Lillian Gish Tells How Ice Scenes Were Filmed
The Washington Herald – Sunday, March 20, 1921
Star of “Way Down East” Had Her Face Frost Bitten Making Picture
The dangers of the scenes on the ice in the D.W. Griffith production of “Way Down East” were real – not only immediate through likelihood of drowning in a raging torrent of icy water, but also through the probability of colds and pneumonia.
Mr.Griffith, himself, fell on the ice and cut his cheek so badly that he had to give up directing for several days, and Lillian Gish, who is seen floating on an ice floe to destruction over a fall, was frostbitten on her cheeks through exposure to a blizzard.
“We worked for a long time in the snow and ice scenes,” said Miss Gish, in telling of her work in “Way Down East.” “Most of the time we worked alone, for the weather was terrifically cold. When there was something of mildness in the air, the countryside turned out to observe us. Mr. Griffith spurred us on, and he did not ask anyone to do anything that he would not do himself. Mr. Barthelmess was warm enough in his heavy fur coat, and I think he was too warm when he had to carry me about. My garments were lighter, they were so of necessity because of the part. Of course, that way of lying on the ice with my hand in the water was anything but a joy. We would get through with the scenes as quickly as possible, and there would be someone on the bank to give me a heavy wrap and to serve hot coffee. The only way I could get my hands warm was to grasp mechanical hand warmers, and to thrust them in my pockets.
“Struggling through the blizzard was the most exhausting part of my work. We couldn’t photograph every day, but were obliged to wait until conditions were just right. Every snow storm would be greeted with delight and we bundled up at once to go out into the storm. We were in New England and there were some truly frigid days and nights.
But when the spring came and we had finished with the snow and ice, we were back in Mamaroneck finishing the picture and getting those beautiful vernal glimpses that are so greatly admired in the picture.
We had a great deal to do and we kept steadily at it. No one relaxed in the effort and we could feel that Mr. Griffith was creating a masterpiece. Then came the completed work after ten months of effort – and a real hit. Now I am having a little leisure before begin under independent management as a picture star.”
And while she is waiting for a new role, Miss Gish is enjoying life in her customary quiet fashion. She likes her home so much that she is usually there of evenings and the theater or the picture house scarcely knows her.