Lillian Gish To Appear At Premiere – By Eve Downing (California Aggie, 1981)

  • California Aggie, Volume 99, Number 86, 24 February 1981
  • Lillian Gish To Appear At Premiere
  • By Eve Downing

This Friday night there will be a special gala showing of the silent film classic “Broken Blossoms,” staring Lillian Gish. The event will take place at the plush Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The “Premiere,” a fundraiser sponsored by the Family Service Agency of Sacramento, will be a spectacular event that is not likely to happen again soon. Miss Lillian Gish, the star of the 1919 film, will appear as the guest of honor at the screening. The film will also be accompanied by a live orchestra featuring Gaylord Carter, famed theater organist of the silent film era. The orchestra will play the musical arrangements used for the original premiere of “Broken Blossoms .” Directed by the legendary D. W. Griffiths, “Broken Blossoms” is the tragic story of a twelve-year-old girl (Lillian Gish at eighteen) whose ex-boxer father (Donald Crisp) beats, her regularly. A Chinese philosopher (Richard Barthelmess) who lives nearby attempts to rescue the girl, but fails, and the film ends on a truly tragic note. In a phone interview with Miss Gish, she told the story of a reporter from Variety magazine who, after watching the filming of a particularly harrowing scene from “Broken Blossoms,” quickly left the room and “lost his breakfast.”

Lillian Gish and Donald Crisp in Broken Blossoms

Even silently, the film was so powerful the women fainted while watching. Nevertheless, “Broken Blossoms ” was a fabulous success, running for months at New York City’s finest theatres and making millions of dollars. Many critics have claimed that in “Broken Blossoms” Lillian Gish gives her finest performance, but Gish admitted that she had severe doubts about playing the part of a twelve-year-old. She told of how such a child would be “unrestrained in terror,” and how she had refused to play such emotional scenes until the camera was actually rolling. When asked how well she thought the Premiere would recreate original silent film viewing. Miss Gish described a similar screening of “Broken Blossoms” done recently in Southern California. A special color tinted print loaned by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art was shown (as will be at this Friday’s Premiere), and Miss Gish declared that she had “never known it (the film) to go better.-’’ Miss Gish will also attend a champagne reception in the Crest Theatre lobby prior to the screening.

Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess in “Broken Blossoms” (Lucy Burrows and Cheng Huan “Chinky”)

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