Afra Antics – 1940 (program)

  • Afra Antics – 1940
  • PROGRAM
  • MISS LILLIAN GISH
  • (Life With Father)

Miss Lillian Gish appears through courtesy of Oscar Serlin. Mr. Elliott Nugent appears through courtesy of Herman Shumlin. Miss Roberts, Miss Parks, Miss Martin, Miss Ryan, Miss Brilhante and Mr. Guilbert, Mr Johnson, Mr. Albertson, Mr. Arkm. Mr. Boyle appear through courtesy of the Hollywood Theatre Alliance and the management of the Grand Opera House. Willie Shore appears through courtesy of the Hi-Hat Club.

Lillian Gish as Vinnie in Life With Father -- 1940
Lillian Gish as Vinnie in Life With Father — 1940

GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

To the Chairmen and members of all committees, who have willingly devoted their time and labor to insure the success of our “AFRA ANTICS” of 1940.

To all AFRA members who have been generous enough to make personal appearances in an aid to publicity and whose names could not be added to those on this page due to a dead-line with the printer—In the name of AFRA—THANK YOU! If any names have been omitted, please credit it to human frailty and bear in mind that “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

PHILIP LORD, Chairman,

“AFRA ANTICS” 1940

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Lillian Gish and Film Preservation (AFI 1984)

The American Film Institute

1984 Achievement Award in honor of Lillian Gish

NEWS

Lillian Gish and Film Preservation

The first time Lillian Gish ever heard the words “film library” was when an English lady named Iris Barry asked her to use her influence to get D.W. Griffith to give her some of his films. At Lillian Gish’s suggestion, D.W. Griffith complied, and so began the film library at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In a similar fashion, Ms. Gish convinced Mary Pickford of the importance of preserving her Biograph films, which Ms. Pickford subsequently donated to the Library of Congress collection.

AFI Life Achievement Award A Tribute to Lillian Gish (1984) with AFI founder George Stevens Jr – Photo – Globe

It is our good fortune that these events transpired. Had they not, the collection of Biograph films which record such a vital segment of Lillian Gish’s career might have been gone the way of films made by such early studios as Lubin, Essanay, Vitagraph, Selig, and Thanhauser — and be lost forever.

As it is, a near-miraculous number of Lillian Gish’s silent films have been saved for future generations, — but not all of them. Gone forever are REMODELING HER HUSBAND, which Gish directed in 1920; ANNIE LAURIE, (1927); THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES (1914); and THE ANGEL OF CONTENTION (1914). For many years ROMOLA, a 1924 film in which Ms. Gish starred with William Powell, was effectively “lost,” until an 8 mm copy, made for home use, was discovered and transferred to 16 mm film.

American Film Institute D.W. Griffith Awards vtg 1984 Press Release

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A Cannes Notebook – By Roger Ebert – 1987

Two Weeks in the Midday Sun

A Cannes Notebook By Roger Ebert – 1987

By evening, a certain controlled hysteria was growing in the press corps, as the Friday visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales drew closer. Every reporter in Cannes hoped to be included on the guest list, which was being selected by some sort of secret process involving the British delegation and the festival press office.

Charles and Diana were scheduled to arrive on Friday morning, accept the keys to the city at noon, take a guided tour of the marketplace displays (easily the tackiest and most depressing sight Cannes had to offer), and then be present in the evening at a dinner in honor of Sir Alec Guinness. I ran into Peter Noble, who repeated his claim that some of the London dailies were offering £1,000 for press credentials to the dinner. He also speculated that the royal couple had timed their arrival to come the day after the screening of the most prestigious British entry in this year’s festival, Prick Up Your Ears, the story of the murder of playwright Joe Orton by his homosexual lover.

“It’s not the sort of thing they want the royals connected with,” Noble explained.

“What will they be seeing?”

“ The Whales of August. Lillian Gish and Bette Davis. Most eminently respectable. The dodgiest part of their whole visit will be when they go down into the Palais basement to visit the marketplace. I imagine they have an advance team mapping out a route to get them from Canada to Australia to New Zealand without passing any porno displays. ”

The movie was by Lindsay Anderson, the British director, whose elderly cast included Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Vincent Price, and Ann Southern. It takes place near the end of the season in the Maine cottage where Gish and Davis, sisters, have summered for years. Now they are facing a momentous question: Can Gish still find the strength to care for her blind sister? Price plays an indigent European count who explains, “I have spent my life as the guest of friends.” His latest friend has died, and now he is looking for a new home. Southern has her eye on him.

The movie is sort of an On Golden Pond about really old people (Gish is ninety-two). The actors and their characters are so old they they have passed beyond age and into a sort of status somewhere between survivors and saints. Anderson’s camera lovingly explores their faces, which are wrinkled and old but luminous. Davis, finally stripped of the mask of makeup she has adopted in her old age, looked especially beautiful.

Bette Davis Whales of August

Lillian Gish was in splendid form later in the afternoon, at her press conference in the Palais. She was A wearing a print dress and a floppy straw hat, and when the audience stood up and cheered her entrance, she looked as if she thought she deserved every moment of the ovation, which of course she did. This was the woman who starred in The Birth of a Nation, and whose presence at Cannes represented the whole life span of the feature film as an art form. Never married, rumored to still be carrying a torch for D.W. Griffith after all these years, Gish revealed some surprising memories, like the time Louis B. Mayer offered to boost her career by involving her in a scandal.

“Lillian,” she said Mayer told her one day in 1929, “you’re way up there on a pedestal and nobody cares. Let me knock you off. I know I can help your career—let me arrange a scandal for you. ”

Miss Gish paused for dramatic effect. “Well,” she remembered replying, “I’ve never had a scandal, Mr. Mayer. I ve never done anything that wasn’t public knowledge. The rest of the time, I spend with my mother and my sister Dorothy. ”

But Mayer was insistent, Gish said, and so she finally answered, “Give me three days. ” At the end of the three days she told Mayer she did not want to have her career helped by a scandal, and Mayer said, “I can ruin you! ” So, she said, she packed up and returned to Broadway—where she appeared on the stage for six years. Miss Gish nevertheless found time to make about 106 movies in a career that began with Griffith at the dawn of the feature film, and still continues, even though she lamented the fact that actresses seem to age faster than actors in Hollywood.

“When I was very young, I played the child of Lionel Barrymore. Some years later, I played the woman he loved. A few years after that, I played his wife. And I promise you, if Lionel Barrymore had lived long enough—I would have ‘ played his mother. ”

Nobody asked her what sort of scandal L.B. Mayer had in mind.

The press conference for Gish was an example of what has become an art form at Cannes, the ritualized confrontations between the stars, the directors, and the press. Most ofthe press conferences take place in the Salon du Presse, inside the Palais, but the biggest stars, like Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, or James Stewart, are moved upstairs to the Ambassadeurs nightclub to accommodate the overflow.

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Salute to Lillian Gish rates salute, too – By Jon Anderson (TV writer) 1984

Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, April 17, 1984 – Page 37

Tempo

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.

AFI Life Achievement Award A Tribute to Lillian Gish (1984) with AFI founder George Stevens Jr – Photo – Globe

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.

Life Achievement Award, Lillian Gish. 1984

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.

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Lillian Gish endorses Disney for Nobel Prize (Chicago Tribune 1963)

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.”

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Lillian Gish, taking her mother to hospital (Chicago Tribune – 1927)

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.

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Lillian Gish – raising money for the Red Cross (Chicago Tribune – Sunday July 7, 1940)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday July 7, 1940 – Page 50

Raising Money for the Red Cross

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%.

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Lillian Gish honored by fans she loves best – movie people – By Gene Siskel (Chicago Tribune – 1977)

Chicago Tribune – June 23 1977 Thursday, Page 21

Tempo People

Lillian Gish honored by fans she loves best – movie people

By Gene Siskel – movie critic

signed promotional full cast photo - a wedding

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.

Lillian Gish - A Wedding
Lillian Gish – A Wedding

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.”

Robert Altman - Lillian Gish (A Wedding)
Robert Altman – Lillian Gish (A Wedding)

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?”

A Wedding
Robert Altman helping Lillian Gish to cut the cake made especially to mark her 100th movie anniversary – A Wedding

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.

A Wedding
Carol Burnett, Lillian Gish and Mia Farrow – A Wedding

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.”

A Wedding
Lillian Gish and Geraldine Chaplin – A Wedding

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.

Illustration

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.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 23 Jun 1977, Thu Page 21
Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 23 Jun 1977, Thu Page 21 (A Wedding cast celebrating 100th Gish film)

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