Our “Young Visitors” By Faith Service 1920

Motion Picture Classic (April – May, 1920)

Our “Young Visitors”



Not so very long ago we had three distinguished young visitors for luncheon at No. 175 Duffield Street, Brooklyn. I use the term “young” advisedly. The three were Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish and Mother Gish. “Mother,” said Lillian, speaking of some recently taken family photographs, “is the beauty of the family” …

Mother and Dorothy

It is said by a very great many authorities on the diverse subject that Art is Realism. If this be so, the quintessence of Art can be handed, sans dispute, to Dorothy and Lillian Gish. Lillian is, in real life, the origin and source of her wistful screen prototypes. She is gentle she is finely, gently intelligent; she is resourceful. There is to her an appealing personal charm even as the charm she gives us screenically.

Lillian Gish portrait promo Broken Bossoms - 1919
Lillian Gish portrait promo Broken Bossoms – 1919

Dorothy is Dorothy. She has. humor. She has verve. She has “pep” and action. One is never certain what her next move will be, nor her next speech. Possibly she is not quite certain herself.

Mary Robinson McConnell
Mary Robinson McConnell

Mother Gish regards “The Little Disturber” with something of apprehension. We found no ostentation and no flurry of excitement at that luncheon. It would not be supposed that young visitors of fame were with us. Lillian asked questions, for the most part. And Dorothy lamented the fact that she plays in comedies when she had much, much rather play in drama, and lamented, still further, the fact that she had to work at all. “I never,” she said, “crack a smile in between pictures. I couldn’t be induced to.”

Lillian Gish - Hoover Art Studios LA
Lillian Gish – Hoover Art Studios, Los Angeles


Lillian, quietly, with the little air she has of one apart, observed that the ruling characteristic of human nature is to long to do the things one is not doing and for which one is not fit. She herself, she said, would much prefer to write.

At the time of their lunching with us they were house-hunting in Westchester county, to be near the new Griffith studio. We asked them what manner of home they were seeking and they informed us that it was to be a farm.

Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish and Mary Robinson McConnell Gish (Mother) cca 1930

Dorothy interpolated that a cow was to be the first object of their search. She couldn’t, she said, conceive of what they would ever do with a cow. Now, chickens, a dog, cats, pigeons, even pigs . . . but a cow . . . We gathered that Dorothy has a probably wholesome fear of cows and we delicately suggested the same.

Lillian Gish - study

“Mother is the only brave one in the family,” agreed Dorothy with equanimity.

“We had a burglar scare in California, and Lillian and I nearly died of fright — under the bedclothes — gooseflesh and all that. Mother, on the contrary, sat straight up in bed, levelling a pistol at the door thru which her grimly intended victim was to come. She actually fired a shot, altho it didn’t make the mark. The burglar, however, was frightened away. I told mother that she had the heart of a murderer.”

the sisters - 1914 — with dorothy gish. 6
the sisters – 1914 — with dorothy gish.

The Editorial Staff shook with a sort of composite mirth. It would be hard to suppose a murderer’s heart in a Gish breast. There is something about each one of them, even to the more earthly Dorothy, suggestive, reminiscent of lavender and old lace, of quaint custom and lyric verse, of melodies fingered forth on a spinnet, of potpourri and minuets. It is the aroma of these things which they have brought with them to a hitherto less lovely medium of expression.

They are, each one of them, whimsically characteristic. They have, individually and together, an atmospheric charm, from Mother Gish, who is but a slightly-grown-older Lillian, to Lillian herself, slender and potential, to Dorothy, sparkling and keen and young. They are quite utterly unprofessional in their manner, in their point of view, in their bearing and talk. They might never have seen the inside of a studio.

Lillian Gish and Mother (Mary Robinson McConnell)
Lillian Gish and Mother (Mary Robinson McConnell)

There are none of the earmarks. Probably there are no two girls more perfectly themselves. They have given a great deal and borrowed nothing. They do not talk of their work, if they can gracefully avoid it. They do not speak of their ambitions, nor of their successes, past, present or future. There is about them a fine reticence. They love their mother, their home and the best artistic expression of the work they are doing. These things come naturally to them and they express them naturally.

After they had been regretfully ushered out by Mr. Brewster and the rest of us, we asked each other the inevitable question after some one of the stars has taken luncheon with us at our more modern Round Table—”What do you think ?,” we wanted to know—and we all thought the same. Lillian was as we , had thought she would be, must be, from her portrayals on the silversheet. She was gentle, she was lovely, she was poetic, she was a thinker and a dreamer.

Dorothy as "The Little Disturber"
Dorothy as “The Little Disturber”

Dorothy was as we had thought she would be, must be, from her portrayals on the screen, humorous, lovable, vivid, “regular.”

Mother Gish is the mother of the two, an eminently satisfactory arrangement, pro and con.

For these young visitors the house of the Big Three is ever open, the arms of the Editorial Staff the same, and the table ever round, with a capacity for being rounder.

Faith Service, 1920


Lillian Gish as Elsie Sroneman in Birth of a Nation
Lillian Gish as Elsie Sroneman in Birth of a Nation


Los Angeles Herald, Volume XLII, Number 100, 25 February 1916

Mother of Misses Gish Shoots Robber

Firing several shots from an automatic pistol, Mrs. Mae Gish, mother of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, famous motion picture actresses, routed a burglar from her home, 600 St. Paul Street, early today. The burglar fled from the room when the first shot was fired. He dashed downstairs and out the front door, closely pursued by Mrs. Gish and Miss Lillian Gish. When she saw that the intruder was about to escape Miss Lillian Gish hurried to a telephone and notified the police.

Allan Sears, and Lillian Gish 1915
Allan Sears, and Lillian Gish 1915

Los Angeles Herald, Volume XLII, Number 100, 25 February 1916


“If I had killed him when I shot it would haunt me forever. I’m glad he escaped.” Holding in her hand a tiny pearlhandled automatic pistol, Mrs. Mae Gish, mother of Lillian and  Dorothy Gish, famous motion picture stars, today told of how she routed a burglar from her home at 600 St. Paul street. Mrs. Gish fired two shots at the burglar and said she was glad that they did not find their mark. “The police officers told me I should have fired directly at the man,” she said. Mrs. Gish awakened to find the spot of a flash light dancing around her room. She pretended she was asleep. Then she drew the pistol from under her pillow and fired. Miss Lillian Gish, asleep in an adjoining rooms was awakened by the shots. Unarmed she ran in pursuit of the burglar and later telephoned the police. Miss Dorothy Gish was visiting friends in Hollywood.

Lillian Gish as Lucy Burrows in Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish as Lucy Burrows in Broken Blossoms

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Motion Picture Classic April - May, 1920
Motion Picture Classic April – May, 1920

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