Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, April 17, 1984 – Page 37
Salute to Lillian Gish rates salute, too
By Jon Anderson (TV writer)
Compared with the awkward, boring, tedious spectacle of the Academy Awards, last month’s American Film Institute salute to actress Lillian Gish was graceful, warm and human. In Hollywood, those qualities are so rare that John Houston, stunned, later rang up George Stevens Jr., producer of the show, and told him: “George, I’ve been around this town for 40 years and I saw something the other night I’ve never seen before in this community. Affection!”
In this tribute, to air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on CBS – Ch. 2, the stars [and there are lots of them] don’t seem stiff, stilted or ill-at-ease. When cameras catch their faces, they look like they’re having a good time. When they talk, they seem to mean what they say. There isn’t a wooden scripted, flat joke in the whole 90 minutes.
This didn’t just happen. “We really tried to make people comfortable and secure,” producer Stevens said in an interview. He barred Teleprompters, those cue-card projectors that make show-folk squint or, as in the case of Frank Sinatra at the Academy Awards, look over-served. Before the show, writers worked with the stars “to bring out their feelings,” go over what they wanted to say and suggest phrasings. Then stars did their bits the old-fashioned way; they memorized their speeches and, strange for TV, spoke them naturally.
The producers also sensibly avoided spinning graphics and other electronic nonsense. Instead, they hired a 37-piece orchestra, struck new prints of notable early Gish scenes and ran them at proper speeds, with musical accompaniment. [Silent cameras, cranked by hand, exposed anywhere from 16 to 22 frames a second compared with today’s standard of 24 frames a second. ***(1) That’s why silent movies, shown on modern equipment, speed up.]
Hambone and Hillie – Photo Gallery
Gish’s screen career began in 1913 ***(2) bloomed under director D.W. Griffith [“Birth of a Nation”], for whom she made 40 movies, and continues today. [She’ll star in the forthcoming film “Hambone and Hillie.”]
The clip that got the biggest hand [from “Way Down East”] showed her limp body on a slab of ice, headed towards the falls, with an anguished man in a fur coat leaping from berg to berg trying to rescue her. It was Gish’s idea to trail her hair and one hand in the icy waters, a stunt so chilling that, even today, Gish’s right hand aches when she is out in winter cold.
A fundraiser for the American Film Institute, best known for its work in preserving old movies, the gala black-tie dinner for 1,100 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in March was enlivened by speeches, waves and smiles from Sally Field, John Houseman, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Mary Steenburgen, Jennifer Jones, Mary Martin, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Eva Marie Saint, Richard Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Richard WIdmark and Chicago’s own tie to the glorious motion picture past, Colleen Moore Hargrave. She got a hug from the guest of honor.
Also remarkable was that so many veterans of a perilous craft, that of being a movie star, still looked so sparkling.
“Lillian Gish was there at the birth of an art form,” said the evening’s host, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., 75. “I am kind of an emissary, a link, if you like, from those pioneers who were with her at the beginning, my father, my stepmother, Mary Pickford; Charlie Chaplin; and all the others whom Lillian refers to as those charming ghosts.”
Through it all, Gish was very much the center of what seemed, at times, like a family get-together, her face radiating what critic Alexander Woolcott once called “a strange mystic light not made by any electrician.”
Some praised her acting. [John Houseman described her Ophelia as “convincingly lunatic.”] Some, her canniness. [As Mary Steenburgen put it: “I figure an actress who’s been a star for 72 years must have a pretty good head for business.”]
By general agreement, at 87, Lillian Gish is also still a going concern – with a strong sense of camera angles.
Last December, she appeared in the CBS made-for-TV movie “Hobson’s Choice,” one friend recalled, and chewed out a cameraman for placing the camera too low. “Young man,” she said snappishly, “If God had meant you to see me that way, he would have put your eyes in your belly button.”*** (3)
***(1) Mr. Jon Anderson is referring probably to an older filming system, [and 24 fps theatre film projectors] pre-NTSC (29.95 fps) known being the fact that PAL (Phase Alternate by Line) used in Europe has a 25 fps standard using fields to compensate the difference from 30 fps of US-NTSC. Indeed in the 70’s there were still in use film cameras, not digital or streaming over network via satellite like today. So, in order to have news broadcast, every decent TV station had a huge laboratory for processing the film, cutting it old school style and converting it for TV broadcast in a post process.
Starting before CBS color even got on the air, the U.S. television industry, represented by the National Television System Committee, worked in 1950–1953 to develop a color system that was compatible with existing black-and-white sets and would pass FCC quality standards, with RCA developing the hardware elements. The first publicly announced network demonstration of a program using the NTSC “compatible color” system was an episode of NBC’s Kukla, Fran and Ollie on August 30, 1953, although it was viewable in color only at the network’s headquarters. The first network broadcast to go out over the air in NTSC color was a performance of the opera Carmen on October 31, 1953.
***(2) Actually Lillian Gish’s career began in 1912 with “The Unseen Enemy”.
***(3) The famous “eyes in the belly button” remark was made by Lillian Gish while celebrating her 100th movie [A Wedding] during the party organized by director Robert Altman. And it was a photographer, not a cameraman. The incident was documented by Kevin Brownlow.
Chicago Tribune – Wednesday, June 26, 1963 – Page 26
Lillian Gish endorses Disney for Nobel Prize
Before Lillian Gish returned to New York, she visited the Disney studio, met Walt, and was guided thru his dream studio. She neglected to tell him that when she visited Stockholm lat year, where the Nobel prizes are given out, she was invited to speak in the city. Among other things, she put in a pitch for Disney to receive a Nobel Prize. We should get back to the idea. I don’t think anybody’s done more than he has [and is] in the field of entertainment to promote decency, morality, and just plain goodness.
Disney’s Follow Me Boys – Photo Gallery
During the Oslo press conference, Lillian made a comment that got considerable reaction.
“I remembered seeing the word Nobel everywhere, and was impudent enough to suggest Disney be given a Nobel prize. The next day it was headlined in the papers. The committee was working on it when he died. Regretfully, the awards are never given posthumously.
“He deserved it for the beauty he’s given us, and for what he’s done for children, for animals, for all of us.”
“Griffith did everything first,” she says, explaining why he stands today as a film giant. “Frank Capra once said nothing new had been added since Griffith, but that’s not true. Walt Disney, for example, added a dimension no one else has.”
Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, August 23, 1927 – Page 3
Lillian Gish, taking her mother to hospital
Lillian Gish, movie star, was in Chicago for an hour an forty minutes yesterday while she changed from the Chief limited from Los Angeles to the 20th Century for New York. She was taking her mother, Mrs. Mary Gish, to a New York hospital. Mrs. Gish is suffering from a blood clot on her brain which has made her speechless and her right side is paralyzed.
Lillian Gish, Percy Waram, and the other members of the “Life With Father” company at the Blackstone theater have already raised approximately $1,200 for the Red Cross and other war relief organizations. Every member of the company, including actors, house staff and backstage crew, makes a voluntary weekly contribution from his salary. Miss Gish, it seems, is noted for her susceptibility to charitable appeals. By the simple expedient of selling her autograph instead of giving it away, she has raised about $100 in two months for Orphans of the Storm, Irene Castle McLaughlin’s dog shelter. This is partly a nostalgic gesture, of course, for Mrs. McLaughlin’s haven derives its name from a celebrated David Wark Griffith silent movie in which Miss Gish was starred.
** According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today’s prices in 2020 are 1,741.41% higher than average prices since 1940. The U.S. dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 3.71% per year during this period, causing the real value of a dollar to decrease. In other words, $1 in 1940 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $18.41 in 2020, a difference of $17.41 over 80 years. The 1940 inflation rate was 0.72%. The current year-over-year inflation rate (2019 to 2020) is now 0.65%.
Life With Father – Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish
Pub Life With Father – Lillian Gish by Maurice Seymour
Lillian Gish honored by fans she loves best – movie people
By Gene Siskel – movie critic
THE MOVIE is called “A Wedding,” but the scene Wednesday was “an affair,” an affair to celebrate the wonderful career of actress Lillian Gish, the silent film star who at age 80 is completing her 65th year in films.
Miss Gish worked three days this week in Lake Bluff in her role as a grandmother in “A Wedding,” reportedly her 100th film. Producer – director Robert Altman organized the surprise party to let Miss Gish know “it was such a thrill for us to work with you.”
The party was on the back lawn of the fabulous Lester Armour estate in Lake Bluff, where Altman is filming his comic tale of a mixed marriage between old and new money. Seated on folding chairs waiting to surprise Miss Gish were many of her costars in the film, including Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Dina Merrill, and Vittorio Gassman.
A few minutes earlier, Miss Gish had been filming her death scene inside the Armour house. Says the family doctor to her daughter after Gish’s character kicks the bucket, “I thought she was waving hello, when she really was waving good-bye.”
Miss Gish was lured outside for a supposed press party for the movie. She quickly realized it was her show, however, when she saw the cake and its inscription, “Lillian Gish – 100th film.”
“I DON’T DESERVE THAT,” she said looking at the cake as a dozen photographers and cameramen scrambled for position. One photographer got down on his knees and aimed his camera up at Miss Gish. Suddenly the surprise party became a photography lesson.
“Not up my nose,” she said. “No low angles. If God wanted people shot from low angles, he would’ve put your eyes at your bellybutton.”
The crowd roared at Miss Gish – ever conscious of how she looks – continued her impromptu lecture.
“Oh, no,” she said, noticing the bright sun, “an overhead light with no reflector!” What she wanted was the light to play on her eyes, because it is with one’s eyes, she said later, that people best reveal their emotions. “If people can’t see your eyes, how can you tell your story?”
The Lillian Gish film story dates to 1912, when she and her late sister, Dorothy, began making short films for D.W. Griffith, the pioneer filmmaker of “Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” “Broken Blossoms,” and “Way Down East,” all of which starred Lillian Gish.
MISS GISH successfully lobbied for the United States postal stamp commemorating Griffith issued this year, the first such honor for a filmmaker. Miss Gish said she owns 500 Griffith stamps, in addition to one gold, 20 silver and 10 bronze medals commemorating Griffith.
For years Lillian Gish has sung the praises of Griffith through lectures. Her autobiography, published in 1969 is titled “The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me,” a title that describes – in order – her life’s priorities.
Predictably, the next project for this remarkable woman also involves the movies. “Most of all I want to finish ‘Silver Story,’ a television special that tells the story of films from their very beginning up until 1928.”
The stars working with Miss Gish each have own stories about her. “When I first saw her on the set,” said Burnett, “she came to me and said, ‘You have so many faces. Which one are you going to use for this film?’ I was surprised she knew who I was,” Burnett said. “I guess I didn’t believe that someone so extraordinary would ever watch TV.”
“I had met her in the ‘40s when I was a little girl,” Merrill recalled, “and I couldn’t believe it, but she remembered. She walked up to me and said, ‘Do you remember when I met you at Mary Pickford’s house? I then asked her if she remembered my mother (the late socialite Marjorie Merrieweather Post).”
“’Of course I remember your mother,’ she said, ‘Who do you think I’m playing in this movie?’
“She is an exquisite, fragile creature,” Merrill said of Miss Gish. “She still has an ethereal beauty.”
After the cake cutting, Lillian Gish talked to reporters for 30 minutes. She answered each question precisely, displaying total recall of her career. When the question-and-answer session was over, the screen veteran said, “Now I’m the slowest eater in the world I must have 45 minutes to eat lunch.”
One suspects that Lillian Gish took exactly 45 minutes to eat lunch. Maybe a few minutes less, but, always a professional, not one minute more.
Yes it’s a cake and, yes, it’s also on the set of “A Wedding” in Lake Bluff, but the occasion is the 100th film of Lillian Gish (cutting cake). Director Robert Altman samples the pastry while actresses Amy Stryker (left) and Dina Merrill look on.
Seated beside Lillian and Dorothy Gish, their guest for the evening, the writer witnessed the first public performance of the new Griffith masterpiece. This is an account of her impressions of that event.
By Marguerite Sheridan
GRIFFITH Night in Los Angeles! For months to come, “Hearts of the World,” the latest and mightiest work of this wizard of the cinematographic art, will continue to shine forth in all its wonder, its pathos, and its infinite charm, through the lenses of hundreds of projection machines in every city in the country, but in no place will it be the all – important event that was the premier showing in “The City of the “Angels.” Just as the master producer gave them “The Birth of a Nation” and “Intolerance” before even staid New York and the slightly less critical Chicago were allowed a peep, so was the first glimpse of this—”the sweetest love story ever told”—staged among the ruins of war torn France, accorded to his California friends. Before I tell you of this night of nights, let us go back a few days and journey out to the studio, where we will watch Griffith at work putting the finishing touches to “The Picture,” as it was called in an most awe-struck tone by everyone around the studio. Mrs. Gish, mother of the two lovely young girls who play the leading feminine roles in ‘Hearts of the World,” telephoned me that Lillian and Dorothy were at the studio that afternoon, and we would drive out about two o’clock. The exterior of the old Mutual – Reliance, Majestic, Fine Arts studio, out on Sunset Boulevard, was a keen disappointment to me. Perhaps I was looking for a cross between the San Francisco Exposition and Lincoln Park. Anyway, the huge pile of shacks, with a few Babylonian towers silhouetted against the sky, was not my idea of the proper place for D. W. Griffith, Lillian and Dorothy Gish and Bobby Harron to perpetuate their art. The girls were in their dressing room, attired in their “Hearts of the World” costumes, Dorothy in her “Little Disturber” gown, and Lillian in one of her bomb shattered frocks.
She had three copies of this same dress, each a little more dilapidated. Although they are quite unlike when you see them, still there’s a strong “family resemblance;” so Dorothy, who plays the part of a petite Parisienne, wears a short, curly black wig, while Lillian, the lovely, fragile fleur-de-lis, appears as her own beautiful blond self. I had long ago heard of David Belasco’s remark that Lillian Gish was the most perfect blonde he had ever seen; too, others have told me that none of her pictures, moving or otherwise, have done her justice; that she is far more beautiful. And I smiled and said nothing. One hears this sort of thing so often, and, anyway, I was entirely satisfied with the way Miss Gish looked on the screen—one could in the role of the Village Carpenter. A hardly ask for more. But it is true —for once the camera has failed to visualize certain facts. It is difficult to paint her exquisite daintiness, her ethereal loveliness, in cold black and white. I may be accused of rashness and all that sort of thing, but I want to go on record as saying that Lillian Gish is the most perfectly beautiful girl I have ever seen. And Dorothy – well, Dorothy is her mother’s own daughter in looks and speech and actions. She is very jolly, friendly, and clever — fairly bubbling over with fun, and her witty remarks kept us all laughing. She is very nervous, and kept chewing gum furiously—”to keep from chewing her nails,” as she expressed it. Their dressing room was very neat and pretty in black and white chintz. It is kept scrupulously clean by the “Madame,” the East Indian, who played a part in “The Birth of a Nation” – the negroes who spat and acted so dreadfully.
“Madame” fairly worships Mr. Griffith and calls him “her son.” The girls were waiting to do a scene or two, because Mr. Griffith had not liked the original. Retakes by the dozens he has done, so infinitely painstaking and careful is he always. Camera-Man Billy Bitzer appeared at the door and said that Mr. Griffith was calling for Miss Dorothy, and the scene was to be in the “lot,” so we went with her. This “lot” covers about two blocks of ground and is situated a block away from the studio. Out there all the exteriors, and ever so many “open interiors” such as the one Dorothy did, are taken. I spied Bobby Harron in his trench uniform, and then I looked around for the great Griffith. There was the illustrious gentleman, with his derby tilted on the side of his head and a long, black cigar in his mouth. Otherwise, he reminded me of a fine product of the old school of acting. Then I heard him speak. I have never heard such a compelling voice. It makes you think of people hurrying to obey whatever he might say. The scene was the staircase of “The Inn” in the little French village. They went over it countless times—it took an hour to get it finished, and it was the tiniest bit of action. Dorothy Gish looked as though she would drop from fatigue, but she was just as anxious as Mr. Griffith to have it perfect, so she went at it with all her might until he pronounced it satisfactory. When the scene was finished, a huge studio car rolled up and we all piled in. I had not met Mr. Griffith, and I was so impressed with being in his presence that I’m not quite sure what he said to me, except that he was very nice and cordial and wanted to know if this was my first experience and if I found it interesting. It was, and I did. Back to the studio, and this time it was an indoor set with Lillian and Robert Harron. “Mr. Griffith’s Boy ” as they call him, the hero of the play, is just the Robert Harron that you see on the screen—very serious, a little sad, quite “Griffith-like”—that’s the only word that properly describes him.
We went into a dark, cold room, stumbled over lumber, cords attached to lights, people, and other impedimenta. Then I reached some sort of consciousness that lights were burning very brightly, directions were shouted, and I fell into a chair which one Mr. George Seigmann, Griffith’s right-hand man, pushed out for me. In the film, Mr. Seigmann sinks to the depths of portraying Von Strohm, German secret-service agent ; otherwise he’s a very nice man. It was very thrilling, watching Mr. Griffith direct at such close range. His methods are very simple ; he doesn’t rant and rave—I think it’s his voice that puts things over. And he’s immensely funny at times. Again the scene didn’t suit him. Down to the projection room he went to look at the scene immediately before it. Mr. Seigmann succeeded in getting the set arranged correctly. Ready! Camera ! Action ! And it was over. Mrs. Gish told me how they happened to go to Europe with Mr. Griffith. They were in New York, waiting for him to decide just what he was going to do with his contract with the British government. The government insisted on plain war stuff, and Mr. Griffith insisted just as firmly that he must have a story running through the scenes on the western front. It was finally arranged, and Mrs. Gish, Lillian, and Mr. Griffith went first. When they were three days out, they wired for Dorothy, Robert Harron, and William Bitzer, the Camera-man who has filmed all the Griffith photo plays. The latter trio went over on the ship with Pershing; and Dorothy told me that she was quite delighted with the famous general, and he told her that he knew her, too, very well ; when he was in Mexico, motion pictures were the soldiers’ chief diversions, and the Gishes entertained them frequently.
At last came the lovely spring night for which we were anxiously waiting, Clune’s Theater, an immense place, was packed to the doors before eight o’clock, and a disappointed throng was clamoring outside for admission. In the lobby were boys dressed as French poilus, British Tommies, and our own American boys. Beautiful flowers were there, too—gifts to Mr. Griffith and his players. Of course California is so full of wonderful flowers that they don’t make quite the impression they would in New York, but a floral piece to Mr. Griffith “From the Boys” made even the native sons hesitate a moment to admire. It was Dorothy Gish’s idea that they mingle with the crowd on the opening night instead of occupying the customary box.
“I couldn’t have all those people staring at me,” said this very democratic young miss. And it was fortunate, indeed, for me that they decided on seats on the first floor of the mezzanine floor and secured one for me, or otherwise I would have had to seek cold comfort that night at Grauman’s or the Kinema. Every seat was sold on the first day. Dear Mrs. Gish chaperoned the party, looking almost as young as her two lovely daughters in her handsome black-and-silver gown and a corsage bouquet of red roses. “The most adorable Lily” sat next to me. Her evening coat was white velvet, with a white fur collar that hung to her waist. Yards of misty white maline were draped around her golden hair, which was arranged very simply in coils around her head. She wore an orchid-colored gown veiled in silver, and her flowers were orchids. I could scarcely keep my eyes on the picture for looking at her. Which, in itself, is quite a compliment.
Dorothy was very sweet and girlish in lavender taffeta. She hates fussy clothes. It is my opinion that if Mrs. Gish and Lillian didn’t attend to her wardrobe for her, this young lady would cling mostly to middy blouses and sport clothes. She had a birthday that week, however; so Lillian’s gift, a truly wonderful evening coat, was aired for the first time. It was a ravishing affair of lavender and gray chiffon, banded with flying squirrel, and, as Dorothy said : “I may freeze to death, but I’ll have to wear my new coat!” Robert Harron was there, looking very handsome and boyish in his evening clothes. Right next to Bobby was a vacant seat—behind a post. Oh, how I wished for one adoring Griffith satellite I knew—I am sure he would have gladly craned his neck around that post for a week just to see “The Hearts of the World.”
Just behind us was a seat reserved for Mr. Griffith, which he didn’t occupy. I’m not sure just where the master director watched the picture ; but he turned up later, so I knew he was around somewhere.
In her box on one side of the theater, Queen Mary Pickford held court, a very lovely Mary, with a dear smile on her face and many curls on top of her head. The entire picture-play colony turned out to do Mr. Griffith homage. I doubt if there has ever been such a brilliant assemblage under one roof. There was Howard Hickman with his wife, the lovely Bessie Barriscale; Mr. and Mrs. Robert McKim ; Mildred Harris ; Seena Owen, looking more than ever “The Princess Beloved ;” Alma Rubens, the beautiful brunette from the Triangle forces, in a stunning white evening gown ; Blanche Sweet in palest gray, a very sweet and flowerlike Blanche, whom all her friends greeted Warmly. It’s been many a day since we’ve seen her face on the screen. The Talmadge family was represented by Mrs. Talmadge, Constance, a very attractive young person in brown and Natalie, who looks very much like Norma. Promptly at eight fifteen the curtain rose, and “the play was the thing.” The action was so intense and stirring that it didn’t seem half an hour, although it was really almost three hours long. It is marvelous to think how the brains and genius of one man can sway such a vast throng—they were chilled and thrilled and dissolved in tears. It was superb.
“An Old-fashioned Play with a New-fashioned Theme,” the program calls it. Yes, it is an old, old story, but it is told in the newest and most wonderful way. And far above the din of battle, massing of troops, recapturing of villages, one can always hear the love note—the thing which Griffith shows is going to save the world. Whenever the battle scenes get just a little too horrible to endure comfortably, when the action is so realistic that one can almost feel the shrapnel flying around, we are taken back to the peaceful quiet of the little French village and our nerves allowed to rest for a brief space. All the lovely, human touches that have characterized the former Griffith spectacles are present in “The Hearts of the World.” To me they are the greatest marks of the Griffith genius. As far as personal successes are concerned, Lillian Gish as Marie Stephenson is startlingly superior to anything she has ever done. Pitifully lovely she has been before, but never really so fine as in this role. With her exquisite, poignant beauty, she is the real spirit of France. Robert Harron’s Douglas Gordon Hamilton is splendid and soldierly, and, oh, how we sorrow and rejoice with him in his love affair with “The Girl !” Into the midst of this Eden comes The Little Disturber, a strolling singer, charmingly played by Dorothy Gish, and she falls in love with young Hamilton. Of course it is of no avail, but the part gives Miss Dorothy a chance to show what a remarkably clever little comedienne she is. She makes the most of every foot of film she is given—and we can’t help wishing she had several hundred more. I must say just a word about the music that was especially arranged for the production. Never before, I think, have melodies been so deftly woven throughout a picture. The music is indeed part of it—not a mere background. It was arranged after the manner that Wagner wrote.
THE presentation of D. W. Griffith’s love story of the Great War, “Hearts of the World,” makes it imperative that I open my remarks on recent screen offerings with a short discussion of the war picture. For there has never been anything like “Hearts of the World.” Griffith alone has been able to bring the bigness of the world conflict to the celluloid. It has overwhelmed all other directors and writers who have endeavored to touch upon it intimately. The usual product is a foolish melodrama. Neither hero nor heavy is human. But Griffith’s skill has resulted in the interweaving of a beautiful love story carried by human protagonists with the somber, relentless panorama of war in all its reality. The actual scenes he procured at the front are amazing, and the domestic scenes supplementing them even more so. The Gish sisters, Robert Harron, Robert Anderson, youthful Ben Alexander, and George Siegemann perform as they could only under the master director.
A FRIEND called the residence of Mrs. Morgan Belmont, prominent member of that exclusive circle known as “the four hundred” in New York society. Mrs. Belmont’s butler informed the friend that Madame was out. “Madame is working today,” he said. “What?” gasped the friend at the other end of the wire, “working?”
“At the David Wark Griffith Film Studios,” came the urbane voice of the family servitor.
Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage”? She was not. She made a friend of every member of the company from Lillian Gish – center – to Pete Props. Mrs. Belmont at the right.
There was something sounding like a muffled, well-bred shriek from the other party; a receiver clicked—that’s all. It was almost as bad as the scion of an aristocratic family going in for trade! Friends couldn’t believe it. Other people, not so fashionable but no less skeptical, branded the announcement from the Griffith offices that “Mrs. Morgan Belmont is appearing in ‘Way Down East’ ” as a press-story. But it proved to be true. Mrs. Belmont is working in “Way Down East,” playing the part of the Boston society woman: Mrs. Belmont is made-up every morning and on the set at eight o’clock and often works until midnight. What’s more. Mrs. Belmont loves pictures and says she intends to go in for them.
What do you think of that?
A queen was Griffith’s star and innumerable Countesses and Duchesses and Ladies have posed for his camera in England. But American royalty never capitulated to the lure of the camera until Mrs. Belmont set the style. Now it would not surprise us to hear that Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Astor are to co-star in a domestic drama written especially for them: that Clarence Mackaye is going to do a race-horse story, or that the entire Vanderbilt connection is appearing in a serial written by Mercedes D’Acosta, direction of George Gould, with artistic effects by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney. Society’s first contribution to films was Margaret Andrews, daughter of Paul Andrews, distinguished millionaire of New York and Newport, before she married Morgan Belmont, son of August Belmont. She has an enviable position in that upper strata so-called “society:” she has wealth: she could spend her time in London as the house-guest of half the nobility if she had a mind to: she can live in Manhattan or she can pack up her jewels and take one of her many motor-cars to her luxurious “country” place on Long Island. But Mrs. Belmont says she is having a better time working in pictures than she ever had in her life before, although the hours are long and the rehearsals hard.
A great admirer of Mr. Griffith, she proved herself a particularly apt pupil under his guidance, acting with the greatest ease and naturalness. The assembled company watched her with ill-concealed curiosity. What would she be like? Would she be “up-stage?” Would she hold herself aloof from the regular thespian strugglers or ignore them completely? She would not!
She met them all. She became a friend of Lillian Gish, playing Anna Moore, the little country girl who comes to the Boston lady’s house. Mrs. Belmont learned that Lillian possessed as much dignity and charm as any New York or Newport debutante, and infinitely more brains than some. She liked to talk to her: asked her many questions about her work. Once when they were enjoying a between scenes chat in the studio, Mrs. Belmont produced from her bag a gold-and-jeweled lipstick with which to freshen her make-up. Lillian exclaimed with delight at the pretty trinket.
“Please accept it,”‘ said Mrs. Belmont eagerly. Lillian demurred, but was finally persuaded to possess the stick, which is a real treasure. Mr. Andrews made a trip to Mamaroneck to find out what was so interesting to his daughter. He became an interested spectator, and soon decided he would like to be in pictures, too. As a result, you will see a real “millionaire clubman” instead of an actor made up to look like one. Mr. Andrews invited several friends to see him work and it wasn’t long before they were in it, too!
It is really one of the property men who can give you the best “line”‘ on- the actors from society. An ex-sailor who has a “game leg” that bothers him in bad weather was trudging along the road to the studios one stormy day. A motor stopped and a voice called, “Hop in.”” Pete Props hopped. His benefactors were a pretty woman who sympathized with his affliction, and a genial man. When Pete got back he told somebody about it. “Why, that was Mrs. Morgan Belmont, that society dame, and her dad,”” he was informed. Pete Props was stunned. “I’ll be— !” he remarked. “Well, they’re regular guys, anyway!”‘
Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage”? She was not. She made a friend of every member of the company from Lillian Gish – right– to Pete Props. Mrs. Belmont at the left.
“We have room for but one soul loyalty and that is
loyalty to the American People.” -Theodore Roosevelt.
Keep’ On Keepin’ On
If the day looks kinder gloomy
And chances kinder slim,
If the situation’s puzzlin’
And the prospect’s awful grim;
And perplexities keep pressin’—
If hope is nearly gone,
Jest bristle up and grit your teeth
And keep on keepin’ on.
—Whiz; Bang Bill.
Recent presentation of the new Griffith play, “Way Down East,” caused a laughable situation for those who were aware of the facts. The laughable situation did not get into the newspapers because some of our very best families would have suffered humiliation. It appears that “D. W.” issued several invitations to prominent society women for the opening night, as his” guests”- though he was in New York. What a flurry and flutter there was among the high-brows when they learned that the invites had gone out., Who had been asked ? It did not occur to the high-brow ladies that D. W. Griffith is truly the master, mind of pictures and that his use of Mrs. Belmont in the picture was smart bait to draw society. Mrs. Belmont really didn’t have much to do but appear in’ an up-to-date gown and give Lillian Gish a haughty look.
But society here went daffy when it became known that some society women had been invited by Mr. Griffith’s representatives, while others had not. Immediately there was a buzz of phones and considerable indignation, denouncements and heart-burnings seared the wires. “How came it that Mrs. Such and So had been invited and ‘I’ have not? It reflects upon my social standing.”
‘How crafty old D. W. must have grinned as the reports went into him of the society ladies’ wrath. For lack of brains, poise and downright self-respect society women cart off the well known cake. Newspaper women laughed themselves sick at the coy admissions discreetly tendered them that “Oh,- by the way, Mr. Griffith sent me a personal invitation to be present at the opening of ‘Way Down East.'” It possibly is stretching it to say that the paper gals laughed themselves sick. They have become so used to such situations that they scarcely laugh at all. They just grin and “bear it”- and proceed openly to kid society in the papers without society apparently becoming the wiser.
It is almost pitiable to watch fair and heavy matrons, who have done well, raising a family or starting one, long for a chance to see themselves upon the screen. They gaze upon Lillian Gish as some ravishly blessed mortal lifted by the ‘Gods but they see no reason why they would not be just as good if given a chance. Much of the nasty gossip which follows prominent picture folk emanates from the society morgues where every skeleton known to scandal is laid carefully away for future reference.
The fat ladies of wealth who are unable to fit into the screen take a girl, perhaps like Lillian Gish, and in seeming fury that the girl has succeeded, tear what they may of her character to pieces. About any fashionable hotel where gather the disappointed “widows” and dames whose husbands have let them come west for a “rest” may he heard the most intimate details concerning the private life of every person prominent on the screen. Nine times out of ten these details are featured by everything but the truth.
Every girl that ever worked for Griffith, whether she knows it or not, has been the victim of whispers relative to what price she paid for her success. Griffith is a muchly misunderstood man. He is shrewd, too smart for the average picture maker. His people appear to reverence him. Probably no girl regrets her experience and training under this particular director – though not as much can be said for many other directors. The name of Lillian Gish and Griffith have been mentioned in unsavory tones more than once. The girl is a remarkably fine young woman who scarcely would know what was meant by the insinuations cast abroad concerning her and the director. Wherever Lillian goes her mother is not far away.
The two sisters, Lillian and Dorothy, are among the hardest workers upon the screen. It is understood that the late Robert Harron was extremely fond of Dorothy and it is understood that this admiration was not returned in the way that young Harron would have wished. Harron had a number of sisters, who spent much of their time about the studios where their brother worked. The Gish and Harron families were constantly together and a great friendship existed between them all. It is understood that Dorothy admired Harron tremendously but could not reciprocate his reported love for her. Bobby Harron was an exceptional young man from a moral standpoint. He was clean and wholesome. In fact a number of the Griffith stars have been marked for their personal virtues. In view of these facts it is a relief to point out that some of the unmentionable vices which beset Movieland are partially offset by the cleanliness of many really great stars.