Genius Shown in “White Sister” (San Bernardino Sun, 1924)

  • San Bernardino Sun, Volume 54, Number 102, 10 June 1924
  • Genius Shown in “White Sister” – Now Playing To Large Crowds Here


Those who know motion pictures, have termed “The White Sister” a perfect photoplay. This may be why it has been secured as a feature attraction at the Opera House with two showings daily this week.

The White Sister

Lillian Gish Hailed by Critics as Supreme Interpreter of Character

A motion picture reviewer regrets having wasted adjectives on other film features when he is confronted with such a picture as the Henry King production of “The White Sister,” in which Lillian Gish is now appearing at the Opera House. Here is a motion picture achievement that deserves and demands the use of all the praise it is possible to bestow, for nothing finer has ever reached the screen. It is perhaps the finest dramatic offering ever turned out as a motion picture, and everyone concerned In its making, distribution and presentation is to be complimented most highly. Miss Gish is magnificent. No actress of this generation on stage or screen has carried the flame of sheer genius into her acting as does the frail little star of “The White Sister.” One has to hark back to the thrilling intensity of a Duse and the passionate emotionalism of a Bernhardt for comparison. Nowhere in the long list of screen plays has there ever been so convincing and thrilling a love epic as this romance of a girl and her young soldier lover.

The White Sister

Ronald Colman, who plays opposite Miss Gish, is the “find” of the screen year – a handsome, dashing hero. In filming F. Marion Crawford’s story, Director King took a company to Italy. Studios and laboratories were established, and then began the making of what should prove one of the truly great productions in cinema history. Mr. King has brought to life the characters of Mr. Crawford’s novel and filmed his story in the exact locale in which It was set. Most persons are familiar with the story and many have undoubtedly longed for its presentation on the screen. These and countless others will be deeply grateful for Mr. King’s production. He has held closely to the story, offering many thrills in the way of the actual eruption of Vesuvius, and a flood that sweeps away an Italian town and makes one almost feel that he is to be taken with it, so realistically has it been done.

The White Sister

The settings are exquisite; the photography of the highest quality, and Miss Gish’s supporting cast shows it was chosen with care, for the members all contribute to the general effectiveness of the film. As a matter of fact, “The White Sister” comes near to being “the perfect picture.” To those who are regular movie fans we say “Don’t miss it.” To those who are not regulars, we hold this picture up as a shining example of the accomplishments of the screen, and unhesitatingly recommend that they see it. “The White Sister” is a Henry King production for Inspiration Pictures, Charles H. Duell, Jr., president, and is released through Metro. “The White Sister” will be the attraction at the Opera House twice daily, matinee at 2:30 and one evening show at 8 o’clock until Friday night, inclusive.

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D. W. Griffith, Father of Movies, is honored (San Bernardino Sun, 1975)

  • San Bernardino Sun, 23 January 1975
  • D. W. Griffith, Father of Movies, is honored
Anita Loos and Lillian Gish – Griffith Stamp ceremony

NEW YORK (AP) – “We shot it in one day and got $5 for it,” Lillian Gish said yesterday, recalling one of the movies she made with D. W. Griffith, the film pioneer regarded as the father of the movies. “Now that’s a story in itself!” she quipped. It was in 1912 that Griffith -being honored at the Museum of Modern Art here on the 100th anniversary of his birth gathered his film crew on 14th Street and cranked out “An Unseen Enemy,” the movie that helped catapult Miss Gish to stardom. “At last we are giving some recognition to it,” Miss Gish told the crowd of illuminaires that gathered in the museum’s auditorium for the ceremony. Eagerly listening to her praise for Griffith were a room full of celebrities which included Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III, movie and stage stars Cyril Ritchard and Geraldine Page, and a host of other notables including Cornelia Otis Skinner, Ilka Chase and Anita Loos.


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Splendid Excess – by Daniel Mangin (Bay Area Reporter, 1992)

  • Bay Area Reporter, Volume 22, Number 38, 17 September 1992
  • Splendid Excess
  • by Daniel Mangin

We’re in for a weekend of splendid excess with two widely divergent retrospective programs centering on virtue under assault. The Pacific Film Archive presents the restored, tinted print of D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East at the Castro Sept. 18. The master’s plot is as overblown as cinema gets: an upper-class lout tricks damsel in distress Lillian Gish out of her innocence by faking marriage; gets her pregnant; and then abandons her. Next, the baby dies. (And that’s just the first part of this 21/2-hour opus.) Griffith’s fame derives from his creation of a coherent language out of the cinema’s basic elements, but his sense of what the medium could accomplish went beyond aesthetics. He saw film as a vehicle to elevate the morals of the masses, which to him meant the restoration of Victorian values (even if he wasn’t always able to live by them himself). The overriding moral of Way Down East, stated in the prologue and reiterated throughout, is that men should be more respectful — and less diabolical — toward women. The tone leans toward the patronizing: although Gish is a pillar of strength, surviving poverty, shame and a blizzard, she is rescued by the “love of a good man.” Griffith’s morality play was out of date the day he acquired the rights (“We all thought privately that Mr. Griffith had lost his mind,” wrote Gish in her autobiography). Even aesthetically Way Down East represents more of a consolidation of everything the director had learned about the cinema than a breakthrough. It nevertheless remains a spellbinding work.

Scene from D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East, 1920, with Kate Bruce, Lowell Sherman, Lillian Gish, Mary Hay, Creighton Hale and Richard Barthelmess.

Renowned Rescue

The film’s renowned ice floe rescue scene is a master piece of crosscutting to create tension, but the sequence preceding it deserves mention as well. For 20-plus minutes Griffith builds suspense — through shot selection, editing and varying compositions—as town gossip Martha Perkins spreads the news that Gish’s character, Anna, has had a child out of wedlock. Pure melodrama, but the visual rhythm leading up to Anna’s climactic exposure of her baby’s father and her banishment from her home is beyond compare. The original score, adapted for the Castro’s Wurlitzer, is as florid as the film’s plot. The tireless Dennis James performs it with appropriate gusto.

Way Down East Castro Theatre, Sept. 18. 8 p.m. 621-6120

Ice Floe Scene – photo gallery

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A Celebration of The Performing Arts – San Bernardino Sun, 1982

  • San Bernardino Sun, Volume 109, Number 353, 19 December 1982
  • TV Week, December 19, 1982
  • The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of The Performing Arts

George Abbott, Lillian Gish, Gene Kelly (top, l-r), Eugene Ormandy and Benny Goodman (bottom, l.c), are five distinguished American artists who have been chosen by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. D C , as recipients of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors, the nation’s highest distinction for performing artists. Walter Cronkite (bottom, r), will host The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, the fifth annual entertainment gala honoring the lifetime achievement of performing artists, airing on CBS, Saturday at 8PM An array of top stars from various realms of the performing arts, many of them colleagues of the recipients, will entertain at the invitational black-tie event, a benefit for the Kennedy Center. The honorees, whose artistic excellence is world renowned, have been chosen by the Kennedy Center trustees as “individuals who throughout their lifetimes have contributed greatly to American culture through the performing arts ” Roger L Stevens, chairman of the Kennedy Center, notes that the awards, now in their fifth year, were intended to demonstrate that “this nation does recognize the intrinsic value of the arts” and they “have now become a national tradition.”

The Kennedy Center Honors – San Bernardino Sun 1982

Kennedy Center Honors 1982 – Gallery

1982 DC Ronald Reagan – Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)

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Lillian Gish Eschews Carrots in Federal Court (Santa Cruz Evening News, 1925)

  • Santa Cruz Evening News, Volume 35, Number 123, 26 March 1925
  • Lillian Gish Eschews Carrots in Federal Court

NEW YORK, March 26. George W. Newgass, once personal attorney of Lillian Gish, motion picture actress, had an uncomfortable time of it in Judge Mack’s court yesterday, under the sarcastic, rapid-fire cross examination of Max Steuer, representing Miss Gish, who is seeking to have her contract with Charles H. Duell, motion picture producer, annulled. Newgass was Miss Gish’s attorney from 1920 until last September. On the stand he insinuated that Miss Gish was a film star only when under the direction of a master mind, and that any other grade of producer would be taking chances with her. Recalled at the request of Steuer, Newgass found himself unable to answer many of Steuer’s questions. He displayed a loss of memory regarding dates, figures and other things about which he was questioned. Steuer finally lost patience with him and openly charged him with evading the questions. Judge Mack took a hand at this juncture and began repeating Sleuer’s questions. Miss Gish, who had been bored at the beginning of the hearing, began to take notice and as her former attorney became more and more discomfited she smiled, first sweetly, and then laughed until tears ran. down her face. Steuer forced Newgass to admit that while he had been working for Miss Gish he had actually been on the payroll as Duell’s lawyer, he also admitted that he had not advised Miss Gish to the importance of her contract with Duell.

Lillian Gish and her lawyer Max Steuer – the Duell trial in 1925

NEW YORK, March 26. – Lillian Gish did not munch carrots in federal court today. The film actress disappointed a throng of stenographers who jammed the tiny courtroom in which the suit of Charles H. Duell, motion picture producer, seeking to restrain Miss Gish from making pictures for others is being heard. Taking advantage of a lull in the proceedings, however, Miss Gish explained to newspaper men that she chewed carrots because of their value as “food for the complexion” and to allay her nervousness in the courtroom.

Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925

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Altman’s ‘A Wedding’ inspired lunacy – By BERNARD DREW (San Bernardino Sun, 1978)

  • San Bernardino Sun, 22 October 1978
  • Altman’s ‘A Wedding’ inspired lunacy

Movie Review

“A Wedding,” rated PG, is currently playing at the Central City Four Theater.

By BERNARD DREW – Gannett News Service

Robert Altman’s “A Wedding” is the frantically enjoyable account of a marriage between a young scion of high (with perhaps a soupcon of low) society and the daughter of a vulgar, redneck nouveau riche and the mayhem which ensues.

A Wedding

As in Altman’s master piece “Nashville,” the panorama covers an inordinately large cast of characters, perhaps a bit too large for us to encompass who and what every person on that screen is or does. There are moments when one might wish to know a little less (or nothing at all) about a character flitting by, and a bit more about some of the major people involved. Right up until the end, there is some fuzziness about a couple of the main characters.

Robert Altman – Lillian Gish (A Wedding)

But this is compensated for by the often hilarious vaudeville Altman and his three co-writers John Considine, Patricia Resnick, and Allan Nicholla have concocted for their huge, heterogeneous cast. At times some of the cast seem to be doing a solo turn or scene rather than being part of an integral whole, but I am not going to complain during the current dearth of film comedy, warts and all, “A Wedding” contains moments of inspired lunacy. Altman’s talent is matched by his courage. He has made bad movies but never dull ones.

Dina Merrill, Lillian Gish and Mia Farrow – A Wedding

In “A Wedding,” he maintains the Greek unities of time, place and action. Everything ensues within a 24our period as the wedding commences in church in the morning, while preparations for the reception go on at the groom’s grandmother’s mansion. Then comes the reception itself with all the pandemonium which attends it, lasting through the afternoon, evening and night.

Lillian Gish and Geraldine Chaplin – A Wedding

At the outset, grandmother Lillian Gish lies in her bed too ill to attend the wedding but giving last minute instructions to wedding reception coordinator Geraldine Chaplin. Then we see a bit of the wedding ceremony. Half-senile John Cromwell, who has been coaxed out of retirement by friend Gish, is stumbling through the service as the groom, Desi Arnaz, Jr., is becoming one with bride Amy Stryker, who still wears her retainers.

The groom’s mother, Nina Van Pallandt, Gish’s daughter, is a glamorous woman who is married to an Italian of mysterious origin which will be revealed later on. He is portrayed by the superlative Vittorio Gassman. Her sisters are the very regal Dina Merrill, strangely paired with Pat McCormick, who plays an art collector; and Virginia Vestoff, who is conducting an affair with Miss Gish’s black butler, Cedric Scott.

Lillian Gish and Mia Farrow – A Wedding

The bride has a younger brother who is an epileptic and an older sister, Mia Farrow, who adds to the confusion of the reception when she announces she is pregnant by the bridegroom, Arnaz.

The most memorable performances are those of Dina Merrill, (in the best thing she has ever done on film), Lillian Gish, John Cromwell, Ruth Nelson as her left wing but still very rich and social sister, Mia Farrow, Geraldlne Chaplin, and Howard Duff. Viveca Lindfors is amusing as a caterer who becomes stoned. You must say this for Robert Altman. He never copies anyone else and he never repeats himself. He’s an original.

Robert Altman celebrating Lillian Gish’s 100th film – A Wedding

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Lillian Gish Is Back Before Cameras in ‘Night of Hunter’ – By Bob Thomas (San Bernardino Sun, 1954)

San Bernardino Sun, Volume 61, Number 40, 16 October 1954


  • Lillian Gish Is Back Before Cameras in ‘Night of Hunter’
  • By Bob Thomas
Lillian Gish and Charles Laughton (The Night of The Hunter)

AGAINST TALKIES – Actress Lillian Gish, shown talking to Charles Laughton, confesses she’s never approved of talking movies. She’s in “Night of the Hunter.” (AP Wire photo)

HOLLYWOOD – I’m always critical of my family. Whatever they do, I want them to be only the best.” That was Lillian Gish’s explanation of why she is sometimes considered a critic of the film industry, She considers it a part of her family, and that isn’t too far fetched. She certainly grew up with it, and it with her.

The Night of The Hunter

Miss Gish, whose tender, innocent face is remembered by any one who lived through the silent film era, is back in Hollywood after a considerable absence. She is playing with Shelley Winters and Robert Mitchum in “Night of the Hunter,” which is being directed by Charles Laughton. She, has passed her 55th birthday, but her skin is smooth and she still has the loveliness that mature film fans recall.

She began on the stage at 5 and played in her first movie at 12. She became a star with “Birth of a Nation” and was associated with many of the great D. W. Griffith films that raised movies from infancy to adulthood.

The Night of The Hunter

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Silent Star Says Movies ‘Still in Their Babyhood’ – By Ed Blanche (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1981)

  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 125, Number 39, 17 February 1981
  • Silent Star Says Movies ‘Still in Their Babyhood’
  • By Ed Blanche

London (AP) – Lillian Gish, one of the original silent Hollywood stars and still working at 84. says movies “are still in their babyhood. We’re still crawling on our hands and knees.” Movies these days, she said in an interview in her suite at London’s Ritz Hotel, are all about ear-chases and “girls who look like they’ve failed an audition for Charlie’s Angels.’ “They’ve lost the concept of beauty that D.W. Griffith handed them on a plate. He gave them form and grammar.” Miss Gish, grabbed at age 12 by the legendary Griffith and later made star of his classic “Birth of a Nation,” said the only people who make good movies anymore are the Russians, because they understand the power of film. “They’re the only ones who take film seriously,” she explained. “Although we don’t always like their politics, they do understand the power of film.” Hollywood these days churns out movies that “technically have gone forward, but intellectually and spiritually have gone backwards.” she said. Miss Gish said she has little time for the realism of the 70s, the explicit sex, the dalliance with drugs and promiscuity, the exploitation and the morose downer concepts of the nuclear age. She said she craves innocence and beauty and a return to the pristine eloquence pioneered by Griffith in the early years of the century.

“There have been only two great geniuses in movies – Mr. Griffith and Walt Disney. Mr. Griffith dealt with the human equation, with people. It’s time we got back to putting beauty on film. The Russians are the only ones doing it now they even transform Siberia into a poem in white.” Modern directors are making a “great mistake they’re playing down to audiences. Mr. Griffith once said that to do that was the end. Movies should uplift and inspire,” Miss Gish continued. “We’re in the first century to bequeath a living, moving history behind us. Just think of actors 100 years from now they won’t have to go back to books. They’ll have it all on film, how we lived, what we did, what we thought. Film is far more important than the invention of the printing press.” Miss Gish, looking petite and fragile in a plain pink, floor-length gown, belies her age. It seems astounding that she has made more than 100 movies, spanning in her lifetime the history of the movies from Griffith’s two-reel silent masterpieces to Robert Altman’s caustic social commentaries. She flew to London on Concorde for the opening of a new musical. “The Biograph Girl,” a triple-history of Griffith, herself and Mary Pickford in the early pioneering years when Hollywood was still a ramshackle adjunct of Los Angeles. “It’s a beautiful show,” she gushed.

with Kate Revill, who plays her in a new musical, The Biograph Girl, at the Phoenix Theatre in London, 19th November 1980

“But I thought you had to be dead before they did this sort of thing. I’m sure it will go to Broadway and become a movie and be a big success.” Miss Gish, whose wrinkles cannot mask the sweetness of the face that glowed and shone under Griffith’s direction, is a living history of Hollywood. When she went into movies she was already a showbiz veteran with five years’ stage experience playing in Victorian melodramas, and even appeared with the legendary Sarah Bernhardt on Broadway. She was billed as “Baby Lillian.” But Mary Pickford introduced her to Griffith who promptly added the original “Mizz Lillian” and her sister Dorothy to his cast of Biograph players.

Altogether, she made 43 movies between 1912 and 1922, including Griffith’s “Way Down East” in which she clung to an ice floe for a week waiting to be rescued by heart-throb Richard Barthlemess. Four actors died in the ice on that movie. She was one of the few stars to make the transition to talkies, but eventually got the push from Louis B. Mayer in the 1930s because “I’d been on the great silent pedestal for too long.” But she continued to work, mainly in New York where she still lives. The work was mainly stage plays, but she continued to make movies, including “Duel In The Sun” in 1947 and “The Unforgiven” in 1960. Her 100th movie was Altman’s “The Wedding” two years ago.

Lillian Gish in Unforgiven – Promotional Photo

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