An Artist Who Shaped Art of Film

And so, at last, the plowman, turning the furrows of life, comes to the boundary that divides the known from the unknown—the wilderness from the sown field. Whatever we may one day find beyond, is already there in every detail—only, I lack the clairvoyant gift, and turn for a brief backward glimpse. It is no vision of artistic triumph that comes to me tonight . . . not the memory of Chekhov’s radiant heroine . . . not the triste picture of that broken flower of the Limehouse . . . something even more real than these: a real child, trouping with wandering players, away from a mother’s care … a slim-legged little girl, who slept on station benches and telegraph tables, who running across a foot-bridge lost her poor possessions in the swift black water, who from a train or hotel window stared silently into the night.

“What are you looking at, Lillian?”

“Nothing, Aunt Alice, just looking.”

(Albert Bigelow Paine – Life and Lillian Gish)

Lillian Gish, at radio studios, where she performed LITTLE WOMEN on April 21, 1935

Photo: Lillian Gish, at radio studios,

where she performed LITTLE WOMEN on April 21, 1935

Lillian Gish in 1957
Lillian Gish in 1957

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Lillian Gish, ca. 1970s

“Unless there was a klieg light present, Lillian couldn’t react emotionally, Rather than face any crisis, she would choose to withdraw and stay inside her apartment instead of talking about it, no matter what it was.

We knew her, so we didn’t push the issue. If what had happened to her were dramatized in a play or film, she would have played it brilliantly and had audiences in tears, which she knew how to do very well.

In her real day-to-day life, away from the stage or screen, she was lost. She was a slave to fantasy. She went from one role to the next, knowing just which button to press to achieve the desired effect.”

Anita Loos

actress lillian gish. (photo by time life pictures - dmi - the life picture collection) oct 1987

  • Actress Lillian Gish. (Photo by Time Life Pictures – DMI – The LIFE Picture Collection) Oct 1987

1987 globe zumapress photo

  • Miss Lillian Gish – 1987 /Globe – Zumapress Photo
VI Moscow International Film Festival, July, 7–22 1969. Soviet director Grigory Alexandrov and Lillian Gish.
VI Moscow International Film Festival, July, 7–22 1969. Soviet director Grigory Alexandrov and Lillian Gish.
Celebrity Party given by Parisian dress designer Pierre Balmain at the Restaurant Mediterranee, in Paris, France, Andre Maourois and Lillian Gish - May 10, 1949
Celebrity Party given by Parisian dress designer Pierre Balmain at the Restaurant Mediterranee, in Paris, France, Andre Maourois and Lillian Gish – May 10, 1949
with Kate Revill, who plays her in a new musical, The Biograph Girl, at the Phoenix Theatre in London, 19th November 1980
with Kate Revill, who plays her in a new musical, The Biograph Girl, at the Phoenix Theatre in London, 19th November 1980
  • Opening of the Mary Pickford Theater, James Madison Building, (Photo: Library of Congress)

1937 Press Photo Actress Lillian Gish in - Show Boat

  • Photo: 1937 Press Photo Actress Lillian Gish in – “Show Boat”

Vtg-Wire-Press-Photo-5-6-86-G-Hamilton-Elizabeth-Taylor-Lillian

Lillian-Gish-Douglas-Fairbanks-Jr-Buddy-Rogers-1978

American Academy of Dramatic Arts Honor New-York USA Cecil B Demille - 16 dec 1958

American Academy of Dramatic Arts Honor New-York USA Cecil B Demille – 16 dec 1958

May 1984 photo of Rock Hudson and Lillian Gish in Washington, DC.
May 1984 – Lillian Gish and Rock Hudson in Washington, DC.
Lillian Gish, Martha Graham, Katharine Cornell New-York USA - May 11, 1965
Lillian Gish, Martha Graham, Katharine Cornell New-York USA – May 11, 1965
Berlin, Nation of Nations in Kongreßhalle Lillian Gish in 1957
Berlin, Nation of Nations in Kongreßhalle Lillian Gish in 1957
Lillian Gish - Academy of Dramatic Arts - New-York - USA - Feb 6, 1984 (detail)
Lillian Gish – Academy of Dramatic Arts – New-York – USA – Feb 6, 1984 (detail)
Lillian Gish Host of TV Silent Series 1975 PBS New-York, USA
Lillian Gish Host of TV Silent Series 1975 PBS New-York, USA

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  • Below, a selection of photographs – Unforgettable Miss Lillian Gish

 

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Letter Signed Lillian Gish to Vaudeville Actor Jesse Block

Letter Signed Lillian Gish to Vaudeville Actor Jesse Block

lillian gish mono-print suddeutsche zeitung p - late 60s germany

Photo: Lillian Gish mono-print Suddeutsche Zeitung p – late 60s Germany

 

james macarthur new-york-usa 19 jun 1960 detail

Photo: Lillian Gish and James MacArthur New-york-USA 19 jun 1960

Lillian Gish holding her Honorary Oscar at the 43rd Academy Awards, April 15th 1971. (Photo by Pictorial Parade Archive Photos)
Lillian Gish holding her Honorary Oscar at the 43rd Academy Awards, April 15th 1971. (Photo by Pictorial Parade Archive Photos)

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A selection made from few of Miss Lillian Gish’s silent films

 

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Miss Lillian Gish’s Quotes presented along with scenes from her movies

 

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The Night of 100 Stars * 1982

In 1982, a lot of stars gathered together in New York to raise money for the Actor’s Fund of America with a spectacular variety show titled “Night of 100 Stars.” Let’s look back at some of the truly astounding, inspiring clips that survive.
Liza Minnelli was on hand to introduce some famous movie couples, including Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in Reds as famous reds John Reed and Louise Bryant. Then they all joined hands and sang “Love Makes the World Go Round.” Just take a minute to let that wash over you.
Easily the highlight, however, was the fashion show, which featured looks from history plus modern designs modeled by Cicely Tyson, Eva Gabor, Brooke Shields, and Linda Evans of Dynasty. The grand finale was Cher in a wedding ensemble which looks to have been party gold lamé.

The Night of Hundred Stars (detail b)

Produced by
Alexander H. Cohen … executive producer
Lou Del Prete … associate producer
Bill Hinckley … associate producer
Hildy Parks … producer
Roy A. Somlyo … co-producer
Music by
Buz Kohan
Glen Roven

AP Wire Press Photo Lillian Gish, Miss Piggy, Radio City Muppets (The Night of 100 Stars)
AP Wire Press Photo Lillian Gish, Miss Piggy, Radio City Muppets (The Night of 100 Stars)

Art Direction by
Charles Lisanby

Costume Design by
Alvin Colt

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The First Lady of The Silent Screen …

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Photo: Actress Lillian Gish attends 12th Annual American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Awards Honoring Lillian Gish on March 1, 1984 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (WireImage)

“What we tend to forget today is that Gish, like Griffith, was considered out-of-fashion more than 60 years ago. First, the flappers were supposed to have made her Victorian virgin obsolete, and then Garbo’s erotically angled features were supposed to have supplanted Gish’s wholesomely rounded countenance as the standard of female beauty. That Gish has outlived the winds of fashion to become an emblem of eternity itself should not blind us to the fact that both the Motion Picture Academy and the American Film Institute have been grotesquely slow to honor her. Everyone seems to have taken her for granted as an inexorable force of nature. Better late than never, of course, as Victor Hugo is said to have remarked after Britain finally erected a statue to Shakespeare a couple of centuries after the Bard’s demise.” (Andrew Sarris, film historian and critic)

  • Miss Lillian Diana Gish – Awards

1947 – Academy Awards, USA – Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Duel in the Sun (1946)

1955 – Lillian was awarded the George Eastman Award, for distinguished contribution to the art of film, at the George Eastman Museum’s (then George Eastman House’s) inaugural Festival of Film Artists

1960 – Walk of Fame – Motion Picture
On 8 February 1960. At 1720 Vine Street. A star on The Walk Of Fame

1968 – Golden Globes, USA – Nominee for Best Supporting Actress
The Comedians (1967)

1971 – Academy Awards, USA – Honorary Award – For superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures.

1979 – Women in Film Crystal Awards – Winner, Crystal Award

1982 – Gish, an American icon, was also awarded in the Kennedy Center Honors.

1983 – Order of Arts and Letters, France – Winner Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters On 12 July, 1983.

1984 – American Film Institute, USA – Winner, Life Achievement Award

1987 – National Board of Review, USA – Winner NBR Award, Best Actress, The Whales of August (1987)

1987 – National Board of Review, USA, Winner, Career Achievement Award

1987 – London Critics Circle Film Awards, Winner Special Achievement Award

1988 – Film Independent Spirit Awards, Nominee Independent Spirit Award, Best Female Lead – The Whales of August (1987)

2009 – Online Film & Television Association, Winner, OFTA Film Hall of Fame for Acting

“Oh, all the charming ghosts I feel around me who should share this! It was our privilege for a little while to serve that beautiful thing, the film, and we never doubted for a moment that it was the most powerful thing, the mind and heartbeat of our technical century.”

Lillian Gish, at the 43rd Annual Academy Awards, 1971 THA Herald-Examiner w
Lillian Gish, at the 43rd Annual Academy Awards, 1971 THA Herald-Examiner

Desert Sun, Number 50, 1 October 1983

Gish to get film award

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Veteran actress LillianGish is the American Film Institute’s choice for its 1984 Lifetime Achievement Award, institute chairman Richard Brandt announced Friday. The film society presents the award annually to an individual “whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the filmmaking art. . . and whose work has stood the test of time,” AFI spokeswoman Sue Donaghue said. Miss Gish, 84, is to accept the honor at a March 1 banquet. “From the dawn of filmmaking, when she first played in D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms’ and Birth of a Nation,’ Lillian Gish has been a major artistic force,” said Brandt. “Her distinguished career is an inspiration to filmmakers the world over…”

 

Desert Sun, Number 181, 2 March 1984

Life achievement Lillian Gish saluted by movie industry

BEVERLY HILLS (AP) – “She was there at the birth of an art form,” Douglas Fairbanks Jr. said as the film world saluted Lillian Gish, last great star of the silent film era. Miss Gish, 90, was presented Thursday night with the Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute, the second woman recipient in the 12 years of the honor. Bette Davis won the award in 1977. It was an evening for women achievers in the movie world, and Miss Gish presided at the table of honor in the Beverly Hilton ballroom with latter-day stars Sally Field, Jessica Lange, Jeanne Moreau, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Lily Tomlin and Cicely Tyson. “She is the symbol of eternal youth of America,” said Miss Moreau, who has filmed a documentary of Miss Gish’s life. “She had an air of serenity that made everybody calm,” said Robert Mitchum, who starred with Miss Gish in the 1955 film “The Night of the Hunter.” The silent film star was also saluted by co-workers and friends Richard Widmark, who appeared with her in “The Cobweb;” actress Colleen Moore, a friend since 1918; Eva Marie Saint, who appeared with Miss Gish in the TV drama and Broadway play, “A Trip To Bountiful;” Jennifer Jones of “Duel in the Sun” and “A Portrait of Jenny;” and Richard Thomas, who appeared in Miss Gish’s most recent film, the TV movie “Hobson’s Choice.” John Huston recalled how his father, Walter, held Lillian Gish on his shoulder for a 1902 play in Ohio, “In Convict’s Stripes.” John Houseman, who produced two films with Miss Gish, recalled that her MGM boss, Irving Thalberg, once offered to “arrange a scandal” to enliven her reputation as the eternal maiden. She declined, and shortly after talking films began she returned to the theater, making occasional film appearances over the years. Miss Gish, who starred in the pioneering classics of D.W. Griffith such as “The Birth of a Nation,” “Broken Blossoms,” and “Intolerance,” reiterated her familiar theme that the movies lost magic when they learned to talk. She urged a return to the silent film, but added: “Don’t give up talking pictures. We still make good ones like “Tootsie” and “Gandhi.”

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