Miss Lillian Diana Gish

“Oh, all the charming ghosts I feel around me who should share this! It was our privilege for a little while to serve that beautiful thing, the film, and we never doubted for a moment that it was the most powerful thing, the mind and heartbeat of our technical century.”

Lillian Gish, at the 43rd Annual Academy Awards, 1971 THA Herald-Examiner w
Lillian Gish, at the 43rd Annual Academy Awards, 1971 THA Herald-Examiner
Lillian Gish and Melvyn Douglas at the 43rd Annual Academy Awards -1971

Lillian Gish


“The little things of life simply don’t worry her at all. Gales of temperament can rage around her – she remains undisturbed. I have seen her at a time when anyone else would have been distraught with anxiety, come quietly in from the set, eat her luncheon calmly and collectedly, then pick up some little book of philosophy and read it steadily until they sent for her.” – Phillis Moir (secretary to Lillian, 1925 – 27) –

Darkness gathering in a lonely hotel room – a little figure crouching at the window, staring into the night.
– What are you lookin at dear?
– Nothing aunt Alice, just looking.
Always her reply would be the same – always the same heart-hunger behind it. A dozen, twenty years later, a slender, white figure on a window seat, staring into the depths of the California night.
– What are you looking at, Lillian? (her mother asks).
– Nothing mother, just looking.”

– Life and Lillian Gish – Albert Bigelow Paine, NY 1932 –


Lillian Gish and Melvyn Douglas at the 43rd Annual Academy Awards -1971

After I left the “Follies,” I almost got a job in a picture in New York that was to star Lillian Gish. I was so thrilled because she was a wonderful lady and everybody thought I had it. There were so many girls trying to get into pictures–poor girls with brown hair and the same amount with blonde. Two girls would be chosen to play sisters in the picture and for some reason or other, they had to be opposites. One had to be a short blonde and the other had to be tall and dark-haired. So they placed them all up and down the line and they kept getting back to me. Finally, they had nobody but me so I played the taller, dark haired girl with every single one of the blonde girls. Then we went to dinner and one girl said, “Well, this is ridiculous. Why should we go to dinner when you know you have the part?” Well, I knew it, too–you couldn’t help but know it.

  We came back–and I didn’t have the part. They couldn’t find a blonde girl to do the other part. I swear that was their reason. So somebody else got the job and I just went home and cried myself to sleep. I thought, “Oh, that was my chance, my one chance in this world to work with Lillian Gish and I just didn’t make it.” But that taught me a lesson. The Gish picture never finished. They ran out of money and nobody got paid. And that gave me the biggest philosophy I’ve had in my life–never depend on anything unless you’re actually doing it. Otherwise, you’re letting yourself in for a disappointment.

  • From the interview with Billie Dove in “At the Center of the Frame: Leading Ladies of the Twenties and Thirties” by William M. Drew, Vestal Press, 1999 (Pages 20-1):

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