The Lily and The Rose – Reviewed by Neil G. Caward (Motography 1915)

MOTOGRAPHY November 20, 1915.

Some Current Releases Reviewed

The Current Triangle Bill

This Week’s Offerings From Ince and Griffith Studios

Reviewed by Neil G. Caward

Over at the Studebaker theater this week Manager Knill is offering his patrons a program of Triangle films that, as a whole, surpasses any week’s bill up to date. It includes “Aloha Oe” from the Ince studios, “The Lily and the Rose” from the Griffith forces and two Keystone side splitters entitled “A Janitor’s Wife’s Temptation” and “The Village Scandal.” The laughs begin at about the second sub-title of “A Janitor’s Wife’s Temptation” and come thick and fast from then on. Fred Mace as the janitor of an apartment house has a role that’s just to his liking, and the things he does and the way he does them beggar description. Marta Golden as the janitor’s wife has troubles of her own, and Harry Gribbon, as the artist who lives on the floor above, proves himself a clever dodger of both his landlord and his bills. The final scenes in the restaurant, when Mace is bouncing about like a rubber ball in the fountain, are guaranteed to cure the worst grouch that ever attacked a man. Del Henderson is responsible for the production.

The Lily and The Rose (1915) - Lillian Gish
The Lily and The Rose (1915) – Lillian Gish

The Lily and The Rose – Reviewed by Neil G. Caward

Lillian Gish and Rozsika Dolly are the featured personages in “The Lily and the Rose” and rightfully so, for it is about them that the story centers. Paul Powell is given credit for the direction of the piece and the story is most carefully developed from the opening scene up to the tragic climax which brings it to an end. Mary Randolph is a most innocent, and, as the boy who loves her says, “adorable” Lily, as interpreted by Lillian Gish, and one can scarcely blame Jack Van Norman, played in a dignified fashion by Wilfred Lucas, for falling in love with her.

The Lily and The Rose (1915) - Lillian Gish
The Lily and The Rose (1915) – Lillian Gish

That the Lily ever became so sophisticated as she finally grows to be seems wonderful when you behold Miss Letty Carrington and Miss Molly Carrington, her maiden aunts, who were responsible for her bringing up. Loyola O’Connor and Cora Drew each have a chance for some wonderful character “bits” in these two roles and Elmer Clifton is equally convincing as Allison Edwards, a bookworm who lives next door to the Lily. To Rozsika Dolly, recruited from the musical comedy stage, falls the interpretation of the Rose, and she plays it masterfully.

The Lily and The Rose (1915) - Lillian Gish
The Lily and The Rose (1915) – Lillian Gish

In the wonderfully tinted scenes at the seashore, where she dances on the beach for Jack, Miss Dolly was particularly good, and, while proving her ability to dance, in the theater scenes, she demonstrated also that she can get over an emotional scene by the way she acted upon discovering Jack’s suicide. Mary Randolph, raised from childhood by two maiden aunts, and loved by Allison Edwards, who lives next door, one day meets and is wooed by Jack Van Norman from the city. She later becomes his wife, only to learn that, in secret, he is paying attention to the Rose, a dancer in musical comedy. Leaving him, Mary returns to the home of her childhood, where a child is soon afterwards born to her. Jack goes to Rose, but later, in his absence from the city, the dancer entertains other men and is discovered. Jack ends his misery in suicide, and Mary, months later, finds happiness at last with Allison Edwards, who is still faithful. (Neil G. Caward – 1915)

The Lily and The Rose (1915) - Lillian Gish
The Lily and The Rose (1915) – Lillian Gish

Directed by Paul Powell

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order) D.W. Griffith…(story) (as Granville Warwick)

Cast (in credits order)

Lillian Gish Mary Randolph Wilfred Lucas Jack Van Norman Rosie Dolly Rose (as Rozsika Dolly) Loyola O’Connor Letty Carrington Cora Drew Molly Carrington Elmer Clifton Allison Edwards Mary Alden Mrs. Fairfax William Hinckley Ted Lamb Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Alberta Lee Undetermined role (uncredited) Frank Mills Undetermined role (uncredited) Starring: (Dorothy and Lillian Gish by Lillian Gish) – Lillian Gish – Mary Alden – Wilfred Lucas – Rozsika Dolly

The Lily and The Rose (1915) - Lillian Gish
The Lily and The Rose (1915) – Lillian Gish
Motography 1915 - The Lily and The Rose
Motography 1915 – The Lily and The Rose

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

We’re Surprised, Lillian! – MOTOGRAPHY August 19, 1916.

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

MOTOGRAPHY August 19, 1916.

We’re Surprised, Lillian!

Lillian Gish has adopted a course of training as strenuous as a professional pugilist in order to get into the best possible condition for her “rough house” work in the Triangle-Fine Arts production. “Diane of the Follies.”

Diane of The Follies still - D444

Miss Gish has several free-for-all fights in the picture, including one at her husband’s house and another on the stage of the opera house in which several chorus girls mix in.

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

In the theater scene one of the chorus girls emerged with a black eye as the result of coming in too close contact with demure Miss Gish. Miss Gish’s portrayal of the temperamental actress in “Diane of the Follies’ is expected to make other celebrated temperamental ladies of the screen look to their laurels to preserve their reputations as “Champion Temperamentalists of the World.”

W. C. Cabanne directed the production.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

“ROMOLA” by Albert Bigelow Paine – 1932

Lillian Gish and director Henry King - Romola candid on set

“ROMOLA” Albert Bigelow Paine – 1932

Reports from “The White Sister” showed that it was going to make record runs—that returns from it would be very large. Catholics and Protestants alike approved it. Father Duffy, of the Fighting Irish 69th Regiment, of New York, wrote:

I wish to nominate “The White Sister” for a high place on the White List of dramatic performances…. It is religion struggling with human passions, as in real life, and gaining its victory after storm and stress. Chicago society deserted the opera on the opening night of “The White Sister,” and similar reports came from elsewhere. Lillian’s personal tribute—her “fan” mail—assumed mountainous proportions: offers of engagements, protection, marriage, requests for loans… what not?

Vanity Fair Nov 1923 - Lillian Gish Romola
Vanity Fair Nov 1923 – Lillian Gish Romola

Meantime, one must get on with the next picture. King was already in Italy, making a pirate ship scene. Lillian finished cutting down “The White Sister,” for road use, an arduous, delicate work, and with Mrs. Kratsch, sailed in November. Dorothy was to be in “Romola,” and with her mother had sailed a little earlier. To Genoa, then Florence, where they put up at the Grand Hotel on the Arno, with an outlook on the Ponte Vecchio, all that the heart could desire, if the weather had only been a little more encouraging. It began to rain, and it continued to rain—“about nineteen days out of twenty,” Dorothy said. Dorothy thought the rain not very wet rain—not at all like English and American rain—not so solid—light, like ether. But one evening, the rain stopped, and when they woke in the night, there was a strange silence. In the morning, there was another sound—also strange—strangely familiar. Dorothy looked over at Lillian.

Lillian Gish - Romola
Lillian Gish – Romola

“If we were in America, I should say they were shoveling snow.” They hopped out of bed, and to the window. It was shoveling, and it was snow. “Very unusual,” they were assured later. But then, winters in Southern Europe quite often are unusual. Even sunshiny ones. The picture of “Romola” follows the main incidents of George Eliot’s novel. Lillian, of course, had the part of Romola, Dorothy that of Tessa, Ronald Colman that of Carlo Bucelline. To William H. Powell was assigned the part of Tito; Herbert Grimwood was given the part of Savonarola, and looked so much like him that when he walked along the streets of Florence, children would point him out. Altogether, the cast was a fine one. They had expected to use a number of real scenes in Florence—the Duomo, the Piazza Signoria, etc., but found that modern innovations—telegraph wires and poles, street car tracks, and the like—made this impracticable. On their big lot in the outskirts of the city, they built an ancient Florence, a very beautiful Florence, of the days of Savonarola. They did use the Ponte Vecchio, the ancient bridge, though a second story had been added a generation later than the period of their picture.

Lillian Gish - Romola

And they used the Arno in several scenes. Rain or no rain, their lot became a busy place. They brought the “White Sister” equipment from Rome, and a small army of artisans and laborers began to work wonders. In a brief time, a quaint old street sprang up—along it shops of every sort, just as they might have been four hundred years before … real shops, in which were made every variety of paraphernalia required for the picture: costumes, harness, basketry, hats, footwear, furniture—everything needed to restore the semblance of a dead generation. They even set up a little restaurant, and ate their luncheons there. Animals—dogs and cats—walked about, or slept in the sun. Flocks of pigeons were in the air, or on the house-tops. During the brief visit of the year before, they had asked that these be raised on the lot. It was all realistic, and lovely. Wood-carvers were at work on the rich interiors, some of them more beautiful, even, than those of “The White Sister”: a great church interior, and a banquet hall, for Romola’s wedding. At one side of the lot were small buildings, where the distinguished artist, Robert Haas, with his staff, worked at the drawings. For the great wedding feast, they could not get period glasses in Florence, so sent a man to Venice, and had them specially blown. Lillian remembers the banquet hall as very rich, exquisite in detail—the scene as a whole, one of peculiar distinction.

Romola Motion Picture Magazine Page Lillian Gish
Romola Motion Picture Magazine Page Lillian Gish

“We had for it a lot of titled people of Florence, who were eager to be in the picture. We had very little trouble to get anything we needed in the way of extras. In some of the scenes, we had hundreds of them. “One thing we did not get so easily: For the wedding, we needed 15th Century priest robes. We heard of some up in the hills, but we could get them only on condition that we engage four detectives to guard them, two by day, two by night. “We had to guard ourselves, for that matter. Florence has many Americans, and they have not much to do. If we had let in all who called, we should have had a perpetual sequence of social events, with very little work. We had many invitations, but could not accept them. I think we went out just once, for dinner. When we had a little time in the afternoon, we liked to go to Doni’s, for tea, or to shop a little, for linens and laces. Whatever of such things we have now, Mother bought that winter In Florence.

“Every night we literally prayed that the next day would dawn clear and bright, so that we might make up our lost time. But no! Maybe, as Dorothy said, the Italian ‘dispenser of weather,’ didn’t understand English.

“One cannot too highly praise the Italian workmen. Over and over, ours would work on a set that it might be the exact replica of a 15th Century design. Italian workmen are willing to be told, and possess an astonishing ambition to do a thing exactly as it should be done.”

Romola - Dorothy Gish and Lillian Gish
Romola – Dorothy Gish and Lillian Gish

They began “shooting” the scenes. They had no regular scenario. They worked, as it were, inspirationally. They did not know very exactly what they were going to do when they began a scene, and they were not quite sure what they had done when they finished it. The element of accident sometimes produces happy results, but it is unsafe to count on it. “Romola” developed into a kind of panorama—a succession of lovely pictures, without very definite climaxes. They worked hard. For one thing, they were experimenting with a new film, the panchromatic, which had never been used for an entire picture, and they did their own developing. One of the chief beauties of “Romola” is the richness of its photography. What with the weather and all, the making of “Romola” was hardly what the French call “gai.” There were lighter moments: In the scene where Dorothy is supposed to drown in the Arno, she tried for an hour to sink in that greasy, unclean river. She couldn’t swim, so it had to be done in shallow water. She didn’t like to pop her head under, either, but they told her if she would fill her lungs with air and hold her breath, there would be no danger. She was plump, and her bones were small. Being filled with air made her still more buoyant. Also, she had on a little silk skirt that got air under it and ballooned on top of the water. Dorothy simply couldn’t drown. When she popped her head under, the little skirt stuck up in a point like the tail of a diving duck. Such an effect would never do for a picture like “Romola.” From their window in the Grand Hotel, Mrs. Gish and Lillian, watching through a glass, laughed hysterically at Dorothy’s efforts to drown. Dorothy finally struck: she could stand no more of the Arno water. The scene was finished one chilly day in America—in Long Island Sound. Dorothy had a cold at the time, and they thought she would contract pneumonia. But that was a poor guess. When she came out of the water, the cold was gone. Clean, salt water, Dorothy said. In the picture, Dorothy, as Tessa, has a baby.

William Powell and Dorothy Gish Romola
William Powell and Dorothy Gish Romola

They borrowed the cook’s baby, the youngest of nine, a fat, robust bambino, strapped to a board, Italian fashion; easy enough to carry, properly held, but not handy for cuddling. Juliana was her name, and as lovely as one of Raphael’s cherubs—lovely, even among Italian children, all of whom have little madonna faces, because for generations expectant mothers have knelt ardently before altars and wayside shrines. Lillian and Dorothy became fond of Juliana, took walks with her, carrying her, board and all—a burden which increased daily as Juliana got fatter and fatter. They wished Juliana would not grow quite so fast; there were scenes where they had to run with her. Italian babies are seldom warm, in winter. One day, Juliana broke out with a rash, which at first they thought was measles, but was only the result of the studio heat, heat from the great Klieg lights. Lillian had a maid named Anna, a large, lovely soul, but a menace. If one got an ache or a pain, Anna came running with an enormous Italian pill, the size of those on the Medici coat-of-arms. After a day at the studio, in the strained “Romola” poses, Lillian once mentioned having a back ache.

Anna commanded her to undress and lie down. A very little later she came bringing a bath towel, and a flat-iron, the latter quite definitely warm. Then, turning the world’s darling face down, she spread the towel on her back and proceeded to iron her. It was drastic, but beneficial. The ironings became a part of the daily program. Anna decided that her mistress needed blood, and cooked for her apples in red wine. They were delicious. “Romola” was finished near the end of May. The last scene was the burning of Savonarola, terribly realistic. Lillian got so near the fire that she was scorched. A few days later they saw the rushes and she was ready to go. The great Italian episode was over. It was unique, and remains so. Big companies do not go on foreign locations any more. They build Italy or any part of the universe on their lots in Hollywood. Lillian in America found that she had been chosen by Sir James Barrie for the picture version of “Peter Pan.” No one could have been better suited to the part, and it greatly appealed to her. But there were complications. Regretfully she put it aside. Pleasant things happened: Dimitri Dirujinski and Boris Lorski modeled busts of her; Nicolai Fechin did her portrait, as Romola. The last was given a special exhibition in the Grand Central Art Galleries, with a reception to Lillian and the artist under the patronage of Cecelia Beaux and New York’s social leaders. It was bought by the Chicago Art Institute and today hangs in the Goodman Theatre of that city.

Poster_-_Romola
Poster_-_Romola

“Romola,” released through the Metro-Goldwyn Company, had two great premières: at the George M. Cohan Theatre, New York, on Monday, December 1st, 1924, and at the Sid Grauman Theatre, Hollywood, on the following Saturday. Lillian and Dorothy, with their mother, managed to attend both. The Los Angeles opening was so much more a part of the “picture” world that we shall skip to it, forthwith.

Lillian Gish, Sid Grauman and Dorothy Gish at The Egyptian
Lillian Gish, Sid Grauman and Dorothy Gish at The Egyptian

It was unique. Manager Grauman had stirred up all Los Angeles and Hollywood over the return of the Gish girls with a new picture. They had anticipated no reception at the train. King was already in Los Angeles; he might be there … a few friends, maybe, not more. But when the train drew in, they noticed a great assembly of expectant people, most of them wearing badges—a rally of some sort, a convention. Lillian and Dorothy stepped to the train platform, and were greeted with a shower of rose-buds, thrown by gay little girls who had baskets of them; a vigorous and competent band struck up; a siren began to blow; everybody shouted and pushed forward; all those badges had on them the word GISH; all the battery of cameras that began to grind was turned on them; the rally was their rally—a welcome—welcome home to Los Angeles. Producers and directors were there. Irving Thalberg, handsome, youthful-looking, pressed forward. Mrs. Gish, thinking him from the hotel, handed him her checks, and a moment later was apologizing. But he said it was all right—he was always being taken for his own office boy. John Gilbert was there, and Norma Shearer, and Eleanor Boardman, and ever so many more. A crowd of students from the Military Academy rallied around; also, a swarm of “bathing beauties” from the Ambassador, and a fire engine came clanging up, for the Fire and Police Departments had been called out. A news notice says:

A squad of motorcycle policemen and fast cars of the Fire Department, made an escort for the automobile provided for Lillian Gish, Dorothy and their mother, through the downtown district. Sirens and bells added to the noise of welcome. Not much like the old days, when with Uncle High Herrick, they had landed with “Her First False Step” at a one-night stand. They drove to the Ambassador Hotel. Mary Pickford had not been at the train, but they found her standing in the middle of their “flower embowered drawing-room”—never more beautiful in all her life, Lillian thought. By and by, Mary, Lillian and Dorothy, motored out to the old Fine Arts Studio, where “The Birth of a Nation” and so many of Griffith’s other pictures, had been made. They found the old place hidden behind a brick building. “Intolerance” had been made there, and “Broken Blossoms.”

Egyptian Theater -1922
Egyptian Theater -1922

Douglas Fairbanks and many others had begun, there, their film careers. They recalled these things as they looked about a little sadly, at what had once been their film home.

Manager Sid Grauman had gone to all the expense and trouble he could think of to make this a record occasion. “Romola” was following Douglas Fairbanks’ “Thief of Bagdad.” It must not fall short.

Lillian Gish - Romola
Lillian Gish – Romola

“A première without a parallel. A night of all nights. The most gala festivity Hollywood has ever known. An opening beside which other far-famed Egyptian premières will pale into insignificance.” These are a few bits of Manager Grauman’s rhetoric, and he added: “Every star, director and producer, will be there to pay homage to Lillian and Dorothy Gish.” They were there. The broad entrance to the Egyptian was a blaze of light and gala dress parade. The crowds massed on both sides to see the greatest of filmland pass. Doug and Mary (who had already run “Romola” in their home theatre), Charlie, Jackie … never mind the list, they were all there. High above, the name of LILLIAN GISH blazed out in tall letters. When she arrived, and Dorothy, and their mother, their cars were fairly mobbed. Cameras were going, everybody had to pause a moment at the entrance for something special in that line.

Lillian Gish, Sid Grauman and Dorothy Gish at The Egyptian
Lillian Gish, Sid Grauman and Dorothy Gish at The Egyptian

Manager Grauman was photographed between the two stars of the evening, properly set off and by no means obliterated, small man though he was, by the resplendent gowns. After which, came the performance. Manager Grauman had fairly laid himself out on an introductory feature. There were ten numbers of it, each more astonishing than the preceding:

Lillian Gish Profile Romola

“Italian Tarantella,” “Harlequin and Columbine,” “The Eighteen Dance Wonders,” but why go on? It was a gorgeous show all in itself. After which, the beautiful processional effects of Romola’s story. There was no lack of enthusiasm in the audience. When the picture ended and the lights went on, and Lillian and Dorothy appeared before the curtain, the applause swelled to very great heights indeed. And when a speech was demanded, Lillian, in her quiet, casual way, said:

“Dear ladies and gentlemen, both Dorothy and I do so hope you have liked ‘Romola.’ If you have, then, dear, kind friends, you have made us very happy, very happy indeed … and you have made Mr. King, who directed ‘Romola,’ very happy, too.”

From the applause that followed, it was clear that there was no question as to the importance of the occasion—all the more so, had they known that, for Hollywood, at least, it was the last public appearance of these two together. The critics did not know what to make of “Romola”—did not quite dare to say what they thought they felt. To William Powell, as Tito, nearly all gave praise; some regretted that Ronald Colman did not have a better part. Dorothy, as Tessa, had given a good account of herself, they said, and Charles Lane, as Baldassare. Of Lillian’s spirituality and acting there was no question, but there were those who thought the part of Romola unequal to her gifts. As to the picture, one ventured to call it “top-heavy,” whatever he meant by that. One had courage enough to think it “a bit dull.” Another declared that it contained all the atmosphere and beauty of the Florence of Lorenzo de Medici. “Romola” was, in fact, exquisite tapestry, and the dramatic interest of tapestry is a mild one.

Life And Lillian Gish

Albert Bigelow Paine

New York, The Macmillan Company – 1932

Lillian Gish admiring Romola portrait by Nicolai Fechin 1930 - French Press
Lillian Gish admiring Romola portrait by Nicolai Fechin cca 1925 (Oil on canvas painting) – French Press HiRes
lillian-gish-gleb-derujinsky-sculpture
Lillian Gish and Gleb Derujinsky’s sculpture – Romola

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

The Singing Empress (Stuart Oderman)

lillian gish hal holbrook i never sang for my father by r. anderson w playbill 3a

The Singing Empress (Stuart Oderman)

Lillian had returned to the Broadway theatre after a 3 year absence to appear in Robert Anderson’s I Never Sang for My Father, which concerned itself with the animosity between a father and son, and the son’s lack of feeling as the father dies alone, wheelchair-ridden and filled with hate. The play opened in New York on January 25, 1968, after having done good business during its pre-Broadway engagement in Boston. Lillian told an interviewer from The Boston Herald Traveler how she prepares:

1968--lillian-gish-hal-holbrook-i-never-sang-for-my-father
1968–lillian-gish-hal-holbrook-i-never-sang-for-my-father

When I work on a part, I don’t have a pat formula. I wait for the director to tell me what he wants – then I do it. A strong director like Alan [Schneider] pulls all the performances together. In any medium you need a Boss Man, whether it’s films or theatre or on TY. I learned that early with Griffith.

Lillian Gish, Alan Webb and Hal Holbrook in a scene from the Broadway production of the play I Never Sang For My Father 8
Lillian Gish and Hal Holbrook in a scene from the Broadway production of the play “I Never Sang For My Father”.

Clive Barnes, reviewing I Never Sang for My Father for The New York Times, slaughtered any potential the play might have had for a successful run with his opening line: “A soap opera is a soap opera whichever way you slice the soap.” While citing the acting as often  admirable, and acknowledging the believable poignancy of the situation, Barnes complained that the playwright’s intentions were “betrayed by its over obviousness.” Lillian’s performance was singled out for special mention: Lillian Gish’s delicately fluttering mother, warm and attractive, is another performance worthy of a more productive cause. Lillian spoke to this biographer during the first week of the play’s 124-performance run. I Never Sang for My Father, like All the Way Home, is a work with autobiographical overtones. Both plays aren’t what you would call happy Saturday night fare. The lack of communication between father and son is a mighty theme that will forever be constantly explored.

Lillian Gish, Alan Webb and Hal Holbrook in a scene from the Broadway production of the play I Never Sang For My Father 7
Lillian Gish (R), Alan Webb (2L) and Hal Holbrook (2R) in a scene from the Broadway production of the play “I Never Sang For My Father”.

Many things in I Never Sang were stated, as if that should be enough. This is not an Arthur Miller play with a lot of shrieking and fingerpointing accusations and somebody not being there during hard times. Robert Anderson is obviously not a New York thirties protest writer. He writes with restraint and grace and he doesn’t skirt the issues. It took courage to mount this play in a Broadway theatre instead of an off-Broadway house.

the movies mr. griffith and me (03 1969) - hal holbrook and lillian in robert anderson's 1967 play i never sang for my father— with lillian gish.
the movies mr. griffith and me (03 1969) – hal holbrook and lillian in robert anderson’s 1967 play i never sang for my father— with lillian gish.

Hal Holbrook, playing the son who doubles as narrator, does a splendid job of holding everything together, like the Stage Manager did in Our Town. I always felt, when I read the script for the first time, that Anderson’s play should have been a novel, too. So much of the narration plays like prose. I think the play would have a larger audience. Although the play kept Lillian living and working in New York while Dorothy was in Rapollo, Italy, there were weekly visits.

Lillian Gish, Alan Webb and Hal Holbrook in a scene from the Broadway production of the play I Never Sang For My Father 10
Lillian Gish and Hal Holbrook in a scene from the Broadway production of the play “I Never Sang For My Father”.

Lillian’s understudy, former silent film actress Lois Wilson, who had starred in Miss Lulu Bett, The Covered Wagon, and The Great Gatsby, recalled Lillian’s often repeated pattern after the Sunday matinee:

We were playing 3 mats a weekWednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. As soon as the curtain comes down: boom! Lillian dashes down the stairs and right into the taxi waiting to scoot her to Kennedy for a flight to Rome. She’d arrive early the next day, get to Rapollo and stay a day with Dorothy, and then fly back here. Somehow she’d grab a few hours of sleep on the cot in her dressing room and manage to do her show. Thank God for time zones.

Lillian Gish Helen Hayes and Bob Crane (Arsenic)
Lillian Gish Helen Hayes and Bob Crane (Arsenic)

Playing eight shows a week were demanding in themselves, but the visits to Dorothy were beginning to sap her strength. During one of her visits to Rapollo, Lillian was invited to co-star with her longtime friend, actress Helen Hayes, in a television production of Joseph Kesselring’s hit homicidal comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace. Lillian and Helen would be playing two sweet, elderly ladies, sisters, who murder lonely old men after extending an invitation to them to visit and sample their special elderberry wine. Helen Hayes jokingly told this author at their first meeting that she and Lillian had known each other forever.41 In actuality, their friendship, according to close friends, started around 1930. When Lillian had become frustrated with Hollywood after her sound debut in One Romantic Night and decided to return to New York, stage star Helen Hayes had just signed a film contract and was on her way to the coast to begin shooting what was later released as The Sin of Madeline Claudet.

Helen Hayes said: Lillian and I both came up the same way: touring in shows when we were children. Lillian went into films, and I kept on doing stage work.

Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya

Lillian came back to work for Jed Harris in Uncle Vanya, which was her Broadway debut, although she had done stage work many years earlier. She said her voice didn’t record right [on film], and not to expect very much. In those early days of sound, if the studio felt your voice didn’t match your look, you had no future, no chance. Luckily, I came from the stage, and I have no previous silent film career. There were no preconceptions on the part of any producer regarding how I sound on film. I knew that stage people were in demand, and they took us as we were. I spoke 8 shows a week. No amplification. If producers or their scouts could hear us in the last row of the balcony, we were approached with a contract.

Voices were what landed the contract. Faces were what maintained them. Lillian’s voice didn’t register then or now as the sound of a damsel-in-distress, the type she played in those Griffith films. Lillian in those days was a face. I was never a face. I was a stage character.

Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish - Promo for Arsenic and Old Lace
Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish – Promo for Arsenic and Old Lace

Lillian’s three weeks of rehearsals for Arsenic and Old Lace required that she rise before eight in the morning, report to the television studio at ten, rehearse until six, have something to eat, and get back to the theatre by seven, the required half-hour before the curtain went up. It was well after midnight when she would arrive home. With Sunday rehearsals, it meant she was working without a day off. Working straight through the week was nothing unusual for Lillian. A 7-day workweek was commonplace when she began acting in one-reelers for Mr. Griffith in 1912. A full day in a full week in 1968, more than half a century later, made Lillian realize she had come full circle. As long as work was available, she would take it! During rehearsals for Arsenic and Old Lace, Lillian preferred to dine at Longchamps because of their flattering lighting. Lillian had maintained her annual overseas trips for injections of lamb embryos in an effort to keep her looking young. Longchamps had low lights, which didn’t throw too much attention on anyone. Lillian was fearful of looking older and not being able to get any work.

Arsenic and Old Lace
Arsenic and Old Lace

Helen observed: Sometimes she [Lillian Gish] is so closely in tune with her own  drummer she misses the beat of what is going on around her…. All her clothes date from 40 years, but the dresses are still elegant … and they still fit. When it came to work, she’s still sharp as a tack.

Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes and Bob Crane - Arsenic and Old Lace
Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes and Bob Crane – Arsenic and Old Lace

For the final week of rehearsals, prior to the actual taping, Lillian was rising at five to be ready for makeup at seven. Because the taping went beyond the usual time, Lillian missed two performances of the play. Lois Wilson played them. I Never Sang for My Father ended its run on May 11. Shortly afterwards a telephone call from Rapollo informed Lillian that Dorothy had contracted bronchial pneumonia. Three hours later, Lillian was on a plane bound for Italy. With Lillian at her bedside, 70-yearold Dorothy died on June 5, 1968. Next to the passing of her mother, Lillian would regard Dorothy’s death as the second greatest tragedy of her life. Lillian had been raised by her mother to always look after Dorothy because she was younger and more playful. Now that Lillian was alone, she would only have to look after herself. Otherwise they’ll hire another little girl…

Lillian Gish – A Life on Stage and Screen by STUART 0DERMAN

Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish Signed full frame 1919
Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish Signed full frame 1919

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Lillian Gish is Star in Fine Arts “Diane of the Follies” at Mission (1916)

Morning Press, Volume 45, Number 45, 24 October 1916

Lillian Gish is Star in Fine Arts “Diane of the Follies” at Mission

The main feature of the bill at the Mission theatre for the first half of this week is the Fine Art drama, “Diane of the Follies,” one of D. W. Griffith’s masterful productions, with a superb cast in which Lillian Gish is the bright particular star, following is a

Synopsis of the play:

Phillips Christy is a millionaire aristocrat, a man of delightful theories, one of which is that environment is the sum and substance ol life. He is writing a book promulgating this theory, which his ambitious sister urges him to finish. His chum, Don Livingston, coaxes him to join a theatre party. At a supper after the performance he meets Diane, the gayest, most charming and artificial of the girls of the Follies. To Diane Philips Christy falls captive. He tells his sister he will lift Diane of the Follies to their level —to the heights. After a few brief years of married life Diane wearies of the pose of living on the heights. Her husband, engrossed with his studies, does not realize this.

Diane of The Follies still - D444

She becomes dizzy upon this elevation: she pines for her own people of the theatre. Her husband’s quiet dignity and even her child’s exquisite charm fail to interest her. Hungry for applause, Diane invites some of her former chums to visit her, to parade before them her wealth and position. Poor Phillips Christy realizes that his theory has’ proved false —his wife, after the most careful training toward the uplift, has sought her level in the chorus and filled his house with cigarette-smoking, cocktail-drinking women of the theatre. Resentful at her husband’s attitude regarding her friends and his intolerance of them, Diane determines to leave and seek happiness in the freedom of her early environment.

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

She deserts her husband and child and is immediately installed as the star of the Follies. Later in the midst of her triumph, a message comes to her from her husband, requesting tier presence at the sick bed of their child. Before she arrives little Bijou, the child, has passed away. After the sad rites over the little child are performed, when Phillips Christy, never forgetting her breeding, asks Diane if she desires to remain in his home under the protection of his name, she, casting aside all artificiality, answers him truthfully from the depths of her soul.

  • The photoplay is preceded by a rattling good Keystone comedy. “Ambrose’s Rapid Rise,” in which the favorite screen comedian. Mack Swain, has all the chance he wants in getting the laughs, and the Mutual Weekly, picturing interesting recent news events and unusual spectacles.

Triangle Program at Mission Theatre

“Diane of The Follies” with Lillian Gish as the Vivacious Star

Interesting to women are the marvelous gowns, 67 in number, which are worn by the women in the cast. Nineteen are worn by Miss Gish herself, which makes the play a wonderful fashion show as well as a dramatic entertainment.

The Jewels worn by Lillian Gish were loaned by a jeweler of Los  Angeles. She adorns herself with a pearl necklace worth $30,000.00, a coronet worth $20,000.00, rings worth $7,000.00; and a bracelet worth $3,000.00, in addition to her own Jewelry valued at $15,000. The total is $75,000 worth of precious stones, which every woman will want to see.

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish
Morning Press, Volume 45, Number 45, 24 October 1916
Morning Press, Volume 45, Number 45, 24 October 1916

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Diane of The Follies - Lillian Gish
Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Cape Coat Continues to Appeal to Slender Figure (1927)

Advertising Annie Laurie ...

Lompoc Review, Volume IX, Number 4, 21 June 1927

Cape Coat Continues to Appeal to Slender Figure

(Graceful and charming, the cape coat continues to appeal to the slender  figure. Lillian Gish, Metro – Goldwyn – Mayer star, who is to be seen on the screen soon In her latest production, “Annie Laurie,” sponsors a coat of this type for general wear. This one is of kasha and is lined with a contrasting color which forms the piping on the cape. The cape is scalloped. With this coat Miss Gish wears a two-toned hat of the new linen weave so smart for summer wear and shoes of alligator skin.

Lillian Gish by Harriet Louise 1920s F
Lillian Gish by Harriet Louise 1920s F
Lompoc Review, Volume IX, Number 4, 21 June 1927
Lompoc Review, Volume IX, Number 4, 21 June 1927
ANNIE LAURIE, Norman Kerry (links), Lillian Gish (Mitte), Direktor John S. Robertson, am Set, 1927
ANNIE LAURIE, Norman Kerry (links), Lillian Gish (Mitte), Direktor John S. Robertson, am Set, 1927

 

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

LILLIAN GISH at Auditorium in SEX PLAY – TUESDAY

Morning Union, 3 September 1916

Grass Valley Department, Sunday September 3, 1916

LiLLIAN GISH at Auditorium in SEX PLAY – TUESDAY

The Lily and The Rose (1915) - Lillian Gish
The Lily and The Rose (1915) – Lillian Gish

Lillian Gish, with her canary-like movements, wears some ravishing costumes, remarkable examples of originality and good taste, in “The Lilly and the Rose,” which comes to the Auditorium Tuesday. This is all in strict accord with the traditions of French drama, from some example of which the story was probably derived, and the treatment is in harmony with the subject. Rozsika Dolly—what a compound! —is exceedingly shapely as the “other woman” and one is not permitted to lose sight of that fact. She is not only a danseuse, but she goes down to find out exactly what the wild waves are saying in a gauze veil and disports on the beach when no one but her protector and the audience cut in front are looking. Quite naturally, under the circumstances, the modest young wife keeping within the bounds of convention, the danseuse wins. “The Lily and the Rose” is distinctly a sex drama.

The Lily and The Rose (1915) - Lillian Gish
The Lily and The Rose (1915) – Lillian Gish

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Hollywood costume – Glamour! Glitter! Romance!

By DALE McGONATHY with DIANA VREELAND

What we remember most about Hollywood

… is the glamour and the romance they gave us. How they glorified their heroes and, worshiped their heroines. Those beautiful women, those handsome men. For Hollywood, everything was larger than life, bigger than anything before or since. The diamonds were bigger, the furs were thicker; the silks, velvets, satins, chiffons were richer and silkier. There were miles of ostrich feathers, maribou, white fox, and sable; miles of bugle beads, diamante, and sequins. Hollywood was paved with glitter, shine, and glory. Everything was an exaggeration of history, fiction, and the whole wide extraordinary world. After all, nothing was too good for Hollywood, and for Hollywood nothing was too good for the people. Hollywood was the world’s back porch. At Hollywood’s height, people didn’t travel as much as they do now. But they were still curious about what was going on in the rest of the world. And they had a fantasy about what happened in history. Whoever you were, a secretary in Bavaria, a housewife in South Dakota, you went to the movies—and it was the biggest, most important thing that ever happened in your life. You paid ten or twenty-five cents and you related to Salome, Cleopatra, Camille, or Catherine, Empress of all the Russians. To hell with relating to the lady next door. That was the essence of the movies: the magic wrought by Hollywood design.

The increased importance that Griffith and De Mille gave to set decoration and costume design, however, came less as a result of the shift of movie production to the West Coast, where greater freedom in exterior shots was possible, than as a consequence of the switch from brief two-reelers to feature-length films. The breakthrough film was D. W. Griffith’s biblical feature, Judith of Bethulia, shot in 1913, but not released until a year later, when Griffith—thwarted in his ambition to enlarge the scope and length of the films—had moved to another studio. The costumes for Judith of Bethulia were little more than glorified sheets and bathrobes, but, like Griffith’s set—a walled city thrown up in the San Fernando Valley—they were made specially for the movie—a first. The costumes and sets, Griffith’s ingenious use of rapid cutting, the montage, were clearly breaks with the straight-on, plodding film-record of the stage play that had been the practice until then. D. W. Griffith was passionately involved in the evocative power of visual detail, and his studied use of closeup brought in its train a whole series of changes in film makeup and costume. However inaccurate, Griffith’s use of costume and decor was profoundly evocative. Intolerance, 1916, with thousands of “historically” garbed extras, remains the most important and influential American film in the history of movie costume.

The expansion of the movies scope

… was further enhanced by the efforts of D. W. Griffith, whose  sentimentality was linked with a shrewd eye for detail and a keen sense of exploiting the technical side of moviemaking. However mawkish his sense of drama, however exaggerated his sexual and psychological involvement with young girls and their aura of innocence, he was able to evoke with realistic settings and costumes a world unimaginable in the stage-like treatments of his peers.

Lillian Gish - Hoover Art Studios LA
Lillian Gish – Hoover Art Studios, Los Angeles

About his stars, Griffith told Photoplay in 1923, “When I consider a young woman as a stellar possibility, I always ask myself: Does she come near suggesting the idealized heroine of life? , . . The girl, to have the real germ of stardom, must suggest—at least in a sketchy way—the vaguely conscious ideals of every woman. Again, she must suggest—and this is equally important—the attributes most women desire.”

Somewhat after the fact, Griffith was formulating the powerful psychology that imbued his movies, a major strain in the evolution of the feminine in the film in general. “To me, the ideal type for feminine stardom has nothing of the flesh, nothing of the note of sensuousness. My pictures reveal the type I mean. Commentators have called it the spirituelle type. But there is method in my madness. . . . The voluptuous type, blossoming into the full blown one, cannot endure. The years show their stamp too clearly. The other type … ah, that is different.”

Lillian Gish - Lucy, the girl (Broken Blossoms)
Lillian Gish – Lucy, the girl (Broken Blossoms)

“Blossoming,”

… with its sexual associations, had suggested one of Griffith’s most poignant movies. In Limehouse Stories, a volume of short stories about the Chinese slum section of London, Griffith found a short story in which the dreams of innocence and evil of the first Hollywood decade coalesced. In Broken Blossoms, 1919, taken from these stories, Griffith expressed intimately and unforgettably a theme that he approached again and again, often on a grander scale: Lillian Gish is mistreated by a drunken father.

Even when he beats her, she props her tiny mouth into a smile with her fingers. The scenes of her terror are almost unbearable in their intensity, almost a willful assault by the director on her somewhat vacant, woebegone presence. Finally, she is rescued by a kindly Chinese who dresses her in oriental style and places her in his bed, an adored object. What follows is one of the most erotic passages in American films—her still face transformed and lighted by an emerging sexual languor; her pathetic face framed by two pouts of curls, the wistful eyes, and the trembling mouth. In Broken Blossoms, more than in Birth of a Nation, 1915, and Intolerance, 1916, Griffith had suggested the stirring of an impulse that was to create the glamour and romance of Hollywood.

Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess - Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess – Broken Blossoms

…Starring Lillian Gish

Her mouth a thin line, her eyes ever grave, ever large, Lillian Gish was the prototype of D. W. Griffith’s Victorian heroines. Unlike Mary Pickford, she never overcame her troubles on the screen. She struggled and she was broken. About her, Allene Talmey, one of the wisest and wittiest writers about Hollywood, said, “her lace required only a breeze to whip it into change whereas others of her craft dealt exclusively with typhoons.” Lillian Gish, for all of her pathos, was a supreme master of her craft with a staggering knowledge of all aspects of moviemaking. She brought Henry Sartov to the Griffith studio to photograph her in Broken Blossoms. His contribution was the soft-focus photography, unique for 1918, that spills luminously over the film, giving it its special atmosphere.

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

 

It was the effect of filming Lillian Gish through gauze that gave her London waif a dreamy and memorable eroticism. Her small body, fragile features, and intimate scale of acting gave her a presence before the camera that was unlike that of any other actress. Her training under Griffith, a collaboration really, made her unusually canny. At MGM, she had a famous feud with Erte over the costumes for La Boheme. He wanted authenticity in the garments of the Latin Quarter students: tattered and heavy garments to suggest the cold of their garrets. Lillian Gish said that silk would do much more to indicate the poverty because it would create an “atmosphere.” Erte won out, but Gish did her own costumes. At MGM, in the late twenties, she was finally supplanted by Greta Garbo, who represented a new spirituelle type, a more worldly broken blossom. So, in her thirties, trailing clouds of lily-of-the-valley perfume, Lillian Gish retired to the stage and a career that has lasted until the present.

Curiously, a majority of those early moviemakers had started out in the fashion business, manufacturing gloves, clothing, furs, and jewelry. They understood the public’s taste for vicarious luxury and they inevitably imported many of their former associates from the garment trade into moviemaking. Louis B. Mayer was a shoemaker. Samuel Goldwyn a glovemaker. Adolph Zukor was a furrier. Later, Zukor insisted on fur trimming for the costumes in his pictures: “It was good for the business.” What business, was not clear. Goldwyn even got Chanel to design for the movies—along with Patou, Lucien Lelong, Alix—now Madame Gres, Maggy Rouf, and Schiaparelli, all for Artists and Models Abroad, 1938.

Hollywood costume – Glamour! Glitter! Romance!

Hollywood Costume

*** Note: Billy Bitzer used the same type of lens described in his autobiographic book as “Lillian Gish Lens”.

*** Note: Nothing new under the sun … History (always written by the victors) repeats itself. After Lillian Gish filmed “His Double Life” (1933), she didn’t make another film for ten years. When she did return in 1943, she played in two big-budget pictures, Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942) and Top Man (1943). The Cobweb (1955) marks the return of Lillian Gish to MGM after a 22-year absence.

*** Note: Lillian Gish’s “retirement” to the stage had nothing to do with Greta Garbo. In her autobiography “The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me”, and with many other occasions, Miss Gish detailed the whole chain of events (starting with her refusal of Mayer’s framed private life scandal). Mayer and Thalberg wanted to knock down Lillian from the pedestal and bring her at the same level, with the rest “decent” flappers of that time. Her well known answer, was that she has not enough energy to act in her private life, after she leaves the set. Then came “Uncle Vanya”. And then … a prodigious career that ended with Lillian’s last song – The Whales of August.  

Hollywood Costume Cover
Hollywood Costume Cover

Back to Lillian Gish Home page