Chicago Tribune – October, Sunday 13, 1929 – Part 7, Page 58
Lillian Gish Ready to start on a Talkie
Chooses “The Swan” as Her First Venture
By Rosalind Shaffer (Chicago Tribune Press Service)
Hollywood Cal. – [Special Correspondence] – Lillian Gish is about to begin rehearsals on her first talking picture “The Swan,” from the play by Ferenc Molnar. Looking extremely well after her prolonged vacation occasioned by the giving up plans to make “The Miracle Woman,” by Reinhardt, some months ago, Miss Gish is most interested with the idea of doing a talkie.
“I really have done about everything I could for silent pictures,” she said. “I have made all the faces I know; I even went to insane asylums to try to get a few new ones. It’s rather nice to be going to make a new sort of thing.”
Voice Work Under Maurel
A couple of years ago, Lillian Gish had been thinking of doing stage work and had had some excellent voice training under the tutelage of Victor Maurel, now dead, who lived in New York at the time Miss Gish knew him.
Maurel was an opera singer, so important in his day that the prologue for “Pagliacci,” by Leoncavallo, was written especially for him to sing to induce him to play the role in its original presentation. He had argued that the part was too light in tone and suggested the prologue to give it weight.
Maurel was a well known artist in his later years and it was as such that Miss Gish went to him to get lessons in his hobby. He only asked as pay that she pose for him. Then he became interested in her dramatic work and daily he took scenes from the then current “Way Down East” of Miss Gish and tried to gain the same emotional effect in an empty room with her voice that she had gotten on the screen with her acting.
Thus, while Miss Gish has never had a voice test, she feels not unprepared for her talking work in “The Swan.” The role is a radical departure from the fluttery parts that first brought her to popularity with D.W. Griffith as her director.
While Miss Gish keeps her long hair, she has been as radical as Mary Pickford in changing her parts for films, for in “The Swan” she plays a modern lightly sophisticated role. In the cast will be Conrad Nagel, Rod LaRocque and Marie Dressler.
Chicago Tribune – Wednesday, October 1st, 1969 – Page 51
Lillian Gish Still Captivates Audiences
By Gene Siskel
AT THE Moscow Film festival this summer, one actress received an ovation larger than any other. Lillian Gish, whose credits are virtually endless and run the gamut from the largest grossing film [“Birth of a Nation”] to longest running Broadway play [“Life With Father”], was that actress.
She is in Chicago at the Goodman theater thru Saturday for five performances of “Lillian Gish and the Movies,” a narrated look at the birth and triumph of the only art form created in the twentieth century – the movie.
Miss Gish is elegant in a long, white gown, and ebullient as she greets the audience in what she calls “my city.” Her warmth – which she was able to project on the silent screen – is more than evident in her greeting. “I’m a lucky, lucky woman.”
With the screen at center stage and her chair off to one side, Miss Gish takes us on a tour of great films from 1900 to 1928. Incredibly modest, she has included films from her own career as well as those of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and many others.
Occasionally having trouble with her script, Miss Gish was the most captivating when she looked out at the audience and told the story of her harrowing performance on an ice floe in “Way Down East.” As we watched her leave her lover [Richard Barthelmess] and head for ice, she explained that stand-ins were never used. “And it was my foolish idea to hold my hand and my hair in the freezing water.”
Barthelmess chases his sweetheart, jumping from ice floe to ice floe, and suddenly we see a shot of Miss Gish approaching the falls. You have to shake yourself to realize that here was the era’s most popular screen star floating down a river about to be smashed to bits.
“I don’t know why we got so close to the edge. We couldn’t hear Mr. Griffith [the director] screaming at us.” In a dazzling scene that has the audience gasping and then cheering, the heroine is saved.
Much of the cinematic travelog is a paen to her close friend and pioneering director, David Wark Griffith. Miss Gish shows us portions of Griffith’s masterpiece, “Birth of a Nation,” and identifies the master’s contributions to the art.
In his preface to miss Gish’s autobiography, Brooks Atkinson wrote, “I know what makes her so magnificent. She has no vanity.” We got a sense of that last night, and only wish Miss Gish’s modesty wouldn’t keep her from talking more about her roles as they are shown on the screen. What information she did give was wonderful.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
Chicago Tribune – Wednesday, November 6th 1940 – Page 26
Chicago – Colored Dog
The constant companion of Lillian Gish during the long run of “Life With Father” at the Blackstone is Malcolm, her West Highland terrier. A letter came to the Blackstone the other day addressed to a “Chicago-Colored” Highland Terrier, Property of Miss Lillian Gish, Blackstone Hotel,” from a woman at the Homestead, Virginia Hot Springs, who had petted Malcolm in the elevator. She asked for his mistress’ autograph. The description of Malcolm as “Chicago Colored” brings to mind our own comment upon seeing him.
“What a lovely, delicate gray color he is,” we said upon encountering Miss Gish and Malcolm stroking his silky fur.
“You know he’s really a white dog, don’t you?” asked Miss Gish.
“But he rolls in Grant park every day when I take him for a walk.”
Chicago Tribune – Monday, February 16, 1925 Page 3
Wages Court Fight with Rich Man
Lillian Gish, movie actress, with her mother attends hearing in New York on injunction suit brought by Charles H. Duell, her former employer, to prevent her from avoiding her contract with his film corporation. Miss Gish says she will quit the screen before working again for Duell’s concern. Decision on the case was reserved by the court.
… Max D. Steuer characterized Duell as a “deep-eyed scoundrel” for whom the actress would never work again even if it meant giving up her screen career …
… Steuer declared that Miss Gish’s contract was “grossly one-sided.”
Miss Gish appeared in court with her mother and listened intently to her lawyer’s argument. Holland S. Duell, brother of the plaintiff, testified in support of the producer’s complaint, declaring Miss Gish had already been stated in two successful pictures under the terms of the agreement which she wished to cancel. Steuer asserted that by five modifications of the contract, Miss Gish was defrauded of $120,000 by Duell …
Finally, on April 2, 1925, extras were on the streets at noon carrying this headline:
Chicago Tribune – Sunday, February 25, 1940 Page 4
Lillian Gish Of Early Film Days
Noted Actress to Appear on W-G-N Today.
By Larry Wolters
“I never turn on the radio without thinking what a miracle it is – what a miraculous age we live in. Radio is so wonderful that I don’t think I shall ever be able to take it for granted.”
These are the words of Lillian Gish, whom every one remembers as one of the brightest stars of the silent movie era. Nowadays she is adding to her reputation with fine performances on the stage. Currently she is being acclaimed for her work in Clarence Day’s smash comedy hit, “Life With Father,” in which she is co-starred with Percy Waram, noted British actor, at the Blackstone theater.
Less known to the public is the fact that Miss Gish is extremely enthusiastic about the radio. She delights in radio work – but only if she can have plenty of rehearsal sessions. And she is a regular listener. In fact she carries a portable set around with her. She listens on this receiver on trains, in her dressing room. And it was in evidence the other afternoon in her suite at the Blackstone hotel.
Radio Growing Better
Radio programs are growing better all the time, Miss Gish believes. And she wants the play in which she and Mr. Waram are to present on the Fifth Row Center broadcast on W-G-N and the Mutual network from 5 to 5:30 p.m. today to measure up to radio’s best.
With that end in view Miss Gish on last Tuesday, the day after her play opened, issued a request for the script of the radio adaptation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal” in which she is to appear this afternoon. She wanted to go to work studying it at once. And she asked at least one additional rehearsal besides those which had already been scheduled by W-G-N’s dramatic staff.
Miss Gish is particularly interested in doing “The School for Scandal” because it was presented at McVicker’s theater with John Drew, Joseph Jefferson and Mrs. Fiske playing in it a half century ago – in the Victorian era – the same period in which the Day family of “Life With Father” flourished.
“Clarence Day probably saw the play when it ran at McVicker’s,” Miss Gish mused.
Cites Enthusiasm of Radio
Radio today reminds Miss Gish of the early days of pictures.
“Broadcasting is just beginning to find itself,” she explained. “Like the movies in their earlier days radio and radio people are filled with tremendous enthusiasm.”
Mish Gish said that she thought the standards of radio drama were not yet up to those of music on the air.
“We have the very best music – the finest symphonies and artists on the air regularly,” she said. “I think perhaps in the dramatic end of radio the same mistake is being made that pictures made in their early days – playing down to the audience. That isn’t done on musical programs.”
Radio is lifting the musical and dramatic taste of the nation, Miss Gish continued, and is improving the talk of millions.
Honey Colored Hair.
“The flawless speech heard so regularly on the radio,” she asserted, “is having an uplifting effect on pronunciation and inflection of speech everywhere.”
Now a bit of the personal side. Lillian Gish is still the fair, fresh, wisp of a girl of long ago. Her hair is honey colored. The fragile, frail air about her vanishes in a very few minutes in her presence. She is animated, ingratiating, and has much personal charm. And she has many enthusiasms.
For instance, she is very keen about the word of Ivan Maestrovic, the Jugo-Slav sculptor. She is especially fond of his Indians which she can look upon from her window – a few hundred feet up Michigan avenue at Congress street. She enjoys riding. Gets more kick than you can imagine out of a hair wash, with a special massage and then having it done.
Flowers in Profusion
She loves flowers. Her suite is always filled with them. There were at least a dozen varieties the other day – American beauty roses; sweetheart roses, freesias – yellow, white and pink, several varieties of stock, narcissus, mimosa, hyacinths, primroses among them.
But most of all she enjoys travel.
“I saw all of America doing 10-20-30 cent houses from the time I was 5 until I was 12,” she explained. “So I haven’t been seeing so much in recent years of our own country.”
Most interesting region she has ever visited, she said, was a stretch of the Balkans – down thru Yugo-Slavia, Bulgaria, northern Greece and Macedonia. With her sister Dorothy, who is spending some time with her in Chicago, they made this trip a few years ago in a car.
Sister Shows Way.
“We were told it couldn’t be done. There were no roads, few bridges,” Miss Gish said. “So we went ahead and did it. Sometimes we walked across bridges on foot. And then let the car come along afterward. We weren’t always sure the car would get across.”
Dorothy Gish showed her sister the way to W-G-N studios. Dorothy knows it well because she played in the serial “The Couple Next Door” on W-G-N-Mutual several years ago.
Harold Stokes and the W-G-N Dance orchestra will provide the musical setting for Miss Gish and Mr. Waram’s appearance today. They will be supported by a cast of W-G-N actors.
*** Admin note: in order to keep article originality and the atmosphere of the 40s, no corrections were made to the text, even if some words are spelled different in “modern” writing.
Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, January 8, 1963 Page 25
Old Movie Days Recalled
Lillian Gish Feted at Luncheon
By Mary Middleton
“Lillian Gish, she’s my dish!” chanted the parrot Mrs. Solomon B. Smith took to Mrs. Homer P. Hargrave’s luncheon for the actress yesterday. “I lived with a parrot for 20 years,” Miss Gish exclaimed. “We named it John – and it laid an egg!”
Mrs. Smith’s parrot wasn’t real; it was a mechanical bird with a tape recorder in its base which also told listeners that Miss Gish is starring in “A Passage to India,” opening Friday in the Goodman theater. The play’s setting was inspiration for the curried chicken luncheon, for the Indian airlines ticket folders that were guests’ place cards, for the poster of the Taj Mahal which was hung in the little foyer of the Hargraves’ apartment, and for the Chinese fortune cookies that opened to reveal predictions of Miss Gish’s performance in Chicago.
Stars of the Silent Era
There were some reflections on the old days of movie making – after all, the hostess is the former Colleen Moore of silent movie fame and Miss Gish’s career spans most of this century and includes a role in the 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.”
Charming petite, and twinkling, Miss Gish related some of the dangers of movie making in the old days – “We wouldn’t have thought it fair to have doubles. Five people lost their lives when we made ‘Way Down East,’ it was so cold. But movies were more fun then,” Miss Gish went on. “Now it’s a business. Movies made more money then, too – ‘Birth of a Nation’ made more than 100 million dollars – and those films built all the big movie palaces in Hollywood.”
Chicago Tribune – Sunday, April 7, 1940 – Page 124
The Real Lillian Gish
Cloak of Frail Femininity Covers Strong Character
By Eleanor Nangle
We had thought until we met Lillian Gish, that Mrs. Clarence Day, as portrayed in “Life With Father,” represented the ultimate in feminine wisdom and winsomeness. But there is curious, happy similarity between the woman and the character she plays. Which is probably one of the reasons Miss Gish is such a superlative success in her role of Vinnie Day.
Miss Gish, like Vinnie Day, has o totally deceptive cloak of helpless femininity. She looks physically frail, and one always thinks of her as tiny. As a matter of fact she enjoys superb health, weighs a solid 112 pounds, and is 5 feet 6 inches tall. The day we talked to her she was wearing, in the restful privacy of her hours of leisure at home, tailored slacks piped in white – the kind of costume that would make the average woman look taller. But she still seemed tiny to us, which shows you what illusion can be created by manner, fine bones, and a sweet, small face.
She looks one of the least athletic persons in the world. But she’s an unusually good fencer. If she had the time to devote to this, her favorite exercise, she has her instructor’s word that she’d be good enough to go into the Olympics. She thinks fencing the ideal sport, with a favorable effect on the mind as well as the body. It seems a little incongruous, this, coming from a gentle, quiet little person seated demurely behind a low bowl filled with at least a dozen bunches of wood violets!
And, like Vinnie again, Miss Gish is a marvelous listener. Her interested eyes pay flattering tribute to the speaker. For one who has a unique intelligence and a vast breadth of interests she suffers fools graciously. Fundamentally she’s a surprisingly serious person who thinks things thru and has a perfect sense of values.
She finds it rather wonderful to hear the laughter that rocks the “Life With Father” audiences, because she is more sensitive than most to the fact that these are tragic times. Tho she seems the sort of person who should think of nothing heavier than the flavor of the next piece of candy her small fingers will draw from the box on her lap, she is actually intelligently absorbed in European affairs. There is no fiction in sight; all clippings stacked around her room are concerned with things international. She’ll tell you very gently that this is due to the fact that since she walked out on the movies she’s lived a lot in Europe and gotten rather fond of it. That isn’t the real reason at all; she’s just a serious student.
She dresses well but unostentatiously. She’s dressed by a woman in New York who has her measurements and sends things as they are needed. No clothes splurges. But she’s completely feminine about perfumes and bath trimmings. She adores them.
And she loves to wear costumes, taking almost as much delight as the audience in the be-bustled gowns Vinnie wears. She assumes a posture for them, you might be interested to know, slanting her body forward, keeping her elbows at her sides, and assuming a walk entirely unlike her own natural, easy gait. She makes it look easy, but it isn’t. Almost her favorite episode in “Life With Father” is the scene she isn’t in. Those five minutes when she is ill upstairs are the only rest period she gets in the whole show. But she’s such a marvelous actress that only she is conscious of the physical strain of running up and down stairs 21 times in an evening’s performance!
There’s much more than meets the eye to Lillian Gish. Like the adorable Vinnie, she’s full of surprises.