleu has found her most bewitching of subjects for his dry-point etchings, but no greater tribute can come to her than that of little Grace Ogden of Fredericksburg, Texas, who says: “To me Lillian Gish is the most beautiful, not only of screen actresses, but of all women I have ever seen. She reminds me of all the hauntingly lovely things I have ever known, of violin music and flowers, and many faceted jewels. I have not seen many of her pictures, but any one of them would have been sufficient to convince me that she is the screen’s greatest beauty. “I don’t know what the standards are that one is supposed to judge beauty by, but I should think that the most beautiful person would be the one who inspired the most beautiful thoughts in people, and if that is so, Lillian Gish stands supreme.” And Ethel Rodriguez, of Plainfield, New Jersey, extols her “not so much for the symmetry of her features, but for the beautiful expression of her eyes and lips of supreme faith and trustfulness, and her deliciously quaint, birdlike daintiness. Ethereal, perhaps, but embodying the only sort of beauty worth while—the outer characterization of inner loveliness that gives her subtle appeal.”

Lillian Gish 1925 - Bettmann
Lillian Gish 1925 – Bettmann

The Eight Chosen Beauties.

The eight most beautiful women on the screen—as chosen by our readers—are:

Lillian Gish, Norma Talmadge, Mary Miles Minter, Claire Windsor, Mildred Harris, Anna O. Nilsson, Justine Johnstone, and Rubye de Remer.

Could there have been one more choice it would have been closely contested between Agnes Ayres, Elsie Ferguson, Sylvia Breamer, Marjorie Daw, and Colleen Moore. Pauline Frederick and May MacAvoy had many enthusiastic supporters, and to only a slightly less degree were May Allison and Pearl White extolled. Hardly a prominent player but had her enthusiastic cohorts of admirers who sang her praises in the most glowing terms. While most of them extolled the ethereal loveliness of Lillian Gish and others, one alone paid tribute to a star because, as he put it, “she is so gloriously physical.” The writer, Harold Dyson, of Toronto, Canada, was referring to Priscilla Dean.

Lillian Gisg close-up cca 1916 X
Lillian Gish

Transcendent Lillian Gish.

Here is a poignant beauty, all voters agree. Her wistfulness and fragility play no small part in enthralling her audiences, but many—like Rudolph Carr, of Grandport, Louisiana—think that in her happy moods her beauty reaches the most sublime heights. And Edith Markell, of Bayside, Long Island, voices the sentiment of many when she says, “Her beauty makes you not only admire her from afar, but want to draw near to her and protect her.” Her Anna Moore in “Way Down East,” her Child in “Broken Blossoms,” her roles in “Hearts of the World.” “True Heart Susie,” and “The Birth of a Nation”—none of the roles designated merely as a frame for beauty—have toppled over the old standards of beauty and established the standard of inner radiance. “Prettiness is on the outside,” as many of our readers pointed out, “but beauty shines from within.” And many of them added, “And Lillian Gish has both.”

Lillian Gish page - Picture-Play Magazine (Oct 1921)
Lillian Gish page – Picture-Play Magazine (Oct 1921)

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