Theatre: Stage to Screen to Television – By William Torbert Leonard – London 1981 (PDF Download)

In 1882 playing The Lady of the Camelias. Abandoned after the surge of the turn-of-the-century gold rush, Robert Edmond Jones restored the acoustically perfect theatre and in July 1932 reopened the Central City Opera House on its fiftieth anniversary with Edna and Delos Chappell’s translation of Dumas’ play. Staged by Robert Edmond Jones, Camille starred Lillian Gish. The Colorado production was transferred to Broadway on November 1, 1932, at the Morosco Theatre for fifteen performances. Robert Garland (The New York World-Telegram) found Lillian Gish played the lady of the ca- melias “in just the proper key … a charmingly artificial resurrection of a charmingly artificial play, a museum piece from the half-forgotten eighties, staged by Robert Edmond Jones, who adores such things and acted in its leading role by an anachronistic lady who seemed somehow to belong.”

Lillian Gish, Arthur Hill and Colleen Dewhurst – All the Way Home – Belasco Theatre NY 1960

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

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.

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

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Old-Fashioned Camille to Sin and Die Again – By Boyd Lewis (Oakland Tribune, 1932)

  • Oakland Tribune, Volume 117, Number 108, 16 October 1932
  • Old-Fashioned Camille to Sin and Die Again
  • Lillian Gish. Raymond Hackett, Red Divans in Dumas’ Revival for Blase N. Y.
  • By BOYD LEWIS United Press Staff Correspondent

NEW HAVEN. Conn., Oct. 13. – Delos A. Chappell, wealthy Denver business man who revived Dumas’ “Camille” for the Central City. Colo., Opera House, looked forward today to a Broadway opening despite the snickers with which New Haven greeted its Eastern premier last night. “I am hoping that New York will take Its ‘Camille’ straight,” he told the United Press. “I believe it should be taken not merely as a quaint revival of an outmoded play, but at its face value as a great work of art.”

The Denver millionaire has surrounded Lillian Gish, Raymond Hackett and the other members of the cast with rich trappings, including a priceless music box, ancient red divans, frail French chairs, and a massive grand piano that was carried to Colorado in a covered wagon.

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); [Camille–Gish, Lillian, and Raymond Hackett] [Made at Chappell Home, Denver]; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.176


An audience which included Professor William Lyon Phelps and Professor George Pierce Baker, head of the Yale drama school, sighed audibly as the players enacted their roles with the stilted formality of the play’s period behind old-fashioned bucket -type footlights. Miss Gish’s Dresden-China frailty and studied languor may have endowed Camille with too sweet an innocent a manner for New Haven’s “straight” consumptlon, but this Chappell believes comes from an improper understanding of what sin was in Camille’s day.

Lillian Gish as Camille


“Sinning. In those days, was not our good old American sinning, the producer said. “Dumas’ Camille was patterned after a girl who was born in the country, brought up in a convent and then muttered from one nobleman to another. Miss Gish’s delicate air of innocence is entirely in keeping with the character.”

And the same applies to Raymond Hackett as Armand. If his postures and speeches seem too stilted for our modern times, it must be remembered that he is acting the role in its original manner.”

The play bill announces that the production is done “in the manner of 1878.”

Camille Cast with R.E. Jones and Lillian Gish in Chappel Garden by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas 1932

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Chappell, Producer of Lillian Gish’s “Camille” (San Bernardino Sun, 1933)

  • San Bernardino Sun, Volume 39, 1 June 1933
  • Chappell, Producer of Lillian Gish’s “Camille”

MANHATTAN’S newest, brightest and most amiable man-about-town is Delos Chappell, a Denver blade who made his metropolitan debut last fall as producer of Lillian Gish’s “Camille.” He frequents the more sedate bright spots with. Miss Gish or George Buchanan Fife, the last and most beloved of the Park Row dandies of a glamorous newspapering unhappily dead. Another young recruit from the ranks of the haute noblesse is Tom Hamilton, wealthy and handsome Pittsburgher. A juvenile, he speaks of his first failure as “a grand Thursday night run.”

Camille Cast with R.E. Jones and Lillian Gish in Chappel Garden by Laura Gilpin Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas 1932

LILLIAN GISH, by the way, provided a melancholy evening in “No. 9 Pine Street,” a study of frozen New England conscience. It was a dramatization of the famous axe murders of the mauve decade the killings in the Borden family. Miss Gish did fairly well by a poor piece. And made a stage door John of the silk-hatted George Jean Nathan on her opening night.

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979); [Gish, Lillian, and Mrs. Carrington] [Made in Chappell Garden, Denver, Colorado]; 1932; Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Ft Worth, Texas; Bequest of the Artist; P1979.140.197

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.


” Among the significant and potentially historic figures of our dramatic times, Lillian Gish occupies a particularly luminous place. The literati have burdened her with ethereal apostrophes: she has been likened to Duse, to Helen of Troy, to an angel, and to a “frightened chrysanthemum”. She has been in pictures ever since she was a fragile wisp of a girl, and she has remained the symbol of delicacy and passive tenderness ever since the days of Broken Blossoms, down the years through The White Sister and Orphans of the Storm to the present day. Now she is hack again on the legitimate stage, exquisitely moribund as Camille, her first play since her great success of two years ago, in Uncle Vanya. Miss Gish is being further canonized by a new biography, Life and Lillian Gish, by Albert Bigelow Paine, and by a revival of one of the first Gish opera extant, an ancient Biograph film, entitled A Northwoods Romance, which is being shown as a part of that acid revue. Americana

Miss Lillian Gish

(George Jean Nathan)

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A NEW YORKER AT LARGE – By Jack Stinnett (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1936)

  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 94, Number 72, 23 September 1936
  • By Jack Stinnett

NEW YORK – Among the “anticipations of the Broadway season” New Yorkers are listing well toward the top Lillian Gish’s soon-to-be-seen performance as Ophelia in the Guthrie McClintic production of “Hamlet.” In spite of her long experience on stage and screen, this is Miss Gish’s first venture in Shakespeare. She’s “very thrilled,” she told Lillian Gish us, but more than that she would say naught for it is not the Gish way to be talking of a thing before it is done.

Guthrie McClintic and Lillian Gish working on last details before Hamlet – 1936 (Lillian Gish signed the contract for Ophelia)

On the subject of why she quit pictures she was far more articulate for that is a thing that is over and laid aside. . . . And a queen’s mantle it was too that Miss Gish put off when she turned away from the films to come back to the stage as Helena in “Uncle Vanya.” “It’s really quite simple,” she says. “I always loved the stage. I always felt that I was part of it. I started acting when I was six, you know. “Pictures used to be something you could give your whole heart to in the silent days. And I liked that. We often worked hard, very hard, often never knowing if we would be paid until the pictures proved successful and sometimes not being paid when they were not. “But silent pictures were wonderful. There was so very much to expressing yourself in action alone . . . such a thrill when you knew you had told your story without words. I have seen some of the old silent pictures recently and you would be I surprised how well they stand up. “Words need an audience and when it came to the business of speaking lines again, I had to return to the stage. I have never regretted it,” she says.

Lillian Gish as Ophelia, 1936, by Edward Steichen

Somewhere in those years of experience that led from the stage to films to stage again, Miss Gish has discovered Ponce de Leon’s fountain. Don’t get us wrong. Miss Gish isn’t old. Her film star was high in the sky before she was 20. But she retains a miraculous youth … an unchangeableness that leaves her still the wistful young girl of “The Birth of a Nation,” and “Broken Blossoms,” and “Way Down East”. Proof of it was seen in a story she told of her travels this summer. On a 6000-mile motor trip through Europe that carried her into Macedonia, she was recognized time after time by natives of little villages that boasted not a single movie house. Some years ago, Miss Gish made a picture which you may recall . . . “The White Sister.”‘ The picture was shown in the churches of numerous villages of southeastern Europe. In many instances, if was the only movie the people ever had seen and they had never forgotten the little “White Sister.”

“Ophelia” – Photo Gallery – Lillian Gish

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“Uncle Vanya” 1930 – Program

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.”

Uncle Vanya Program – Cort Theatre NY

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.

Uncle Vanya Program – Cort Theatre NY

“Uncle Vanya” represents a perfectly balanced cast under consummate stage direction – and for play-goers who are immune to the subtle, brooding enchantment of Chekhoff. It offers a pretty lady whose name was a household word in the great days of David Wark Griffith and the silent silver screen. She, of course, is Lillian Gish, fair haired, slender, spirituelle – an actress who might have stepped out of Tennyson’s lyrics – “She has a lovely face, the Lady of Shalott.”

Uncle Vanya Program – Cort Theatre NY

Photo Gallery

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After 64 Years, Lillian Gish Gets Chance To Sing On Stage – By William Glover (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1965)

  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 109, Number 275, 21 November 1965
  • After 64 Years, Lillian Gish Gets Chance To Sing On Stage
  • By William Glover – Associated Press Drama Writer

New York (AP) Lillian Gish is singing at last.

“Since I began business at age 5,” gently banters the thousand – role veteran, “I’ve wanted to be in a musical and a circus. I’d better be careful, or I’ll end up in the center ring.” Miss Gish ventures into modest melody during portrayal of the dowager empress of all the Russians in “Anya.” due November 29 at the Ziegfeld theater.

The production is based on “Anastasia,” a mildly successful drama a decade ago which investigated the purported survival by one imperial princess of the Bolshevik slaughter in 1917. For Slavic atmosphere, all the tunes are adapted from Sergei Rachmaninoff compositions.

Lillian Gish – Little Hands – Anya (musical)

Miss Gish’s special song is “Little Hands.” If she shows a measure of inner fear about doing the number, the 69-year-spry star has no qualms whatever about everything else in the musical.

“I’m doing it because I was asked by producer George Abbott it’s that simple.” she says. Rather ruefully, she recalls, she might have branched out earlier.

Constance Towers and Lillian Gish in the stage production Anya – Friedman Abeles Photo 1965

“I was the last pupil taken by Victor Maurel he was the great vocal teacher a half century ago. I was only 19 and I’m afraid I didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity.” There were later voice sessions with another eminent instructor, Margaret Carrington. “She taught Barrymore and I went to her off and on through the years.” Always there were plenty of screen and stage calls to keep Miss Gish busy, and in between she was always avid to dash off on further travels. “Going places and reading books are the two greatest things in my life,” she declares. “There are still so many places in the world I want to see.” Miss Gish is unequivocal about the current condition of Broadway.

“I won’t go to see straight plays anymore.” she says. “They are all brown plaxs about brown people in brown sets.” She feels much of the dull atmosphere crept in with elimination of footlights.

Close up Anya 1965 – Lillian Gish

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