Salute to Lillian Gish rates salute, too – By Jon Anderson (TV writer) 1984

Chicago Tribune – Tuesday, April 17, 1984 – Page 37

Tempo

Salute to Lillian Gish rates salute, too

By Jon Anderson (TV writer)

Compared with the awkward, boring, tedious spectacle of the Academy Awards, last month’s American Film Institute salute to actress Lillian Gish was graceful, warm and human. In Hollywood, those qualities are so rare that John Houston, stunned, later rang up George Stevens Jr., producer of the show, and told him: “George, I’ve been around this town for 40 years and I saw something the other night I’ve never seen before in this community. Affection!”

In this tribute, to air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on CBS – Ch. 2, the stars [and there are lots of them] don’t seem stiff, stilted or ill-at-ease. When cameras catch their faces, they look like they’re having a good time. When they talk, they seem to mean what they say. There isn’t a wooden scripted, flat joke in the whole 90 minutes.

AFI Life Achievement Award A Tribute to Lillian Gish (1984) with AFI founder George Stevens Jr – Photo – Globe

This didn’t just happen. “We really tried to make people comfortable and secure,” producer Stevens said in an interview. He barred Teleprompters, those cue-card projectors that make show-folk squint or, as in the case of Frank Sinatra at the Academy Awards, look over-served. Before the show, writers worked with the stars “to bring out their feelings,” go over what they wanted to say and suggest phrasings. Then stars did their bits the old-fashioned way; they memorized their speeches and, strange for TV, spoke them naturally.

The producers also sensibly avoided spinning graphics and other electronic nonsense. Instead, they hired a 37-piece orchestra, struck new prints of notable early Gish scenes and ran them at proper speeds, with musical accompaniment. [Silent cameras, cranked by hand, exposed anywhere from 16 to 22 frames a second compared with today’s standard of 24 frames a second. ***(1) That’s why silent movies, shown on modern equipment, speed up.]

Hambone and Hillie – Photo Gallery

Gish’s screen career began in 1913 ***(2) bloomed under director D.W. Griffith [“Birth of a Nation”], for whom she made 40 movies, and continues today. [She’ll star in the forthcoming film “Hambone and Hillie.”]

The clip that got the biggest hand [from “Way Down East”] showed her limp body on a slab of ice, headed towards the falls, with an anguished man in a fur coat leaping from berg to berg trying to rescue her. It was Gish’s idea to trail her hair and one hand in the icy waters, a stunt so chilling that, even today, Gish’s right hand aches when she is out in winter cold.

A fundraiser for the American Film Institute, best known for its work in preserving old movies, the gala black-tie dinner for 1,100 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in March was enlivened by speeches, waves and smiles from Sally Field, John Houseman, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Mary Steenburgen, Jennifer Jones, Mary Martin, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Eva Marie Saint, Richard Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Richard WIdmark and Chicago’s own tie to the glorious motion picture past, Colleen Moore Hargrave. She got a hug from the guest of honor.

Life Achievement Award, Lillian Gish. 1984

Also remarkable was that so many veterans of a perilous craft, that of being a movie star, still looked so sparkling.

“Lillian Gish was there at the birth of an art form,” said the evening’s host, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., 75. “I am kind of an emissary, a link, if you like, from those pioneers who were with her at the beginning, my father, my stepmother, Mary Pickford; Charlie Chaplin; and all the others whom Lillian refers to as those charming ghosts.”

Through it all, Gish was very much the center of what seemed, at times, like a family get-together, her face radiating what critic Alexander Woolcott once called “a strange mystic light not made by any electrician.”

Some praised her acting. [John Houseman described her Ophelia as “convincingly lunatic.”] Some, her canniness. [As Mary Steenburgen put it: “I figure an actress who’s been a star for 72 years must have a pretty good head for business.”]

By general agreement, at 87, Lillian Gish is also still a going concern – with a strong sense of camera angles.

Last December, she appeared in the CBS made-for-TV movie “Hobson’s Choice,” one friend recalled, and chewed out a cameraman for placing the camera too low. “Young man,” she said snappishly, “If God had meant you to see me that way, he would have put your eyes in your belly button.”*** (3)

***(1) Mr. Jon Anderson is referring probably to an older filming system, [and 24 fps theatre film projectors] pre-NTSC (29.95 fps) known being the fact that PAL (Phase Alternate by Line) used in Europe has a 25 fps standard using fields to compensate the difference from 30 fps of US-NTSC. Indeed in the 70’s there were still in use film cameras, not digital or streaming over network via satellite like today. So, in order to have news broadcast, every decent TV station had a huge laboratory for processing the film, cutting it old school style and converting it for TV broadcast in a post process.

Starting before CBS color even got on the air, the U.S. television industry, represented by the National Television System Committee, worked in 1950–1953 to develop a color system that was compatible with existing black-and-white sets and would pass FCC quality standards, with RCA developing the hardware elements. The first publicly announced network demonstration of a program using the NTSC “compatible color” system was an episode of NBC’s Kukla, Fran and Ollie on August 30, 1953, although it was viewable in color only at the network’s headquarters. The first network broadcast to go out over the air in NTSC color was a performance of the opera Carmen on October 31, 1953.

***(2) Actually Lillian Gish’s career began in 1912 with “The Unseen Enemy”.

***(3) The famous “eyes in the belly button” remark was made by Lillian Gish while celebrating her 100th movie [A Wedding] during the party organized by director Robert Altman. And it was a photographer, not a cameraman. The incident was documented by Kevin Brownlow.

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Lauds TV Programs on Lincoln – By Larry Wolters (Chicago Tribune 1956)

Chicago Tribune – Monday February 13, 1956 – Page 70

Lauds TV Programs on Lincoln

By Larry Wolters

Lincoln: Every year television devotes more programs to Lincoln around February 12, and every year the equality of the Lincoln tribute seems to improve. Outstanding this season were two productions: “Good Friday, 1865,” written by John Lewellen of Glen Ellyn for the Robert Montgomery theater of last Monday, and “The Day Lincoln Was Shot,” based on Jim Bishop’s best selling book and presented Saturday night on Ford’s Star Theater [quite different from Ford’s theater in Washington where Lincoln was shot]. Both plays were telecast in color as well as black and white.

“Good Friday,” as previously reviewed was a notable production. “The Day Lincoln Was Shot” was even more satisfactory. Produced with the lavish hand of Hollywood, the cast ran to 103 persons, with more than 50 reading lines. It was headed by such actors as Raymond Massey, who has come to be an almost legendary Lincoln; Jack Lemmon as Booth, Lillian Gish as Mrs. Lincoln, and Charles Laughton as narrator.

This combination, under expert direction by Delbert Mann, created a mounting sense of the oncoming tragedy, tracing hour by hour the various plot threads that were climaxed at 10:15 p.m. As the play proceeded, you felt an almost unbearable suspense. Lemmon, who usually plays comedy roles, proved a great Booth, handsome and sinister, a young firebird obsessed with carrying out a conspiracy which, except for the greatest of luck, could never have been executed.

Monolog: Booth was at his best in a monolog [or soliloquy] when, speaking of the future, he said: “You [Lincoln] know nothing of me but our names will be linked in all eternity. Lincoln and Booth, perhaps Booth and Lincoln.”

Photo: Gish, Lemmon and Massey in – “The Day Lincoln Was Shot”

Massey and Miss Gish were indeed Abe and Mary Lincoln except that the actor has put on a little too much weight and no longer looks too much like the Civil war President and Miss Gish has too small a face. Furthermore her blonde hair should have been converted to black to match Mary Todd Lincoln’s.

Photo: Lillian Gish in – The Day Lincoln Was Shot – promotional

Intrusion: The Ford theater reconstruction was especially effective in color. Viewers were able to understand the whole layout, with the Presidential box overhanging the stage. The scene or two from the play, “Our American Cousin,” provided a change of pace. This was comedy at its corniest, reminiscent of the Abbotts and Costellos of today. There was one break of pace we were not prepared for. As the tension mounted there came a sudden intrusion by Bing Crosby plugging Thunder-Birds an also a promise from the sponsor that Bing would be in great form for ”High Tor” four weeks hence.

Raymond Massey – Lincoln

Then the action shifted back to the assassination, Booth’s escape and the long confusing night in Peterson house, with Secy. Stanton playing the role of dictator for eight hours before he got to the fateful: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

This fantastic yet true story of a tragic day in American history gave television 91 years later just about its finest hour.

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Grandma Moses Life To Be Told Friday On TV (Chicago Tribune – 1952)

Chicago Tribune – March, Sunday 23 1952 – Page 67

Grandma Moses Life To Be Told Friday On TV

Lillian Gish will star in the title role of “Grandma Moses” when the biography of the American Artist is presented on Playhouse of Stars over WBKB at 8 p.m. Friday. The television play will highlight episodes in the life of the painter which reveal how she happened to undertake her work at the age of 80. In addition to Miss Gish, three other actresses will portray Grandma Moses – in scenes depicting her early years. Denise and Jane Alexander, sisters, will play the painter at the ages of 12 and 5 respectively and Georgianne Johnson will have the role of Grandma Moses at 26. Sidney Smith will portray Otto Kallir, art connoisseur who discovered the artist.

Adapted by David Shaw from Mrs. Moses’ recently-published autobiography, the play had Lillian Gish in the title role spinning tales to her grandchildren on her early life and how she won recognition with her colorful American primitives after she had passed 80. Story flashed back from camera shots of Grandma Moses paintings to the related incidents in her life, which was a clever technique. This was one spot, though, where color TV was urgently needed.

With Miss Gish etching a warmly human characterization of the nice old lady who was as eager to receive compliments for her strawberry preserves as for her life on a farm dating back to the days when Abraham Lincoln was President. Sisters Denise and Jane Alexander were competent as the artist at the ages of five and 12, respectively, and Georgianne Johnson turned in a sympathetic portrayal of Mrs. Moses at age 26. Russell Hardie was good as her husband, and Sidney Smith limned an okay role as the art connoisseur who discovered her artistic talents.

Joseph Scibetta reined both the actors and the cameras through their paces in fine style. Sets and other production mountings were standout. Durward Kirby again handled the Schlitz commercials, tying them cleverly with the sets of the play.

Illustration below: Lillian Gish with Grandma Moses painting, a gift from the artist to Miss Gish

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Performance of Lillian Gish on Broadway Found Stirring – By Hedda Hopper (Chicago Tribune – 1953)

Lillian Gish by Forbes - Advertising the new version of - The Trip To Bountiful - play - Stars in Goodyear TV Playhouse ...
Lillian Gish by Forbes, Advertising the new version of “The Trip To Bountiful” play – Stars in Goodyear Television Playhouse …

Chicago Tribune – Saturday, November 21, 1953 – Page 14

Looking at Hollywood

Performance of Lillian Gish on Broadway Found Stirring

By Hedda Hopper

New York, Nov. 20 – Lillian Gish put a lump the size of a golf ball in my throat during her performance in the play “The Trip To Bountiful.” She literally breaks your heart into little pieces. You want to choke her daughter-in-law, played brilliantly by Jo Van Fleet. The entire cast is star studded.

Jo Van Fleet, Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish (The Trip To Bountiful)
Jo Van Fleet, Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish (The Trip To Bountiful)

… After the play, I met the author Horton Foote, and his wife, who was named for Lillian. What’s more, her sister’s name is Dorothy. When Lillian was our top picture star, many babies were named for her. She kept a supply of gold christening rings, and when she heard about each child she sent a ring. I’ll never forget how Lillian fought for a place in the movies for her friend, the late D.W. Griffith, the last time she was in Hollywood …

Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish - The Trip To Bountiful 1953
Gene Lyons and Lillian Gish – The Trip To Bountiful 1953

I’m always appalled at stars’ dressing rooms in New York theaters. Compared to ours in the movie world, they’re little better than lean-tos. I guess that’s why stage actors are so hardy and have so much steel in their backbones.

Lillian Gish - The Trip To Bountiful (1953)
Lillian Gish – The Trip To Bountiful (1953)

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Lillian Gish Still Devoted to Career – By Hedda Hopper (Chicago Tribune – 1963)

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.

Photo - Eileen Heckart - Lillian Gish - Robert Preston - Glynis Johns
Photo – Eileen Heckart – Lillian Gish – Robert Preston – Glynis Johns

“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.”

Cedric Hardwicke, Cyril Ritchard, Glynis Johns, Ray Middleton, David Wayne, Eileen Heckart, Robert Preston and Lillian Gish. Too Good To Be True 1963
Cedric Hardwicke, Cyril Ritchard, Glynis Johns, Ray Middleton, David Wayne, Eileen Heckart, Robert Preston and Lillian Gish. Too Good To Be True 1963

“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.

GB_Shaw_Too_True_To_Be_Good_2D

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.”

GB_Shaw_Too_True_To_Be_Good_7

 

GB_Shaw_Too_True_To_Be_Good_8

Playbill 1963 Robert Preston, Lillian Gish
Too True To Be Good 1963

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Lillian Gish honored by fans she loves best – movie people – By Gene Siskel (Chicago Tribune – 1977)

Chicago Tribune – June 23 1977 Thursday, Page 21

Tempo People

Lillian Gish honored by fans she loves best – movie people

By Gene Siskel – movie critic

signed promotional full cast photo - a wedding

THE MOVIE is called “A Wedding,” but the scene Wednesday was “an affair,” an affair to celebrate the wonderful career of actress Lillian Gish, the silent film star who at age 80 is completing her 65th year in films.

Miss Gish worked three days this week in Lake Bluff in her role as a grandmother in “A Wedding,” reportedly her 100th film. Producer – director Robert Altman organized the surprise party to let Miss Gish know “it was such a thrill for us to work with you.”

The party was on the back lawn of the fabulous Lester Armour estate in Lake Bluff, where Altman is filming his comic tale of a mixed marriage between old and new money. Seated on folding chairs waiting to surprise Miss Gish were many of her costars in the film, including Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Dina Merrill, and Vittorio Gassman.

Lillian Gish - A Wedding
Lillian Gish – A Wedding

A few minutes earlier, Miss Gish had been filming her death scene inside the Armour house. Says the family doctor to her daughter after Gish’s character kicks the bucket, “I thought she was waving hello, when she really was waving good-bye.”

Robert Altman - Lillian Gish (A Wedding)
Robert Altman – Lillian Gish (A Wedding)

Miss Gish was lured outside for a supposed press party for the movie. She quickly realized it was her show, however, when she saw the cake and its inscription, “Lillian Gish – 100th film.”

“I DON’T DESERVE THAT,” she said looking at the cake as a dozen photographers and cameramen scrambled for position. One photographer got down on his knees and aimed his camera up at Miss Gish. Suddenly the surprise party became a photography lesson.

“Not up my nose,” she said. “No low angles. If God wanted people shot from low angles, he would’ve put your eyes at your bellybutton.”

The crowd roared at Miss Gish – ever conscious of how she looks – continued her impromptu lecture.

“Oh, no,” she said, noticing the bright sun, “an overhead light with no reflector!” What she wanted was the light to play on her eyes, because it is with one’s eyes, she said later, that people best reveal their emotions. “If people can’t see your eyes, how can you tell your story?”

A Wedding
Robert Altman helping Lillian Gish to cut the cake made especially to mark her 100th movie anniversary – A Wedding

The Lillian Gish film story dates to 1912, when she and her late sister, Dorothy, began making short films for D.W. Griffith, the pioneer filmmaker of “Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance,” “Broken Blossoms,” and “Way Down East,” all of which starred Lillian Gish.

MISS GISH successfully lobbied for the United States postal stamp commemorating Griffith issued this year, the first such honor for a filmmaker. Miss Gish said she owns 500 Griffith stamps, in addition to one gold, 20 silver and 10 bronze medals commemorating Griffith.

For years Lillian Gish has sung the praises of Griffith through lectures. Her autobiography, published in 1969 is titled “The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me,” a title that describes – in order – her life’s priorities.

A Wedding
Carol Burnett, Lillian Gish and Mia Farrow – A Wedding

Predictably, the next project for this remarkable woman also involves the movies. “Most of all I want to finish ‘Silver Story,’ a television special that tells the story of films from their very beginning up until 1928.”

The stars working with Miss Gish each have own stories about her. “When I first saw her on the set,” said Burnett, “she came to me and said, ‘You have so many faces. Which one are you going to use for this film?’ I was surprised she knew who I was,” Burnett said. “I guess I didn’t believe that someone so extraordinary would ever watch TV.”

“I had met her in the ‘40s when I was a little girl,” Merrill recalled, “and I couldn’t believe it, but she remembered. She walked up to me and said, ‘Do you remember when I met you at Mary Pickford’s house? I then asked her if she remembered my mother (the late socialite Marjorie Merrieweather Post).”

“’Of course I remember your mother,’ she said, ‘Who do you think I’m playing in this movie?’

“She is an exquisite, fragile creature,” Merrill said of Miss Gish. “She still has an ethereal beauty.”

A Wedding
Lillian Gish and Geraldine Chaplin – A Wedding

After the cake cutting, Lillian Gish talked to reporters for 30 minutes. She answered each question precisely, displaying total recall of her career. When the question-and-answer session was over, the screen veteran said, “Now I’m the slowest eater in the world I must have 45 minutes to eat lunch.”

One suspects that Lillian Gish took exactly 45 minutes to eat lunch. Maybe a few minutes less, but, always a professional, not one minute more.

Illustration

Yes it’s a cake and, yes, it’s also on the set of “A Wedding” in Lake Bluff, but the occasion is the 100th film of Lillian Gish (cutting cake). Director Robert Altman samples the pastry while actresses Amy Stryker (left) and Dina Merrill look on.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 23 Jun 1977, Thu Page 21
Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 23 Jun 1977, Thu Page 21 (A Wedding cast celebrating 100th Gish film)

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Lillian Gish – A charming 73, she is life’s genuine heroine – By Pat Colander (Chicago Tribune 1973)

Chicago Tribune November 24 1973 Saturday Page 162

Lillian Gish

A charming 73, she is life’s genuine heroine

By Pat Colander

Can you do anything with this poor, tired face? inquired Lillian Gish from behind an impish grin. Of course the question is ridiculous. After 73 years of practicing her delightful brand of charm, she knows that anyone she meets is more than happy to do her bidding, even before she asks.

Lillian Gish promoting her Dorothy and Lillian Gish book in 1973 - New York
Lillian Gish promoting her Dorothy and Lillian Gish book in 1973 – New York

From the top of her faded blonde head to the tips of her tiny feet, Lillian Gish is a cornball prototype of the real-life, genuine heroine. Her beaming countenance recalls all the good things named traditional, just in case anybody she meets has forgotten how good it is to be free and own a television set.

“I always think of movies as the big screen and television as the little screen,” she chirped. “Of course, both are forms of the greatest power that the world has ever seen.” Miss Gish equates the film industry with Shakespeare and the Bible.

BUT EVEN this movie proponent will admit that something’s rotten in Hollywood. “I wish we could bring back good taste and beauty,” she moaned. “I think we’ve lost it.” Lillian Gish shakes her head, there have been roles that she’s had to turn down. “I wouldn’t be a part of what the movie had to say. I believe in the influence of a film,” she added “and I don’t like the wicked man winning out over the good man.”

Lillian Gish and Anne Tennehill 1973 at Helen Hayes
Lillian Gish and Anne Tennehill 1973 at Helen Hayes

The recent Supreme Court ruling on pornography isn’t the answer however. “Censorship isn’t the American way,” Miss Gish said. We ought to be able to control ourselves by not going to those movies that are bad. Don’t you agree?”

She dismisses modern political scandals with theatrical boredom. Her ideology has become hardened in the face of many social upheavals she’s watched pass by. “Those things have been going on all my life,” she smiled some more, “only we called it Democrat and Republican. Certainly our country’s never been better. More people have more things and are more prosperous.”

THE THING she does feel that she knows about is the college crowd, after lecturing on the nostalgia circuit during the last few years. She defends the Pepsi generation with the characteristic line, “We just don’t hear about affirmation and the really good people on the campuses.”

opening of uncle vanya june 4 1973 h hayes l gish
Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish at the opening of Uncle Vanya, 1973 edition. Thus a full cycle is complete, the first play Lillian Gish starred in was Uncle Vanya (1930) an her last, Mike Nichols’s production.

Personally, Lillian Gish had little use for higher or lower education. Her star-crossed career began at 4 when Lillian and her little sister Dorothy hit the Broadway footlights. “We always felt lucky that we didn’t have to stay in one town and go to school,” she chuckled. “We were educated as we went thru the country.”

“I used to have an inferiority complex,” she moaned, but justified her lack of formal schooling with the deeper curiosity that developed as a result. “The future of education lies in television. Some man or woman will come along and harness it.”

Lillian Gish isn’t happy with the current form of educational broadcasting. “You know, in England they don’t approve of Sesame Street.”

CHICAGO IS an indelibly etched chapter in Lillian Gish’s new memory book, “Dorothy and Lillian Gish” [Charles Scribner’s Sons, $19.95], a picture album sketching her lenghty career. “Chicago has more civic pride than any other city,” she said. “They pushed the city back and built it around a lake.”

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

The Windy City topic opened a pandora’s box of anecdotes. “I had a favorite taxi driver here when playing the Blackstone Theater,” she remembered. “When there was someplace that I couldn’t take my little dog Malcolm, Mr. Marcus would take care of him. Actually, I think he liked Malcolm and put up with me.”

Altho this little bundle of ancient energy has just closed in Mike Nichol’s New York production of “Uncle Vanya,” and by mid-afternoon has been doing interviews since 6 a.m., she thinks it would be thrilling to go dancing in the evening. After all, the this-is-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life philosophy by now comes out sounding like a Lillian Gish original.

Lillian Gish – Big on the big screen

1973 Press Photo Lillian Gish Nov 6 1973 Sun Times
1973 Press Photo Lillian Gish Nov 6 1973 Sun Times

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1980 David Wark Griffith Awards (Films in Review – March 1981)

1980 DW Griffith Awards - Myrna Loy, Lillian Gish
1980 DW Griffith Awards – Myrna Loy, Lillian Gish and Gloria Swanson

Films in Review – March 1981

1980 David Wark Griffith Awards

The Second Presentation

 

Monday afternoon, January 26th, the National Board of Review and Films in Review, its membership publication, presented the Second Annual David Wark Griffith Awards at Luchow’s on Fourteenth Street in New York City, a few steps from where Griffith had his Biograph Studio and where he frequently dined. Lillian Gish and NBA Director, Blanche Sweet, who were Griffith stars, were some of the glittering stars of motion pictures and television who were a part of the Awards Ceremony.

Lillian Gish, Sissy Spacek and Gloria Swanson exchanging greetings (DW Griffith Awards)
Lillian Gish, Sissy Spacek and Gloria Swanson exchanging greetings (DW Griffith Awards)

Robert Giroux, President of the National Board, told how the NBA began in 1909 to fight censorship … “We fought that good fight, and we won it. Today we are fighting for a more elusive cause, the cause of quality – professional excellence, the one thing every intelligent audience, and certainly every real artist, wants … the one thing we never get enough of, neither on television screens nor in movie theatres.” He then introduced Dina Merrill who charmingly directed the short ceremony. Governor Hugh Carey sent a message to the winners and to Gloria Swanson through his Director of the New York State Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, Mrs. Elizabeth Forsling Harris.

Ron Schwary and Lillian Gish - 1980 (DW Griffith Awards)
Ron Schwary and Lillian Gish – 1980 (DW Griffith Awards)

New York City Mayor Edward Koch sent similar messages through his Director, Nancy Littlefield. When Miss Merrill introduced Lillian Gish, the star-studded audience rose to greet her, as the television cameras of both NBC and CBS recorded the event for later broadcast.

Sissy Spacek and Myrna Loy - 1980 (DW Griffith Awards)
Sissy Spacek and Myrna Loy – 1980 (DW Griffith Awards)

Miss Gish reminded the group that when she first started with Griffith, there were signs in the hotels reading “No Dogs or Actors Allowed”. But, she noted, ” progress has indeed been made … Princess Grace in Monaco and now, we have a President”. In Robert Redford’s absence, Ron Schwary, producer of Ordinary People, accepted Mr. Redford’s awards for Best Picture and Best Director.

Myrna Loy prefaced her introduction of Sissy Spacek, Best Actress for Coal Miner’s Daughter, with the note that her Career Achievement Award last year, was ” one of the few awards that really touched me and I thank you”. After which she read a congratulatory telegram to Sissy Spacek from Loretta Lynn. In accepting her plaque, Miss Spacek whispered, ” I’ve forgotten everything I was going to say, but the icing on the cake is being in the company of Miss Loy, Miss Swanson and Miss Gish; it makes me proud to be an actress”.

1980 DW Griffith Awards 1
1980 DW Griffith Awards – cover

 

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