Edith Head, “Miss Susie Slagle’s,” and “Warning Shot”

Edith Head

Edith Head (October 28, 1897 – October 24, 1981) was an American costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design between 1949 and 1973.

Born and raised in California, Head started her career as a Spanish teacher, but was interested in design. After studying at the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles, Head was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures in 1923. She won acclaim for her design of Dorothy Lamour’s trademark sarong in the 1936 film The Jungle Princess, and became a household name after the Academy Award for Best Costume Design was created in 1948. Head was considered exceptional for her close working relationships with her subjects, with whom she consulted extensively; these included virtually every top female star in Hollywood.

1966 LILLIAN GISH and Edith Head - Warning Shot Wardrobe Preparations
1966 LILLIAN GISH and Edith Head – Warning Shot Wardrobe Preparations

In 1924, despite lacking art, design, and costume design experience, the 26-year-old Head was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures. Later she admitted to “borrowing” other students’ sketches for her job interview. She began designing costumes for silent films, commencing with The Wanderer in 1925 and, by the 1930s, had established herself as one of Hollywood’s leading costume designers. She worked at Paramount for 43 years until she went to Universal Pictures on March 27, 1967, possibly prompted by her extensive work for director Alfred Hitchcock, who had moved to Universal in 1960.

Head worked at Paramount for 44 years. In 1967, the company declined to renew her contract, and she was invited by Alfred Hitchcock to join Universal Pictures. There she earned her eighth and final Academy Award for her work on The Sting in 1973.

1966 LILLIAN GISH and Edith Head - Warning Shot Wardrobe Preparations 3
1966 LILLIAN GISH and Edith Head – Warning Shot Wardrobe Preparations 3

A winner of eight Academy Awards for Costume Design, Edith Head helped define the style of classic Hollywood with her striking work at Paramount and Universal. Some of the movie stars she dressed included Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Lana Turner, Paul Newman, John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and many more. She also became a recognizable personality in her own right thanks to her distinctive personal style including her signature glasses and forthright personality, which inspired the character of Edna Mode in The Incredibles. Surprisingly, she only liked to wear four colors herself: black, white, beige and brown.

Gown designed by Edith Head for Lillian Gish (Miss Susie Slagle's)
Gown designed by Edith Head for Lillian Gish (Miss Susie Slagle’s)

This gown, made for Lillian Gish in 1946 for her role in Miss Susie Slagle’s, features elaborate soutache embroidery, popular in Edwardian times, and also making a comeback in the 1940s.

Lillian Gish and Edith Head - wardrobe preparations for Warning Shot 1966
Lillian Gish and Edith Head – wardrobe preparations for Warning Shot 1966

(Advance for use with Bob Thomas Column in PMS of Wednesday, April 13)

(LA1 – April 12) Hollywood, April 13 – No Idle Life for Lillian Gish – Actress Lillian Gish, right, who made her movie debut in 1912, goes over the wardrobe plans with fashion designer Edith Head at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, where Miss Gish will star with David Janssen in “Warning Shot.” She flew to Hollywood from an Italian vacation to appear in the picture. During her Hollywood stay, Miss Gish plans to visit some friends and co-workers, and if there’s any time left over, she may do some work on the memoir she is writing about D.W. Griffith. (APWire Photo)(mw30300stu) 1966

Edith Head Costume Sketch for Miss Susie Slagle

1966 LILLIAN GISH and Edith Head - Warning Shot Wardrobe Preparations 2
1966 LILLIAN GISH and Edith Head – Warning Shot Wardrobe Preparations 2
Edith Head oscars
Edith Head oscars

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Vanity Fair presents Lillian Gish (1919 – 1983 Pictorial)

The particular genius of Lillian Gish lies in making the definite charmingly indefinite. Her technique consists in thinking out a characterization directly and concretely and then executing it in terms of semi-vague suggestion. The acting of every other woman in the moving pictures is a thing of hard, set lines; the acting of Lillian Gish is a thing of a hundred shadings, hints and implications. The so-called wistful smile of the usual movie actress is a mere matter of drawing the lips coyly back from the gums; her tears are a mere matter of inhaling five times rapidly through the nose, blinking the eyes and letting a few drops of glycerine trickle down the left cheek.

Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair August 1919
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair August 1919
Lillian Gish Tease Way Down East - Vanity Fair June 1920
Lillian Gish Tease Way Down East – Vanity Fair June 1920
Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish - Orphans - Vanity Fair November 1921
Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish – Orphans – Vanity Fair November 1921
Lillian Gish Pensive Romola - Vanity Fair November 1923
Lillian Gish Pensive Romola – Vanity Fair November 1923
Lillian Gish - Romola - Vanity Fair August 1924
Lillian Gish – Romola – Vanity Fair August 1924
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair April 1925
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair April 1925
Lillian Gish by Henry Major - Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish by Henry Major – Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish as Mimi - Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish as Mimi – Vanity Fair January 1926
Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter - Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter – Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Lillian Gish - Santa Monica - Vanity Fair June 1927
Lillian Gish – Santa Monica – Vanity Fair June 1927
Lillian Gish - Passport Photo2 - Vanity Fair July 1927
Lillian Gish – Passport Photo2 – Vanity Fair July 1927
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair September 1928 detail
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair September 1928 detail
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair December 1929
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair December 1929
Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya - Steichen Santa Monica - Vanity Fair May 1930
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya – Steichen Santa Monica – Vanity Fair May 1930
Lillian Gish - Book Jacket Photo - Vanity Fair October 1931
Lillian Gish – Book Jacket Photo – Vanity Fair October 1931
Lillian Gish Lady of Camelias - Vanity Fair July 1932
Lillian Gish Lady of Camelias – Vanity Fair July 1932
Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair December 1932
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair December 1932
Lillian Gish - Within The Gates - The Harlot Janice - Vanity Fair November 1934
Lillian Gish – Within The Gates – The Harlot Janice – Vanity Fair November 1934
Lillian Gish and Jeanne Moreau - Vanity Fair October 1983
Lillian Gish and Jeanne Moreau – Vanity Fair October 1983

The smile of the Gish girl is a bit of happiness trembling on a bed of death; the tears of the Gish girl, in so far as they arc tears at all, are the tears that old Johann Strauss wrote into the rosemary of his waltzes. The whole secret of the young woman’s remarkably effective acting rests, as I have observed, in her carefully devised and skilfully negotiated technique of playing always, as it were, behind a veil of silver chiffon. She attacks a role, not head-on and with full infantry, cavalry, artillery, bass drums and Y. M. C. A. milk chocolate, as do her sister actresses, but from ambush. She is always present, she always dominates the scene, yet one feels somehow that she is ever just out of sight around the corner. One never feels that one is seeing her entirely. There is ever something pleasantly, alluringly missing, as there is always in the case of women who are truly “acting artists.”

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Lillian Gish: A Night to Recall The Glory Years – By JUDY KLEMESRUD (The New York Times – 1980)

ap wire press photo actress lillian gish london 1980

Lillian Gish: A Night to Recall The Glory Years

By JUDY KLEMESRUD

The New York Times – September 20, 1980

Members of the “Old Hollywood,” who reigned on the screen during the film industry’s glamour and glory years, turned out in force Thursday night to honor Lillian Gish at a party celebrating a retrospective of her films at the Museum of Modem Art. “This must be heaven,” the 84-year–0ld Miss Gish told the star-studded audience after a program that included tributes from some of her friends and excerpts from five of her films, beginning with “Broken Blossoms” (1919) and ending with “The Night of the Hunter” (1955). Miss Gish looked as glamorous as she ever has in any film role. She was wearing a long black floral-printed gown covered by a layer of black chiffon. Her blond hair was swept up and caught in the back by a single white carnation. Several people who greeted her in the receiving line could be heard whispering about “Lillian’s beautiful blue eyes” and her “fabulous white skin.” Helen Hayes, one of Miss Gish’s closest friends, began her tribute in the museum’s auditorium by saying: “What do you say about the godmother of your son, the godmother of your grandson? And she’s a good godmother, too. She does her job.” Sir john Gielgud, whom Miss Gish has often described as her favorite leading man, recalled the time in the 1930’s when he was asked to play Hamlet in New York, with Miss Gish as Ophelia.

Lillian Gish and Sir John Gielgud in "Hamlet"
Lillian Gish and Sir John Gielgud in “Hamlet”

“My response was, ‘Is she still young enough?'” Sir John told the black-tie audience of 350.

Not long after that, he recalled, he was getting ready to go on stage one night when he saw “a tiny little head” peak around his dressing room door, saying, “Am I still young enough to play Ophelia?” She certainly was, he noted. Sir John then peered out into the audience in Miss Gish’s direction and said: “At a time when there are not so many great actresses as there were when I was young, we just cherish those we have left;”

Blanchette Rockefeller, president of the museum, who stood next to Miss Gish in the receiving line, read tributes to the actress from Francois Truffaut, Princess Grace of Monaco, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Eva Marie Saint.

At the party afterward in the museum’s penthouse, many of the guests paid their respects to Miss Gish by stopping by her table to hug and kiss her.

Lillian Gish - John Gielgud
Lillian Gish – John Gielgud

Hugging and Kissing

Ruth Ford, noting what was happening, commented to her escort: “It’s hard to embrace her with a drink in my hand.” So she handed her drink to him and then strolled over to Miss Gish and hugged and kissed her. And of course, since it was September and the first party of the season for many of the guests, and theater people being theater people, there was much hugging and kissing among them, too.

“Mo!” exclaimed Irene Worth, when she ran into Maureen Stapleton at the cheese board. “Irene!” Miss Stapleton exclaimed back. Both actresses emitted slight screams, and then embraced each other. Anita Loos, another good friend of Miss Gish, arrived too late for the tribute In the auditorium but was in time to indulge In the pastries and cheeses at the party. She said she had been at an auction at the Waldorf-Astoria where Charles Hamilton auctioned off her original manuscript for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” as well as a letter to Miss Loos from William Faulkner. The manuscript drew $3,200, the letter $1,900. Among the other partygoers were Morton Gottlieb, the Broadway producer, who arrived, as usual, on his bicycle; Joan Fontaine: Joan Benett; Adolph Green; Betty Comden; Arlene Dahl; Ruth Gordon and her husband, Garson Kanin; Hermione Gingold; Celeste Holm and her husband, Wesley Addy; Nedda Logan; Fritz Weaver; Patrice Munsel; Jack Gilford; Ruth Warrick and Vera Maxwell.

Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz” and who now plays Cora in coffee commercials, sat at a table with Joan Bennett, drinking something that smelled a lot like Scotch and water.

“Oh, it’s Maxwell House coffee – of a kind,” Miss Hamilton said with a laugh. Toward the end of the party, Darrell Ruhl, an actor who made a documentary film about Johnny Appleseed with Mis5 Gish this year, walked up to the actress and said: “If you get a good agent, you might make it.”

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Miss Gish laughed.

“I always say that to her,” Mr. Ruhl explained, “and she usually tells me, ‘You’ve got to eat more.'”

The Lillian Gish film retrospective opened yesterday and will run until Oct. 7 at the Museum of Modem Art. It includes 19 of the 100 films the actress made and spans her entire career, from her first film, “An Unseen Enemy” (1912) through her latest film, “A Wedding” (1978).

Lillian Gish - A Night to Recall The Glory Years NYTimes Sep 20 1980
Lillian Gish – A Night to Recall The Glory Years NYTimes Sep 20 1980

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‘My Dream Has Come to Life’ – By Harold C. Schonberg (The New York Times – March 30, 1978)

‘My Dream Has Come to Life’

By Harold C. Schonberg

The New York Times – March 30, 1978

LILLIAN GISH was on stage again. The First Lady of the Cinema held court in Town Hall on Tuesday night. Seated across from Francis Robinson of the Metropolitan Opera. she had a brief informal discussion with him about her silent film version of “La Boheme.” Then the large audience settled back to watch Miss Gish, John Gilbert and some other luminaries in the 1926 film, which was directed by King Vidor.

John Gilbert and Lillian Gish - study for La Boheme (Ruth Harriet Louise)

By the time Mimi’s death scene was halfway through, women all over the house were sobbing and strong men whimpering. “La Boheme ” was never like this in the opera house.

In her folksy reminiscences before the showing, Miss Gish marveled that the film had been made at all. In those days, she said, producers had “a prejudice” about films with unhappy endings. Such films were considered box-office death, and also death on careers.

(LA BOHEME) de King Vidor 1926 USA avec John Gilbert et Lillian Gish retrouvaille, caleche, diligence, cocher, chevaux d'apres le roman de Henri Murger detail

Miss Gish, beautiful as ever in looks and bearing, had ‘a special interest in this particular showing. When first presented, the film had original. background music by David Mendoza and others. That was because the publishing firm of Ricordi held the copyright to Puccini’s music and would not release it. But last Tuesday night M-G-M’s “La Boheme” for the very first time had Puccini’s music, which is now in the public domain, and also excerpts from Leoncavallo’s “La Boheme,” an opera . that Puccini’s infinitely more successful version wiped from the boards.

Richard Woitach, one of the conductors at the Metropolitan Opera, prepared the music, and also played it, silent‐film manner, the piano—all hour-and74-half of it. With one eye on the screen and the other on his manuscript; Mr. Woitach nobly swept through the music, making most silent film, pianists sound like the amateurs they are.

La Boheme - Lillian Gish, Gino Corrado and John Gilbert
La Boheme – Lillian Gish, Gino Corrado and John Gilbert

Puccini’s opera uses four scenes from Henri Murger’s “Scenes de la Vie de Boheme.” But there is more to Murger’s novel than that, and the film picks up other elements, also adding a few things dreamed up by the 1926 scriptwriters.

It comes off surprisingly well–King Vidor was, after all, one of the finest directors the screen has known. It also presents the difference between a wonderful period actor and a great artist. John Gilbert, improbably handsome, makes no secret about his emotions, and gives a new meaning to bulging eyeballs. But Miss Gish, With that aura of femininity, that lightness which allows her to walk ,,without apparently touching the ground,” that incredible beauty—Miss Gish was able to rise far above period and give us a touching portrait of the little French, seamstress.

The  death scene is a tearjerker, of course. But Miss Gish had a big advantage over the famous sopranos of the century who have sung Mimi. She was young enough to look and live the part. Her acting, part instinct, part thorough professionalism, with a few adorable tricks of expression and gesture, makes poor, operatic sopranos, no matter how gifted vocally, look thick. Miss Gish was-is-a great artist.

La Boheme full cast and crew
La Boheme full cast and crew

Film buffs went wild during the presentation. In addition to Miss Gish and Mr. Gilbert, there were Renee Adoree’s Musette; Roy D’Arcy (who, could give even John Gilbert eyeball lessons), Edward Everett Horton (yes, he was young once, too) and that fine comic, George Hassell. The audience, incidentally, came largely from the Metropolitan Opera Guild, which sponsored the event, and M-G-M’s “La Boheme” has never played to a more knowledgeable group.

After it was over, Miss Gish greeted admirers backstage. She locked radiant.

“My dream has come to life.” she said, and everybody applauded.

“Where was the film made?” somebody asked her. Some of the footage looked as though it had been filmed in Paris.

“In California, dear,” Miss Gish answered. “All of it in Hollywood.”

“Where were the costumes ‘made?” a lady wanted to know.

“Well,” said Miss Gish, “I made mine.”

John Gilbert and Lillian Gish (La Boheme)6

Lillian Gish and John Gilbert in “La Boheme,” 1926 Women were sobbing, strong men whimpering

`John Gilbert—improbably handsome‐makes no secret about his emotions’

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Unbreakable Blossom – By Richard Schickel (The New York Times – March 4, 2001)

The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) - Promotional - Broken Blossoms — with Lillian Gish.

Unbreakable Blossom

By Richard Schickel

The New York Times – March 4, 2001

Overacting, fluttering feminity and D.W. Griffith went out of style, but Lillian Gish refused to go.

LILLIAN GISH

Her Legend, Her Life. By Charles Affron.

Illustrated. 445 pp. New York: A Lisa Drew Book/Scribner. $35.

CHARLES AFFRON admires Lillian Gish’s life, as who does not? It is in most respects admirable, even exemplary, particularly in her refusal to surrender to old age. She started acting in 1902 when she was 9 years old and continued, seemingly immune to all the vagaries of her profession — bad roles, bad reviews, public controversies and private disappointments — until she was, astonishingly, 94. She outlived most of her show business colleagues, outworked them all with the possible exception of John Gielgud and, always the uncomplaining trouper, rarely missed a day because of illness, not a minute because of egomania.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish — Anna Moore

It is her legend, self-created and self-propagated, that causes — justifiably, in my opinion — a steady murmur of discontent to arise from Affron’s judicious biography, ”Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life.” The problem, as he sees it, is Gish’s excessive — not to say slightly loopy — idealization of her discoverer and mentor, D. W. Griffith. She and her sister Dorothy entered the movies under his aegis in 1912, when Lillian was 18 — not 12, 14 or 16, as she variously suggested through the years. Affron, who teaches French at New York University, calls her to rather stern account on this question, but it is more to his point that it was for Griffith she did most of the work that permanently crystallized her rather curious image.

The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) - Griffith demonstrating his rapport with animals — with D. W. Griffith.

She thought it necessary, beginning in the 1920’s, to exaggerate Griffith’s genius as a director, his vision of the movies as a force for world peace and brotherhood, the general superiority of silent movies over sound pictures because their pantomime made it easier for them to cross language barriers than dialogue pictures could. She was tireless — and not a little tiresome — in this matter because, as Affron puts it, ”The cult of Griffith was, after all, the path to her own artistic apotheosis. If Griffith’s legend were to die, so would her own. If his legacy was forgotten, she would lose her place in movie history.”

Actress Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Kate Bruce, D.W. Griffith, Mrs. David Landau, Burr McIntosh, Lowell Sherman in a scenne from the movie Way Down East
Actress Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Kate Bruce, D.W. Griffith, Mrs. David Landau, Burr McIntosh, Lowell Sherman in a scene from the movie Way Down East

That Griffith — a father figure to many of the impressionable young actresses who worked for him, many of whom, like Gish, grew up without their actual fathers — was the great love of her life cannot be denied. Whether or not that included a sexual relationship is disputable. Affron rather thinks not; I rather think so. Whatever the case, Gish’s devotion to Griffith was willfully blind and vastly misleading. It is true that Griffith often expressed vaulting ambitions for his medium, but he was a bit of a humbug in the grandiose manner of 19th-century actor-managers, on whom he modeled the conduct of his own celebrity. His most enduring, endearing films are about life’s more quotidian dramas, and his pronouncements were rather like his taste for spectacle — forced, false, ultimately self-destructive.

lillian gish - nacimiento-de-una-nación - the birth of a nation 3

When you strip the big talk and the big scenes away, you come to a core obsession that was much less attractive — and completely unaddressed by Gish. It involved placing the virtue of young, blond, virginal women in peril at the hands of brutal, often rapacious, men. That was notoriously the case in ”The Birth of a Nation” (1915), in which Mae Marsh commits suicide rather than succumb to a stalking black man and Gish herself narrowly avoids rape at the hands of a mulatto. It is these scenes, even more than Griffith’s portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, that render the movie permanently offensive. And not just racially. Griffith tamped down (in public) his irredeemable racism, but he could never avoid his ruling sexual kink. Gish’s honor, life or both was under threat in ”Hearts of the World” (1918), ”Broken Blossoms” (1919), ”Way Down East” (1920) and ”Orphans of the Storm” (1921). Even in comedies like ”A Romance of Happy Valley” (1919) and ”True Heart Susie” (1919), Gish’s fate was patiently to await the attentions of men preoccupied by matters more pressing than her affections.

THE WIND, Lillian Gish, 1928 HC8WJ8

Eventually, that became her life strategy. Dropped by Griffith for the unattractive Carol Dempster, she remained his friend and defender, insisting that a crass industry was bent on destroying him (when, in fact, his heedless economic ways made him the auteur of his own misery). Meantime, their careers declined, his more disastrously than hers, but for related reasons. Griffith kept trapping his tremulous child-women in tight spaces with lumbering bruisers. Gish was never able to revise the image of imperiled innocence she and Griffith created. Until later in life, when she played spunky spinsters and widows, she essentially remained a sexual victim, appealingly brave in adversity — effectively so in ”The Scarlet Letter” (1926), less so in ”The Wind” (1928), the hysteria of which verges on the ludicrous.

Hester Prynne - Lillian Gish in the Scarlet Letter 3

Genteel litterateurs like Joseph Hergesheimer and James Branch Cabell gushed over her; many variations on Griffith’s description of her ”exquisitely fragile, ethereal beauty” were offered. But the good-natured likes of Mabel Normand and Marion Davies began satirizing her, and MGM, which had expensive hopes for Gish, dropped her when it discovered Greta Garbo, whose movies depicted her as always paying the price for her adulteries but at least appearing to have a good, hotly romantic time before getting her comeuppance.

the-wind-1928-ballroom-montagu-love-detail

Gish, alas, remained hopelessly old-fashioned, wedded to a Victorian vision of anxiously fluttering femininity. She was good at it, but by the late 1920’s she had more than Garbo’s stylish sinning to contend with; there were also the careless flappers of Clara Bow and Joan Crawford. Gish’s screen character became what it remains, a faintly risible antique. Another way of saying that is that she failed the most basic obligation of stardom, which is to be sexy. By the early 30’s, she was essentially a character actress, appearing in a few distinguished plays and few, if any, distinguished movies.

One Romantic Night promotional Lillian Gish last scene

Her situation was akin to Griffith’s. Compared to the great directors of the silent era — Eisenstein, Murnau, Lang, von Stroheim, Vidor — his work was as stylistically dated as his sexual imaginings. This period, abruptly and cruelly halted by the arrival of sound, may have been the most innovative in cinema history, but Griffith was not part of it. His younger competitors are among the great modernists; he remained a 19th-century melodramatist.

Lillian Gish (promo - before Uncle Vanya)
Lillian Gish (promo – before Uncle Vanya)

They were all, of course, thrown off course by the talkies, visually poky at first and placing a premium on urban realism as opposed to the more poetic and expressionistic silents. In this new era Griffith wandered impotently, often alcoholically, on the margins of the business. Gish’s situation was less dire. She took up with George Jean Nathan, the drama critic, kept working and, above all, tended to her mythmaking. There were biographies and autobiographies and an unending stream of interviews. Late in her life she toured in a one-woman show, playing film clips and reminiscing romantically about the silent era.

Lillian Gish in Camille by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum 3
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); [Camille–Gish, Lillian] [Central City, Colorado]; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.149

You could argue that she did no great harm with her fantasies. But Affron thinks otherwise. Bad history is, very simply, useless history. Gish’s pose as the vestal virgin, guarding cinema’s temple, was absurdly at odds with the raffish and often hugely entertaining improvisations by which early movie history was actually made. Worse, her insistence on Griffith’s (plaster) saintliness distorted both his achievements and his failures, rendering both uninstructive to posterity. Finally, her vaporings had the effect of dehumanizing herself and Griffith, and of distancing us from a movie era that is difficult enough to recapture, given the differences between its conventions and those of later times.

Lillian Gish, 1916, I.V.
Lillian Gish, 1916, I.V.

One suspects that Affron began his book thinking his story was of idealism vulgarly betrayed, but found his research leading him in quite a different direction, toward analysis of a fiction in which the teller victimizes herself, her work, her beloved master in a simpering attempt to rewrite history as — come to think of it — something like a lesser Griffith work. Affron’s chronology is occasionally confusing, but he politely, consistently refutes Gish’s line, remaining unfailingly generous to his subject’s art and indomitability, all the while fastidiously and expertly devastating the fairy tale in which she wrapped herself. If we are ever to rescue silent film from its status as a dwindling cult’s enthusiasm and restore it as a vital part of our cultural heritage, we need more work of this balanced and balancing kind.

Lillian Gish - Sold For Marriage 1916
Lillian Gish – Sold For Marriage 1916

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Young Boswell Interviews Lillian Gish (New York Tribune, 1922)

Young Boswell Interviews Lillian Gish

New York Tribune, Friday, November 24, 1922

Because she is a tragedienne of motion pictures, she best understands the pushed-off-in-a-corner woman. Her beauty is fragile and her emotional appeal subtle. “Broken Blossoms,” though a tragedy, was the finest film, artistically yet produced.

She has created a “movie” technique apart from the stage technique, she has sailed to Italy to produce a new masterpiece.

print of a scene from D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) with Lillian Gish as Lucy Burrows and Richard Barthelmess as the Chinaman Cheng Huan
print of a scene from D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms (1919) with Lillian Gish as Lucy Burrows and Richard Barthelmess as the Chinaman Cheng Huan

The entire passenger list of the Providence followed LILLIAN GISH to the boat deck, where photographers swarmed to snap her while she checked her trunks, which had already been checked, and said premature goodbyes to her sister Dorothy and Mary Pickford, who had come to see her off.

“She really is lovely looking” remarked one lady through her lorgnette. “And those orchids are just the right flowers for her,” “I like that gray suit with the fur collar,” commented her daughter. “And mother, I want a little black hat like hers, with a lace veil.”

Mary Pickford serves as director for this shipboard news film of Lillian and Dorothy Gish as they leave for Europe in 1922
Mary Pickford serves as director for this shipboard news film of Lillian and Dorothy Gish as they leave for Europe in 1922

Young Boswell drew Miss Gish away from the photographers to a quiet corner behind a bow ventilator.

Young Boswell: What are you doing in Italy?

Lillian Gish: We are going over to do “The White Sister,” by Marion Crawford.

Young Boswell: Oh, yes. I drove out to this villa in Sorrento. Beautiful view of the Bay of Naples from there.

Lillian Gish: You know he wrote perfect continuity. He built his stories up to the sort of climax which the scenario has to have. He used our technique. My only regret is that he isn’t alive to see his work produced. “The White Sister” is set in Naples and Rome, and we are going to do several scenes on the island of Capri. I hope it will be a good picture. It’s a tragedy like “Broken Blossoms.”

A belated photographer pushed Young Boswell aside, to run a few feet of film for the weeklies.

Young Boswell: Don’t you ever get tired of being photographed?

Lillian Gish: No, I really love it. Did you see “Hamlet” last night?

Young Boswell: I couldn’t get in.

Lillian Gish: Well, one of the critics called John Barrymore the best Hamlet of his generation. I can’t imagine a better Hamlet of any generation. It was an extraordinary performance. I hope it’s still running when I come back. I should like to see it again. I’m coming back in about four months.

And then the foghorn blew a deep blast. Lillian Gish clung to her sister Dorothy, and began to cry. Mary Pickford tried to comfort her.

"Parting of Ways" finally a high resolution - From left Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Dorothy Gish aboard cruise ship, on their way to Europe, 1920s
“Parting of Ways” finally a high resolution – From left Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Dorothy Gish aboard cruise ship, on their way to Europe, 1920s

Lillian Gish: I really ought to be happy going abroad. I was when I went over before, during the war.

She looked out into the mist settling over the harbor, veiling the passing tugs and ferries, and the gray water below. “I guess it must be a gloomy day,” she said. The whistle blew again. “Good bye Dorothy; good bye Mary. Good bye Young Boswell.”

When Young Boswell was wandering toward the nearest subway he thought of the stateroom she was to occupy – not large and luxurious and decorated like a florist’s, as one would expect – and of what she had said when asked to explain the pushed-off-in-a-corner woman. “All of us are like that. Struggling and defeated and trying to make good. We are all Saint Peters in our minds.”

“No,” thought Young Boswell as he dropped his nickel in the slot, “she isn’t a typical ‘movie’ actress. She is a very real person, a sincere artist.”

Lillian Gish – Returning from Rome (White Sister) after visiting the HH Pope (International Newsreel)
Lillian Gish – Returning from Rome (White Sister) after visiting the HH Pope (International Newsreel)

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LILLIAN GISH – Vanity Fair – December 1932 (George Jean Nathan)

Vanity Fair – December 1932

LILLIAN GISH

” Among the significant and potentially historic figures of our dramatic times, Lillian Gish occupies a particularly luminous place. The literati have burdened her with ethereal apostrophes: she has been likened to Duse, to Helen of Troy, to an angel, and to a “frightened chrysanthemum”. She has been in pictures ever since she was a fragile wisp of a girl, and she has remained the symbol of delicacy and passive tenderness ever since the days of Broken Blossoms, down the years through The White Sister and Orphans of the Storm to the present day. Now she is hack again on the legitimate stage, exquisitely moribund as Camille, her first play since her great success of two years ago, in Uncle Vanya. Miss Gish is being further canonized by a new biography, Life and Lillian Gish, by Albert Bigelow Paine, and by a revival of one of the first Gish opera extant, an ancient Biograph film, entitled A Northwoods Romance, which is being shown as a part of that acid revue. Americana

Miss Lillian Gish

(George Jean Nathan)

Lillian Gish - Vanity Fair December 1932
Lillian Gish – Vanity Fair December 1932

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The Lillian Gish Frock – (Photoplay July 1925)

Photoplay – July 1925

The Lillian Gish Frock

Dress Like a Star on an Extras Income

Lillian Gish Frock 1925 4

The original Parisian design of this lovely Lillian Gish frock cost a king’s ransom—perhaps one should say the week’s salary of a screen star. We first saw it in an exclusive Fifth Avenue shop at something over three hundred dollars, met it again just off the avenue for considerably less and were so impressed with its simplicity and charm that we obtained the exact duplicate of this copy Lillian Gish owns, for you, at $49.75

Lillian Gish Frock 1

This newest summer frock of the wistful Lillian’s is of heavy white crepe de chine with red embroidered dots. It may be had also in white with blue or black dots, black with white dots and tan with brown dots. It is one of those remarkable dresses whose lines become either the girl of 14 or the woman of 40—in sizes from misses’ 14 to 34 and 38 to 44

Lillian Gish Frock 2

The first in a Series of Stars Frocks selected for you through the Photoplay Shopping Service

Photoplay (July 1925) Lillian Gish Frock
Photoplay (July 1925) Lillian Gish Frock

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