Lauds TV Programs on Lincoln – By Larry Wolters (Chicago Tribune 1956)

Chicago Tribune – Monday February 13, 1956 – Page 70

Lauds TV Programs on Lincoln

By Larry Wolters

Lincoln: Every year television devotes more programs to Lincoln around February 12, and every year the equality of the Lincoln tribute seems to improve. Outstanding this season were two productions: “Good Friday, 1865,” written by John Lewellen of Glen Ellyn for the Robert Montgomery theater of last Monday, and “The Day Lincoln Was Shot,” based on Jim Bishop’s best selling book and presented Saturday night on Ford’s Star Theater [quite different from Ford’s theater in Washington where Lincoln was shot]. Both plays were telecast in color as well as black and white.

“Good Friday,” as previously reviewed was a notable production. “The Day Lincoln Was Shot” was even more satisfactory. Produced with the lavish hand of Hollywood, the cast ran to 103 persons, with more than 50 reading lines. It was headed by such actors as Raymond Massey, who has come to be an almost legendary Lincoln; Jack Lemmon as Booth, Lillian Gish as Mrs. Lincoln, and Charles Laughton as narrator.

This combination, under expert direction by Delbert Mann, created a mounting sense of the oncoming tragedy, tracing hour by hour the various plot threads that were climaxed at 10:15 p.m. As the play proceeded, you felt an almost unbearable suspense. Lemmon, who usually plays comedy roles, proved a great Booth, handsome and sinister, a young firebird obsessed with carrying out a conspiracy which, except for the greatest of luck, could never have been executed.

Monolog: Booth was at his best in a monolog [or soliloquy] when, speaking of the future, he said: “You [Lincoln] know nothing of me but our names will be linked in all eternity. Lincoln and Booth, perhaps Booth and Lincoln.”

Photo: Gish, Lemmon and Massey in – “The Day Lincoln Was Shot”

Massey and Miss Gish were indeed Abe and Mary Lincoln except that the actor has put on a little too much weight and no longer looks too much like the Civil war President and Miss Gish has too small a face. Furthermore her blonde hair should have been converted to black to match Mary Todd Lincoln’s.

Photo: Lillian Gish in – The Day Lincoln Was Shot – promotional

Intrusion: The Ford theater reconstruction was especially effective in color. Viewers were able to understand the whole layout, with the Presidential box overhanging the stage. The scene or two from the play, “Our American Cousin,” provided a change of pace. This was comedy at its corniest, reminiscent of the Abbotts and Costellos of today. There was one break of pace we were not prepared for. As the tension mounted there came a sudden intrusion by Bing Crosby plugging Thunder-Birds an also a promise from the sponsor that Bing would be in great form for ”High Tor” four weeks hence.

Raymond Massey – Lincoln

Then the action shifted back to the assassination, Booth’s escape and the long confusing night in Peterson house, with Secy. Stanton playing the role of dictator for eight hours before he got to the fateful: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

This fantastic yet true story of a tragic day in American history gave television 91 years later just about its finest hour.

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Chekov’s “Uncle Vanya” Revived (Chicago Tribune 1930)

Chicago Tribune – Sunday, April 27, 1930 – Page 105

Chekov’s “Uncle Vanya” Revived

Jed Harris, the still youthful producer who grew disgusted with the theater that made him upwards of a million dollars with such productions as “Broadway,” “Coquette,” “The Front Page,” and “The Royal Family,” came back to Broadway last week to revive Chekov’s “Uncle Vanya,” and later to inject himself into a fight against the managers who are seeking a solution of the ticket speculator business.

Theater producer Jed Harris

So far as the Chekov revival is concerned, it has two definite features of interest: First, it is one of the few professionally competent performances American actors have given of a Russian drama, and second, it brings the beautiful and wraith – like Lillian Gish back to the living theater after nearly twenty years absence in the movies.

The play is another of those placid, leisurely studies of character and life’s frustrations in which the older Russians specialized. Uncle Vanya of the title, is a gentle soul who has given up his life to the management of his family estate that Alexandria, a pompous mollusk who has married his sister and hypnotized the family by an assumption of learning and importance, may take his lazy ease.

Injury is added to imposition when, being set free by the death of his wife, Alexandria marries the woman Vanya loves. Goaded beyond his strength, Vanya finally turns on his windy tormentor and seeks to kill him. Even in this laudable endeavor he is thwarted, missing the target twice. Then, with the departure of the hated one and his young wife, life resumes its normal way on the estate and Vanya goes back to the unhappy grind.

Miss Lillian Gish as Helena in Jed Harris’ “Uncle Vanya”

Miss Gish is a rarely fascinating personality in the theater, moving consciously about; falling into unconsciously graceful poses; speaking in a gentle voice with modest expression; suggesting a little girl playing most intelligently at acting, but still a little girl.

As to the managers and speculators, Mr. Harris insists a little violently that the managers, who have organized a theater league to curb speculators, are all wrong, even a little imbecilic. They can never hope to control speculators, he says, even with former Gov. Al Smith as their Will Hays. He threatens to do something about it.

Uncle Vanya – Photo Gallery

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Lillian Gish as Vinnie in Life With Father -- 1940

W-G-N To Star Lillian Gish in Sunday Drama (Chicago Tribune 1940)

Chicago Tribune – February, Wednesday 21, 1940 – Page 16

W-G-N To Star Lillian Gish in Sunday Drama

Cast as Wife in Sheridan’s ‘School for Scandal’

By Larry Wolters

Lillian Gish, one of the brightest stars of the silent movie era and now a stage headliner, and Percy Waram, distinguished veteran of the theater, will be featured in a radio adaptation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s classic comedy, “The School for Scandal,” on the Fifth Row Center production over W-G-N and the Mutual network at 5 p.m. Sunday.

The show will be presented before a studio audience. The musical setting will be provided by Harold Stokes and the W-G-N Dance orchestra. Miss Gish and Mr. Waram are appearing in Clarence Day’s comedy “Life With Father,” in the Blackstone theater.

Cast as Lady Teazle.

In “The School for Scandal” Miss Gish will portray the role of the mischievous Lady Teazle and Waram will play that of her blundering husband, Sir Peter Teazle.

When she steps before the W-G-N microphone Miss Gish will be following in the footsteps of her sister Dorothy. Dorothy came from New York three years ago to play the leading role in the serial “The Couple Next Door,” on W-G-N. Harold Vermilyea was co-featuring with her.

Lillian Gish established herself as a theatrical performer in those trail blazing movie epics “The Birth of a Nation,” “Orphans of the Storm,” and “Intolerance.”

Stage Work Follows Movies.

Since her retirement from pictures she has proved her versatility as an actress in “Hamlet” with John Gielgud, Chekhoff’s “Uncle Vanya,” and Maxwell Anderson’s “The Star Wagon” with Burgess Meredith, in which she last appeared in Chicago.

English born Percy Waram’s most recent notable role was that of the stern father in “Pride and Prejudice.” He has distinguished himself in numerous Theater Guild productions, including “R.U.R.,” “Elizabeth the Queen,”  and “Mary of Scotland.”

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Remarkable Lillian Gish to Do Broadway Musical (By Hedda Hopper) Chicago Tribune – 1965

Chicago Tribune – Tuesday August 10, 1965 – Page 34

Looking at Hollywood

Remarkable Lillian Gish to Do Broadway Musical

By Hedda Hopper

Lillian Gish and George Abbott – candid during “Anya” reahearsal

Hollywood, Aug. 9 – Lillian Gish can match careers with anybody and be way ahead. She began at age 5; did her first picture around 1910. In town doing her first picture for Walt Disney, “Follow Me Boys,” Lillian says she starts rehearsals for her first Broadway musical next month. It’s George Abbott’s musical version of “Anastasia” and she plays the empress, with George London, of the Metropolitan Opera and Connie Towers … “You’re going to match voices with London?” I asked … “It’s a comedy, dear,” she said … She gave her last performance as the nurse in “Romeo and Juliet” at Stratford, Conn., on July 31, arrived here four days later. They played to 170,000 students during the months of March, April and May. They came by plane, bus, car from as west as Nebraska. The play opened to the public in June … Lillian Subscribes to Christopher Morley’s formula that a happy life is spent in learning, earning and yearning. She said: “I’m still going to school learning about acting and how to live properly. The world and the people in it are my school. As a child, I wanted to be in musical comedy and the circus. I haven’t made the big tent, but you see I am finally in a musical.”

Miss Lillian Gish as a nurse in Romeo and Juliet – Maria Tucci as Juliet

Many Actresses who devote themselves to a career end up lonely and bitter. Lillian is neither. She has no regrets about never marrying – and don’t think she didn’t have the chance. “I don’t believe in actresses trying to be wives,” she says. “You have to be one or the other – you can’t be both. I’d have been a bad wife.”

Lillian Gish in Disney’s “Follow Me Boys”

Lillian’s family admits being a fan of Beatles: “Their first picture was a new flavor in comedy. I found them charming and amusing. They are my only contact with rock and roll.” She avoids sick movies; is so busy working and rarely has time to see pictures. She caught “Mary Poppins” and “Sound of Music” and recommends both.

Lillian Gish and Percy Waram in “Life With Father”

You could say the same of Miss Gish, who was in “Birth of a Nation,” and at the age of 23 played a 12-year-old girl in “Broken Blossoms.” She did “Orphans of the Storm,” “The White Sister,” “La Boheme,” “Scarlet Letter.” After her first talkie, “One Romantic Night,” she returned to the stage for “Uncle Vanya” and “Camille”; played Ophelia opposite John Gielgud; broke Chicago theater records in “Life With Father” for 66 weeks.

Photo Gallery – Anya

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Playgoers Await ‘Star-Wagon’ and Musical Shows – By Charles Collins (Chicago Tribune – 1938)

Chicago Tribune – April, Sunday 3, 1938 – Page 93

Playgoers Await ‘Star-Wagon’ and Musical Shows

By Charles Collins

The Chicago stage settled down into Lenten poverty with last night’s departure of Orson Welles’ staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” as a parable of Fascism, and “Father Malachy’s Miracle.” “Room Service” keeps the spirit of merriment alive at the Selwyn theater, and Maurice Schwartz’s production of the Yiddish drama, “The Brothers Ashkenazi,” remains at the Studebaker for another week; but elsewhere there is vacancy, pending the renewal of activity, especially in musical shows, that the spring is expected to bring.

The first arrival of the spring theatrical season will be “The Star-Wagon,” a play by Maxwell Anderson with Burgess Meredith and Lillian Gish as the leaders of the cast. This work has been one of the favorite items on the Broadway playbills since last fall, and it will come to the Grand Opera house immediately after the closing of its New York run. The premiere is scheduled for the Tuesday before Easter Sunday, or April 12.

This work is a fantastic comedy, dealing with an old inventor and his colleague who are given a supernatural opportunity to live their lives over again and correct their errors of judgement which had deprived them of material success. The content and meaning of the play are serious and reveal certain aspects of Maxwell Anderson’s philosophy, but there is said to be much humor in the treatment of the incidents.

Lillian Gish, who appears as the heroine, has an international reputation because of her participation in some of the most popular productions of the silent films. It is said that no movie in which she figured over a period of fifteen years netted less than $1,000,000. They included “The Birth of a Nation,” “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East,” and “The White Sister.”

Two years ago Miss Gish and her sister, Dorothy, also famous as a film actress in the pre-talkie era, were travelling through the Balkan states. They stopped at a hut on the Albanian frontier, a mountainous region miles away from any motion picture theater. The woman of the house was an ignorant, barefooted peasant, but she recognized Lillian Gish instantly. Years before, the priest of the parish had arranged for an exhibition of the film, “The White Sister,” strongly religious of sentiment, in his church, and she had seen it.

Miss Gish withdrew from the film studios when the talkies arrived and returned to the dramatic stage in 1930 in a distinguished production of Chekhoff’s “Uncle Vanya,” which was seen in Chicago. Since then she has acted in a revival of “Camille” both at Central City, Colo., and in New York; in Sean O’Casey’s “Within the Gates,” in Philip Barry’s “The Joyous Season,” and in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” She was the Ophelia to John Gielgud’s Prince of Denmark in New York last year.

“The Star-Wagon” gives Miss Gish a “protean role.” She acts a poor old household drudge, a winsome girl of 20, and a wealthy but unhappy wife of 55. These, of course, are phases of the same character.

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Miss Gish Star of an Exciting Drama in N.Y. – By John Chapman (New York News Drama Critic) 1953

Chicago Daily Tribune – Thursday, November 5th, 1953 Part 4 – Page 12

Miss Gish Star of an Exciting Drama in N.Y.

By John Chapman (New York News Drama Critic)

New York, Nov. 4 – Because if its unexpectedness it is surprising, and because of its excellence it is exciting to see sweet little Lillian Gish giving a big performance. But a big performance it is at Henry Miller’s theater, where Lillian Gish and an astonishing actress named Jo Van Fleet opened last evening in Horton Foote’s playlet, “The Trip to Bountiful.”

This piece is a sentimental sketch about an old lady who escapes from her son and daughter-in-law and flees to her girlhood home in Bountiful. The place is in Texas, so you pronounce it Bayountiful – because it is in the sayowth and evvebody in the play is suthin.

Lillian Gish - The Trip To Bountiful (1953)
Lillian Gish – The Trip To Bountiful (1953)

Author Foote is unabashed and unashamed as he pulls out the tremolo stops for his composition. Miss Gish is set upon and nagged beyond endurance. She has a couple of heart attacks and when she gets back home to Bountiful after 20 years she finds the old homestead a rotten ruin. But having had her little trip, she is happy once again and is willing to return peaceably to the insufferable nagging of her daughter-in-law, Miss Van Fleet.

As well as being unabashed and unashamed, Author Foote is admirably skillful as he sets forth his play. He has a fine sense of humor, a true eye for character, and a good ear for talk. In spite of its sentimentality and its tenuous story, “The Trip to Bountiful” is good theater.

Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish - The Trip To Bountiful 1953
Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish – The Trip To Bountiful 1953

The two main actresses make it good theater. Miss Gish, who flirted with playing an old lady a few seasons ago in “The Curious Savage,” goes at the job this time with all the will and skill of a really good player. In voice, in accent, and in make-up she is a pathetic little soul who lives under the domination of a hellion daughter-in-law and yearns for escape to the old homestead.

Miss Van Fleet, as the daughter-in-law, gives the saltiest, funniest, and most artful feminine characterization of the season. She is a shrill, nervous, cruel, and empty headed woman who has a mouse for a husband and another mouse for a mother-in-law, and she resents both. Last night’s first audience cheered both women before the play was over – something that doesn’t happen much any more.

trip to bountiful

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Performance of Lillian Gish on Broadway Found Stirring – By Hedda Hopper (Chicago Tribune – 1953)

Lillian Gish by Forbes - Advertising the new version of - The Trip To Bountiful - play - Stars in Goodyear TV Playhouse ...
Lillian Gish by Forbes, Advertising the new version of “The Trip To Bountiful” play – Stars in Goodyear Television Playhouse …

Chicago Tribune – Saturday, November 21, 1953 – Page 14

Looking at Hollywood

Performance of Lillian Gish on Broadway Found Stirring

By Hedda Hopper

New York, Nov. 20 – Lillian Gish put a lump the size of a golf ball in my throat during her performance in the play “The Trip To Bountiful.” She literally breaks your heart into little pieces. You want to choke her daughter-in-law, played brilliantly by Jo Van Fleet. The entire cast is star studded.

Jo Van Fleet, Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish (The Trip To Bountiful)
Jo Van Fleet, Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish (The Trip To Bountiful)

… After the play, I met the author Horton Foote, and his wife, who was named for Lillian. What’s more, her sister’s name is Dorothy. When Lillian was our top picture star, many babies were named for her. She kept a supply of gold christening rings, and when she heard about each child she sent a ring. I’ll never forget how Lillian fought for a place in the movies for her friend, the late D.W. Griffith, the last time she was in Hollywood …

Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish - The Trip To Bountiful 1953
Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish – The Trip To Bountiful 1953

I’m always appalled at stars’ dressing rooms in New York theaters. Compared to ours in the movie world, they’re little better than lean-tos. I guess that’s why stage actors are so hardy and have so much steel in their backbones.

Lillian Gish - The Trip To Bountiful (1953)
Lillian Gish – The Trip To Bountiful (1953)

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Lillian Gish Still Devoted to Career – By Hedda Hopper (Chicago Tribune – 1963)

Chicago Tribune – Monday, September 2nd, 1963 – Page 39

Looking at Hollywood

Lillian Gish Still Devoted to Career

By Hedda Hopper

Hollywood, Sept. 1 – When actors complain about their short span of earning years, I think of Lillian Gish who began her career at 4, never went to school, was a D.W. Griffith star in such famous silents as “Birth of a Nation,” and “Broken Blossoms.” In June she completed a Broadway run with an all-star company in G.B. Shaw’s “Too True to be Good.” I saw her recently when she came here to do a segment for a “Mr. Novak” TV at M-G-M. Thruout her entire life she’s worked continuously contributing unforgettable characterizations in all acting mediums … We shared a pint of ice cream at my desk in lieu of lunch while she told me how Bob Preston, Glynis Johns, David Wayne, Cyril Ritchard, Eileen Heckart, Ray Middleton, Cedric Hardwicke and herself all worked for cut salaries in the Shaw play because they wanted to do it.

Photo - Eileen Heckart - Lillian Gish - Robert Preston - Glynis Johns
Photo – Eileen Heckart – Lillian Gish – Robert Preston – Glynis Johns

“The theater is sick today, but actors like to act and this was the only way we could put it on with such a cast. We signed for a limited run, March to June, because we were in the big 54th Street theater which holds 1,500, a house for musicals and far too large for a little comedy with a cast of eight. They call it the ‘Penalty Theater’ because a nonmusical play like ours has to pay salaries to four musicians for sake of unions.”

Cedric Hardwicke, Cyril Ritchard, Glynis Johns, Ray Middleton, David Wayne, Eileen Heckart, Robert Preston and Lillian Gish. Too Good To Be True 1963
Cedric Hardwicke, Cyril Ritchard, Glynis Johns, Ray Middleton, David Wayne, Eileen Heckart, Robert Preston and Lillian Gish. Too Good To Be True 1963

“We talked about bringing in actors to replace those who had to leave and considered moving to a smaller theater,” she continued. “It was prohibitive, would have cost between $15,000 and $20,000 … After opening night we met the backers of our play at a party; I’ve never seen such young-looking angels. Most appeared to be barely out of their teens. Hardwicke, who was in and out of the hospital here last summer and had an operation for asthma, never missed a performance; neither Bob Preston. He fell on the ice at his country place breaking three ribs, and must have suffered great pain, because his part called for him to be thrown all over the stage. But these are true pros. Glynis Johns had a yelling part and almost lost her voice; we used to hold our breath on Saturday night before that first shout, we were so worried, wondering if she’d have voice enough left to make the whole show.


Lillian lived in Hollywood nine years when she was with D.W. Griffith’s company, and never had a contract. She finds movieland very changed. “As I came up here, I found some of the streets ugly, and I found myself resenting that it was no longer beautiful. You used to smell orange blossoms when you stepped off the train, and at night, if there was a fog, the flower fragrances were held down to earth.” She spoke of Griffith’s widow, Evelyn, whom she’d seen before leaving the east coast: “She’s remarried to a Swedish-German, and they went to Europe this summer, her first trip there.”




Playbill 1963 Robert Preston, Lillian Gish
Too True To Be Good 1963

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