Life Is Beautiful, Says Lillian Gish – By Aileen St. John Brennon (Picture Play – March, 1927)

Picture Play – March, 1927 Volume XXVI Number 1

Manhattan Medley

By Aileen St. John Brennon

Lillian Gish - Hartsook 3094a

Life Is Beautiful, Says Lillian Gish.

It would be a surprise, wouldn’t it, if you asked for “Diana Ward” at a hotel desk and had Lillian Gish, in person, answer the summons? In one of those shy, retiring moods characteristic of her, Miss Gish came to New York incognito—under the above name—for a change of atmosphere just before she essayed the role of Pauli in the film version of Channing Pollock’s stirring stage play, “The Enemy.”

A demure little figure in her black furs and conservative toque, she might have passed for any of a dozen inconspicuous Miss Wards had it not been for her large solemn eyes and delicately modeled hands. Miss Gish, the mature young woman of to-day, is a well-poised, well-balanced being, with a becoming dignity and reserve found only in combination with intelligence, sureness and a sense of the fitness of things.

In contrast with the earthy Jack Gilbert, Miss Gish tells you that her one aim in molding a characterization is But let her tell it in her own words.

“When I am looking for material for myself, there is one desire uppermost. I want a story that has in it at least one or two moments of great beauty. I wanted ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ for example, because of that beautiful love scene played over the heads of the people.” The Reverend Dimmesdale, if you remember, and Hester Prynne, so exquisitely portrayed by Miss Gish, pour out their souls to each other on the scaffolding in the square before crowds of derisive Puritans.

“And ‘The White Sister’ appealed to me because of the spiritual beauty of the ceremonial when the young nun takes her vow. And in ‘La Boheme’ I hoped we would capture for a little the elusive beauty to be found in the Puccini opera.”

Jeanne d’Arc is a character whom Miss Gish hopes some day to portray, when the time, the gods, and the powers that be are propitious. “But my Jeanne must be perfect,” she said. “I have read hundreds of books about her. I know her from the conceptions of dozens of different authors and commentators. To me she is a most delicate girl with amazing faith and perception. You know, she pleaded her own breach-of-promise suit, and that takes brains and stamina. And much as I love and admire Jeanne, I shall never play her until the picture can be made in France and a year can be spent in its preparation. Jeanne’s whole life was beautiful in its faith, and we must present it perfectly or leave it undone.”

Lil Dorothy tennis

Miss Gish feels that the outdoor sports of the day are bound to produce an unfavorable result for films. “For,” she. said, “how can the movies compete with the great out-of-doors, once people learn to appreciate and love the open air? It is all an evidence of the vitality of America that, throughout the country, every  one is determined these days to get into knickerbockers and tweeds and romp about playing games. I am afraid the movie theaters will suffer terribly by comparison.” A few days, stolen from her mother’s bedside, were all Miss Gish could spare to spend in the great seething metropolis of the East. But Mrs. Gish, she reported, was recovering slowly from the stroke which had laid her low, and the Gish girls, who are devoted to their mother, feel they have every reason to rejoice. “Dorothy calls England ‘home’ now,” said Lillian, “but we intend to win her back.”

Lillian Gish, Mrs. Robinson (Gish) and Dorothy after Mother had a stroke
Lillian Gish, Mrs. Robinson (Gish) and Dorothy after Mother had a stroke – press photo taken on the roof top of their apartment in NY

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Friends Tried and True (Lillian, Dorothy, Mary and Mildred) By M. Lewis Russel

Picture Play Magazine – January 1920 Vol. XI No.5

Friends Tried and True

By M. Lewis Russel

THEY’VE been pals “forever and ever,” according to Dorothy Gish—she and Lillian and Mary Pickford and Mildred Harris Chaplin. And the day before Lillian left Los Angeles for the East there was a tea party on the Gish lawn, a sort of love feast.

Mildred Harris, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Mary Robinson McConnell (Gish) and Dorothy Gish
Mildred Harris, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Mary Robinson McConnell (Gish) and Dorothy Gish

Years ago, when they were all just little girls, Lillian Gish had to give up a part with a road company because her mother could not go along. That part fell to Mary Pickford, whose mother could go. And before the company started off, Lillian and Dorothy and Mary had become friends. They kept in close touch with each other from that time on.

After awhile Mary Pickford joined the Griffith forces in pictures at the old Biograph Studio in New York. One day Lillian and Dorothy returned from a trip. “Oh, girls !” said Mary, “I am working in pictures. You have never seen moving pictures made, so come on over to the studio with me, and watch them work.” Off they went!

Mary Pickford, Mildred Harris Chaplin, Mary, Dorothy, and Lillian Gish
Mary Pickford, Mildred Harris Chaplin, Mary, Dorothy, and Lillian Gish

“Hello, Mary,” said D. W. G. “Who’s this with you?”

“Oh, they’re just Lillian and Dorothy—they never saw pictures made, so I brought them along !”

“Well—do they want to work in pictures ?”

“Sure they do !”

“All right—tell them to begin next week !”

And they started in at the fabulous sum of ten dollars a week!

“Do you remember, Lillian,” said Mary over the teacups, “those little twins next door, who used to slip up and poke you with their fingers, to see if you were alive? They always thought you were a doll!”

Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish
Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish

“Yes—and do you remember when Mildred first came to the studio here how little she seemed, and how we used to take care of her, Dorothy?”

“Oh, yes, Lillian”—it was Mildred Harris talking—”you know I always did just worship you! I used totag around after you and watch every thing you did!”

“Well, we had great times saving our pennies for birthday gifts !” Dorothy exclaimed. “Do you remember when we were little things, Mary—once your mother said Lillian was just too lovely to live ! She said she was afraid an angel would come and take her up to Heaven ”

Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford
Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford

“Oh, my!” laughed Mary Pickford, “and then they noticed that whenever Lillian and I were left alone I always got away from her as fast as I could ! I was afraid the angel would come for her when I was there, and take me, too!”

“Mildred has an anniversary next week! Why, what a shame I’ll be gone,” sighed Lillian. “But I’ll be thinking about you, anyway. Aren’t we the lucky girls, all of us—all four of us. It seems most too good to be true—after all the years and years we worked together !”

“That’s all right, don’t forget that you worked and you didn’t get more than you deserved—you and Mary, anyway,” Dorothy laughed, and caught Mildred gaily by the hand. “Come on, let’s see if there isn’t some chocolate ice cream !”

Friends Tried and True - Picture-Play Magazine (Jan 1920)
Friends Tried and True – Picture-Play Magazine (January 1920)


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How I Saw “Hearts of the World” – By Marguerite Sheridan (Picture Play Magazine 1918)

Lillian Gish and The Little Disturber (Dorothy) - Hearts of The World
Lillian Gish and The Little Disturber (Dorothy) – Hearts of The World

Picture Play Magazine Vol. VIII July, 1918 No. 5

How I Saw “Hearts of the World”

Seated beside Lillian and Dorothy Gish, their guest for the evening, the writer witnessed the first public performance of the new Griffith masterpiece. This is an account of her impressions of that event.

By Marguerite Sheridan

Movies in America - David Wark Griffith
Movies in America – David Wark Griffith

GRIFFITH Night in Los Angeles! For months to come, “Hearts of the World,” the latest and mightiest work of this wizard of the cinematographic art, will continue to shine forth in all its wonder, its pathos, and its infinite charm, through the lenses of hundreds of projection machines in every city in the country, but in no place will it be the all – important event that was the premier showing in “The City of the “Angels.” Just as the master producer gave them “The Birth of a Nation” and “Intolerance” before even staid New York and the slightly less critical Chicago were allowed a peep, so was the first glimpse of this—”the sweetest love story ever told”—staged among the ruins of war torn France, accorded to his California friends. Before I tell you of this night of nights, let us go back a few days and journey out to the studio, where we will watch Griffith at work putting the finishing touches to “The Picture,” as it was called in an most awe-struck tone by everyone around the studio. Mrs. Gish, mother of the two lovely young girls who play the leading feminine roles in ‘Hearts of the World,” telephoned me that Lillian and Dorothy were at the studio that afternoon, and we would drive out about two o’clock. The exterior of the old Mutual – Reliance, Majestic, Fine Arts studio, out on Sunset Boulevard, was a keen disappointment to me. Perhaps I was looking for a cross between the San Francisco Exposition and Lincoln Park. Anyway, the huge pile of shacks, with a few Babylonian towers silhouetted against the sky, was not my idea of the proper place for D. W. Griffith, Lillian and Dorothy Gish and Bobby Harron to perpetuate their art. The girls were in their dressing room, attired in their “Hearts of the World” costumes, Dorothy in her “Little Disturber” gown, and Lillian in one of her bomb shattered frocks.

Hearts of The World
Hearts of The World

She had three copies of this same dress, each a little more dilapidated. Although they are quite unlike when you see them, still there’s a strong “family resemblance;” so Dorothy, who plays the part of a petite Parisienne, wears a short, curly black wig, while Lillian, the lovely, fragile fleur-de-lis, appears as her own beautiful blond self. I had long ago heard of David Belasco’s remark that Lillian Gish was the most perfect blonde he had ever seen; too, others have told me that none of her pictures, moving or otherwise, have done her justice; that she is far more beautiful. And I smiled and said nothing. One hears this sort of thing so often, and, anyway, I was entirely satisfied with the way Miss Gish looked on the screen—one could in the role of the Village Carpenter. A hardly ask for more. But it is true —for once the camera has failed to visualize certain facts. It is difficult to paint her exquisite daintiness, her ethereal loveliness, in cold black and white. I may be accused of rashness and all that sort of thing, but I want to go on record as saying that Lillian Gish is the most perfectly beautiful girl I have ever seen. And Dorothy – well, Dorothy is her mother’s own daughter in looks and speech and actions. She is very jolly, friendly, and clever — fairly bubbling over with fun, and her witty remarks kept us all laughing. She is very nervous, and kept chewing gum furiously—”to keep from chewing her nails,” as she expressed it. Their dressing room was very neat and pretty in black and white chintz. It is kept scrupulously clean by the “Madame,” the East Indian, who played a part in “The Birth of a Nation” – the negroes who spat and acted so dreadfully.

The Movies Mr. Griffith and Me (03 1969) - Hearts of The World 1918 — with Lillian Gish.

“Madame” fairly worships Mr. Griffith and calls him “her son.” The girls were waiting to do a scene or two, because Mr. Griffith had not liked the original. Retakes by the dozens he has done, so infinitely painstaking and careful is he always. Camera-Man Billy Bitzer appeared at the door and said that Mr. Griffith was calling for Miss Dorothy, and the scene was to be in the “lot,” so we went with her. This “lot” covers about two blocks of ground and is situated a block away from the studio. Out there all the exteriors, and ever so many “open interiors” such as the one Dorothy did, are taken. I spied Bobby Harron in his trench uniform, and then I looked around for the great Griffith. There was the illustrious gentleman, with his derby tilted on the side of his head and a long, black cigar in his mouth. Otherwise, he reminded me of a fine product of the old school of acting. Then I heard him speak. I have never heard such a compelling voice. It makes you think of people hurrying to obey whatever he might say. The scene was the staircase of “The Inn” in the little French village. They went over it countless times—it took an hour to get it finished, and it was the tiniest bit of action. Dorothy Gish looked as though she would drop from fatigue, but she was just as anxious as Mr. Griffith to have it perfect, so she went at it with all her might until he pronounced it satisfactory. When the scene was finished, a huge studio car rolled up and we all piled in. I had not met Mr. Griffith, and I was so impressed with being in his presence that I’m not quite sure what he said to me, except that he was very nice and cordial and wanted to know if this was my first experience and if I found it interesting. It was, and I did. Back to the studio, and this time it was an indoor set with Lillian and Robert Harron. “Mr. Griffith’s Boy ” as they call him, the hero of the play, is just the Robert Harron that you see on the screen—very serious, a little sad, quite “Griffith-like”—that’s the only word that properly describes him.

Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron - Hearts of the World
Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron – Hearts of the World

We went into a dark, cold room, stumbled over lumber, cords attached to lights, people, and other impedimenta. Then I reached some sort of consciousness that lights were burning very brightly, directions were shouted, and I fell into a chair which one Mr. George Seigmann, Griffith’s right-hand man, pushed out for me. In the film, Mr. Seigmann sinks to the depths of portraying Von Strohm, German secret-service agent ; otherwise he’s a very nice man. It was very thrilling, watching Mr. Griffith direct at such close range. His methods are very simple ; he doesn’t rant and rave—I think it’s his voice that puts things over. And he’s immensely funny at times. Again the scene didn’t suit him. Down to the projection room he went to look at the scene immediately before it. Mr. Seigmann succeeded in getting the set arranged correctly. Ready! Camera ! Action ! And it was over. Mrs. Gish told me how they happened to go to Europe with Mr. Griffith. They were in New York, waiting for him to decide just what he was going to do with his contract with the British government. The government insisted on plain war stuff, and Mr. Griffith insisted just as firmly that he must have a story running through the scenes on the western front. It was finally arranged, and Mrs. Gish, Lillian, and Mr. Griffith went first. When they were three days out, they wired for Dorothy, Robert Harron, and William Bitzer, the Camera-man who has filmed all the Griffith photo plays. The latter trio went over on the ship with Pershing; and Dorothy told me that she was quite delighted with the famous general, and he told her that he knew her, too, very well ; when he was in Mexico, motion pictures were the soldiers’ chief diversions, and the Gishes entertained them frequently.

Clunes Auditorium L.A.
Clunes Auditorium L.A.

At last came the lovely spring night for which we were anxiously waiting, Clune’s Theater, an immense place, was packed to the doors before eight o’clock, and a disappointed throng was clamoring outside for admission. In the lobby were boys dressed as French poilus, British Tommies, and our own American boys. Beautiful flowers were there, too—gifts to Mr. Griffith and his players. Of course California is so full of wonderful flowers that they don’t make quite the impression they would in New York, but a floral piece to Mr. Griffith “From the Boys” made even the native sons hesitate a moment to admire. It was Dorothy Gish’s idea that they mingle with the crowd on the opening night instead of occupying the customary box.

Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron - Hearts of the World
Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron – Hearts of the World

“I couldn’t have all those people staring at me,” said this very democratic young miss. And it was fortunate, indeed, for me that they decided on seats on the first floor of the mezzanine floor and secured one for me, or otherwise I would have had to seek cold comfort that night at Grauman’s or the Kinema. Every seat was sold on the first day. Dear Mrs. Gish chaperoned the party, looking almost as young as her two lovely daughters in her handsome black-and-silver gown and a corsage bouquet of red roses. “The most adorable Lily” sat next to me. Her evening coat was white velvet, with a white fur collar that hung to her waist. Yards of misty white maline were draped around her golden hair, which was arranged very simply in coils around her head. She wore an orchid-colored gown veiled in silver, and her flowers were orchids. I could scarcely keep my eyes on the picture for looking at her. Which, in itself, is quite a compliment.

Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World
Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World

Dorothy was very sweet and girlish in lavender taffeta. She hates fussy clothes. It is my opinion that if Mrs. Gish and Lillian didn’t attend to her wardrobe for her, this young lady would cling mostly to middy blouses and sport clothes. She had a birthday that week, however; so Lillian’s gift, a truly wonderful evening coat, was aired for the first time. It was a ravishing affair of lavender and gray chiffon, banded with flying squirrel, and, as Dorothy said : “I may freeze to death, but I’ll have to wear my new coat!” Robert Harron was there, looking very handsome and boyish in his evening clothes. Right next to Bobby was a vacant seat—behind a post. Oh, how I wished for one adoring Griffith satellite I knew—I am sure he would have gladly craned his neck around that post for a week just to see “The Hearts of the World.”

Hearts of the World
Hearts of the World

Just behind us was a seat reserved for Mr. Griffith, which he didn’t occupy. I’m not sure just where the master director watched the picture ; but he turned up later, so I knew he was around somewhere.

In her box on one side of the theater, Queen Mary Pickford held court, a very lovely Mary, with a dear smile on her face and many curls on top of her head. The entire picture-play colony turned out to do Mr. Griffith homage. I doubt if there has ever been such a brilliant assemblage under one roof. There was Howard Hickman with his wife, the lovely Bessie Barriscale; Mr. and Mrs. Robert McKim ; Mildred Harris ; Seena Owen, looking more than ever “The Princess Beloved ;” Alma Rubens, the beautiful brunette from the Triangle forces, in a stunning white evening gown ; Blanche Sweet in palest gray, a very sweet and flowerlike Blanche, whom all her friends greeted Warmly. It’s been many a day since we’ve seen her face on the screen. The Talmadge family was represented by Mrs. Talmadge, Constance, a very attractive young person in brown and Natalie, who looks very much like Norma. Promptly at eight fifteen the curtain rose, and “the play was the thing.” The action was so intense and stirring that it didn’t seem half an hour, although it was really almost three hours long. It is marvelous to think how the brains and genius of one man can sway such a vast throng—they were chilled and thrilled and dissolved in tears. It was superb.

Hearts of The World
Hearts of The World

“An Old-fashioned Play with a New-fashioned Theme,” the program calls it. Yes, it is an old, old story, but it is told in the newest and most wonderful way. And far above the din of battle, massing of troops, recapturing of villages, one can always hear the love note—the thing which Griffith shows is going to save the world. Whenever the battle scenes get just a little too horrible to endure comfortably, when the action is so realistic that one can almost feel the shrapnel flying around, we are taken back to the peaceful quiet of the little French village and our nerves allowed to rest for a brief space. All the lovely, human touches that have characterized the former Griffith spectacles are present in “The Hearts of the World.” To me they are the greatest marks of the Griffith genius. As far as personal successes are concerned, Lillian Gish as Marie Stephenson is startlingly superior to anything she has ever done. Pitifully lovely she has been before, but never really so fine as in this role. With her exquisite, poignant beauty, she is the real spirit of France. Robert Harron’s Douglas Gordon Hamilton is splendid and soldierly, and, oh, how we sorrow and rejoice with him in his love affair with “The Girl !” Into the midst of this Eden comes The Little Disturber, a strolling singer, charmingly played by Dorothy Gish, and she falls in love with young Hamilton. Of course it is of no avail, but the part gives Miss Dorothy a chance to show what a remarkably clever little comedienne she is. She makes the most of every foot of film she is given—and we can’t help wishing she had several hundred more. I must say just a word about the music that was especially arranged for the production. Never before, I think, have melodies been so deftly woven throughout a picture. The music is indeed part of it—not a mere background. It was arranged after the manner that Wagner wrote.

Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World
Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World

THE presentation of D. W. Griffith’s love story of the Great War, “Hearts of the World,” makes it imperative that I open my remarks on recent screen offerings with a short discussion of the war picture. For there has never been anything like “Hearts of the World.” Griffith alone has been able to bring the bigness of the world conflict to the celluloid. It has overwhelmed all other directors and writers who have endeavored to touch upon it intimately. The usual product is a foolish melodrama. Neither hero nor heavy is human. But Griffith’s skill has resulted in the interweaving of a beautiful love story carried by human protagonists with the somber, relentless panorama of war in all its reality. The actual scenes he procured at the front are amazing, and the domestic scenes supplementing them even more so. The Gish sisters, Robert Harron, Robert Anderson, youthful Ben Alexander, and George Siegemann perform as they could only under the master director.

Picture-Play Magazine (July 1918) Hearts of the World
Picture-Play Magazine (July 1918) Hearts of the World
Hearts of The World Program
Hearts of The World Program

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THE GISH SIS-STARS (Picture Show Annual – 1926)

The Life Story of Lillian the Ethereal and Dorothy the Joyous

Lillian and Dorothy Gish, famous him sisters, are just as dissimilar in real life as they are in the type of roles they portray for the screen. There is such an air of ethereal loveliness about Lillian that you feel as though a puff of wind would blow her away ; Dorothy, on the other hand, has an air of breeziness about her, and there is a frank boyish directness in her speech and manner. Although these girls are utterly unlike each other, they are the very best of pals. Ever since they were tiny tots they have been all in all to one another, and—a most unusual thing for sisters—they never quarrel!

“ We have never quarrelled,” says Lillian, “ because we respect each other. Not even when I directed Dorothy for a film. We knew that each was working for the other’s benefit, and Dorothy followed my directions just as she would those of any other director.” One of the greatest points of difference between the two sisters is that Dorothy loves to go about and mix with crowds of people, but Lillian doesn’t.

Lillian Gish and Mother (Mary Robinson McConnell)
Lillian Gish and Mother (Mary Robinson McConnell)
Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (mother)
Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (Mother)

Childhood Days

Mrs. Gish was little more than a girl herself when she was left a widow with her two small daughters. She found there was very little money with which to carry on, and that it would be essential for her to earn a living for herself and Lillian and Dorothy immediately. She had never been on the stage before, but when somebody suggested that she should try the acting profession, she made an application to a well-known stock company, and, much to her astonishment was given a job. It was not long after this that someone in the theatrical line saw Mrs. Gish’s pretty little daughters, and suggested that they, too, would be able to secure engagements on the stage. They were little more than babies when they made their first professional appearances. At a matter of fact, Lillian was about six years old when she first began to act. You may think that they had a very hard and unhappy childhood. Of course, to a certain extent the life was hard, but their mother, with tender love and care, watched over them and saw to it that their childhood should not be unhappy. If you have seen any of the photographs of Lillian and Dorothy as youngsters, you will realise that she succeeded, for you can see in their little faces that they were a couple of happy children. Soon after her first stage engagement Lillian became a pupil at a dancing school, and her next engagement was as one of the fairy dancers with Sarah Bernhardt, who was then making one of her American tours. She remained with Madame Bernhardt for two seasons, and then went to New York to finish her dancing lessons.

Robert Harron, Clarine Seymour and Lillian Gish in True Heart Susie
Robert Harron, Clarine Seymour and Lillian Gish in True Heart Susie
Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World
Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World

An Old Friend

Strangely enough, it was Mary Pickford who was instrumental in launching the Gish girls on their film careers. Lillian and Dorothy knew Mary when she was Gladys Smith, and they used to play with her and her brother and sister, Jack and Lottie. The Gish girls had been acting on the stage for about six years when one day a chance visit to a picture show revealed the face of their old playmate. Once they had acted with Mary in the same stage play, and when Mrs. Gish saw that her daughters’ old playmate had made good on the screen, she thought why couldn’t her girls do the same. She accordingly decided to go and see Mary, who was more than delighted to see her old friends once more. She promised to do all she could to get them a chance to play for the films, but just at the moment she herself was about to fulfil a stage engagement in a play called “ A Good Little Devil.” She offered, however, to try and get them parts in the same play for the time being. When the manager saw the two girls he turned to Dorothy and said : ” You don’t want to go on the stage, you are too young.” Of course, Dorothy, with great pride, told him that she had been on the stage“ ‘ of times.” Lillian was engaged for the small part of a fairy in Good Little Devil,” and played for the entire run the play with her old friend, Mary Pickford.

Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World
Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World

A Meeting with D. W. Griffith

True to her promise, when the play was finished, Mary asked Lillian and Dorothy to the old Biograph studio, to see what she could do for them in the way of film work. They were waiting with their mother in the reception room of the studio when a man passed them, who happened to be none other than D. W. Griffith. He knew at a glance that Lillian particularly was just the type for picture work ; Dorothy was a bit young, he thought. He sent for the little girls and their mother, and made Lillian and Dorothy an offer straight away of “ extra ” work.

There were many weeks of this kind of work before Griffith would entrust Lillian to play a small part. He wanted to be quite sure of his “ find,” and he also wanted her to have confidence in herself. Her first real part was in ” Oil and Water,” which was produced in 1912.

Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish (Promo for Orphans of The Storm)
Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish (Promo for Orphans of The Storm)

With the old Biograph company she played many parts, and one of her favourites was in “ An Unseen Enemy,” in which Dorothy also appeared. Films were at a ” serious ” stage when Lillian and Dorothy first played for them, and although Dorothy was only fourteen she played nuns, cast-off daughters, wronged sisters, and even mothers ! And she confesses now that she revelled in all the black, hopeless sorrow she could put into those roles.

“ It is strange that it took a picture of the war’s tragedy to show me that I wanted to play comedy, but it’s true. The part of the Little Disturber in “Hearts of the World” was the turning point with me, for I became so interested in her that I suddenly discovered that I loved comedy. It is such fun to make the world laugh ” she says.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Richard Barthelmess, Lillian Gish and Lowell Sherman

Their Birthplace

The Gish girls were both born in Ohio, Lillian in Springfield, and Dorothy in Dayton. Lillian is the elder by two years, having been born on October 14th, ***1896, while Dorothy was born on March 11th, 1898.

They both have blue eyes, and both are fair, although we are apt to think of Dorothy as dark owing to the fact that she always wears a black wig for her picture work.

Lillian and Dorothy make a delightful combination in the same film, and all the photoplays in which they have played together have been a remarkable success. Among the best known are “Hearts of the World,” “The Birth of a Nation,” “Orphans of the Storm,” and “Romola.”

*** Lillian Gish’s birth year was actually 1893. Due to different reasons appears as 1896 in a lot of publications. Lillian even, used to give 1896 as her birth-year in many interviews.

Picture Show Annual (1926) The Gish Sis-Stars 1
Picture Show Annual (1926) The Gish Sis-Stars 1
Picture Show Annual (1926) The Gish Sis-Stars 2
Picture Show Annual (1926) The Gish Sis-Stars 2
Picture Show Annual (1926) The Gish Sis-Stars 3
Picture Show Annual (1926) The Gish Sis-Stars 3

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The Price They Paid for Stardom – By Myrtle West (Photoplay Nov. 1926)

Photoplay November 1926 Vol. XXX Number Six

The Price They Paid for Stardom

By Myrtle West

Do they profit by their popularity—or are they victims of fate?

Irving G. Thalberg, Lillian Gish, Louis B. Mayer 1926
Irving G. Thalberg, Lillian Gish, Louis B. Mayer 1926


Italian postcard, no. 22. Publicity still for The Scarlet Letter (Victor Sjöström, 1926)

WouId you want to be a star—If you knew that you never could laugh?

If you had to go through life with cross-eyes?

If it cost you the love of your husband or wife ?

If you might have to pay for fame with your life ?

Oddly enough, Lillian Gish’s regime is like Mae Murray’s. Lillian has less real fun than any girl in the world. Although somewhere around the age of thirty, Lillian is constantly chaperoned. Lillian’s public demands a nun like idol. And Lillian lives up to this ideal with amazing consistency.


Lillian cannot marry. No one wants to think of her as a domestic little wife.

George Jean Nathan Chateau Du Plessis France 22
George Jean Nathan and Lillian Gish at Chateau Du Plessis – France 1922

Lillian cannot eat in public; she might spoil the illusion.

Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford
Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford

Lillian cannot wear gay clothes, flirt, dance, or lose her temper. Lillian’s life is divided between the studio and her home. At the studio she works hard and there is seldom any joking or laughing on her set.

Lillian Gish - with Hupmobile car
Lillian Gish – with Hupmobile car

When she goes home, she rides in a curtained limousine with her chaperon. At home, she reads stories and scripts and sits with her invalid mother.


And all around her the lesser players of Hollywood dance, flirt, fall in love, have children and enjoy themselves.

Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter - Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Lillian Gish in Scarlet Letter – Vanity Fair Magazine August 1926
Photoplay (Nov 1926) The Price they paid
Photoplay (Nov 1926) The Price they paid

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After “Way Down East,” Lillian signed with Sherrill (Photoplay – September 1920)

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish (rescued) and all cast except Lowell Sherman (Lennox Sanderson)

Plays and Players – By Cal York

Photoplay – September 1920 Vol. XVIII No. 4

LILLIAN GISH has begun work on her first stellar picture after completing her role of Anna Moore in her last Griffith production, “Way Down East.” She signed with Sherrill, who is trying to sell stock for his concern, pointing out the big profits in the industry and heralding his acquisition of Miss Gish to prospective stock purchasers. The little blonde says she went out on her own because she “wanted to keep mother and myself out of the Old Ladies” Home.

Lillian Gish and Mary Robinson McConnell (Mother)
Lillian Gish and Mary Robinson McConnell (Mother)

There was a time when mother and I thought if we had $300 and a black silk dress, we’d be alright. But my ambitions have broadened since then.”

Lillian told Mr. Griffith of her more ambitious plans for the future, and he said he would help her all he could, but would not try to dissuade her, as he has won his reputation as a director who places the picture first, never the player. Consequently, Albert Grey, manager for and brother of D. W., let it be known to a few persons that Miss Gish’s services were available, and before anyone else had time to think, William Sherrill came forward with a contract, according to which Lillian will receive over $400,000 in the next two years, and $.100.000 more during the third year if Sherrill exercises his option on her services.

“I’ve been working in pictures a long time, and have very little to show for it,” says Lillian. ” As for leaving Mr. Griffith, I don’t like even to think about it : I don’t know how I shall get along without his direction. But I’m hoping I’ll have success.” And everyone who knows the real Lillian Gish—the conscientious, sincere actress, and the gentle girl—hopes so too.

Way Down East - filming the "Ice Floe Scene" (Lillian Gish)
Way Down East – filming the “Ice Floe Scene” (Lillian Gish)

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Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang – 1921 (Way Down East)

Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang

Explosion of pedigreed bull

Vol.II January, 1921 No.16


“We have room for but one soul loyalty and that is

loyalty to the American People.” -Theodore Roosevelt.


way down east - lobby card 3


Keep’ On Keepin’ On

If the day looks kinder gloomy

And chances kinder slim,

If the situation’s puzzlin’

And the prospect’s awful grim;

And perplexities keep pressin’—

If hope is nearly gone,

Jest bristle up and grit your teeth

And keep on keepin’ on.

Whiz; Bang Bill.


"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish and the eccentric aunt


Reel Two


Recent presentation of the new Griffith play, “Way Down East,” caused a laughable situation for those who were aware of the facts. The laughable situation did not get into the newspapers because some of our very best families would have suffered humiliation. It appears that “D. W.” issued several invitations to prominent society women for the opening night, as his” guests”- though he was in New York. What a flurry and flutter there was among the high-brows when they learned that the invites had gone out., Who had been asked ? It did not occur to the high-brow ladies that D. W. Griffith is truly the master, mind of pictures and that his use of Mrs. Belmont in the picture was smart bait to draw society. Mrs. Belmont really didn’t have much to do but appear in’ an up-to-date gown and give Lillian Gish a haughty look.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish

But society here went daffy when it became known that some society women had been invited by Mr. Griffith’s representatives, while others had not. Immediately there was a buzz of phones and considerable indignation, denouncements and heart-burnings seared the wires. “How came it that Mrs. Such and So had been invited and ‘I’ have not? It reflects upon my social standing.”

Way Down East - Anna Moore at home ...
Way Down East – Anna Moore at home …

‘How crafty old D. W. must have grinned as the reports went into him of the society ladies’ wrath. For lack of brains, poise and downright self-respect society women cart off the well known cake. Newspaper women laughed themselves sick at the coy admissions discreetly tendered them that “Oh,- by the way, Mr. Griffith sent me a personal invitation to be present at the opening of ‘Way Down East.'” It possibly is stretching it to say that the paper gals laughed themselves sick. They have become so used to such situations that they scarcely laugh at all. They just grin and “bear it”- and proceed openly to kid society in the papers without society apparently becoming the wiser.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish promotional

It is almost pitiable to watch fair and heavy matrons, who have done well, raising a family or starting one, long for a chance to see themselves upon the screen. They gaze upon Lillian Gish as some ravishly blessed mortal lifted by the ‘Gods but they see no reason why they would not be just as good if given a chance. Much of the nasty gossip which follows prominent picture folk emanates from the society morgues where every skeleton known to scandal is laid carefully away for future reference.

The fat ladies of wealth who are unable to fit into the screen take a girl, perhaps like Lillian Gish, and in seeming fury that the girl has succeeded, tear what they may of her character to pieces. About any fashionable hotel where gather the disappointed “widows” and dames whose husbands have let them come west for a “rest” may he heard the most intimate details concerning the private life of every person prominent on the screen. Nine times out of ten these details are featured by everything but the truth.

Elaine The Lilly Maid Dreaming of Astolat ... Lillian Gish - Way Down East
Elaine The Lilly Maid Dreaming of Astolat … Lillian Gish – Way Down East

Every girl that ever worked for Griffith, whether she knows it or not, has been the victim of whispers relative to what price she paid for her success. Griffith is a muchly misunderstood man. He is shrewd, too smart for the average picture maker. His people appear to reverence him. Probably no girl regrets her experience and training under this particular director – though not as much can be said for many other directors. The name of Lillian Gish and Griffith have been mentioned in unsavory tones more than once. The girl is a remarkably fine young woman who scarcely would know what was meant by the insinuations cast abroad concerning her and the director. Wherever Lillian goes her mother is not far away.

Robert Harron Signed Promotional
Robert Harron Signed Promotional

The two sisters, Lillian and Dorothy, are among the hardest workers upon the screen. It is understood that the late Robert Harron was extremely fond of Dorothy and it is understood that this admiration was not returned in the way that young Harron would have wished. Harron had a number of sisters, who spent much of their time about the studios where their brother worked. The Gish and Harron families were constantly together and a great friendship existed between them all. It is understood that Dorothy admired Harron tremendously but could not reciprocate his reported love for her. Bobby Harron was an exceptional young man from a moral standpoint. He was clean and wholesome. In fact a number of the Griffith stars have been marked for their personal virtues. In view of these facts it is a relief to point out that some of the unmentionable vices which beset Movieland are partially offset by the cleanliness of many really great stars.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish (rescued) and all cast except Lowell Sherman (Lennox Sanderson)

A sculptor made nymphs and bacchantes,

Omitting the coaties and panties,

Till a kind-hearted Madam,

Who knew where they had ’em.

Donated some warm Ypsilantis.

Lillian Gish - Anna Moore (Way Down East)
Lillian Gish – Anna Moore (Way Down East)


Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, January 1921
Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang, January 1921 – cover

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The Lily of “Hearts of the World” – By Martha Groves McKelvie (Motion Picture Magazine – August, 1918)

Motion Picture Magazine – August, 1918

The Lily of “Hearts of the World”

A snapshot of Griffith and a time-exposure of the Gish Girls

By Martha Groves McKelvie

She knew and appreciated the stage and its silent and spoken art. I invited her to go with me, and her heart was quite full at the prospect of being present at the first showing, under such delightful circumstances. Griffith and his art had always been one of her idols.

We were both quite in the seventh heaven when we reached the theater and passed along the flower-lined lobby. Just inside the door, who should we meet but the great Griffith himself? After an exchange of greetings and a word of appreciation for the invitation to attend his “first night,” I asked if I might introduce the little Australian.

Mind you, dozens of personal friends of this great man were standing in line waiting for a chance to speak to him. Did he hurry? He did not! He smiled down at the bewildered little girl before him, just as if she were the guest of honor, and said, “I’m mighty glad to meet you, little lady from a far-away land!” As she followed me to our seats, her eyes were moist with tears of plain appreciation. A very great, busy and popular man had taken time to greet a lonely little girl in a big, strange country. I won’t go into the triumph of the performance. You all have heard of it here now. Tho the reporters may have neglected to say that Griffith just brushed away the tears when the house went mad after the final curtain and demanded his appearance. You may appreciate that this was the climax of fourteen months’ hard work. And—Griffith was not ashamed of his tears.

Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World
Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World

I watched the Gish girls leave the theater with their mother. They held their heads down bashfully and modestly, and looking like sweet girl graduates, entered their car. The following day I went to the Gish home for luncheon. The big Persian cat greeted me at the door, and Lillian had to admit the cat and the writer at the same time. The Gish girls have been trying to keep cats and birds together successfully for some time, and when I saw them last, the cat was still alive and they had two love-birds, a few canaries and a cockatoo to keep tabby interested in living.

Lillian Gish and her parrot

Lillian savs the cockatoo is “just human.” He’ answers the telephone for them anyway. If I had a bird with that talent I’d teach him a few words that are taboo in my own vocabulary. Mrs. Gish came forward to greet me, and a sweeter-faced little lady I have seldom met. Lillian curled up on a divan, mother chose a comfy rocker, and I took the biggest chair in the room. They told me of the many months spent in war-stricken Europe—of the air raids in London, and how, with good reason, they spent most of their time wishing they were back in the old U. S. A. Lillian is a great reader—thinks deeply and reads good things. Among the experiences most treasured on the trip abroad to make “Hearts of the World” was the meeting of two of her idols, J. M. Barrie and G. B. Shaw.

Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World
Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World

Quite in contrast to her sister Dorothy, Lillian is very quiet and serious. Just as Dorothy respects and looks up to her sister, so “does Lillian enjoy the little sister’s fun and romps. When Dorothy came dashing downstairs, bubbling over with the joy of living, I was introduced to the romp of the family.

“Lillian liked London !” she exclaimed. “She liked everything English—the quaint old vine-covered houses and the quiet country places. Not for me ! I liked Paris best! Just think—there was only one place in all London where we could get an ice-cream soda!”

I spoke of Dorothy’s good work the night before in the play. “That character of Dorothy’s just suited her,” said Lillian. “Funny as it may seem, when you see us together, we do not look so much alike, but we do photograph very much alike.

Dorothy as "The Little Disturber"
Dorothy as “The Little Disturber”

“So we planned and planned to find a good make-up that would give Dorothy a chance to be different. One day, walking down a main street in Paris, we saw the character we wanted—a typical girl of the Paris streets, a tough little tomboy, a sassy Tarn set at a jaunty angle on one side of her head, a boyish little suit and a shirt opened low at the throat. “We followed her for blocks, watching her every move. Dorothy tried to imitate her walk as we went—and you saw the result, the sassy swagger in ‘Hearts of the World.’ ” “She was the sassiest thing,” laughed Dorothy. “She met a soldier on the street and, walking up to him, put her elbow on his shoulder and leaned over on him as if he were a post.”

When luncheon was announced we went into the charming mahogany-furnished dining-room, Dorothy chattering all the while, telling me that she and her chum, Constance Talmadge, had both agreed to quit eating candy, that it was spoiling their complexions. With the appreciation and enjoyment you would expect a girl graduate to show, Lillian pointed out the flowers in the room that friends had sent them the night before.

Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (mother)
Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (Mother)

“Wasn’t it lovely of them!” she exclaimed. “I do so love flowers.” When the door-bell rang and the maid came to the dining-room to say that some one wanted to see the “lady of the house,” Lillian exclaimed, “Now, mother, we don’t want to buy any lace or baby garments, or have any washing-machines demonstrated.” “Mother,” she explained, as Mrs. Gish left the room, “just can’t say ‘No’ to anyone. Last week she bought a whole trunkful of lace from a peddler—stuff that we can’t possibly use.”

After luncheon, when we went upstairs to don our wraps for a drive, Mother Gish showed me her babies’ pictures. “My girls have never given me a moment’s worry!” she said with pride.

In the sewing-room, where the lovebirds and the cockatoo hold forth, dainty rainbow garments were in the making, bits of chiffon in lavenders, pinks and blues, latticed with dainty Val lace. The whole home atmosphere is just the same that you find in any lovely home.

Love is there—perfect understanding. Nothing up-stage about these two stars, no envy of each other’s success!

As we left the house I took an inventory, as a woman will, of Lillian’s costume. She wore a white skirt and waist with a short black jacket having white cuffs and collar. A soft white hat framed her face. Her lips are thin, beautifully formed, like a rosebud; her skin is unusually white ; her hair a soft, natural blonde and her eyes a lovely blue-gray. She uses no rouge. She is all that is refined. A patrician from her head to her heels.

Dorothy wore the same kind of waist and skirt, with a green jacket, and went shopping for a white Tarn to finish the costume.

“Oh, Lil,” Dorothy said, as we drove along, “the last time I wore this dress was in Paris. Do. you remember?”

“Yes, that’s right,” replied Lillian, “and —the last time I wore this dress was in Paris.”

Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron - Hearts of the World
Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron – Hearts of the World

“What was the greatest, most interesting thing you saw on your trip?” I asked. “The Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor,” said Lillian, with reverence. “The trip across to make ‘Hearts of the World’ was a great experience,” said Dorothy. “I wouldn’t take worlds for it, and I wouldn’t do it again for worlds. If the winning of this war depended on me, I don’t know what democracy would do. I’m the greatest little coward in the world. Wouldn’t cross the ocean again for anything. Just the same, the trip gave me a greater appreciation of the brave fellows who are going.”

Several days later I talked to Miss Gish on the ‘phone. “We’re in such a mess !” she wailed. “The chauffeur got hurt, the cook’s in a hospital, and the maid was taken to an asylum—all in one day ! Mother’s the cook, Dorothy’s the chauffeur, and ‘ I’m the maid.” And—I’ll warrant they all filled their jobs well.

1919 - Gish Sisters and Mother Mary Robinson McConnell XC - Gerald Carpenter
1919 – Gish Sisters and Mother Mary Robinson McConnell XC – Gerald Carpenter

Lillian Gish is a serious-honest-earnest little worker. She wants only the applause she earns and will work untiringly for all that she gets. She is very modest, unassuming, and nothing is too much trouble that she can do to please any one. To the joy of all her friends, Miss Gish is to be starred in five-reel features, instead of giving so much of her time to the making of one. This will give her public an opportunity to see her oftener, and, since she will continue under Griffith’s direction, her work will be of the same value that she has already given us in “The Birth of a Nation” and her latest success, “Hearts of the World.”

Mother and Dorothy

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