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)


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”


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


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
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.





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

Students push to rename theater at Bowling Green State


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,

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 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.”


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.


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.




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.


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.


Bacau City, Romania

To the editor: Keep Gish name on BGSU theater


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)




Eva Marie Saint cancels trip to BGSU



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.”



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


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


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


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


Posted By: David Dupont October 18, 2016


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


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


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.”

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.

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.

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

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Could curtain close on Gish Theater at BGSU?

  • By EMILY GORDON, Sentinel Staff Writer *(Sentinel Tribune)

For 40 years, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater and Gallery in Bowling Green State University’s Hanna Hall has served as an educational and entertaining hotspot for film students and fans.

But cinephiles may have to go elsewhere for their film fix in the future, as Hanna Hall’s renovation plans could put an end to the beloved theater, its video center and photo gallery, said curator Ralph Wolfe.

“From what I’ve heard, President Mazey wants Hanna Hall to become the College of Business after its renovation and plans to take out the theater and put it elsewhere, like the College of Music building,” Wolfe said. “As curator, having not been told about it or included in the discussion… It’s disappointing, to say the least.”

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer David Kielmeyer confirmed plans for Hanna Hall to become the new home of the College of Business, but no other decisions have been made regarding the building’s renovation or the retention or removal of the theater, he said.

“We’re in very early discussions. There will likely be no final design until 2019, no bid until 2020, construction in 2020 and completion 2022, so it’s a long way out,” Kielmeyer said. “We will of course keep Dr. Wolfe involved and up to date as we move forward.”

Nicknamed “the Gish” by students and faculty, the theater was dedicated June 11, 1976, with a grand reception including a screening of the sisters’ D.W. Griffith film, “Orphans of the Storm,” Wolfe said.

Lillian Gish was in attendance and accepted the honor of the dedication for herself and her sister, who died in 1968.

Academy Award-winning actress Eva Marie Saint, who made her acting debut as a student at BGSU and later co-starred with Lillian Gish in “The Trip to Bountiful” both on screen and again on Broadway, joined her and Wolfe in dedicating the theater.

Bowling Green mayor Dick Edwards said he remembers having a hand in planning the theater and seeing the hard work of his colleagues pay off that day.

Edwards was a vice president at BGSU and executive assistant to president Hollis Moore at the time, who literally rolled out the red carpet for Gish and Saint, he said.

“It’s not my business to get involved and time has a way of moving on. But the Gish is something we should all be enormously proud of,” Edwards said. “It’s a wonderful BGSU story. It speaks well of Dr. Wolfe and presidents over the years that we have a little piece of Hollywood right here in Bowling Green.”

Several academic departments use the theater often and film programs like “Tuesdays at the Gish,” the “International Film Series” and the “Sunday Matinee Series” are popular among students, faculty and Bowling Green residents alike, Wolfe said.

To move the theater would be a waste of the state money used to create it, Wolfe said, and he’s worried about the potential loss of the theater’s gallery and video center.

“They all relate to each other. Now it will all be disintegrated. I don’t know if it’ll even exist or where it’ll be,” he said.

While he’d be happy to at least see the theater and its additions elsewhere on campus, its present location is part of what makes the Gish so historical, Wolfe said.

“The very fact that Lillian was in that building, performed in the theater and saw the dedication… Somewhere else won’t have that sense of history,” he said.

Since the film industry is one of the biggest businesses in the country, Wolfe thinks it wouldn’t be inappropriate to leave the theater and additions where they are as the heart of the College of Business building.

Edwards agrees.

“We all have our personal hopes of where things should be. I hope it can be encapsulated while the building is under construction,” Edwards said. “If they can figure out how the character can be preserved and how the history can be preserved, it can be OK. I just hope its not lost in this process here.”

While it’s “too early to tell” the fate of the theater and its additions, Kielmeyer said the Gish sisters will continue to be celebrated on campus.

“Whatever we end up doing, we will certainly look for an opportunity to continue to recognize the contributions of the Gish sisters to BGSU. What’s the form of that, we don’t know yet,” he said. “Whatever we decide, we are committed to honoring their contributions to the University.”


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