Lillian Gish – To Be or Not To Be … in “Faust”

  • Picture Show – March 19th 1921 – Lillian Gish’s Real Self.
  • Picture Show – April 2nd 1921 – Lillian Gish to Play Marguerite
  • Picture Show – April 9th 1921 – Madame Petrova Comes to Town
  • Picture Show – April 16th 1921 – Lillian Gish Undecided

Lillian Gish’s Real Self.

EVERYONE has the idea that American film stars are the most mercenary wretches in the world. I happened to meet W. L. Sherrill last week, for whom Lillian Gish is now working. Mr. Sherill is president, of the Frohman Producing Company, and he told me something of Lillian’s character, which I think is worth repeating, although I am not sure I ought to tell it, since it was given to me more or less in confidence. Lillian is getting $3,500 a week. Her salary started August 1, but she returned her money for August, because she had a few scenes to finish for D. W. Griffith in ” Way Down East.” Then September came, and there was no story, Mr. Sherrill said he would have considered it was a wonderful thing if Lillian had offered to work on half-wages What she really did was to come to his office and refuse all of her salary until she started on her picture. ” She is the most wonderful girl in tho world,” he said. ” I have never known anyone to be -so unselfish and so unmindful of her own interests, and I have been in this business for many years.” Mary Pickford, who adores Lillian, said to me one day : ” You will be good to Lillian, won’t you ? She is so gentle and good.” I have always remembered the expression on little Mary’s face when she asked mo to be kind to her friend. There is a beautiful friendship between the two girls that fame cannot change. Lillian’s work in ” Way. , Down East” has given her the title, of America’s great film star. This may be exaggerated, but one thing is certain there has never been any screen work to excel her performance of Anna Moore.

Lillian Gish - Anna Moore (Way Down East)
Lillian Gish – Anna Moore (Way Down East)

Lillian Gish to Play Marguerite.

IT took the failure of the William Sherrill Motion Picture Company for Lillian Gish to realise just how popular she is, and how many producers are holding out tempting starring engagements on silver platters. There isn’t a company in the business that hasn’t made some sort of an offer for Miss Gish’s services. Lillian isn’t the sort of girl who boasts about any of these things, and if I hadn’t coaxed her to tell me why she didn’t announce her plans, I might never have learned the true state of affairs. All the time Lillian was shaking her pretty blonde head and saying no she was negotiating with David W. Griffith to play Marguerite in ” Faust.” I don’t believe there was – much negotiating, for Lillian has told me, time and time again, she would rather play for David Griffith for less than for any other producer for six times the amount he could pay her. At the time she signed the contract with Mr. Sherrill she did it with many misgivings, preferring to remain in the Griffith fold ; but it was David himself who persuaded her to accept the fabulous amount offered her by the Sherrill organisation. Mr. Griffith will take Goethe’s dramatic poem and Gounod’s operatic version, and combine them to get an effective screen story of ” Faust.”

Lilly From Ohio (1921) - Kenneth Alexander - Detail

Madame Petrova Comes to Town.

THE weather has been so inclement it drove Madame QIga Petrova in from her country place, and she has been spending a few weeks at the Plaza Hotel. When her husband. Dr. J. D. Stewart, was lost in a blizzard one night, and did not reach home for hours after she expected him, she decided it was high time to move where he would not have to be at the mercy of the elements in the country. By the way, Madame Petrova and Lillian Gish have developed a friendship, and have seen quite a lot of each other lately. They went to the matinee last week to see Lionel Barrymore in ” Macbeth.” I wanted so much to go with them, but having so much to do, I could not manage it.’ Lillian went to hear our famous diva, Mary Gardon, sing Marguerite in ” Faust,” this week, believing if she plays the part it is well to get as many interpretations of the character as possible.

Lillian Gish 1921 - The Girl Back Home
Lillian Gish 1921 – The Girl Back Home

Lillian Gish Undecided.

SPEAKING of “Madame Petrova, there was a buzz of interested feminine voices – when  the Polish actress and Lillian Gish walked into the Plaza dining-room for luncheon a few days ago. I was invited to make one of her luncheon party, and we had a merry time. There is a great bond of understanding and sympathy between these two women. ‘ They both like each other, and Madame Petrova very frankly says she considers Lillian Gish the greatest screen artist of her day. Who said there is always jealousy between two women ? On the other hand, Miss Gish, like all the rest of the world, has a tremendous admiration for Madame Petrova’s mentality and charm. Lillian has been undecided about playing ” Marguerite ” in Griffith’s production of ” Faust.”

” I want to play in Mr. Griffith’s pictures, of course,” she said, ” but I am so afraid of the costume plays. The public not over six months ago in a vote of the theatre vetoed all costume plays. Still, the success of ‘ Passion ‘ makes me believe this prejudice has been somewhat overcome.”

The bets are all on Lillian’s acceptance of Mr. Griffith’s offer, and rightly, too. Not to betray a secret or anything, she whispered to me she would in all likelihood play ” Marguerite.”

Lillian Gish - wearing "extras" costume 1921
Lillian Gish – wearing “extras” outfit (1921)

“Faust” with Lillian Gish?

The filming on Dream Street done, D. W. Griffith announced that he would undertake a version of Faust to star Lillian Gish as Marguerite. Miss Gish herself had misgivings. Faust, she discovered, had never found favor with American audiences. She confided her feelings to Harry Carr, a long – time Griffith associate, whose job it was to find ideas and stories for possible production. Carr shared her feelings: Faust would be another chance for Griffith to preach, to be sure, but what he needed was a money-maker. Miss Gish approached Mr. Griffith. So did Carr. Griffith was dissuaded. She had a counter-proposition, a play even older than Way Down East called The Two Orphans about two “adopted” sisters, one blind, who became separated in a teeming city. It had been filmed before, actually, in a short version of 1911 by Selig, and in 1915 as a vehicle for Theda Bara. Miss Bara had risen to immediate public favor playing femme fatale, “vamp” roles first in A Fool There Was, and she had wanted to try something else. (Excerpt from “Griffith – First Artist of the Movies,” by Martin Williams)

King – Profit Turned even Faust into …

The emphasis on the new “freedom” from cares and worry the director would now enjoy was a tacit acknowledgment of the difficulties that had befallen D.W. Griffith, who was increasingly burdened by the demands of sustaining his own independent film operation and struggling of late to register a popular hit. As W.C. Fields moved on to other, more straightforwardly comedic films at Famous Players ‐ in roles where he would not have to compete with the likes of Carol Dempster for his director’s, and thus the camera’s, attention ‐ Griffith began work on what would be his final and most ambitious film for Famous Players: The Sorrows of Satan , based on the bestselling 1895 novel by Marie Corelli about a struggling writer who makes a Faustian deal with the Devil.

Camera (1920-1922) Lillian Gish signs with Frohman
Camera (1920-1922) Lillian Gish signs with Frohman

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