Genius Shown in “White Sister” (San Bernardino Sun, 1924)

  • San Bernardino Sun, Volume 54, Number 102, 10 June 1924
  • Genius Shown in “White Sister” – Now Playing To Large Crowds Here


Those who know motion pictures, have termed “The White Sister” a perfect photoplay. This may be why it has been secured as a feature attraction at the Opera House with two showings daily this week.

The White Sister

Lillian Gish Hailed by Critics as Supreme Interpreter of Character

A motion picture reviewer regrets having wasted adjectives on other film features when he is confronted with such a picture as the Henry King production of “The White Sister,” in which Lillian Gish is now appearing at the Opera House. Here is a motion picture achievement that deserves and demands the use of all the praise it is possible to bestow, for nothing finer has ever reached the screen. It is perhaps the finest dramatic offering ever turned out as a motion picture, and everyone concerned In its making, distribution and presentation is to be complimented most highly. Miss Gish is magnificent. No actress of this generation on stage or screen has carried the flame of sheer genius into her acting as does the frail little star of “The White Sister.” One has to hark back to the thrilling intensity of a Duse and the passionate emotionalism of a Bernhardt for comparison. Nowhere in the long list of screen plays has there ever been so convincing and thrilling a love epic as this romance of a girl and her young soldier lover.

The White Sister

Ronald Colman, who plays opposite Miss Gish, is the “find” of the screen year – a handsome, dashing hero. In filming F. Marion Crawford’s story, Director King took a company to Italy. Studios and laboratories were established, and then began the making of what should prove one of the truly great productions in cinema history. Mr. King has brought to life the characters of Mr. Crawford’s novel and filmed his story in the exact locale in which It was set. Most persons are familiar with the story and many have undoubtedly longed for its presentation on the screen. These and countless others will be deeply grateful for Mr. King’s production. He has held closely to the story, offering many thrills in the way of the actual eruption of Vesuvius, and a flood that sweeps away an Italian town and makes one almost feel that he is to be taken with it, so realistically has it been done.

The White Sister

The settings are exquisite; the photography of the highest quality, and Miss Gish’s supporting cast shows it was chosen with care, for the members all contribute to the general effectiveness of the film. As a matter of fact, “The White Sister” comes near to being “the perfect picture.” To those who are regular movie fans we say “Don’t miss it.” To those who are not regulars, we hold this picture up as a shining example of the accomplishments of the screen, and unhesitatingly recommend that they see it. “The White Sister” is a Henry King production for Inspiration Pictures, Charles H. Duell, Jr., president, and is released through Metro. “The White Sister” will be the attraction at the Opera House twice daily, matinee at 2:30 and one evening show at 8 o’clock until Friday night, inclusive.

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Splendid Excess – by Daniel Mangin (Bay Area Reporter, 1992)

  • Bay Area Reporter, Volume 22, Number 38, 17 September 1992
  • Splendid Excess
  • by Daniel Mangin

We’re in for a weekend of splendid excess with two widely divergent retrospective programs centering on virtue under assault. The Pacific Film Archive presents the restored, tinted print of D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East at the Castro Sept. 18. The master’s plot is as overblown as cinema gets: an upper-class lout tricks damsel in distress Lillian Gish out of her innocence by faking marriage; gets her pregnant; and then abandons her. Next, the baby dies. (And that’s just the first part of this 21/2-hour opus.) Griffith’s fame derives from his creation of a coherent language out of the cinema’s basic elements, but his sense of what the medium could accomplish went beyond aesthetics. He saw film as a vehicle to elevate the morals of the masses, which to him meant the restoration of Victorian values (even if he wasn’t always able to live by them himself). The overriding moral of Way Down East, stated in the prologue and reiterated throughout, is that men should be more respectful — and less diabolical — toward women. The tone leans toward the patronizing: although Gish is a pillar of strength, surviving poverty, shame and a blizzard, she is rescued by the “love of a good man.” Griffith’s morality play was out of date the day he acquired the rights (“We all thought privately that Mr. Griffith had lost his mind,” wrote Gish in her autobiography). Even aesthetically Way Down East represents more of a consolidation of everything the director had learned about the cinema than a breakthrough. It nevertheless remains a spellbinding work.

Scene from D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East, 1920, with Kate Bruce, Lowell Sherman, Lillian Gish, Mary Hay, Creighton Hale and Richard Barthelmess.

Renowned Rescue

The film’s renowned ice floe rescue scene is a master piece of crosscutting to create tension, but the sequence preceding it deserves mention as well. For 20-plus minutes Griffith builds suspense — through shot selection, editing and varying compositions—as town gossip Martha Perkins spreads the news that Gish’s character, Anna, has had a child out of wedlock. Pure melodrama, but the visual rhythm leading up to Anna’s climactic exposure of her baby’s father and her banishment from her home is beyond compare. The original score, adapted for the Castro’s Wurlitzer, is as florid as the film’s plot. The tireless Dennis James performs it with appropriate gusto.

Way Down East Castro Theatre, Sept. 18. 8 p.m. 621-6120

Ice Floe Scene – photo gallery

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Lillian Gish is Gripping … Drama of War Hatreds (Blade Tribune, 1928)

  • The Oceanside Blade – California
  • Blade Tribune, 6 April 1928

War and its horrors have been translated to the screen in many forms, the surge and thunder of battle has been depicted in great spectacles; the side of the soldier told in “The Big Parade” but to Lillian Gish has fallen the task of telling the side of those who, perhaps, suffer most but whose side has never before been presented—the side of the women who face starvation, grief and moral disintegration as a side issue in the struggles of nations. Such is her message in ‘“The Enemy,” Metro – Goldwyn – Mayer’s graphic depiction of Channing Pollock’s famous stage drama —a story of war away from the battlefield; a story of the hatreds, hysteria and breaking down of human relationships that follow like a pestilence in the wake of war propaganda.

On the stage the story was held the drama’s greatest gift to the cause of peace. As a vehicle for Miss Gish the new picture, will play at the Carlsbad Theatre Sunday and Monday, is one of the most gripping plays the famous star has ever appeared in. It presents a new Lillian Gish—a Lillian Gish in a modern role in a modern garb, in an intensely modern story. It tells of the after-war effects of international hatreds in a powerful dramatic theme. At times the star rises to almost sublime heights in the graphic portrayal of the tragic Pauli. Fred Niblo directed the picture, with a notable cast. Ralph Forbes plays Carl, the husband, and Ralph Emerson the English lover.

Frank Currier and George Fawcett have two splendidly-handled character roles as the old fathers of the couple, and Karl Dane and Polly Moran supply relief generously and well. Fritzi Ridgway in the role of Mitzi and John S. Peters as Fritz enact an interesting counterplot in the story, and little Billy Kent Schaeffer plays the child. Willis Goldbeck, noted for his work on “The Garden of Allah,” adapted the story from the original Channing Pollock stage play, And Agnes Christine Johnston wrote the scenario.

Lillian Gish and Ralph Forbes in “The Enemy” (MGM, 1927)

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Ugliness in films disturbs Lillian Gish, 77 – By Bob Thomas (San Bernardino Sun, 1973)

  • San Bernardino Sun, 30 October 1973
  • Ugliness in films disturbs Lillian Gish, 77
  • By Bob Thomas

Actress Lillian Gish … wants a return to good taste

1973 Press Photo Lillian Gish promoting book 1973

BOB THOMAS BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) “As an American, I am against censorship of any kind,” remarked Lillian Gish, one of the treat stars of the silent screen. She added wistfully, “But I do wish we could do something about taste.” Miss Gish, the fragile beauty of “Birth of a Nation,” “Broken Blossoms” and a host of other silent classics, was paying a return visit to the Hollywood she first saw exactly 60 years ago. She reminisced about the past, particularly her prideful association with D. W. Griffith, but she also talked about present day films. “Ugliness disturbs me,” she commented, “and much of what is shown on the screen is ugly. Not only in exposure of the human body. I also mean the ugliness of violence. To me, violence is just as offensive as nudity. “Although I do not approve of censorship, I wish there were some way to impose taste on the people who make films. It’s not that I mind the portrayal of sex in movies, but sex should be beautiful, an expression of human love. But too often it is made to seem ugly.” A youthful 77, Miss Gish is in the middle of a tour of 30 cities in seven weeks to call attention to her new book, “Dorothy and Lillian Gish,” a S20 family album of the rich careers of the two sisters. She added a historical perspective on the film world’s flirtation with obscenity: “You know, I helped the Italian film industry get started. I went to Rome after the first World War and made the first American film there, ‘The White Sister.’ There was only one broken-down studio in Rome, and we rebuilt it. Then I went to Florence and made another movie, Romola.

Lillian Gish and director Henry King – Romola candid on set

“I spent two years in Italy, and I had time to learn all about their art. The Italians in the Renaissance went through what our film makers seem to be going through today. Nudity had not been seen before, and at first they exploited it. But then they learned to portray the human body with beauty. “I say to today’s movie makers: Do what you will but do it beautifully.” Lillian Gish conveyed an air of fragility on the screen, but she is in reality the most resilient of ladies. She has proved that by crossing the country 11′ times in the last four years, lecturing to colleges and other audiences on “The Art of the Film.” “I’ve lectured in 41 states only nine to go,” she announced proudly. The barnstorming is a throwback to her childhood, when she and Dorothy toured the country in melodramas. The Gishes made their movie debuts in 1912 in “An Unseen Enemy,” starring a stage chum they had known as Gladys Smith now she calls herself Mary Pickford. The director was D. W. Griffith. It was the start of Lillian’s long, distinguished association with the greatest of the silent film makers. She recalled her arrival in California in 1913: “There was nothing but citrus groves, all the way from San Bernardino. I remember passing a little Santa Fe station named Gish; I never saw it again or learned why it was so named. Our first studio was in a car barn on Pico Boulevard, and they put rugs over the tracks when we were filming. We worked only in the daytime, of course, because we couldn’t shoot when the light failed.” She recalled Hollywood as “a village full of churches and a white hotel with a verandah where old ladies in California for the winter sat in rocking chairs.” Throughout her career, Miss Gish only lived here when she was working. Her home was, and still is, New York “an awful, dirty, noisy, filthy city, but still the most exciting place in the world.” She recently ended a run in a play there, “Uncle Vanya,” directed by Mike Nichols and starring George C. Scott and Julie Christie. After touring the United States and England for her book, she may do the film version. After that? “I don’t know. Things just happen to me. I never plan.”

Uncle Vanya – 1973 (slideshow)

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Great Interest Is Manifest in Return of “White Sister” – Santa Cruz Evening News, 1924

  • Santa Cruz Evening News, Volume 33, Number 152, 28 April 1924
  • Great Interest Is Manifest in Return of “White Sister”

Lillian Gish does not act, but rather lives the title part in “The White Sister”

Lillian Gish does not act, but rather lives the title part in “The White Sister,” now playing a return engagement at the New Santa Cruz theater, having been brought Back in response to the insistent demands of the many who were unable to gain admission at the former showing. Cast by nature to give an illusion of belonging more to another world than this one, she puts a spiritual quality, an emotion and a tensity into the part which rises to breathtaking moments of artistry. Gish start in Biograph days is supremely fulfilled in Henry King’s production of “The White Sister.” Her popularity today is as sturdy as in the old days with the added advantage of having grown with each new performance. Her characterizations have matured and mellowed to a point of being sheer genius. No one has kept alive flame than Lillian Gish, no one has learned to burn finer.

The White Sister

Lillian Gish was born in Springfield, Ohio, and two years later her sister Dorothy was born in Dayton. They spent their childhood days in Massillon, Ohio.

Miss Gish completed her education at a finishing school and while still in her teens made her stage debut as a fairy in “The Good Little Devil,” produced by David Belasco. She was just sixteen then and her mother and sister had gone to California. She was seized with an acute attack of homesickness. This was increased one night when the wire, which permitted her to fly across the stage, broke and a disheartened fairy , with tears rolling down her pale cheeks, hit a responsive chord in the audience, but almost spoiled the show.

Lillian needed a change and soon the Gish trio was reunited, and Lillian toured the country with a repertoire show of which her sister Dorothy was a member, playing child parts.

The White Sister

Jumps to Films

All this time her reputation was growing as a distinct personality behind the footlights and then one day she went to the Biograph studio to visit Mary Pickford, whose film destinies were being guided by D. W. Griffith at the time. Miss Gish felt the lure of the movies for’ the first time. It was but a short time afterward that she became a member of the Biograph stock company. She played a wide variety of parts during this time, ranging from the little old mother in “Judith of Bethulia,” one of the first multiple reel pictures produced, to Colonel Cameron’s sweetheart in “The Birth of a Nation,” Griffith’s big feature spectacle. When Griffith left the Biograph fold, Lillian Gish followed him through his engagements with Reliance, Majestic, Fine Arts, Artcraft, First National and, finally, United Artists. Her reputation has traveled from coast to coast, country to country, as the result of her splendid impersonations in the living tales which Griffith brought forth. She appeared in “Intolerance” as the mother at the cradle. This was followed by her appearance in “Souls Triumphant.” “Hearts of the World,” “The Greatest Thing in Life,” “Romance of Happy Valley,” “True Heart Susie,” and “The Greatest Question.” Then she directed one of Dorothy’s pictures, “Remodeling Her Husband.” Her remarkable characterizations in “Broken Blossoms” and “Way Down’ East,” in which she portrayed young girl against all odds with the world, firmly established her as the screen’s most appealing actress. Her best role yet, where she has outdone anything in which she has hitherto appeared is in “The White Sister,” however.

The White Sister

STARTS TODAY By Popular Demand, Return Engagement Of the screen’s supreme masterpiece.

For you that have not seen Lillian Gish’s triumph, Here is your opportunity. For you that have, here is your chance to see it again and really appreciate the work of this artist.

F. MARION CRAWFORD’S famous novel filmed in the haunting old-world beauty of Italy.

TERRIFIC THRILLS Vesuvius in actual eruption, a town flooded by water, a fight on the Algerian desert! Lovely Miss Gish as a girl whose love was more eternal than her lover’s passion.

Santa Cruz Evening News 1924 – White Sister returns

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Lillian Gish Baffles Storm in “Way Down East” Picture – Marysville Daily Appeal (1921)

  • Marysville Daily Appeal, Volume CXXII, Number 3, 5 January 1921
  • Lillian Gish Baffles Storm in “Way Down East” Picture

The backbone of February wan broken. But the winter of New England was still with us. February is a treacherous month, and so it was toward the end of last February that Lillian Gish was turned out into that New England snowstorm from the house of Squire Bartlett. And the greatest of all stage climaxes had begun with this frail yet strong heroine of ”Way Down East” as she was literally swept out in night’s highway by God’s elements. The directing low-commanding voice of Griffith could scarce be heard above the howl of wintry blasts and the blinding snow clogged the air like the veriest London fog. But out and on went Lillian Gish inspired with the staunch soul of Anna Moore within her own. So great was the upheaval of the elements that signals had to he used between Griffith and his brave little star. That magic word from the lips and voice of D. W. Grifith of Cameras pierced the howl of the winds and with an uplifted hand through the blinding snows came Lillian Gish staggering in her thin raiment of black. Little Anna was weak. She was homeless, deserted. In the walk one will see at the Atkins theater Friday and Saturday, January 14 and IS, there is registered in every tissue of that body and face what misery and cruelty can be wrought upon the human being in this world. She struggles against the wind, but the gales swirl her from her feet and she falls only to rise to try to move on to some undiscovered place where there might be surcease of strife from soul and body. What you will see upon the screen of the cinema art at the Atkins Theater of Lillian Gish as Anna Moore was no make-believe suffering. It had to be done, and Lillian did it that we might all realize it.

Lillian Gish – Ice Floe Scene – Way Down East

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Diana of the Follies – Los Angeles Herald (1916)

  • Los Angeles Herald, Volume XLII, Number 282, 25 September 1916
  • Diana of the Follies

With Lillian Gish as the Vivacious Star

A dramatic right-about-face, that has tested Miss Lillian Gish’s gifts as an actress to the utmost. The little star, who has been sweet, submissive and “sobby’’ so often, has suddenly become a dashing chorus girl in this, her newest and most startling vehicle. Of course Diana does not remain a chorus girl. That is where she is found when the story opens. A great many things happen in a surprising way, when she becomes the wife of a wealthy young man. The most elaborate production yet made for the Triangle program.

Diane of The Follies – Lillian Gish

As the Vivacious Star …

Interesting to women are the marvelous gowns, 67 in number, which are worn by the women in the cast. Nineteen are worn by Miss Gish herself, which makes the play a wonderful fashion show as well as a dramatic entertainment. The Jewels worn by Lillian Gish were loaned by a jeweler of Los Angeles. She adorns herself with a pearl necklace worth $30,000.00, a coronet worth $20,000.00, rings worth $7,000.00 : and bracelet worth $3,000.00. in addition to her own jewelry valued at $l5, 000. The total is $75,000.

Los Angeles Herald – Diane of the Follies 1916

Diane of the Follies – Photo Gallery

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Lillian Gish Finds It No Picnic to Lie In Guillotine (San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram – 1922)

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram, Number 87, 21 June 1922


“You often mall advice to aspirants. don’t you?” remarked Lillian Gish to a well known motion picture editor, who was visiting Mamaroneck during the taking of the guillotine scene for D. W. Griffith’s “Orphans of the Storm,” a United Artists Corporation release which is coming next week to the Elmo Theater. “Please tell them,” Miss Gish continued, “that it is no fun dying on the movie guillotine from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m. as I have done this day!” The property man who stood near by agreed with Miss Gish, and commented In the language that only a property man knows how to use. – “The strongest of us wouldn’t want to lay in that neck piece chocker a nine-hour day—takes, retakes, closeups, far shots, short bits of rest in between. In fact a thousand deaths in one,” was the way he put It.

Orphans of the Storm – La Guillotine …

And it was true. The fair Lillian had been dragged up the steps by two burly ruffians hurriedly strapped to the board that goes under the guillotine, then, the sharpened knife was raised high In the air and everything was In readiness to separate the gentle Lillian’s beautiful blond head from the lovely Lillian torso. Then just as the knife was about to fall, Danton the hero arrive on the scene after the mad gallop from the court house five miles away and again Lillian was saved. If this happened once It had happened a score of times during that day. No wonder Lillian Gish was tired.

Orphans of the Storm – Lillian Gish and Monte Blue

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