Chicago Tribune – April 2nd 1941 – Wednesday, Page 3
Miss Gish Tells of Sob Roles to Stir War Hate
Actress Cites Lesson of 1917 Propaganda
Almost a quarter of a century ago a little known actress starred in a series of propaganda films which helped to plunge the United States into the first world war. Audiences wept as the young girl was beaten, kicked and whipped with a cat o’nine tails by ruthless “Huns.”
Before an America First rally yesterday in the Hotel Sherman, Miss Lillian Gish, now a star of the stage and screen, told of her part in “selling the idea of hate to the American people.”
“I am not proud of the part I played then,” Miss Gish told the crowd of 1.500 persons. “I tell you the story now in the hope that the American people will not be fooled again.”
How Plots Were Hatched.
Miss Gish, who shared the platform with Gen. Thomas S. Hammond, former senior brigade commander of the Illinois National Guard, drew repeated applause as she described the propaganda films which, she declared, “made our people think and talk like idiots.”
She told how the plots were hatched by the heads of the British and French propaganda departments “to bring the Americans over to fight for us.”
The result, three propaganda pictures, was a major factor in whipping the American people to hysteria to make the world safe for democracy, Miss Gish declared.
She told how she played the part of a little English girl living in France, whose lover went to war. How, after her home and mother and grandfather were blown to bits, she loses her mind and goes roaming along the battlefield. She described another scene in which three small children, left alone in a dugout with their dead mother, dig her grave and bury her withoul help.
“Most Effective” Scenes.
“These scene were most effective,” Miss Gish said. “They were calculated to stir the emotions of the Americans so that they would be willing to fight and die for the cause.”
“And now,” Miss Gish continued, “for the second time in 24 years we are being propagandized into a war that is none of our business.
“With propaganda and hysteria at its present peak, who knows but what the American people will take such films seriously again.
“If there was any good that came to us out of the last war, I would like to know what it was. And we won that war!”
Urges Fight to Remain Free.
Gen. Hammond, chairman of the Illinois America First committee, warned his audience that “at the end of the emergency, we must be prepared to oppose dictatorship.”
“Let us fight to preserve our republican form of government,” he declared, “Let us fight to remain free and to make our own laws.”