“It was my good fortune to play the engrossing life of the great American artist. Both of her ancestors came over on the Mayflower.” – Miss Lillian Gish
Schlitz Playhouse, CBS, 1952 March 28
Photograph, IBM, courtesy Galerie St.Etienne
(Dorothy and Lillian Gish by Lillian Gish)
Variety March 1952:
CBS-TV’s “Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars” may not always have the lush sets and expensive properties featured on some of the other TV dramatic showcases, but for the warmth and human qualities of its presentations, it is seldom topped.
Variety review of Lillian Gish in “The Autobiography of Grandma Moses,” the nonagenarian primitive artist. “emerged as a pleasant but lackluster video entertainment as staged by CBS-TV’s Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars Friday night (March 28).
Adapted by David Shaw from Mrs. Moses’ recently-published autobiography, the play had Lillian Gish in the title role spinning tales to her grandchildren on her early life and how she won recognition with her colorful American primitives after she had passed 80. Story flashed back from camera shots of Grandma Moses paintings to the related incidents in her life, which was a clever technique. This was one spot, though, where color TV was urgently needed.
With Miss Gish etching a warmly human characterization of the nice old lady who was as eager to receive compliments for her strawberry preserves as for her life on a farm dating back to the days when Abraham Lincoln was President. Sisters Denise and Jane Alexander were competent as the artist at the ages of five and 12, respectively, and Georgianne Johnson turned in a sympathetic portrayal of Mrs. Moses at age 26. Russell Hardie was good as her husband, and Sidney Smith limned an okay role as the art connoisseur who discovered her artistic talents.
Joseph Scibetta reined both the actors and the cameras through their paces in fine style. Sets and other production mountings were standout. Durward Kirby again handled the Schlitz commercials, tying them cleverly with the sets of the play.
Jim Patterson note:
Lillian liked the role and Grandma Moses. She recalled the role in interviews from the 1960s and until the end of her life. She channeled Grandma Moses for a scene where she is painting in 1987’s “The Whales of August.”
Anna Mary Robertson, also known as “Grandma Moses,” became widely famous for her nostalgic paintings depicting rural American life.
Born in 1860, artist Grandma Moses spent decades living the rural, agricultural life that she would later feature in her paintings. She only began devoting herself to art when she was in her seventies. In 1938, an art collector discovered her work. Completely self-taught, Moses soon became famous for her images of country life. She died in 1961 at the age of 101.
In 1905, Moses returned to New York State with her family. She and her husband operated a farm in Eagle Bridge, New York. Moses later began dabbling in painting, creating her first work on a fireboard in her home in 1918. She occasionally painted after that, but she didn’t devote herself to her craft until much later. Moses suffered a great loss in 1927 with the death of her husband, and she sought ways to keep busy in her grief.
By the mid-1930s, Moses, then in her seventies, devoted most of her time to painting. Her first big break came in 1938. She had some of her works hanging in a local store, and an art collector named Louis J. Caldor saw them and bought them all. The following year, Moses had some of her paintings shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in an exhibition of unknown artists. She went on to have her first one-woman show in New York as well as had her picturesque works displayed at Gimbels, a famous New York department store, the following year.
Moses often drew from her memory for her captivating scenes of rural life. According to the New York Times, she once said that “I’ll get an inspiration and start painting; then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.” Some of her images, such as “Applebutter Making” (1947) and “Pumpkins” (1959), brightly depict the labors involved in agricultural life. Others, such as “Joy Ride” (1953), showcase a moment of fun and play.
Sometimes referred to as an American primitive artist because she was self-taught, Moses developed a devoted following. In the mid-1940s, her images were reproduced on greeting cards, which introduced her to a wider audience. Moses won the Women’s National Press Club Award for her artistic achievements in 1949. She went to Washington, D.C., to collect this honor and met with President Harry Truman during her visit. Moses soon switched from the paintbrush to the pen, writing the 1952 memoir My Life’s History.