Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 1925-11: Vol 19 Iss 8
BULLETIN OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO NOVEMBER NINETEEN TWENTY-FIVE VOLUME XIX Number 8
THIRTY-EIGHTH ANNUAL AMERICAN EXHIBITION
Thirty-eighth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture opens on October 29, to remain in the East Wing until December 13. This exhibition is always awaited and received with great interest, for it is index of the year’s achievements. Selected on a basis of individual excellence, it works as a group representative of the various tendencies and schools which determine the direction of American painting and sculpture. The present exhibition contains at least two works which will be hung in the permanent collections of the Art Institute, for there are shown for the first time a painting purchased for the museum by the Friends of American Art, William Glackens’ “Chez Mouquin,” and Nicholai Fechin’s portrait of Lillian Gish as Romola, purchased from the Goodman Fund. Mr Fechin, a Russian by birth, an American by adoption, will be remembered for his one-man show held in 1924, when he gave proof of a highly individual technique, linked with a national tradition. In the portrait of Lillian Gish, the Russian is subordinate to the individual, and we find a double feat, a painter’s appreciation of another artist’s interpretation of her. The pathos and grace which the actress brought to her part are retained, and this added an element lacking on the screen color. The lavender gown, heavy red books, and polychrome background are used for their full decorative possibilities. “Chez Mouquin” is an early work by William J. Glackens, definitely dated as to the decade it represents, and quite different in manner from the artist’s later more dashing style.
“During that time, two sculptors, Dimitri Dirujinski and Boris Lorski, modeled busts of me. Nicolai Fechin did a portrait of me as Romola that was bought by the Chicago Art Institute. When I was in that city playing in Life With Father, it was hanging in the Goodman Theater. “ (Lillian Gish)
Nicolai Fechin (1881 – 1955) also known as “The Tartar Painter”, was highly influential student of Russian master Ilya Repin. Fechin, along with John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, and Anders Zorn are the perhaps the most frequently cited influences on contemporary impressionists. But it is Fechin’s technique and approach that made his paintings stand out. Masterful with color and palette knife, Fechin used whatever he could, including saliva and his thumb, to achieve the effects he was seeking. Fechin would start with an abstract and bring it back to realism in select areas such as the face and hands, but his compositions, especially anything other than the center of interest, were generally abstract. Began paintings on plain, double weave Belgian linen, which was often attached to stretchers which he had made. He generally prepared his own canvases and seldom made preliminary sketches. His ground varied, not only from painting to painting, but upon a single canvas. In some areas he might use rabbit skin glue; in others, cottage cheese. The absorbency differences in the various sections of ground resulted in areas of high gloss and areas of matte finish in his completed painting. This was the effect he sought, and he therefore did not varnish his paintings.
*** Fechin painted Lillian Gish as Romola in 1925 (oil on canvas tacked over board) 49¼ x 45¼ in. (125.1 x 114.9 cm.). Estimate $150.000, portrait was finally sold for $464.000 and is part of a private collection since 2006.
New York : the movie lover’s guide : the ultimate insider tour of movie New York
New York: The Movie Lover’s Guide
Richard Alleman (2005)
Broadway Books New York
An original trade paperback edition of this book was published in 1988 by Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. It is here reprinted by arrangement with Richard Alleman.
THE ULTIMATE INSIDER TOUR OF MOVIE NEW YORK
Believing that film was “the only great art peculiar to the twentieth century,” former MoMA director Alfred H. Barr Jr. established the Department of Film at the Museum of Modern Art in 1935, and immediately sent curator Iris Barry on a special mission to Hollywood to drum up support for his innovative undertaking. There, at a party given by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks at Pickfair, their lavish Beverly Hills estate, Miss Barry met industry heavyweights like Samuel Goldwyn, Harold Lloyd, Harry Warner, Harry Cohn, Ernst Lubitsch, Mervyn LeRoy, Walt Disney, Jesse Lasky, and Mack Sennett. Returning to New York with what the Los Angeles Times reported to be “more than a million feet” of film, Miss Barry had the beginnings of MoMA’s collection. But one old-timer who was not as forthcoming as many of his Hollywood colleagues was D. W. Griffith, who refused to donate his own films to the museum, reportedly saying that nothing could convince him that films had anything to do with art. Ultimately MoMA enlisted the aid of Griffith’s friend and former star actress, Lillian Gish, who eventually persuaded him to hand over to history his collection of films, music, still photographs, and papers. It seems, however, that it was the lure of the tax write-off that was really responsible for Griffith’s change of heart.
For the movie lover, the best thing about MoMA’s film collection is that it is constantly on view. The museum has two theaters—one with 460 seats, the other with 217—which together are used to present some two dozen screenings a week. The Department of Film and Media-MoMA also cosponsors, with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the New Directors/New Films festival, which is held every year in March/April. In addition to showing films, the Department of Film and Media-MoMA maintains a library of film books, screenplays, reviews, publicity material, and four million stills that is an important research center for students, authors, and historians.
ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S CHURCH
109 East 50th Street at Park Avenue
This exotic neo-Byzantine Episcopal house of worship—with a columned Romanesque entrance salvaged from the church’s former 24th Street location—strikes a handsome pose on Park Avenue. Indeed, even though it’s used only as background, it’s still easy to spot in such recent films as Maid in Manhattan (2003), Catch Me If You Can (2002), and Serendipity (2001). It plays much meatier roles in two earlier films, however. Ironically, each involves a wedding that doesn’t come off. In Arthur (1981), Dudley Moore jilts Jill Eikenberry at the St. Bart’s altar, whereas fifteen years later Steve Guttenberg does the same thing to bride- from-hell Jane Sibbett (featured on Friends as Ross’s ex-wife) in favor of Kirstie Alley in It Takes Two (1995).
Movie lovers may wish to make a special visit to pay their respects to silent-screen star and former St. Bart’s member Lillian Gish, whose ashes are buried here in a basement chapel alongside those of her actress sister, Dorothy, and stage mother, Mary. Lillian Gish, who died in 1993, also had an impressive stage and post-silent-film career, making her final screen appearance at the age of ninety-one (or ninety-four, if we are to believe the dates—1893-1993—incised on her crypt), opposite Bette Davis and Ann Sothern, in The Whales of August (1987). Today, an anonymous admirer sends flowers to the Gish crypt every year on her birthday, October 14.
LILLIAN GISH APARTMENT 430 East 57th Street
For over half a century, this basic-brick Sutton Place apartment building was Lillian Gish’s Manhattan home. An extraordinary woman whose film career began in 1912 with D. W. Griffith’s An Unseen Enemy, Lillian Gish appeared in such landmark silent pictures as The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), Way Down East (1920), Orphans of the Storm (1922), and The Scarlet Letter (1925). When her film career slowed down in the 1930s, it was not, as it was for many of her contemporaries, on account of the talkies, but rather because Hollywood’s taste in heroines had changed, and virtuous virgins like Miss Gish were no longer in fashion. The actress dealt with this turn of events by concentrating on the Broadway stage, where she had a string of successes in classical roles.
Her film career was far from over, however, for she went on to triumph as a character actress in a number of films in the late 1940s and 1950s, from David O. Selznick’s Duel in the Sun (1947) and Portrait of Jennie (1948) to United Artists’ Night of the Hunter (1955). And La Gish went on and on. Witness her roles in A Wedding (1978), Sweet Liberty (1986), and The Whales of August (1987). The actress, who died in 1993 at the age of ninety-nine—although she only admitted to ninety-six—once said she liked living in the Sutton Place area because “it is like a village where everyone knows you.”
BIOGRAPH STUDIOS SITE 841 Broadway
The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company was the rather exotic name of one of the first motion-picture companies to mount a serious challenge to Thomas Edison’s monopolistic hold on the early film industry. Biograph produced initially a better-quality image (by using larger-sized film) and enjoyed the participation of W. K. L. Dickson, a former—and the most influential—player on the team that developed motion pictures at Edison. Biograph’s first studio was on the roof of the Hackett Carhart Building, a great Victorian fortress with ornate columns, pediments, and turrets that still stands on the northwest corner of Broadway and East 13th Street. Similar to the Black Maria studio that Dickson had built for Edison in West Orange, Biograph’s rooftop facility was mounted on tracks and revolved with the sun. The foundations of this primitive studio are still in place atop the restored Hackett Carhart Building.
Unfortunately, the site of some of Biograph’s greatest cinematic triumphs—a brownstone studio at 11 East 14th Street to which it moved in 1906—was razed in the 1960s to make way for a big boring brick apartment building. It was at the Union Square studio that D. W. Griffith directed his first film, The Adventures of Dollie, in 1908. Griffith went on to become the studio’s top director and brought such talents as Mary Pickford, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Blanche Sweet, Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Reid, Mabel Normand, Mae Marsh, Harry Carey, and Mack Sennett into the Biograph fold. When Griffith left the studio in 1913 for the Mutual Film Corporation, Biograph’s status fell quickly, and in 1915 the company was dissolved. Many of its films survive, however, thanks both to Griffith, who saved copies of all his productions, and to the Museum of Modern Art, which acquired Griffith’s collection in the mid-1950s for its then new film department.
In 1975, a plaque was dedicated by former Biograph beauties Lillian Gish and Blanche Sweet at the site of the historic town- house studio at 11 East 14th Street. The day after the ceremony, however, the plaque mysteriously disappeared, and there have been no further efforts to put up a new one. There should be. And while we’re talking about plaques, there also ought to be one at Biograph’s original studio site at 841 Broadway.
D. W. GRIFFITH STUDIO SITE Orienta Point, Mamaroneck
In 1919, D. W. Griffith was at the height of his wealth, his fame, his power—and his hubris. It was the year that Griffith had joined with Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks to form the revolutionary United Artists Corporation, which gave its star founders control over both the production and distribution of their films. It was also the year that Griffith decided to leave Hollywood and set up his own studio back east. The place Griffith chose for his operation was the former estate of Standard Oil/Florida real-estate millionaire Henry Flagler, which occupied a secluded spit of land jutting out into the Long Island Sound near Mamaroneck. Besides making films here, Griffith planned to live on the estate, too—a situation which many felt fulfilled the Southern-born director’s fantasies of being master of the plantation. Others who knew Griffith well also pointed out that the seclusion of Orienta Point would enable him to carry on his various romantic liaisons with young actresses far away from the prying New York press.
Griffith’s first major film at his grand Mamaroneck estate- studio was Way Down East (1920), which was a big hit. Other ventures, such as Dream Street (1921), in which Griffith pioneered synchronized sound some six years before Warners released its first Vitaphone picture, were less successful. As for Dream Street’s sound system, Griffith became its biggest critic and discontinued its use immediately after the picture opened. In fact, Griffith eventually became one of the industry’s most vocal anti-talkie spokesmen: “It puts us back to Babel,” he once told Lillian Gish. “Do you realize how few people in the world speak English? If we make pictures that talk, we can’t send them around the world. That’s suicide.”
Way Down East – Mamaroneck filming sets
Next to Way Down East, Griffith’s most important film from his Mamaroneck period was Orphans of the Storm. (1921). For this epic story of the French Revolution, enormous sets depicting eighteenth-century Paris were constructed at Mamaroneck—and Griffith deliberately scheduled the filming of major crowd scenes for weekends in order to use as many of the locals as extras as possible.
Orphans of the Storm – Mamaroneck filming sets
After Orphans of the Storm, however, it was all downhill for the great director, and by 1924 he was forced to abandon independent producing, signing on with Paramount to do pictures at Astoria. That same year, Griffith put his Mamaroneck estate up for sale, and in early 1925 a developer bought most of the property for the purpose of subdividing it.
Today all of the Griffith and Flagler buildings on Orienta Point are gone, and the property—once the site of the French Revolution—is now part of an exclusive, gated community.
Twenty-First Century Books A Division of Henry Holt and Company, Inc.
115 West 18th Street New York, New York 10011
The Growth of Mass Media and Mass Culture
Movies Become an American Industry
It was between the beginning of World War I and the eve of World War II that modern America was born. American society went through major changes, not only in politics and economics, but also in the way people led their daily lives.
The Americans who elected Woodrow Wilson still thought of themselves as distant from their quarreling neighbors in Europe. And when U.S. soldiers were sent to France to fight in World War I, most Americans saw it merely as a temporary change in foreign policy. The troops would come home when the fighting stopped, many believed, and life would go back to normal.
The country that the soldiers returned to was just reaching the point where more people lived in cities than in rural areas. Statistically, people who lived in the country were just as likely not to have electricity as have it, and indoor plumbing was for many still a luxury. Washing machines and vacuum cleaners had still not appeared in large numbers, even in big cities.
When it came time to relax, Americans were more likely to play ball than go to a ballpark to watch a game. They were also more likely to play an instrument—especially a piano—or sing in groups, than listen to records. The phonograph, however, was rapidly becoming popular. Feature-length movies were new, as was the practice of following the careers and lives of particular “stars.”
Today, famous movie stars are usually in control of their careers. They know that their name on a film can often mean millions of extra tickets sold. The movie companies know it as well. But this wasn’t always the case.
By the mid-1920s, the movies—which were silent then—were wildly popular. Along with cheap newspapers and radio, they were the beginning of what today is called the mass media. The ideas and values expressed in films, even the fashions worn in them, reached into every corner of America and touched the lives of nearly everyone. There was almost no sizeable town that didn’t have at least one movie house. The big cities had many, some of which were called “palaces” because they were so fancy.
The movies were very much a business, with facilities for producing, distributing, advertising, and retailing their product. The movie stars were an important part of this product. Stardom on a national scale was a new thing. Live theater produced some famous names, but almost none got the attention that movie fan magazines paid to movie actors.
These stars were not just professional actors. They were “personalities” and celebrities, such as Mary Pickford (1893-1979), Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939), and Lillian Gish (1893-1993). People wanted to know every detail of their lives. When few facts were available, fans imagined the rest.
The men who ran the movie studios knew how important this idea of stardom was. If there was not enough interesting information about the private life of a star, they might feel it necessary to “create” something, such as the “scandal” mentioned in the following selection. Scandal led to publicity and publicity meant more sales at the box office. Here were many of the public relations techniques developed by Edward Bernays in action.
The following account describes Lillian Gish’s dealings with MGM executives. At the time, Irving Thalberg (1899-1936) was chief of production at the studio, and “Mr. Mayer” was Louis B. Mayer (1885- 1957), vice-president and head of MGM. David W. Griffith (1875-1948), “Mr. Griffith,” was a movie director and worked with Lillian Gish.
Lillian Gish: A Screen Star Remembers
During my talks with Irving Thalberg over Anna Karenina I was suddenly sent for by Mr. Mayer, who had some papers for me to sign. I explained that I had promised my lawyer not to sign anything without his approval. Mr. Mayer grew angry and said I ought to trust him. He explained that he wanted to take me off salary until they had a story ready for me. I had gone off salary while I was in England, but since then there had been ample time for them to prepare a script for me.
“If you don’t do as I say, I can ruin you,” Mr. Mayer said.
It was the second time I had heard that threat. “I’m sure you can, but I gave my word,” I said. “I can’t break that; else how could you or anyone else ever trust me again?”
Irving spoke to me about renewing my contract. “We would like to have you stay with us,” he said, “but there is something we think would be wise to do.”
I knew Irving was my friend, so I listened.
“You see, you are way up there on a pedestal,” he explained, “and nobody cares. If you were knocked off the pedestal, everyone would care.” He added earnestly, “Let me arrange a scandal for you.”
I was startled. The irony of the suggestion made me want to laugh. What kind of scandal did Irving want to arrange? I wondered. A romantic scandal, I decided—but for what? To sell pictures? Had the public changed so much? All my life I had been taught to keep my name clean. Mr. Griffith had always maintained that one touch of scandal would finish you in pictures. What had happened to change this? And, after the scandal had died down, they would be obliged to dream up another. Could I be on stage constantly—with a prearranged scandal before the release of each new picture?
My answer was a decisive No.
I told Irving my decision, knowing that my days at M.G.M. were numbered.
Mayor of NY with Connie Towers and Lillian Gish – backstage in the opening night of “Anya” (December 1965)
Anya star Connie Towers is pictured backstage with Lillian Gish and Mayor of the New York City John Lindsey. In private life, Connie is Mrs. Eugene McGrath who often visits Miami. Her husband’s mother. Mrs. Harry Scheibla, lives in Miami. The McGraths have two small children, a son and a daughter.
Miss Gish is slender, with an exquisitely graceful figure, almost too girlish to affect seriously the perplexing draperies now in vogue for women. Tunics and flowing robes make her look like a young goddess. With her innocent face, large, heavily fringed blue eyes and full mouth, slightly pouting like a child’s, one almost smiles to see her so tall and stately in the classic modes of the day. But it would be difficult to imagine anything more charming than this very inconsistency – this elusive contradiction between youth an womanhood.
Miss Gish was first engaged with the Biograph, studying and training with Mr. Griffith companies; and in an amazingly brief time she was carrying important roles. When her eminent director went to the Mutual in the fall of 1913, she accompanied him. In the early winter she played several ingénue parts with much distinction and charm.
Grand Illusions represents a selection of the most beautiful photographs to emerge from Hollywood’s Golden Years. Their exquisite effects reflect the time and money lavished on every aspect of their production; the exotic beauty of their subjects speaks so tellingly of fantasies on which Hollywood balanced its success.
These photographs have been selected for their esthetic properties, and suggest where possible the range of images conjured through each decade. There has been no attempt to provide an exhaustive catalogue of movie personalities, while obviously, stars such as Lillian Gish and Marlene Dietrich are so clearly avatars, several portraits of them seemed irresistible.
Such a collection necessarily ends in the decade of the forties. After that time, the advent of candid photography and the financial decline of the big studios seldom allowed, and indeed discouraged, the calculated image-making of earlier decades. The photographs presented here were found mostly in private collections, remnants of a past whose luster is still fabulous. (Richard Lawton 1973)
Lillian Gish in “Way Down East” 1920
Lillian Gish in ‘’La Boheme’’ 1926
Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson in ‘’Scarlet Letter’’ 1926
Lillian Gish and Lowell Sherman in ‘’Way Down East’’ 1920
Lillian Gish and Blanche Payson in ‘’La Boheme’’ 1926
Lillian Gish in ‘’The Lily and the Rose’’ 1915
Lillian Gish and Robert Harron 1919
Lillian Gish in ‘’Romola’’ 1924
Admin note: Some of the photographs presented in the book were replaced (above) with better resolution versions.
The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress Summer-Fall 1980: Vol 37 Iss 3-4
Lillian Gish’s acting career has spanned more than seventy years and includes over ninety films, numerous stage plays, and radio and television appearances. Born on October 14, 1896, in Springfield, Ohio, she began acting at the age of five years in Rising Sun, Ohio, in a traveling stage company melodrama. Her mother and her younger sister, Dorothy, also turned to acting with various touring companies, and thus the family supported itself. In 1912, through an introduction to D. W. Griffith by their friend Mary Pickford at the Biograph Company studios at 11 East Fourteenth Street in New York, Lillian and Dorothy were launched on film careers. They quickly became regular performers for the Biograph Company under D. W. Griffith’s direction.
Lillian Gish left Griffith briefly late that year to perform in David Belasco’s stage play A Good Little Devil but returned to Biograph in 1913 and appeared in numerous films, among them The Mothering Heart and Griffith’s western The Battle of Elderbush Gulch. When Griffith left Biograph to join the Mutual Film Corporation, Lillian and Dorothy moved with him. Established as a star in the part of Elsie Stoneman in The Birth of a Nation (1915), Lillian Gish played a small but key role in Intolerance (1916) as the woman whose rocking of a cradle ties the four stories together. Thereafter, she appeared only in parts tailored to her talents. During World War I, she, her mother, and Dorothy traveled to England and France with D. W. Griffith to make a war film, Hearts of the World (1917). In 1918 she appeared in a Liberty Bond short and two more war pictures, The Great Love and The Greatest Question. Still under Griffith’s direction, she appeared in 1919 in two romantic dramas, A Romance of Happy Valley and True Heart Susie, before portraying Lucy in Broken Blossoms, in what has been considered her best performance.
After directing a movie on her own, Remodeling Her Husband (1919), and appearing in the celebrated Way Down East (1920), she left Griffith for a time. She returned in 1921 when they did their last film together, The Two Orphans. Under contract with Inspiration Pictures, she starred in The White Sister (1923) and Romola (1924). In 1925 she signed a contract with MGM to make six films in two years, of which five were completed. Notable were The Scarlet Letter (1926) and The Wind (1928), directed by Victor Seastrom. Her first talkie was One Romantic Night, released in 1930 as part of a contract with United Artists for three talking films to be chosen by her. Disappointed by the first film, she asked to be released from her contract and returned to the stage in Jed Harris’s revival of Uncle Vanya.
She never returned to full-time film acting but has devoted her talents primarily to the stage and some radio and television work. She has appeared in fewer than fifteen films since 1930, among them His Double Life (Paramount, 1933), Miss Susie Slagle’s (Paramount, 1946), Duel in the Sun (Selznick- United Artists, 1947), Night of the Hunter (United Artists, 1955), Orders to Kill (UMPO, 1958), and The Comedians (MGM, 1967).
Lillian Gish was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Duel in the Sun. His Double Life was selected by the New York Times as one of the Best Ten films of that year, and All the Way Home, a stage play in which she appeared in 1960, won both a Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics’ Award. She has been awarded honorary degrees from Rollins College and Mount Holyoke College. She collaborated with Albert Paine Bigelow on Life and Lillian Gish, a book published in 1932. In 1969, with Anne Pinchot, she wrote Lillian Gish: The Movies, Mr. Griffith & Me. This was followed in 1973 by Dorothy and Lillian Gish.
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