The Lily of “Hearts of the World” – By Martha Groves McKelvie (Motion Picture Magazine – August, 1918)

Motion Picture Magazine – August, 1918

The Lily of “Hearts of the World”

A snapshot of Griffith and a time-exposure of the Gish Girls

By Martha Groves McKelvie

She knew and appreciated the stage and its silent and spoken art. I invited her to go with me, and her heart was quite full at the prospect of being present at the first showing, under such delightful circumstances. Griffith and his art had always been one of her idols.

We were both quite in the seventh heaven when we reached the theater and passed along the flower-lined lobby. Just inside the door, who should we meet but the great Griffith himself? After an exchange of greetings and a word of appreciation for the invitation to attend his “first night,” I asked if I might introduce the little Australian.

Mind you, dozens of personal friends of this great man were standing in line waiting for a chance to speak to him. Did he hurry? He did not! He smiled down at the bewildered little girl before him, just as if she were the guest of honor, and said, “I’m mighty glad to meet you, little lady from a far-away land!” As she followed me to our seats, her eyes were moist with tears of plain appreciation. A very great, busy and popular man had taken time to greet a lonely little girl in a big, strange country. I won’t go into the triumph of the performance. You all have heard of it here now. Tho the reporters may have neglected to say that Griffith just brushed away the tears when the house went mad after the final curtain and demanded his appearance. You may appreciate that this was the climax of fourteen months’ hard work. And—Griffith was not ashamed of his tears.

Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World
Lillian Gish in Hearts of The World

I watched the Gish girls leave the theater with their mother. They held their heads down bashfully and modestly, and looking like sweet girl graduates, entered their car. The following day I went to the Gish home for luncheon. The big Persian cat greeted me at the door, and Lillian had to admit the cat and the writer at the same time. The Gish girls have been trying to keep cats and birds together successfully for some time, and when I saw them last, the cat was still alive and they had two love-birds, a few canaries and a cockatoo to keep tabby interested in living.

Lillian Gish and her parrot

Lillian savs the cockatoo is “just human.” He’ answers the telephone for them anyway. If I had a bird with that talent I’d teach him a few words that are taboo in my own vocabulary. Mrs. Gish came forward to greet me, and a sweeter-faced little lady I have seldom met. Lillian curled up on a divan, mother chose a comfy rocker, and I took the biggest chair in the room. They told me of the many months spent in war-stricken Europe—of the air raids in London, and how, with good reason, they spent most of their time wishing they were back in the old U. S. A. Lillian is a great reader—thinks deeply and reads good things. Among the experiences most treasured on the trip abroad to make “Hearts of the World” was the meeting of two of her idols, J. M. Barrie and G. B. Shaw.

Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World
Dorothy Gish in The Hearts of The World

Quite in contrast to her sister Dorothy, Lillian is very quiet and serious. Just as Dorothy respects and looks up to her sister, so “does Lillian enjoy the little sister’s fun and romps. When Dorothy came dashing downstairs, bubbling over with the joy of living, I was introduced to the romp of the family.

“Lillian liked London !” she exclaimed. “She liked everything English—the quaint old vine-covered houses and the quiet country places. Not for me ! I liked Paris best! Just think—there was only one place in all London where we could get an ice-cream soda!”

I spoke of Dorothy’s good work the night before in the play. “That character of Dorothy’s just suited her,” said Lillian. “Funny as it may seem, when you see us together, we do not look so much alike, but we do photograph very much alike.

Dorothy as "The Little Disturber"
Dorothy as “The Little Disturber”

“So we planned and planned to find a good make-up that would give Dorothy a chance to be different. One day, walking down a main street in Paris, we saw the character we wanted—a typical girl of the Paris streets, a tough little tomboy, a sassy Tarn set at a jaunty angle on one side of her head, a boyish little suit and a shirt opened low at the throat. “We followed her for blocks, watching her every move. Dorothy tried to imitate her walk as we went—and you saw the result, the sassy swagger in ‘Hearts of the World.’ ” “She was the sassiest thing,” laughed Dorothy. “She met a soldier on the street and, walking up to him, put her elbow on his shoulder and leaned over on him as if he were a post.”

When luncheon was announced we went into the charming mahogany-furnished dining-room, Dorothy chattering all the while, telling me that she and her chum, Constance Talmadge, had both agreed to quit eating candy, that it was spoiling their complexions. With the appreciation and enjoyment you would expect a girl graduate to show, Lillian pointed out the flowers in the room that friends had sent them the night before.

Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (mother)
Lillian Gish, Dorothy and Mary Robinson McConnell (Mother)

“Wasn’t it lovely of them!” she exclaimed. “I do so love flowers.” When the door-bell rang and the maid came to the dining-room to say that some one wanted to see the “lady of the house,” Lillian exclaimed, “Now, mother, we don’t want to buy any lace or baby garments, or have any washing-machines demonstrated.” “Mother,” she explained, as Mrs. Gish left the room, “just can’t say ‘No’ to anyone. Last week she bought a whole trunkful of lace from a peddler—stuff that we can’t possibly use.”

After luncheon, when we went upstairs to don our wraps for a drive, Mother Gish showed me her babies’ pictures. “My girls have never given me a moment’s worry!” she said with pride.

In the sewing-room, where the lovebirds and the cockatoo hold forth, dainty rainbow garments were in the making, bits of chiffon in lavenders, pinks and blues, latticed with dainty Val lace. The whole home atmosphere is just the same that you find in any lovely home.

Love is there—perfect understanding. Nothing up-stage about these two stars, no envy of each other’s success!

As we left the house I took an inventory, as a woman will, of Lillian’s costume. She wore a white skirt and waist with a short black jacket having white cuffs and collar. A soft white hat framed her face. Her lips are thin, beautifully formed, like a rosebud; her skin is unusually white ; her hair a soft, natural blonde and her eyes a lovely blue-gray. She uses no rouge. She is all that is refined. A patrician from her head to her heels.

Dorothy wore the same kind of waist and skirt, with a green jacket, and went shopping for a white Tarn to finish the costume.

“Oh, Lil,” Dorothy said, as we drove along, “the last time I wore this dress was in Paris. Do. you remember?”

“Yes, that’s right,” replied Lillian, “and —the last time I wore this dress was in Paris.”

Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron - Hearts of the World
Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish and Riobert Harron – Hearts of the World

“What was the greatest, most interesting thing you saw on your trip?” I asked. “The Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor,” said Lillian, with reverence. “The trip across to make ‘Hearts of the World’ was a great experience,” said Dorothy. “I wouldn’t take worlds for it, and I wouldn’t do it again for worlds. If the winning of this war depended on me, I don’t know what democracy would do. I’m the greatest little coward in the world. Wouldn’t cross the ocean again for anything. Just the same, the trip gave me a greater appreciation of the brave fellows who are going.”

Several days later I talked to Miss Gish on the ‘phone. “We’re in such a mess !” she wailed. “The chauffeur got hurt, the cook’s in a hospital, and the maid was taken to an asylum—all in one day ! Mother’s the cook, Dorothy’s the chauffeur, and ‘ I’m the maid.” And—I’ll warrant they all filled their jobs well.

1919 - Gish Sisters and Mother Mary Robinson McConnell XC - Gerald Carpenter
1919 – Gish Sisters and Mother Mary Robinson McConnell XC – Gerald Carpenter

Lillian Gish is a serious-honest-earnest little worker. She wants only the applause she earns and will work untiringly for all that she gets. She is very modest, unassuming, and nothing is too much trouble that she can do to please any one. To the joy of all her friends, Miss Gish is to be starred in five-reel features, instead of giving so much of her time to the making of one. This will give her public an opportunity to see her oftener, and, since she will continue under Griffith’s direction, her work will be of the same value that she has already given us in “The Birth of a Nation” and her latest success, “Hearts of the World.”

Mother and Dorothy

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