Experience – A rehearsal of “Anya” (The New Yorker – November 27, 1965)

The New Yorker – November 27, 1965

The Talk of The Town



Walking along Sixth Avenue the other afternoon, we bumped into Guy Bolton, the playwright and a friend of long standing, and he suggested that we accompany him to a rehearsal of “Anya” – a musical version of “Anastasia,” the highly successful drama he wrote some years ago in collaboration with Marcelle Maurette. For the musical, he told us, he collaborated on the book with George Abbott, who is also directing the new production. “We’re putting it on at the Ziegfeld, and I’m rather happy about that, since I was the co-author of “Rio Rita,” the play that got the theatre going, on February 2, 1927,” he said. As a matter of fact, I directed the first rehearsal of the first play there, because John Harwood, the director of ‘Rio Rita,’ became so emotional over the death of his dog that he couldn’t handle the initial run-through. Incidentally, a portrait of my wife-to-be adorned the cover of the program of ‘Rio Rita,’ so both she and I feel pretty sentimental about the old stand. I’m sorry to say that after the run of “Anya” – a long one, I hope – the Ziegfeld won’t be with us anymore. Billy Rose, who owns the place, is going to have it torn down and replaced by an office building. Or so he told me. Maybe if ‘Anya’ goes on and on – permit me to dream – he’ll be tempted to maintain it as a theatre. You know, with all this building activity around New York, I sometimes think I should have stuck to architecture, which was my original profession – I had a hand in designing some houses on the East Side – but when I was nineteen I sold a story to the Smart Set, and it wasn’t long afterward that I decided to make writing my life work. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

Ziegfeld Theatre-Cabaret Premiere
Ziegfeld Theatre-Cabaret Premiere

“Ever since” is quite a while, for Mr. Bolton, a grave, sturdy, well-tailored, and handsome man who could readily be mistaken for a middle-aged diplomat, has just celebrated his eighty-first birthday. In his theatrical career, he has turned out a spate of plays and musicals, mostly in collaboration, although such independent creations as “Sally” and “Polly Preferred” were as popular as any of the works for which he shared the author’s credits. Of the men he has worked with, Mr. Bolton has found P. G. Woodehouse one of the most congenial, and as we strolled up the avenue he informed us that Mr. Woodehouse, who is a neighbor of his in Remsenburg, Long Island, sometimes shames him with his energy. “I don’t find it hard to work twelve hours a day, but Plum Woodehouse, who is older than I am, seems to be in perpetual literary motion” he said. “Still, he’s been that was as long as I’ve known him. I guess that’s why the Princess musicals, which we wrote together – ‘Oh, Boy,’ ‘Leave It to Jane,’ ‘Oh, Lady! Lady!,’ and so on – were turned out so speedily. George Abbott is another whirlwind of industry, but after all, he is only seventy-eight.”

Ziegfeld Theatre New York
Ziegfeld Theatre New York

By this time, we had arrived at the Ziegfeld, and Mr. Bolton paused for a moment to survey the street outside the theatre, which has been boarded over because of some subway construction beneath the surface. “We’ve been assured that the roadbed will be back to normal before we open, but I’ve learned over the years never to be certain about anything,” he remarked. “I suppose I should have a tolerance for digging of any kind, since my father did a lot of it around Manhattan. He was a civil engineer, and his avocation was seeking Indian artifacts. He also made a hobby of collecting buttons that fell off soldiers’ uniforms during the Revolutionary campaigns hereabouts. He was intensely interested in this region, and was the author of “Indian Paths in the Great Metropolis,” among other things. I’ve never been able to concentrate on any region with his sort of enthusiasm, and I’m just as much at home in London as I am here, which is as it should be, since my roots in England go deep. Of my various ancestors, I’m proudest of Prior William Bolton, who is said to have designed the Chapel of Henry VII, in Westminster Abbey. But before I begin to sound as worshipful as a Chinese about bygone Boltons, let’s proceed to the rehearsal hall.”

Ziegfeld Theatre NY
Ziegfeld Theatre NY

The hall, it developed, adjoins the offices of Billy Rose, atop the Ziegfeld. It is an area almost as large as a basketball court, and when we visited it, was crowded with folding chairs, folding tables, an ancient upright piano, and the cast of “Anya,” which is also large. On a folding chair to the left of the door, as we entered, we saw Mr. Abbott, who looked tall and authoritative even while sitting down. Some of the actors were lost in reverie; others were bustling about, as was Hanya Holm, the gray-haired choreographer of “Anya,” who, at seventy or so, is still as agile as a ballerina. Among those seated along the wall to the right of us was noticed Lillian Gish, looking as winsome as she did when she was an orphan of the storm. We remarked on this to Mr. Bolton, and he said, “Lillian will soon be seventy, and she has skin that an ingénue would envy. She doesn’t sing in “Anya,” but she does a few recitatives against a musical background.”

Sitting Composerlyricists Robert Wright and George Forrest- Standing Lillian Gish, director George Abbott, Constance Towers, and unidentified man during rehearsal for the stage production Anya
Sitting Composerlyricists Robert Wright and George Forrest- Standing Lillian Gish, director George Abbott, Constance Towers, and unidentified man during rehearsal for the stage production Anya

“Quiet!” Mr. Abbott suddenly shouted, and he emphasized his command by clapping his hands and blowing a whistle. Miss Gish, who plays the last Dowager Empress of Russia in “Anya,” and Constance Towers, who plays her purported grand-child, took their places before Mr. Abbott and launched  into a scene in which the grandchild tries to convince the Dowager Empress that she is indeed the surviving daughter of Nicholas II. The scene went along smoothly until Mr. Abbott gently interrupted Miss Gish in the middle of a speech.

“You jumped a line, Lillian,” Mr. Abbott pointed out.

“Oh, I’m dreadfully sorry,” Miss Gish said.

A prompted supplied the missing line, and the scene went to its conclusion. No sooner had Miss Gish and Miss Towers made their way to the sidelines that Mr. Abbott again called for quiet, clapped his hands, and blew his whistle. “Next scene!” he said.

George Abbott anya
Lillian Gish and George Abbott – Anya

Mr. Bolton told us, sotto-voce, that he was going to step outside. “I’ve got to think over a scene I want to discuss with George, and I want to think it over without distraction,” he said.

“Are the rehearsals always this untroubled?” we inquired as we accompanied him into the corridor.

“There’s a good deal of experience involved here, and that’s always a help,” Mr. Bolton replied. “And, just to keep that element of experience powerful, Robert Wright and George Forrest, who are collaborating on the music and lyrics, are basing their score on themes from Rachmaninoff. You know, I’ll be glad when “Anya” is on its way. I’ve got a novel I want to finish soon.”

Above – “Anya” – scenes from the play


Ziegfeld Theatre 1927
Ziegfeld Theatre 1927

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A Book and a Play are keeping Lillian Gish for the Public Eye – By Karen Hollis (Picture Play 1933)

“It isn’t the Paris courtesan that she is playing. What she really is playing is Marguerite’s pathos itself, the sadness of the irrevocable of all those memories evoked by the yellowed lace of old hall dresses, by pressed roses found in a book, by the tinkle of dance music played on a harpsichord; the tragedy of fleeting beauty, of love lost, of fragile youth so soon to yield to death.” (Arthur Ruhl)


Lillian Gish in Camille by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum 7
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Lillian Gish as Camille. Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.309

They Say in New York – By Karen Hollis

The stars, our first solvent citizens,

can make or break a play opening,

restaurant, hotel, or dress designer.

Picture Play Magazine, 1933

BROADWAYITES have finally had an opportunity to see Lillian Gish as Camille, and she is assured a place in arguments about illusion in the theater for years to come. Not every one approved her delineation of the role, but every one found some evanescent magic in it. There were harsh words said about her playing the fabulous courtesan as a chaste spinster. There was some confusion over the play being presented in the manner of fifty years ago with quaint lighting, soliloquies, and exrated posturings.

Picture Play Magazine (1933) Lillian Gish and Frederick Warlock in Camille
Picture Play Magazine (1933) Lillian Gish and Frederick Warlock in Camille

One commentator, however, described expertly what Miss — Gish accomplished. Arthur Ruhl of the New York Herald-Tribune said. “It isn’t the Paris courtesan that Lillian is playing. What she really is playing is Marguerite’s pathos itself, the sadness of the irrevocable of all those memories evoked by the yellowed lace of old hall dresses, by pressed roses found in a book, by the tinkle of dance music played on a harpsichord; the tragedy of fleeting beauty, of love lost, of fragile youth so soon to yield to death.”

Last month I set out to tell you about the book which Albert Bigelow Paine has written, called “Life and Lillian Gish,” but I tore up my remarks before they ever reached you. In my dissatisfaction over what seemed to me the most extravagant and moonstruck drivel, I attempted to set down a little of what I know and feel about Lillian Gish. Children, it was drool. So who am I to growl at the scholarly gentleman who wrote a book which preserves some lovely photographs at least? Since Lillian Gish bids fair to be the measuring rod by which all film players present and future are to be gauged, something ought to be done about this book. It perpetuates the legend that she is an exquisite sprite. Maybe that will be news to posterity. She would seem more convincing to them, however, if the author had known her well enough to round out the picture with some of the occasionally grim or casual contacts of her career.

Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925
Lillian Gish and The Carrot syndrome 1925

He is guilty of one flagrant omission. He skips over the tragic lawsuit with Charles Duell in one sentence, that front-paged episode when Lillian’s childlike love letters were read in court while she sat munching a raw carrot to calm her rasped nerves. Going through with that suit to free herself from a business contract took far more courage than anything demanded of her in making pictures. He ignores her visits to the Duell home at Newport. He never faces honestly that widespread, but now proved unfounded, legend that D. W. Griffith exerted hypnotic influence over her to make her act. Mr. Paine’s book is not a biography in any real sense. It is more of a press agent’s blurb or an enraptured admirer’s labor of love. Any of the fan-magazine writers who grew up with her could have done better.

Inez McCleary, who for more than a year some ten years ago wrote a daily syndicated newspaper article under the byline of Lillian Gish, revealed in them far more of her human qualities. This was no small feat since she was acting under orders from the Griffith office that Miss Gish was never to express a personal opinion about anything. Harry Carr, who was everybody’s right hand during the great and grim years of the Griffith company, could do the best book of any about Lillian. Norman Kerry and John Gilbert could contribute a companion portrait. They drew her out of her shell more than any other players who worked with her ever could ; they made her laugh gayly and look forward to seeing them. John even taught her to shoot craps and revel in winning.

Lillian Gish and her parrot

That the girl casts a magic spell over every one who knows her I would be the last to deny. But I don’t want strangers to see just this uncanny quality in her. I want them to see her hustling through a Chicago railway station with John, her parrot, under her arm in order to catch a glimpse of Geraldine Farrar. I want them to see her in a red bathing suit, chuckling to find that she could go on swimming with Gene Tunney after other girls in the party were exhausted.

I want them to see her primly going out to the kitchen of the Pen and Brush Club to shake hands with the cook, saying that she might be just a name to the guests in the parlor, but that workers looked on her as one of them. I should like them to be transported back to her dressing room at Mamaroneck to find Lillian washing out stockings and underwear while she explained that Mr. Griffith thought all women should love doing homely tasks like that. I want readers in future to know that she went two blocks out of her way to follow Corinne Griffith, whom she did not know, because she thought Corinne so beautiful. I want them to see her entertaining old friends at luncheon at Sherry’s so that she could show off the suit designed for her to wear when she lunched at the White House with the late President and Mrs. Harding. In short, I should like every one to know the lovely Lillian as a tangible and companionable person rather than as a misty angel.

Lillian Gish in Camille by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); Camille–Gish, Lillian Central City, Colorado; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.85

FarewellBut I’m Staying …

Hollywood Is Piggish.—Not content with what is almost a monopoly on acting talent, Hollywood wants to grab Lillian Gish and Tallulah Bankhead back from the stage. They let them go without pangs and now they regret it. Lillian Gish will make one picture for RKO and then scurry back to the stage. The sultry Tallulah has gone West, just for a visit, she maintains, but she may relent and do one picture. They can’t keep her there, though, because she has promised to play “Jezebel” on the stage in October. Until RKO finds a story that suits her, Lillian Gish is living with sister Dorothy and her mother in a lovely old house at Wilson Point, in Norwalk, Connecticut. Nightly Lillian and Dorothy dash over to Westport where Dorothy is playing in the theater, and early morning finds Lillian diving into the Sound and swimming with long, sure strokes far, far out until she is just a dot in the distance. Neighbors never get over marveling at the strength behind her fragile appearance. Boys sit in their boats with oars poised to rush to the rescue, but they haven’t been needed yet and the little fiends are frankly disappointed.

Two Get New Start.—Just when we thought that Lillian Gish was forever through with pictures, comes the news that she has signed with RKO. She is to make one, possibly three films. The price for each is said to be $15,000, and expenses paid from Europe.

Miss Lillian Gish as Camille …


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A Pictorial History of the AMERICAN THEATRE 1860-1980 (by DANIEL BLUM – 1981)

A Pictorial History of the AMERICAN THEATRE 1860-1980

by DANIEL BLUM (Copyright 1950 – ‘81)

A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980
A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980 (1860)

FOREWORD – by Helen Hayes

There has been no book up to now which will be as valuable to actors and theatre lovers in years to come as this pictorial history of the American stage by Daniel Blum. Here is a permanent record of all the great plays and players of the last one hundred years. The camera as it has been used by many masters of the photographic art has an ability which is almost uncanny in capturing mood and interpretation as well as likeness. Only the camera was able to capture the grace of Ethel Barrymore in “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines,” the charm of Maude Adams in “Peter Pan,” and the sheer beauty of John Barrymore’s “Hamlet.” The camera has provided Mr. Blum with more than a complete and moving history of our stage. It is also a history of acting, its growth and its development which should be an invaluable aid to young performers and students of the theatre. Very often I am asked by young people interested in the theatre as a career, to explain my life in the theatre in terms which would help them on their careers. It is impossible to do so. All you can say is, “I interpreted the role in this or that fashion because this way or that is the way I felt.” But this collection of pictures—and I am very happy that I am so well represented—makes it easy. The camera understands and can adequately explain how things were done and very often why. I wish that when I had been young that there had been such a picture book. I might have had an easier time understanding when I was told, “You should have seen her. She was an actress!”

Helen Hayes

A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980
A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980 Doris Keane



Barney Bernard played Abe Potash while Alexander Carr was Mawruss Perlmutter. “Seven Keys to Baldpate,” a popular mystery farce by George M. Cohan and with Wallace Eddinger and Gail Kane, had the second longest run. Other successes of the year were “A Good Little Devil” with Mary Pickford, William Norris, Ernest Truex and Lillian Gish; “Joseph and His Brethren,” a Biblical spectacle.



Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya


Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne had a substantial success in Maxwell Anderson’s “Elizabeth the Queen,” and other Theatre Guild offerings were Shaw’s “The Apple Cart,” Philip Barry’s “Hotel Universe” and Turgenev’s “A Month in the Country” with Alla Nazimova. Jed Harris produced a memorable revival of “Uncle Vanya” with Lillian Gish, Osgood Perkins, Walter Connelly and Eugene Powers. He also did the Gogol farce, “The Inspector General” with Romney Brent and Dorothy Gish.



Lillian Gish and Raymond Hackett - Laura Gilpin - Camille

Eugenie Leontovich and Moffat Johnston were in “Twentieth Century;” Osgood Perkins. Sally Bates and James Stewart were in “Goodbye Again;” Margaret Sullavan, June Walker and Humphrey Bogart were in “Chrysalis;” Alice Brady, Grace George and A. E. Matthews were in “Mademoiselle;” and Lillian Gish appeared in “Camille” with Raymond Hackett.




1930 promo - Nine Pine Street
Nine Pine Street


George M. Cohan wrote and acted in “Pigeons and People,” Bramwell Fletcher appeared in “Ten Minute Alibi,” and Lillian Gish was seen in “Nine Pine Street” based on the Lizzie Borden case. Mrs. Patrick Campbell was seen in “A Party,” Jean Arthur was in “The Curtain Rises,” Basil Sydney did “The Dark Tower” and Florence Reed was in “Thoroughbred.”



Within The Gates Signed Profile 1934


Nicholas Hannen and Irene Purcell. Artistic ventures were Clemence Dane’s fantasy “Come of Age” with Judith Anderson, “Richard of Bordeaux” with Dennis King, “Yellow Jack” with Geoffrey Kerr, James Stewart and Myron McCormick, Sean O’Casey’s “Within the Gates” with Lillian Gish and Bramwell Fletcher, a revival of “L’Aiglon” with Eva Le Gallienne and Ethel Barrymore, and an opera, “4 Saints in 3 Acts,” with a libretto by Gertrude Stein and music by Virgil Thompson.



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


John Gielgud scored a great success in “Hamlet” with Judith Anderson, Queen Gertrude and Lillian Gish, Ophelia. It ran for 132 performances while Leslie Howard who opened in “Hamlet” a month after Mr. Gielgud was not a success and played only 39 times. Emlyn Williams, appearing in his own play, “Night Must Fall,” shared acting honors with May Whitty. Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence were seen in a series of short plays by Mr. Coward which were billed as “Tonight at 8:30.”



The Star Wagon 4

The comedies popular in 1937 were “Room Service” with Eddie Albert and Betty Field, “Yes, My Darling Daughter” with Lucile Watson and Violet Heming, “Susan and God” with Gertrude Lawrence, ” Having Wonderful Time” with John Garfield, “Storm Over Patsy” with Sara Allgood and Roger Livesey, “Excursion” with Whitford Kane and Shirley Booth, “Father Malachy’s Miracle” with Al Shean, “George and Margaret” with Irene Browne, “The Star-Wagon” with Lillian Gish and Burgess Meredith, and “French Without Tears” with Frank Lawton and Penelope Dudley Ward.



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

The greatest success of the year and the longest run in the history of the New York theatre was achieved by “Life With Father” with 3,224 performances. Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse wrote it and Mr. Lindsay with his wife Dorothy Stickney played the leads in the original production.Other plays and players of the year were “The American Way” with Fredric March and Florence Eldridge, “The Primrose Path” with Betty Field, Helen Westley, Russell Hardie and Betty Garde, “The Gentle People” with Franchot Tone and Sylvia Sidney. “The White Steed” with Barry Fitzgerald and Jessica Tandy, “Family Portrait” with Judith Anderson, “Ladies and Gentlemen” with Helen Hayes and Philip Merivale, “Key Largo” with Paul Muni. “Dear Octopus” with Lillian Gish, Lucile Watson and Jack Hawkins, “The Mother” with Nazimova and Montgomery Clift.



Lillian Gish in Mr. Sycamore
Lillian Gish in Mr. Sycamore


Flora Robson, Margaret Douglass, Myron McCormick, Celeste Holm and Zachary Scott were in “The Damask Cheek;” Gladys Cooper, Gregory Peck and Wendy Barrie in “The Morning Star;” Eddie Dowling and Julie Haydon in a double bill of “Magic” and “Hello, Out There;” and Dorothy Gish and Louis Calhern in “The Great Big Doorstep.” Alec Guinness and Nancy Kelly were in “Flare Path;” Rhys Williams, Dudley Digges, Colin Keith-Johnston and Whitford Kane in “Lifeline;” and Lillian Gish, Stuart Erwin and Enid Markey in “Mr. Sycamore.”




Crime and P 47 hires


Judith Anderson received the greatest acclaim of her career for her acting in Robinson Jeffers’ adaptation of “Medea.” In her supporting company were Florence Reed and John Gielgud who was replaced later by Dennis King. Mr. Gielgud was also seen in “Crime and Punishment” with Lillian Gish and Dolly Haas and revivals of “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Love For Love.”




The Curious Savage - 1950 a

Helen Hayes acted in “The Wisteria Trees;” Fredric March and Florence Eldridge were in “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” and later in the year in Arthur Miller’s version of Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People;” Dorothy Gish was in “The Man;” Basil Rathbone and Valerie Taylor were in “The Gioconda Smile;” Lillian Gish was in “The Curious Savage;” Barbara Bel Geddes and Kent Smith were seen briefly in “Burning Bright,” a play by John Steinbeck; Martha Scott supported by Charlton Heston, Carroll McComas and Charles Nolte appeared briefly in “Design For A Stained Glass Window;” Jessica Tandy starred in “Hilda Oane;” and “Ring Round The Moon” featured Lucile Watson.


Lillian Gish is Carrie Watts (The Trip To Bountiful)
Lillian Gish is Carrie Watts (The Trip To Bountiful)


Two plays were recipients of both the Pulitzer III Prize and the Drama Critics’ Circle Award: William Inge’s “Picnic” for the 1952-53 season, and John Patrick’s “The Teahouse Of The August Moon” for the 1953-54 season. Both had great success. “Picnic” had a National company touring the country, and the John Patrick prize winner had two companies on the road. Lillian Gish starred in “The Trip to Bountiful”.




Family Reunion1958


Among the outstanding hits were Archibald Mac-Leish’s “J. B.” which won a Pulitzer Prize, “Two For The Seesaw,” “Sunrise At Campobello,” O’Neill’s “A ouch Of The Poet,” “The Pleasure Of His Company,” Lillian Gish, Florence Reed and Fritz Weaver starred in “The Family Reunion.”




Final Curtain All The Way Home 61


One of Broadway’s most disastrous years proved that stars such as Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Jack Lemmon, Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston, and David Wayne could not make poor productions pay off. Lillian Gish, Colleen Dewhurst, Thomas Chalmers, Aline MacMahon and Tom Wheatley were in “All The Way Home.”



Too True To Be Good 1963
Too True To Be Good 1963



Only 9 productions played over 200 performances, and none were worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. The only solid hits were the comedies “Barefoot In The Park” and “Enter Laughing.” Glynis Johns and Lillian Gish starred in “Too True to be Good.”






uncle vanya - 1973 mike nichols
Lillian Gish and Mike NicholsUncle Vanya – 1973


More stars and more productions opened on Broadway than in several years. Unfortunately, few tarried long. The Pulitzer Prize and a Tony were garnered by “That Championship Season” that too late in 1972 for consideration. Conrad Bain, Barnard Hughes, George C Scott, Nicol Williamson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Lillian Gish, Elizabeth Wilson and Julie Christie were in Mike Nichols “Uncle Vanya.”





Lanford Wilson’s “Talley’s Folly,” from Off-Broadway’s Circle Repertory Theatre, was this year’s recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle citation. Tonys went to Mark Medoff’s “Children of a Lesser God” (best play), and to its stars John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich. For outstanding featured performances, Tonys were given Dinah Manoff in “I Ought to Be in Pictures” and David Rounds of “Morning’s at Seven,” which was voted outstanding revival.

*** Note: Photographs placed to illustrate Miss Gish’s stageography were not part of Mr.Blum’s original work.  In this brief presentation, one can find mostly references to Miss Lillian Gish’s stage career. 

A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980 - 1980
A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980 – 1980
A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980
A pictorial history of the American theatre, 1860-1980 cover

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Advertising Uncle Vanya …

Lillian Gish Turns to the Footlights

Years ago, when David Belasco starred Mary Pickford in the fanciful “A Good Little Devil,” Lillian Gish appeared in the minor role of a good fairy.* The other day, however, Miss Gish returned to the speaking stage in New York. Her reception was remarkable.

Lillian Gish turns to the footlights (Uncle Vanya 1932)
Lillian Gish turns to the footlights – (Uncle Vanya 1930)

Miss Gish came back in “Uncle Vanya,” a comedy by the Russian Chekhov. She had the role of Helena. Of her, Robert Litell said in The New York World: “She is not quite like any other actress I have ever seen, with a lovely repose and certainty, a combination of delicate shades and pastel dignity which make us realize how great the screen’s gain has been all these years, to our loss.”

Lillian Gish turns to the footlights - detail (Uncle Vanya 1932)
Lillian Gish turns to the footlights – detail (Uncle Vanya 1930)

No announcement has been made of Miss Gish’s possible return to the films. The two portraits on this page show Miss Gish as Helena in “Uncle Vanya.”

Lillian Gish - Uncle Vanya (Harris)
Lillian Gish – Uncle Vanya (Harris)

Advertising Uncle Vanya …

Jed Harris had selected a well-nigh perfect cast. With Walter Connolly in the title role, the tired, tearful, disillusioned Vanya; with Osgood Perkins, as Astroff, the hard-riding, hard-drinking, disillusioned doctor; with Eugene Powers, as Serebrakoff, the ailing, fat-headed, city professor; with Lillian, as Helena, his young, beautiful, disillusioned wife; with Joanna Roos, as Sonia, his unhappy, love-lorn daughter; with Kate Mayhew, as Nurse Marina; with Isabel Irving, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Harold Johnsrud—one must travel far to find a group of players better suited to a Chekhov play, or one more congenial to work with. Ruth Gordon was not in the cast, but she came to Lillian’s apartment and worked with her. So did Mr. Harris. They believed in her, and encouraged her to believe in herself. Going back to the stage had its difficulties.

Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya

Who’s Who in the Cast

Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya

OSGOOD PERKINS was graduated from Harvard in 1914 and, aside from Hasty Pudding antics, saw little of the stage until after the war, when he was silently villainous in five motion pictures. His first Broadway gesture was in “The Beggar on Horseback.” In this, as in three subsequent pl!iys, “Weak Sisters,” “The Masque of Venice” and “Pomeroy’s Past,” he impersonated a gentleman of the cloth – sometimes acidly, sometimes benevolently, but always effectively. His cleric constituency exhausted, he turned over a new leaf in “Loose Ankles,” and since that time has been tough and rough and sinister in “Spread Eagle,” Women Go On Forever” and “The Front Page.” He spends many summers abroad and frequently essays a sortie into motion pictures. Married? Yes.

Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya

LILLIAN GISH returns to the stage in the Chekhov comedy after an absence of 17 years. She last appeared on a prosceniumed platform in New York in 1913, along with Ernest Truex and Mary Pickford, in “A Good Little Devil” at the Republic. Since “The Birth of a Nation” her fame in pictures has been secure. Among the notable films which she has illumined, are “Intolerance,” “Broken Blossoms,” “Way Down East,” “Orphans of the Storm,” “The White Sister,” “Hearts of the World,” “Romola” and “The Scarlet Letter.” Miss Gish made her stage debut at the age of six in a melodrama, “In Convict’s Stripes,” in Rising Sun, Ohio. She was born in Springfield, Ohio, and has never married.

WALTER CONNOLLY was born in Cincinnati, and became acquainted with flats and parallels in college dramatics at St. Xavier’s. Was schooled in touring companies of Sothern and Marlowe, Ben Greet, and the Coburns, chiefly in Shakespearean repertory.

Lillian Gish UNCLE VANYA Osgood Perkins – Kate Mayhew (Signed) 1930 Playbill

Lillian Gish UNCLE VANYA Osgood Perkins – Walter Connolly 1930 Opening Program

Lillian Gish UNCLE VANYA Osgood Perkins – Walter Connolly 1930 Playbill

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

ap wire press photo actress lillian gish london 1980

Lillian Gish: A Night to Recall The Glory Years


The New York Times – September 20, 1980

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lillian Gish - John Gielgud
Lillian Gish – John Gielgud

Hugging and Kissing

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

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

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

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


Miss Gish laughed.

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

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

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

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And Right After This Message, Miss Lillian Gish – By Jon Krampner (The New York Times – 1999)

The New York Times – 1999

TELEVISION/RADIO; And Right After This Message, Miss Lillian Gish

By Jon Krampner

Oct. 10, 1999

MOVIEGOERS remember Horton Foote’s ”Trip to Bountiful” as a 1985 film starring Geraldine Page, who won the best actress Oscar for it. But there is an earlier version, a 1953 live television drama starring Lillian Gish, which has been sitting in the film collection at the Museum of Modern Art for 44 years.

The play, which also stars Eileen Heckart, John Beal and Eva Marie Saint, was an episode of NBC’s ”Goodyear TV Playhouse.” And this week (Thursday at 3 P.M. and Friday at 6:30 P.M.) the museum plans to screen a video copy of the one-hour kinescope (a film made of the images on a television monitor during broadcast), complete with original commercials.

It’s an annual ritual for the Modern to show one of Lillian Gish’s works on her birthday (Oct. 14). But what makes this occasion unusual (other than the fact that it’s only the seventh birthday since Gish died) is that the museum is presenting a television show rather than a feature film.

”The idea was to show something outside of what we’ve traditionally shown, which is her silent work,” says Steven Higgins, curator of MOMA’s film and video department. In the recent past, the museum has shown ”Orphans of the Storm” (1922), ”Hearts of the World” (1918) and ”Way Down East” (1920).

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Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television – By William Torbert Leonard – London 1981 (All The Way Home)

Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television

By William Torbert Leonard – London 1981


Pulitzer Prize Play (1961). Best Play, New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1961).

A play in three acts by Tad Mosel, based on James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize novel, A Death in the Family (1960)

Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Arthur Miller - Lillian Gish 1960 New York's - Where
Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Arthur Miller – Lillian Gish 1960 New York’s – Where


Religious, conventional, urban-born, prim Mary Lynch has married exuberant, earthy, rural-bred Jay Follet. Despite tensions created by their disparate temperaments and backgrounds, they have established a deeply happy marriage, reflected in the mutual love of their large families, each other, and their small son, Rufus. Irritated by Mary’s pristine reluctance to tell Rufus about her present pregnancy, Jay leaves to visit his dying father. On the way back to his Knoxville, Tennessee home, Jay is killed when his car crashes. Mary, to whom “God has always come easily, ” finds no comfort in her Catholicism and withdraws into her sorrow. Soon the awareness and understanding of Jay’s zest of living and the stirring of the child within her give her courage to face the future and she tells Rufus about the expected baby.

Final Curtain All The Way Home 61

Comment and Critique

James Agee’s elegiac and touching novel A Death in the Fam¬ ily was published posthumously by McDowell, Obolensky two years after his death from a heart attack in New York City on May 16, 1955, at the age of forty-five. The novel, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1958, was adapted as a play in 1960 by Tad Mosel (George Ault Mosel, Jr.). Mosel won the Pulitzer Prize for his play in 1961, marking the first time in the forty-five-year-old history of the awards that a play adapted from a Pulitzer Prize novel was also the recipient of the award. The play opened to general critical acclaim but was ignored by the public. Three days after the opening, the closing notice went up. The author, producers, director and other personnel waived their royalties and salaries; the Shuberts reduced the theatre rental and the published announcement of the play’s closing added public support. Again the closing notice went up for Saturday April 22, 1961, but on Tuesday, April 18 the play was given the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the Best Play of the Year and, again, survived. The flux of audience absenteeism and hopeful honorariums won the beleaguered play the synonym of “The Miracle on 44th Street.” In the superlative cast assembled for the play, Colleen Dewhurst (who won the “Tony” Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama), Arthur Hill, Lillian Gish, Aline MacMahon, Art Smith and others, was an 81-year-old woman who played the role of Great-Great-Granmaw, Lylah Tiffany, who for eleven years supported herself by playing the accordion on the sidewalk outside of Carnegie Hall. Miss Tiffany repeated her role of the 102- year-old Great-Great-Granmaw in the film version of the play.

The 1963 screen version of the Agee-Mosel play lost much of its magic despite excellent performances from Robert Preston and Jean Simmons as the Follets.

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s December 1, 1971, telecast of All The Way Home, featuring Joanne Woodward and Richard Kiley as Mary and Jay Follet in a well-mounted, beautifully-acted production, captured much of Agee’s feeling and mood and memory of his own childhood in Knoxville of 1915.

Lillian Gish Colleen Dewhurst All the Way Home Signed P


Belasco Theatre, New York, opened November 30, 1960. 334 performances. Produced by Fred Coe (in association with Arthur Cantor); Director, Arthur Penn; Settings and lighting, David Hays; Costumes, Raymond Sovey; Assistant director, Gene Lasko Arthur Hill (Jay Follet); Colleen Dewhurst (Mary Follet); Lillian Gish (Catherine Lynch); Aline MacMahon (Aunt Hannah Lynch); Art Smith (Father Jackson); Lenka Peterson (Sally Follet); Clifton James (Ralph Follet); Edwin Wolfe (John Henry Follet); Thomas Chalmers (Joel Lynch); Tom Wheatley (Andrew Lynch); Georgia Simmons (Jessie Follet); Dorrit Kelton (Aunt Sadie Follet); Lylah Tiffany (Great-Great-Granmaw); John Megna (Rufus); Christopher Month (Jim-Wilson); Larry Provost, Jeff Conaway, Gary Morgan, Robert Ader (Boys)

Colleen Dewhurst ALL THE WAY HOME Lillian Gish 1960 Boston Panorama Magazine


Paramount Pictures, released October, 1963. Produced by David Susskind; Associate producer, Jack Grossberg; Director, Alex Segal; Assistant directors, Larry Sturhahn, Michael Hertzberg; Screenplay, Phillip Reisman, Jr.; Camera, Boris Kaufman; Music, Bernard Green; Art director, Richard Sylbert; Editor, Carl Lerner Robert Preston (Jay Follet); Jean Simmons (Mary Follet); Aline MacMahon (Aunt Hannah Lynch); Pat Hingle (Ralph Follet); Thomas Chalmers (Joel Lynch); John Cullum (Andrew Lynch); Ronnie Claire Edwards (Sally Follet) Michael Kearney (Rufus); John Henry Faulk (Walter Starr); Lylah Tiffany (Great-Great-Granmaw); Mary Perry (Grand-Aunt Sadie Follet); Georgia Simmons (Jessie Follet); Edwin Wolfe (John Henry Follet); Ferdie Hoffman (Father Jackson)


Hallmark Hall of Fame, televised December 1, 1971. NBC. 90 minutes. Produced by David Susskind; Director, Fred Coe; Television adaptation, Tad Mosel Joanne Woodward (Mary); Richard Kiley (Jay); Eileen Heckart (Aunt Hannah); Pat Hingle (Ralph); Barnard Hughes (Joel); James Woods (Andrew); Shane Nickerson (Rufus); Jane Mallett (Catherine); Betty Garde (Aunt Sadie); Kay Hawtrey (Sally); James O’Neill (John Henry); Nan Stewart (Jessie); Allen Clowes (Father Jackson)


During the summer of 1961, Marsha Hunt, Frank Overton, Anne Revere, Eugenia Rawls, William Hansen, Gene Wilder and others made a brief tour in the play.

All The Way Home Tryout prog 1

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Lillian Gish in Philip Barry’s ‘The Joyous Season’ By Brooks Atkinson (The New York Times – 1934)

The New York Times – Tuesday, January 30, 1934

Lillian Gish in Philip Barry’s ‘The Joyous Season’ — Opening of ‘Hotel Alimony.’

By Brooks Atkinson.


THE „JOYOUS SEASON” a play in three acts. by Philip Barry. Settings by Robert Edmond Jones: staged and produced by Arthur Hopkins. At the Belasco Theatre.

  • Francis Battle ………………… Eric Dressler
  • Theresa Farley Battle ……….. Jane Wyatt
  • Martin Farley ……………… Jerome Lawler
  • Patrick ……………………… Barry Macollum
  • Hugh Farley ……………….. Alan Campbell
  • Ross Farley ……………………  John Eldredge
  • Monica Farley ……….. Florence Williams
  • John Farley ………………… Moffat Johnston
  • Edith Choate Farley ………Mary Kennedy
  • Christina Farley ……………….. Lillian Gish
  • Nora ………………………………. Kate Mayhew
  • Sister Aloysius …………………… Mary Hone

Since Mr. O’Neill has described „Days Without End” as a modern miracle play, Philip Barry is entitled to give “The Joyous Season” the same distinction. He does not. In the program at the Belasco, where it was acted !ast evening, he describes it simply as „a new play.” But it presents Lillian Gish in the part of a reverent sister of the Catholic faith. In three acts it shows how the radiance of the sister’s spirit redeems her family from worldly melancholy on Christmas Day. It is a play that lies close to the heart of things and speaks honestly about tremulous matters that are seldom mentioned in the theatre. Some of it is deeply moving; all of it discloses a decency and fineness of feeling. Mr. Barry is not the man to theatricalize a Iesson in faith. But still, in this reviewer’s opinion, a religious topic seems to place an impediment in the freedom of Mr. Barry’s imagination. Inasmuch as “The Joyous Season” is a testament to the joy of faith, why should it lack the tumultuous emotion of ”The Animal Kingdom”, or „Tomorrow and Tomorrow”? Mr. Barry has written with more exultation upon less earnest occasions.

The plot is simplet as becomes the theme. After having been apart from her family for many years in the service of the church Sister Christina is briefly united with them at the Christmas season. Her mother has left Christina in her will the choice of two properties.

Joyous Season 1950 close up

During her visit she has to decide which to accept. Put that is only the framework of the play. The real problem is the spiritual apathy of her brothers and sisters. Once they used to be a gay family of Irish parents in the neighborhood of Boston. But now that they have become a family of distinction there and are all living together on Beacon Street, Christina finds them gloomy, ingrown, moribund and pettish toward each other. Their apathy is almost maglignance. It is separating husbands and wives and poisoning the single idealist with despair. ”The Joyous Season” is the narrative of how Christina’s faith and spirit infiltrate their lives and bring most of them back to a state of awareness and fulfillment.

By setting his play in Boston Mr. Barry bas localized it a good deal. Perhaps it requires a Bostonian to savor completely the moribund family life of the Farley clan-their formal respectability and their interior distaste for each other. “Being a Bostonian is a full-time job at half pay,”says the banker of the family, who is really a custodian of vaults. There is a devious satire in Mr. Barry’s portrait of his family that Bostonians will relish most keenly.

But that is only a trifling matter. What limits the scope of “The Joyous Season” more rigidly is the unevenness of the characterization. Francis and Terry Battle he has described completely. Her stubbornness and callousness of mind, his reticent idealism, the jangled mixture of their lives reveal these young people; and we know enough about them to respond to their problems. Mr. Barry has also written the part of Christina in such generous terms that we can understand her too, and feel the glow of her being. But the others are either generalized types or phantoms in a play. By leaving them in that murky penumbra Mr. Barry has lost a good deal of the lustre of his theme.

Joyous Season 1950

The acting reflects some of the same confusion. As Christina, Miss Gish is superb. Apart from the aura of’ her presence, which illuminates the sort of part she is playing, she has created a character with the imagery of her gestures and the inflections of her passionless voice. Jane Wyatt gives a splendid performance as the turbulent Terry whose moods are blazing and various. Eric Dressler invigorates the part of Terry’s husband with a note of candor and sincerity.

As the eldest brother Moffat Johnston is concrete and discerning. John Eldredge bas a buoyancy of playing that clarifies a good deal the inconclusive part of the brother radical. Kate Mayhew brings a jaunty sentiment to the part of an old family retaineress.

In his design of a dull living-room, Robert Edmond Jones has captured one aspect of the play, but this is not one of his n1ost illuminating settings. It shares Mr. Barry’s hesitation. Much of “The Joyous Season” is stirring and exalting. But in this reviewer’s opinion. it is not the great religious play Mr. Barry can write. It is not flooded with fervent emotion.

The Joyous Season - By Brooks Atkinson

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