The White Sister (Motion Picture Classic – 1923) – Laurence Reid Review

The Celluloid Critic

Laurence Reid Reviews the Latest Picture Plays

Motion Picture Classic – 1923

The parade of big pictures across New York screen goes on apace. It begins to look like a celluloid landslide and the season has hardly begun. Marion Davies and George Arliss have had their innings with “Little Old New York” and “The Green Goddess,” respectively, and now comes Mary Pickford in “Rosita,” Lillian Gish in “The White Sister” and Lon Chaney in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Silver Nitrate White Sister Lobby Card Negative
White Sister Lobby Card (Inspiration Pictures)

The White Sister

There is a lyric quality to Lillian Gish’s acting in “The White Sister” (Inspiration) which has never been recognized before. In that respect Henry King who directed this tragic story of broken romance has brought forward a talent which Griffith neglected in order to create an emotional outburst, of pent-up floods of passions and fear. As the frail, tender misguided child of fate, Miss Gish makes poignant appeal. It is heart-rending to see this tormented soul taking her separation from her lover with such courage and when learning of his death, turning her back on the world and finding peace and sanctuary in the Church.

The White Sister
The White Sister

There is a splendid clash of emotions when the girl takes the veil – an unforgettable scene – and daring in its execution. Then when the lover returns to find his sweetheart a nun the story releases a deeper poignant note. Here is Lillian Gish of wistful charm and poise, suffering the anguish which comes from conflict in her heart.

The White Sister
The White Sister

There are some irrelevant touches and the climax is too orthodox to ring genuine. We have the play of elements from all sides – nature releasing its unbounded fury, and the human puppets are swept aside like so many toy figures. The finish is regulation movie stuff. But the picture earns respect because of its spiritual quality – its poignant touches – its sweep of passion.

The White Sister
The White Sister

It strikes deep with its conflict of distressed souls and one emerges from the theater with a feeling of exhaustion – the tensity of scene when the girl takes the veil and when her soldier-lover returns to claim her, holding one in a tight embrace.

The White Sister
The White Sister

A newcomer is Ronald Colman who plays the broken-hearted lover and he gives a performance of quiet force and dignity. He never seems to be acting, which makes his expression all the more natural and genuine.

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Motion Picture Classic (1923-1926)
Motion Picture Classic (1923) The Celluloid Critic – White Sister

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The Hollywood Professionals – HENRY KING (by Clive Denton – 1974)

Henry King on set

The Hollywood Professionals


by Clive Denton – 1974

Perhaps King’s greatest strength as a director is that constant ability to make us really believe that two people are in love. Hollywood romantic films have been common enough, heaven knows. How often, though, have the feeling and the emotion had to be taken on trust? In his work, there has been no doubt that Susan Hayward loved William Lundigan, that Nancy Kelly loved Tyrone Power, that Shirley Jones loved Gordon MacRae and that Jennifer Jones loved God. Typical also of the stories which, fortunately, he has been paid to put on film is the longevity of a romantic feeling, through tribulations and changing circumstances. Much of King’s long career has been dedicated to an idealistic but not fatuous celebration of chivalry and a form of romance as much akin to friendship as to passion. Is this approach “sentimental”? It is I think, an hottest sentiment, almost never sugary and committed to a human affirmation not easily achieved nor maintained in am facile manner. In 1923 and 1921 King and his crew went to Italy and filmed two expensive, expansive productions, The White Sister and Romola, both Inspiration Pictures in association with Metro. Lillian Gish starred in each and King gave a double well-taken opportunity to a virtually unknown British actor by giving him, twice in succession, such a shining lady. The actor’s name was Ronald Colman and he went on to appear in three of the Henry King-Sam Goldwyn movies which occupied the director (on a profit-sharing basis) until the upheaval of sound pictures towards the end of the decade. Stella Dallas (1925) paired Colman with the touching Belle Bennett, The Winning of Barbara Worth ( 1926 ) and The Magic Flame (1927) cast him opposite the more glamorous Vilma Banky.

The White Sister
The White Sister

As one of Hollywood’s supreme craftsmen, he also learned and appreciated the actual pictorial sheen and loveliness possible with star portraiture within his silent movies. He and his cameramen produced breathtaking likenesses oi Lillian Gish and Vilma Banky, later equalled (in other hands) only by close shots of Garbo and Dietrich. This understanding of portrait heads within a film became rapidly waning art in the sound era but the knowledge remained with Henry King.

The White Sister
The White Sister

The Henry King hero or heroine is lonely. Many of his leading characters share, as a common bond, some form of isolation from their fellow men. Sometimes this isolation is physical and may spring from the conditions of a life outside the law. In Kind’s vision, there are compensations and consolations for all sacrifice. His world is a generous place in which spiritual ache is relieved by love, friendship and, to some extent, sheer bustle. What we may term “King Country” has a lot of people in it. A weary protagonist can expect to be cheered by kind words from a supporting player or distracted from his own problems by the diversity and simple interest of life around him. Still, the loneliness remains a central theme. It presses hard on those whose service takes religious forms. (King became a Catholic some time after The White Sisters production.)

The White Sister
The White Sister

The circuit riding minister and his wife find some ignorance and suspicion mixed with their generally warm welcome into the Georgia hills. In The Song of Bernadette (a film of very restrained sentiment, incidentally, which many skeptical people like better than they expect to) Bernadette Soubirous is tormented by questions and jealousies and doubts after she has seen The Virgin Mary in a vision. And Lillian Gish becomes a nun in The White Sister.

The White Sister
The White Sister

There are many parallels between this film and The Song of Bernadette. Although twenty years separate them, the visual continuity in scenes of convent life is a remarkable gift from one picture to the other (and both may have influenced Fred Zinnemann with The Nuns Story ) . This is a context where the extreme visual blacks and whites contrast with an emotional tone of ambivalent grey.

Lillian Gish in The White Sister (Angela Chiaromonte)
Lillian Gish in The White Sister (Angela Chiaromonte)

The White Sister relies unusually heavily for King on atmosphere and nuance. A young woman of high family (Gish) falls deeply in love with a handsome and dashing suitor (Ronald Colman).

The White Sister
The White Sister

Believing him killed in the World War, she enters a convent as a novice and eventually becomes the gracious lady of the title. It transpires that Colman was captured in the war, not killed. He returns and tries to persuade Gish to renounce her vows. She refuses but is wavering when a natural disaster (the eruption of Mount Vesuvius) delays a romantic decision. Colman dies heroically and Gish returns to her chosen (?) world. This was a reasonable story for the time but growing sophistication and the added pitfalls of sentiment expressed in dialogue proved hazardous for the reception of a sound re-make in 1933 (starring Helen Hayes and Clark Gable, directed by Victor Fleming).

The White Sister
The White Sister


Romantic drama, shot on Italian locations. Sc: George V. Hobart, Charles E. Whittaker (novel by Francis Marion Crawford). Ph: Roy Overbaugh. Art dir: Robert M. Haas. Ed: Duncan Mansfield. With Lillian Gish (Angela Chiaromonte) , Ronald Colman (Capt. Giovanni Severi), Gail Kane (Marchesa di Mola), J. Barney Sherry (Monsignor Saracinesca) , Charles Lane (Prince Chiaromonte), Juliette La Violette (Madame Bernard), Signor Serena (Prof. Ugo Severi), Alfredo Bertone, Ramon Ibanez, Alfredo Martinelli, Carloni Talli, Giovanni Viccola, Antonio Barda, Giacomo D’Attino, Michele Gualdi, Giuseppe Pavoni, Francesco Socinus, Sheik Mahomet, James Abbe, Duncan Mansfield. Prod: Henry King for Inspiration Pictures ( Metro release).


Henry King

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After ‘Life With Father’ Lillian Gish Owns the (Chicago) Town – By Lloyd Lewis (New York Times, 1941)

The New York Times June 1, 1941


After ‘Life With Father’ the Actress Almost Owns the Town

By LLOYD LEWIS – Chicago

Lillian Gish, by virtue of sixty-six weeks in “Life With Father” at Chicago Blackstone Theatre, now takes her place beside the Lunts, Helen Hayes and Katharine Cornell as a truly national star.

She has achieved this position by merely spending well over a year at the crossroads of America, the railroad center, whereas the others have had to tour arduously from Tulsa to Des Moines to Seattle to Atlanta. An amazing number of transcontinental travelers stopped off in Chicago long enough to see this Chicago company of “Life With Father,” and the Pullman people say the show did a lot for midnight bookings.

Life With Father - Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish

But it was by automobile that the great bulk of out-of-towners came to see Miss Gish and the comedy which on May 24 ended its run after setting a new longevity mark for dramas in Chicago. Sedans carrying four or five people arrived constantly from everywhere within a radius of 400 miles. Hitchhikers were found during the year to have come 200 miles just to see the play. One woman in Chicago went thirty-five times. Hundreds are known to have seen it four and five times. What was common was for men to attend during a trip to Chicago and then return some weeks later with their entire families, one of the standard sights in the audiences being that of a father sitting with his home folks and watching, from the corner of his eye, their faces as, on the stage, they saw him satirized, portrayed, “taken off.”

Miss Gish, to the people of the interior, was still a shimmering memory from the silent screen when she arrived in Chicago with the Crouse-Lindsay comedy in the Spring of 1940. She had made brief appearances in spoken dramas during the past decade, but the plays had never been smash hits nor tarried long in the few large cities which they had visited. Her Ophelia opposite John Gielgud had never come West. Most of her stage fame was purely Broadway.

Lillian Gish as Ophelia in Hamlet 1936
Lillian Gish as Ophelia and John Gielgud in Hamlet 1936

But in “Life With Father” she has made herself an entirely new fame in the midlands. The Lily Maid of Astolat is no longer a dream creature in an ivory belfry nor a flower-decked vision on a dark barge. She is now Mrs. Day, mother, wife and housekeeper. Lillian Gish has come from the unreal to the real. She has made people laugh, she has made people adore her for the simplicity and humor as well with the truly great charm with which she has worn the manners and costumes of the past century. She has identified herself with a character, a scene and a play wholly American, wholly practical and realistic so far as atmosphere is concerned.

Life with f lill 58

Midlanders talk about her now as though she had never been a fabulous, distant, legendary creature of D.W. Griffith’s filmdom at all. She is now somebody everybody knows-and loves, and if she chooses, she can tour the midlands for years in this comedy, building for herself a reputation approaching that of Joe Jefferson in “Rip Van Winkle.” It would take years, of course, and it is not likely she will undertake it, for on May 24 she had acted Vinnie Day for seventy-two consecutive weeks without missing a performance or a rehearsal. Some of those weeks were, indeed, rehearsals, but they meant daily work longer and harder than actual performances and must be added to the span of her toil.

“I don’t know,” says she, “if I should play ‘Life With Father’ any longer; Helen Hayes tells me seventy-two weeks straight is too long for an actress. Other theatrical people tell me that I have thus set a new American record for an actress playing a principal role. I don’t know about this. I do know that I grew weary toward the end and only the enthusiasm of those crowds kept me going. I felt, too, that is was good for the theatre, especially in the midlands, to have a play run in one house for more than a year. That could mean the education of new thousands to the value of the drama.”

Life With Father - Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish

After a Summer’s rest, Miss Gish will decide whether to appear in another play or to return to further tours in “Life With Father.” It was from a balcony seat at the Empire Theatre in New York soon after the original company was launched that she first saw the play. After the first two acts she went to the business office of the theatre downstairs and congratulated the management. One of owner Oscar Serlin’s lieutenants then and there asked her why she didn’t head a second company. Surprised, she retired to the balcony with the statement that if the third act held up she’d see. It did, she saw, and within a few weeks she was rehearsing with the second company.

During the historic Chicago run, which bettered by one week the record set by Frank Bacon in “Lightnin’” in 1921-22. Miss Gish has done herculean work for the play outside as well as in the theatre. She has become a very impressive speaker due to the endless Kiwanis and women’s club luncheons she has addressed. She has been photographed with Mayors, water lilies, new automobiles, 4-H club youngsters. She has posed buying tickets to charities.

Life With Father - Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish

In her, Chicago has seen what D.W. Griffith saw when, at the height of her career as a fragile, ultra-feminine, wraith-like spirit in films, he said “she has the brain of a man.” For the Griffith films she worked daily, every day, across nine years. When she was not acting she was writing subtitles, picking locations, coining advertising catch lines. She learned all about billposting, and bargained for one-sheets, twenty-four sheets, snipes. She coined the title for “The Greatest Thing in Life,” and once in the early 1920’s she directed for Paramount a picture called “Remodeling Her Husband,” with her sister Dorothy as star and an unknown girl-friend named Dorothy Parker supplying the subtitles.

Life With Father - Lillian Gish
Life With Father – Lillian Gish

Not without pride Miss Gish recalls, today, that this film cost $28.000 and grossed $300.000. And she takes satisfaction in the success of “White Sister,” a film for which she raised the money, supervised the scenario, the direction, the acting, and made the releasing deals when major companies refused to handle the film because it was “non-commercial.” It was she who wrote into the script the scene that assured the picture’s success, the ceremonial at which the heroine became a nun; the scene had not been contained in either the novel or drama. Her discovery of Ronald Colman, an obscure stage actor, as a film possibility and her employment of him as the hero of “White Sister” was also a businesslike item in the story of that film. Costing $270.000 it was eventually took in $4.000.000.

So wholly did Hollywood come to agree with Griffith’s verdict that she owned the brain of a man that she had, several years ago, standing offers from companies to come back and direct whenever she wished. But stage acting has been more important to her, obviously giving her mind more nourishment than Hollywood could ever give.

Thinking back across her career, it was not the nine vacationless years with Griffith, nor the seventy-two consecutive weeks of “Life With Father” that have taxed her as much as in the long run as Ophelia in “Hamlet” with John Gielgud.

“And it wasn’t the work that did that,” she says, “it was the emotional strain of Gielgud’s Hamlet. Every night his performance was as emotionally exhausting to me as to the spectators. His was truly great acting.”

Hamlet 1936
Hamlet 1936

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After 'Life With Father' the Actress Almost Owns the Chicago Town NY Times Sun 1 1941
After ‘Life With Father’ the Actress Almost Owns the Chicago Town NY Times Sun 1 1941

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Life With Father Blackstone Theatre Chicago postcard ca 1941
Life With Father Blackstone Theatre Chicago postcard ca 1941


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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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A New Hero of the Films—Ronald Colman (Vanity Fair 1927)

Vanity Fair – FEBRUARY 1927

A New Hero of the Films—Ronald Colman

The Young English Actor, First Sponsored Here by Henry Miller, Has Become a Popular Screen Star

AFTER a brief apprenticeship on the London stage, Ronald Colman came to „ America some six years ago to act in the spoken drama and failed to make any impression whatever on New York playgoers. Appearing in a hit on the stage of the Empire Theatre with the late Henry Miller and Ruth Chatterton in Henri Bataille’s La Tendresse, he did not “take” the managers, the press, or the public.

It remained for motion pictures to discover him. Henry King, the film director, introduced Mr. Colman to the screen in a picture featuring Lillian Gish—The White Sister—and again with Miss Gish in Romola, made from the George Eliot novel. After five years as a leading man who helped a dozen famous stars of the cinema out of their motor cars and into their sables, Ronald Colman became a motion picture idol. He became in turn the screen lover of almost every personable lady of the films; of Norma Talmadge, May McAvoy, Blanche: Sweet, Constance Talmadge, Marie Prevost, among others.

Lillian Gish - Romola
Lillian Gish – Romola

But time proved him to be more than a foil for celluloid sentiment. He had a curious method of acting that was both restrained and adroit. Then came Stella Dallas—a lachrymose and shopworn opus dedicated to mother love and adultery, which, strangely, made three stars—Lois Moran, Belle Bennett and Mr. Colman himself. He became,, after this, a hero to the multitude, who was also admired by the discriminating. His sponsors have given him the implausible appellation of “the man you love to love”, which phrase has unbelievably enough added to his popularity. Abovehe appears as a Spanish bandit in his latest picture, A Night of Love, in which the final close-up leaves him draped in the arms of the fair Vilma Banky.

Ronald Colman - Vanity Fair 1927
Ronald Colman – Vanity Fair 1927

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“Romola” (Moving Picture World – 1924)

November 15 1924 – MOVING PICTURE WORLD

(Advertising “ROMOLA”)

Lillian Gish to Appear for Metro in Specials

LILLIAN, GISH, through her. contract with Charles H. Duell, Jr., becomes an ‘exclusive Metro-Goldwyn star, according to the announcement by Nicholas M. .Schenck, vice-president of Metro-Goldwyn. The deal is one of the most important that has occurred in the film business this year. It not only marks the first independent production of Charles H. Duell, Jr., but it sets at rest endless rumors regarding the future affiliations -of Miss Gish.

Moving Picture World (Dec 13 1924) Romola Cover
Moving Picture World (Dec 13 1924) Romola Cover

As the popular’ star of “The White Sister” and of “Romola,” shortly to be released by Metro-Goldwyn, she has been spoken of for several ‘famous roles, and her services have been sought after by every American company and .several foreign producers. “Romola,” made by Inspiration Pictures, is a Henry King production and was directed by him in Italy.. By the terms of the Duell contract, Miss Gish will appear exclusively in a series of special productions for Metro-Goldwyn, it was stated by Mr. Schenck. Metro-Goldwyn regards the new Lillian Gish series as among the most important it has ever handled. Mr. Schenck stated: “Our arrangement with Charles H. Duell, Jr., for the new series of Lillian Gish specials is particularly gratifying to us, as it will enable us to give exhibitors absolutely one of the most popular box-office stars before the public. Mr. Duell’s name connected with a picture has always been a guarantee of splendid artistic quality as well as assured box-office values. ‘ The White Sister” and “Romola” prove that. We anticipate immense success for Miss Gish’s new series, and are happy to continue our association begun with ‘The White Sister.’”

The new arrangement follows almost directly on the deal closed several weeks ago between Mr. Duell for Inspiration Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn for the distribution of Romola, a Henry King production over a year in the making at Florence, Italy. Dorothy Gish is featured in “Romola” with Lillian, who is starred. This is George Eliot’s famous novel. No announcement has yet been made by Mr. Duell regarding the producing organization that will surround Miss Gish. Several stories are under . consideration for the first picture under the new contract. When this decision is made, preliminary work will be started at once. In all likelihood the first production will be filmed in the East, which has been the headquarters of Mr. Duell’s picture activities.

Lillian Gish and director Henry King - Romola candid on set

“Romola” Editing Completed

Gish Girls Picture Hailed One of Greatest Films Ever Produced Lillian Gish, star of Henry King’s “Romola,” and Dorothy Gish, featured player, are ready to be seen by the public in their newest and greatest roles. The editing and titling has been completed and the production was reviewed in its final form by Metro-Goldwyn executives last week. Metro-Goldwyn will distribute the big Inspiration Picture special, which was over a year in production at Florence, Italy. The verdict of those who saw “Romola” as it will be presented to the public is that Henry King’s production is unquestionably one of the greatest screen achievements brought to the films. It is claimed that the spectacular scenes in the film have never been surpassed. The story is of the time ‘of Columbus’s discovery of America and is laid in Florence. Lillian Gish is seen as a Florentine maid and Dorothy Gish as a peasant girl lessa. William Powell and Ronald Colman have important roles.

Lillian Gish and William Powell - Romola
Lillian Gish and William Powell – Romola

December 13, 1924 MOVING PICTURE WORLD


Lillian Gish Starred in Pictorially Beautiful Adaptation of George Eliot’s Classic Novel

Reviewed by C. S. Sewell

George Eliot’s classic novel, “Romola,” with its story laid in Florence, Italy, in the fifteenth century, has reached the screen as a Henry King production for Inspiration Pictures, Inc., with Lillian Gish as the star and Dorothy Gish featured, and is being distributed through Metro-Goldwyn. The most striking feature of this production is its magnificence and wonderful pictorial beauty. Filmed on the actual locations called for in the story, so finely has it been handled, with such painstaking attention to accuracy of detail, that it is a vivid presentation of the life of that period, and the spectator is made to feel as if he has been actually transported’ back to Florence in the days of the de Medici. “Romola” is certainly a masterpiece of beauty and splendor, with wonderful shots of the city of Florence, its palaces, streets, market-places and cathedrals, with striking interior scenes, gorgeous costumes and wellhandled mobs. We doubt if there has ever been a picture that can excel it in these respects.

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

As to the story, while there are scenes that are dramatically and emotionally effective, they occur mostly in the latter part of the picture. Narrative in form, it is lacking in love interest, and concerns mostly the rise to fame of the rascally adventurer, Tito, and his marriage to Romola, who does not love him, while her love for Carlo is only suggested and he is provided with no opportunities of a romantic nature. As presented at the Cohan Theatre in New York, this picture is in thirteen reels, and particularly in the first half there is a noticeable slowness of movement due to the elaborate attention to details and the holding of some of the scenes too long. The tempo quickens in the second half and there is no lack of real action in the climax. These sequences have been effectively handled, and the scene where Savonarola is fastened to a pole and a fire built under him is undeniably impressive, but it is unpleasant and, although rain puts out the fire, he apparently meets death as a martyr, by hanging. The scene where Tito is choked and held under water by the foster-father he has disowned, until he drowns, is decidedly gruesome. The performance of the players is uniformly excellent.

Lillian Gish Profile Romola

Lillian Gish is not only strikingly beautiful as Romola, with an ideal spiritual type of beauty, but her acting is remarkably effective. Dorothy Gish as the little peasant girl shows to advantage and contributes excellent comedy and human interest touches. W. H. Powell as Tito has the lion’s share of the action and is not only a remarkably good type for the role but makes a distinctly fine impression and gives a wonderful performance. Charles Lane does excellent work as Baldassarro, and Bonaventura Ibanez likewise as the blind father of Romola. The portrayal of Savonarola by Herbert Grimwood is remarkably effective and he bears a marvelous likeness to the pictures of the Florentine ecclesiastic painted by the Italian masters. Personally, while we felt its pictorial charm, the story did not get a strong hold on our emotions and the interest was weakened by the maze of detail and incident, and we doubt whether the magnificence, splendor and beauty of this picture, plus the excellent work of the cast, will outweigh these other considerations in the minds of the average patron. In a word, its box office reaction will rest largely on its pictorial appeal.

Lillian Gish - Romola
Lillian Gish – Romola


Romola ……………………………. Lillian Gish

Tessa …………………………….. Dorothy Gish

Tito Melena ………….. William H. Powell

Carlo ………………………….. Ronald Colman

Baldassaro …………………….. Charles Lane

Savonarola ………….  Herbert Grimwood

llarilo Bardi ………. llonaventura Ibanez

Adolfo Spini …………………… Frank Puglia

Brigida ……………… Amelia Summerville

Nello …………………………….. Fduilio Mucei

Based on novel by George Eliot.

Directed by Henry King.

Length, 12,S>74 feet.

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


A boat approaching Italy is set upon by pirates and Baldassaro, a noted scholar, gives his adopted son Tito a ring that will be a passport with all men of learning. Tito escapes but Baldassaro is captured. Tito reaches Florence at the time that the people incited by the priest, Savonarola, has risen and cast out their ruler, Piero de Medici. Accidentally he aids Bardi, a blind man and noted scholar and is received with honors, finally winning consent to his marriage to his daughter Romola who loves Carlo, an artist. Through the aid of Spini, an adventurer who has become the real power behind the government, Tito rises to the post of chief magistrate. In the meantime he flirts with Tessa a peasant girl, going through a mock marriage during a carnival, which is very real to Tessa, so he installs her in a house and a child is born to them. Tito shows his real nature when he sells the priceless books of Bardi, and Romola leaves him. He issues a decree that means death to Savonarola but his ambition overleaps itself and he is chased by the mob. Jumping into the river he meets death by drowning at the hands of Baldassaro, whom he has refused to recognize. Romola meets Tessa and befriends her, and finally finds happiness with Carlo who has remained faithful to her.

Lillian Gish - Romola (mid)
Lillian Gish – Romola (mid)

Europe Praises “Romola”

“Such a work of art merits every success,” was the statement by Georges Clemenceau, former premier of France, after witnessing Lillian Gish in Henry King’s Inspiration production of “Romola,” a Metro-Goldwyn picture, with Dorothy Gish in a featured role. Numerous other European celebrities have expressed their enthusiasm over “Romola,” including Giavonni Poggi, resident director of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, and curator of all the royal galleries of Tuscany; P. Bonnard, one of the greatest living French painters; Leonce Benedite, director of the Luxembourg Museum and the Rodin Museum in Paris; Santiago Alba, former Minister of Fine Arts in Spain; Dr. Guido Biagi; and Firmin Gemier, director of the Odeon National Theatre, Paris.

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

“Romola’s” Great Beauty Fascinated N. Y. Critics

BEFORE a distinguished audience Lillian Gish’s long-awaited appearance in Henry King’s Inspiration production of “Romola,” with Dorothy Gish, occurred on December 1st at the George M. Cohan Theatre in New York. “Romola” is a Metro-Goldwyn picture, based on George Eliot’s greatest novdl, and it was acclaimed by metropolitan critics. There was a large delegation of film stars. Marcus Loew, Adolph Zukor, Joseph M. Schenck, Edward Mi Bowes, William E. Atkinson, Jesse L. Lasky, Harry Rapf, Hiram Abrams, Nicholas M. Schenck, David L. Loew, Leopold Friedman, Charles K. Stern, Arthur M. Loew, David B. Bernstein, J. Robert Rubin, Charles C. Moskowitz and Messmore Kendall were among the prominent executives in the industry who were present. After the opening night it was reported that the remainder of the week was then practically sold out. “Personally, I like ‘Romola’ better than ‘The White Sister,’ ” said Louella Parsons in the New York American the morning after the premiere. As the story was filmed on the actual locale at Florence, Italy, the unrivaled beauty of the settings received marked comment from the press, Miss Parsons said, “The scenery in ‘Romola’ will please the most fastidious and act as a tonic for those who believe films the lowest form of art.” “It seems a perfect product,” was the praise of Harriette Underhill in the New York Herald Tribune, adding that, “it reppresents the art of the cinema in its highest form.” Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times wrote: “This is a film to be remembered, and the gorgeous scenes will never be forgotten.” “To the end the charm of the Gishes hold one,” wrote the reviewer of the New York Morning World, calling it “amazingly wondrous to behold,” adding that “the mob scenes are excellently done,” and stating that “the aesthetic pleasure of admiring the profile of Lillian is almost enough for one picture.” “An ambitious picture,” was Mildred Spain’s endorsement in the New York Daily News, adding that the picture “boasts the rich tale by George Eliot, superb  photography, able direction, noteworthy backgrounds.” “Henry King has produced a lovely work of art,” said the New York Evening Post, adding that many shots are “lovelier than words can describe.”

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

Grauman Books Lillian Gish in “Romola” for Hollywood

ONE week after its world premiere at the George M. Cohan Theatre in New York, the Lillian and Dorothy Gish special, “Romola,” will go into Sid Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, for a long run starting December 8.

Sid Grauman plans to give Henry King’s new Inspiration production, distributed by Metro-Goldwyn, the most elaborate prologue he has staged in the Egyptian Theatre. As the Egyptian prologues are famous for their lavish beauty, Mr. Grauman’s intention in regard to “Romola” indicates that the production is expected to achieve a record run there. With “Romola” playing at both ends of the country at the same time, the publicity from these two engagements is expected to “cover” the entire United States territory in which the picture will afterward play. “Romola” has an immense audience waiting for it, as the George Eliot novel on which the picture is based is one of the most famous standard books, and the reunion of Lillian and Dorothy Gish in the picture is counted on to prove a big draw. Dorothy has a featured role in the production in which Lillian is the star.

Egyptian Theater -1922
Egyptian Theater -1922

“Romola” was filmed in Florence, Italy, more than a year being required for the massive production, which abounds in spectacular features.

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Critics Praise Lillian Gish in “The White Sister” – Moving Picture World – 1924

Moving Picture World – February 1924

Critics Praise Lillian Gish in “The White Sister”

San Francisco Critics Find “White Sister” True to Life

LILLIAN GISH’S latest feature, “The White Sister,” which Metro is to release under the terms of the contract recently closed with Inspiration Pictures, Inc., came in for praise by San Francisco newspaper critics, following its opening at the Capitol Theatre in that city.

“Words are futile things with which to describe the charm of the tragic romance. Lillian Gish is the star of The White Sister and as always, this supreme tragic actress of the American films holds the eye by her wistful beauty, frail intensity, her restrained pathos,” said the San Francisco Journal.

“The sincerity of Miss Gish’s acting is the greatest tribute to her genius. The balance of the cast have been expertly chosen,” is the opinion of the San Francisco Examiner critic.

“Beauty, reverence, the swirl of wild passion, the power of purity, a man’s sacrifice for his fellows — these are some of the impressions brought away from looking at The White Sister,” stated the San Francisco Chronicle.

“There are two outstanding features of The White Sister. One, and that which is called first to the attention of the viewer, is the beauty of the production. The second is the acting of Lillian Gish in the title role,” said the San Francisco Call and Post.

Theatre Magazine August 1923 - The White Sister
Theatre Magazine August 1923 – The White Sister

“The White Sister scored an artistic success upon the speaking stage, but no greater success than accorded The White Sister of the screen,” wrote the San Francisco Bulletin. “In every respect it is infintely worth while, a screen classic. A critic would have to scatter superlatives to do justice to the production and the star,” stated the San Francisco Herald.

“Filmed entirely in Italy, the background is romatic to a high degree, and the photography, to say nothing of the acting of Miss Gish and the Italian principals, directed by Henry King, noted for his work in Tol’able David, make the picture one of the most important of the year,” is a portion of the review in the San Francisco News.

The White Sister
The White Sister

Lillian Gish in “The White Sister,” the inspiration picture that Metro will soon give national distribution, played the Alhambra Theatre in Milwaukee recently. “With no stretch of the imagination this picture can at once be placed in the list of the best productions,” said the Evening Sentinuel.

“Miss Gish has never done better work.” “Lillian Gish is better in ‘The White Sister’ than in anything she has ever done,” said Peggy Patton in the Wisconsin News.

“From any standpoint it is splendid.” “ ‘The White Sister’ unquestionably is an out-of-the-ordinary contribution to the screen,” said the Milwaukee Leader.

“When you see a certain actress in a certain role and you say to yourself, ‘There’s no one else in the world could have played it as she does’ then you know it’s a pretty splendid performance. And if you are that rare combination—a film fan and book reader—you can tell in advance what the fragile and lovely Lillian Gish would make of F. Marion Crawford’s novel, ‘The White Sister.’ To tell you more would be to steal from your enjoyment of the picture.” Thus wrote Mary Mac in the Milwaukee Journal.

Moving Picture World (Feb 1924) Praise The White Sister 1
Moving Picture World (Feb 1924) Praise The White Sister 1
Moving Picture World (Feb 1924) Praise The White Sister 2
Moving Picture World (Feb 1924) Praise The White Sister 2

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My Pulchrist Experiment in Verisimilitude (Jesse Waugh – 2013)

Paintings 2013 (Jesse Waugh)

My Pulchrist Experiment in Verisimilitude

Having lived as an experimental ‘artist-at-large’ for the past two decades, I took it upon myself to try my hand at representative oil painting this year. I moved to Florence, Italy, in December, 2012, because I wanted to see how renaissance painters created Beauty on canvas.

What I found was that far from being hyperrealist in the execution of their paintings, the Old Masters simply attempted to create Beauty in as realistic a way as was possible. Trompe l’oeil was and is a niche technique. The unitiated often fetishise hyperverisimilitude, believing it to possess the greatest intrin­sic artistic value. But my goal is to create Beauty. I’ve even created my own art movement which I call Pulchrism. So I attempted realism in painting this year merely as a potential vehicle for Beauty.

Drawn somewhat unconsciously to silent movie imagery, I began this quest with a still image capture from an old movie, interpreting its general form into my Sacred Hermaphrodite diety 5=6 who descends onto Florence’s Via del Moro.

From there I pursued more realistic body contouring with Suffrage and Beauty Disarming Love, learning about background detailing along the way.

Finding a beautiful head shot of silent movie actress Lilian Gish on the Inter­net, I was inspired to recreate a version of her in oil paint. I fell in love with her at first sight, and therefore had to name her Galatea.

When the summer came to Florence I decided it was time to migrate to my air-conditioned apartment in New York City’s Bowery District. There I paint­ed Cascading Orchids as a still life practice exercise in preparation for Butterfly Goddess – a much larger, more complex work. I soon after completed Unicorn Purifying Water, an accomplished work in my estimation, one inspired by an exhibition of unicorn imagery at the Cloisters in northern Manhattan.

After spending a month in Japan seeking out Shinto shrines and Japanese Art Nouveau, I finally returned to the UK and ventured to recreate hothouse flowers in Pitcher Plants.

Having a strong desire to make large canvases depicting beautiful butterflies, I endeavored to reproduce the extraordinary colour of the Madagascan Sunset Moth in my last painting of the year.

JESSE WAUGH Paintings 2013 - Galatea (Lillian Gish)
JESSE WAUGH Paintings 2013 – Galatea (Lillian Gish)

Jesse Waugh, November 2013


Oil on canvas, Florence, Italy

“The image reminds of me the intents of the pre-Raphaelite… perhaps its emphasis on simplicity and purity.”

– Liliana Leopardi, Art Historian, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Galatea gazes lovingly upon Pygmalion as she completes her metamorphosis. A torrential rain cascades down while a Morpho butterfly hovers above an­nouncing the event.

Inspired by Louis Gauffier’s depiction of Galatea at the Manchester Art Gal­lery, and modelled after a famous portrait of the silent movie actress Lillian Gish, Jesse Waugh’s Galatea is the first fully Pulchrist work of painting, em­bodying all of the tenets of Pulchrism, the art movement advocating Beauty in the arts.

JESSE WAUGH Paintings 2013 -cover
JESSE WAUGH Paintings 2013 -cover

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