THE EXPRESSIONS OF LILLIAN GISH. (Exclusive to the “Picture Show”)
Picture Show, November 13th 1920
The Talented Screen Artist With the Heart of a Child
FROM the day that Lillian Gish, at the age of seven, played the part of little Willie in ” East Lynne,” her career was decided. Lillian naturally possesses a pathetic charm that is all her own, and the power to get rigflt to the hearts of her audience. The culminating point of her success was reached in her rendering of the girl in the now world-famous ” Broken Blossoms.” It was Mrs. Mary Gish, the mother of the two popular Gish girls, who paved the way for her two daughters to become the popular successes they are to-day. When only twenty-three years of age, Mrs. Gish was left a widow with two tiny girls to support.
Mary’s Part in Her Life Story.
A FRIEND procured for Mrs. Gish a walking-on part at the local theatre. In time she was advanced to better parts, and whilst touring round with her two little girls, they made the acquaintance of Mary Pickford. Mary was then herself playing child parts on the stage and Lillian and Dorothy were adding to the family income by playing small parts, when they were needed, in their mother’s company. Many children step from stage to the screen these days, but in the early days of the films, it was not an easy matter. The two little girls lived for six years in third-rate hotels, and moved from town to town, with the theatrical company without any hope of ever being anything more than just a member of that third-rate company.
Her First Screen Success.
THEN one day they visited a picture show, and recognised in the star no less a personage than the little girl with whom they had become so friendly on a previous tour, Mary Pickford. They had appeared together in one show, and the little girls had become very fond of each other. As soon as the company reached New York, the Gish girls called on their old friend, whom they had known when she was playing under her real name of Gladys Smith. Mary was genuinely glad to see them, and after getting Lillian an engagement for a small role as a fairy in ” A Good Little Devil,” in which Mary was playing an important part on the stage, she gave them an introduction to the great D. W. Griffith, and then and there he engaged Lillian to play a small part on the screen.
A Lover of Simplicity.
FROM that day to this, Lillian has made rapid strides in her screen successes. Early plays in which you may remember her are, ” The Battle of the Sexes,” ” Home Sweet Home,” then in “The Birth of a Nation,” and ” Intolerance,” in which she took the part of the woman who rocks the cradle, ” The Greater Love.” Last but far from least is the part of the child in ” Broken Blossoms,” which is well known to every reader of the Picture Show. Lillian is just as simple in her tastes as in the characters she portrays so well on the screen. She says she owes much of her success to the simplicity of the frocks she wears. She is devoted to her library and her treasured books ; she sings a little, and one of her greatest treasures is a little ballad called “Broken Blossoms,” presented to her by the author. She says she finds genuine pleasure in singing it, and is delighted and proud that her picture is printed on the front cover.
Must Learn How Not To Act.
LILLIAN has a very real admiration for D. W. Griffith, the world-famous producer. She tells how Mr. Griffith trains all his players how not to act. ‘That is the very first thing on which he insists,’she says. ” We must move through our parts just as we would in real life, there must be no artificial expressions and no posing. Mr. Griffith teaches that to express an emotion, you must feel it, then the expression will be real. He is a dreamer who makes his dreams come true, and his ideals of truth and beauty are contagious. It is more difficult not to understand him than it is to understand him. His very simplicity of method and his quiet direction make for complete harmony between his players and himself.”
Born to Serve.
PERHAPS that is why Lillian has made such a wonderful cinema actress. She loves to be dominated; in fact, obedience is the chief trait of her character. Mrs. Gish says that both of her girls are wonderfully good, but Dorothy is wilful, and likes her own way, while Lillian can always be relied upon to do just what she is told. Lillian believes that some people are born to rule and some to serve, and she places herself among those who serve.
IT is difficult to get Lillian to talk about herself. By way of greeting she will ask you if you have seen Dorothy in her latest picture. It is her ambition to see London, and as her friend Norma Talmadge told me, she was more than disappointed that she was unable to accompany her mother and Dorothy on their visit to Europe. However, she has promised herself a real holiday soon, during which she has planned a tour of Great Britain. So we may soon see her over here.