The New York Times, December 27, 1960
Critic at Large
Lillian Gish Shines in ‘All the Way Home,’ as She and Sister Have in Many Things
By Brooks Atkinson
When the curtain goes up on the second act of “All The Way Home” at the Belasco Theatre, Lillian Gish is discovered sitting primly on a sofa, as the deaf and daft mother of a grown family. The audience applauds before she speaks a word.
The audience is applauding one of the pleasantest American legends. For the Gish girls – Lillian and Dorothy have been through the whole cycle of American show business from road companies in the first decade of the century and the silent films in the second to the theatre of today.
Both of them are about a foot wide and four inches thick, erect and cheerful. Both of them hop around America and Europe whenever anything interests them, and they let out little puffs of enthusiasm as they roll along. They see everything and know everyone. They are as much a part of American folklore as Jack Dempsey, Jimmy Durante and Harry S. Truman. Having been consistently modern for a half century, they give their country continuity.
As one of the players in the season’s most sensitively acted drama, Lillian is very busy now, changing in and out of wig and costume eight times a week; and, like the other actors, talking on the radio whenever she is bidden, “selling. the product,” to use her phrase. But if she were not acting a part or crusading for a cause, she would be busy about something else. Probably she would be putting the finishing touches on her book about D. W. Griffith.
She has never been bored in her life. Years ago, when she was billed in the programs on the road as “Baby Alice” or “Baby Ann,” she took her first curtain call on the shoulders of Walter Huston in a melodrama called “In Convict’s Stripes” or another one called “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” she can’t remember which. In tow of her mother, May Barnard, an ingenue, she and her sister traipsed up and down the land. They learned how to count by watching the man in the box office, and how to read schoolbooks under their mother’s tutelage in dressing rooms and day coaches.
Since her mother had a passion for going through factories, both the Gish girls have a Iong background in factory culture, and to this day they never pass a factory without feeling that they ought to go through it.
When they were in their teens they grew “rather long in the leg” and it was time to make a change. That’s how they ventured into the world of the silent film eventually under the direction of Griffith. Together or individually they appeared in “The Birth of a Nation”, “Intolerance”, “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East” and “The Orphans of the Storm,” all of them regarded as film classics today. ***
Since there was no tradition in film acting, they had to invent one, and they did. For more than forty-five years later they are still known and recognized all over the world. When the Moscow Art Theatre undertook to visit America in 1920’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovitch-Dantchenko studied Griffith films in search of a pantomime style that would make the Russian actors intelligible in a foreign land, and they found a style that they could use.
When Russian actors and dancers come here today, they are inclined to study Lillian as if she were a monument. It is a little disconcerting a gay, incandescent lady who wants to talk and listen.
If she radiates generally goodwill, it is because she is without vanity. That simplifies her life. She does not have to worry about her dignity or about maintaining “public image.” She is less interested in herself than in other people, and she is therefore, still learning.
Having had no formal education she has been a reader of all kinds of books since she first discovered the exciting world of culture in the Twenties. Being aware of the world around her, she has little patience with the introspective school of acting. It does not have enough interest in the audience, she thinks. What moves an actor is a matter of no importance in her view. What moves an audience is.
As one member of a superb company that includes Colleen Dewhurst, Arthur Hill, Aline MacMahon and John Megna, Lillian treats the character she plays in “All The Way Home” as one figure in the delicate fabric of a family play. Everything she does on the stage she does for the play. The applause is for a woman who has always regarded the theatre as an enlightened and practical form of democracy.
The New York Times – Published December 27, 1960
*** Admin note: Dorothy Gish starred only in the last film presented above, (Orphans), she on the other hand was distributed in “Hearts of the World,” “Romola,” and “Remodeling a Husband”, the only movie Lillian Gish directed.