- My Greatest Memories of Hollywood – 1940
- By Lillian Gish – as told to Alice Craig Greene
Hollywood was a dirt town when Lillian first saw it
As long as I can remember, the scent of orange blossoms has brought back to me my first day in Hollywood. It was a bright February day and I thought that we had actually come to a garden of Eden, for only a few days before we had left behind us the bitter winter blizzards of New York.
Hollywood was a sparsely settled village then. I remember a land agent tried to sell us a remote tract of ground for $300. We decided in favor of some pretty stock certificates, gold-trimmed and completely phony. Today that ground is the Sunset Strip, and parts of it would bring $300 a foot. But then it was wasteland. Hollywood didn’t even have a movie theater when we came. It had the Hollywood Hotel, a few churches and houses.
And D. W. Griffith. There I’ve said it all. Because Griffith was Hollywood. Through every memory I have comes his voice. He was the movie industry. It was conceived in his brain, developed there, and born to learn by trial and error. Griffith gave it all the devices that are still used. The fade-out and fade- in. The moving camera. And so many more. He wrote all his early stories as he went along, made them up or took them from the classics. He set scenes and called out plot as we rehearsed. He borrowed from Browning, Poe, and the Bible. He took much from Dickens. Sometimes he gave credit, but more often, not. Pippa Passes retained its own name. He switched the scene of David Copperfield to New England and called it True-heart Susie.
The greatest money-making picture in movie history was the Birth of a Nation. It cost $90,000 to make and brought in about $20,000,000. I was only a small part of it. I got the part Blanche Sweet was supposed to have because I had long blond hair that reached to my hips.
Back in those days, an “old hag” of eighteen was passe. Youth was an absolute necessity.