The Movies, Mr. Griffith And Me (reviewed by Bessie Love) Sight and Sound 1969

  • Sight and Sound – Autumn 1969 (October) BFI GB
  • The Movies, Mr. Griffith And Me (reviewed by Bessie Love)
  • Lillian Gish (with Ann Pinchot)

The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me

  • More than the autobiography of one of the greatest stars of all time, this is also a history of the motion-picture industry.
  • ‘An enchanting biography’-NOEL COWARD
  • ‘She writes with the modesty of a great artist’ -SIR JOHN GIELGUD
  • 400 pages 79 photographs W. H. ALLEN
  • THE MOVIES, MR. GRIFFITH AND ME, by Lillian Gish and Ann
  • Pinchot. Illustrated. (W. H. Allen, 50s.)

ANYONE WHO ASPIRES to the stage or films should read this book. It wouldn’t hurt anybody to read this book. It is not only a document of the making of early films written by the one most qualified to report it. It is also a present-day journal of a very busy workman. No nostalgia-oh, a few things were better then, it appears (everybody worked harder). This is only stated as a fact. No tears.

It shows many angles of film-making past and near-past by one of the most dedicated actresses ever born. Probably the most. Partly because of the nature of her jobs, challenged in more varying ways, called on to do more, sacrifice more and challenged more often than most people. And enough to scare the pants off most business men. Miss Gish is generous enough to include all the Motion Picture profession of those early-really early-days in their devotion to their jobs. You will think that no human being alive except perhaps a lion-tamer has had such singleness of purpose (and he isn’t very smart if he hasn’t). In the far-off underpaid days, even that low salary allowed for high living compared to theatre salary spread over the year. Especially when you were often stranded in the Middle West 1,200 miles from where you had, somehow, to get to before you could even look for another job. (Stranded means that the manager has taken what money there was and gone. Kaput.) Then remember that this young actress was a child of five. By ten, a seasoned trouper knowing that any food obtained would have to last perhaps for days until the actress in charge of her and playing her mother could manage to scrape up enough to get at least the usual two bowls of porridge for dinner. If our lady had been as her sister Dorothy is quoted as saying, ‘without a nerve in her body’, you might feel she was able to cope easily. As a young teenager, journeying alone to see their father who was dying in an asylum, arriving at the station in the middle of the night, no one meeting her, she was terrified like any other young teenager would have been.

There is no bitterness. Miss Gish expresses gratitude for the rough school which taught her courage, self-reliance, independence. Many stalwart stockbrokers jumped out of the window rather than face financial disaster. What disaster there was, our friend took it in her stride. And may her star ever shine bright for the courage to bring a blackmailer to court. Touching gratitude and devotion to D. W. Griffith is richly told. What a fortunate thing this book is written. No one else had such an insight into his character. And again sharing the credit for devotion with all the company, who would work regardless of whether there would be a salary at the end of that week or six or seven weeks later. Eventually ‘Miss Lillian’ as Mr. Griffith called her (he came from the South) and the great man were working as one, and he was able to leave a production suddenly without warning and let her take over. At the same time the studio was under construction. With everything going wrong as it can do, yet to have the whole thing jell to his taste and turned in on time, this was a fantastic accomplishment.

Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish – Orphans – Vanity Fair November 1921

Her tender relationship with her mother and endearing remembrance of her sister Dorothy is delightful and gay. And the early association with the Pickford family when they were still Smiths is great fun. All the young ones-Mary, Lottie, Jack, Lillian and Dorothy-seasoned troupers from the road, presenting their cards with the names of their respective shows from last season and requesting complimentary seats at a box-office will delight all actors. Well, it makes sense-they understood ‘it was a very fine play with good actors’ and perhaps they would learn something from them. (Jack must have been in nappies!) Miss Gish has so graciously moved with the times in returning to the stage or wherever it was-or will be-interesting to her writing, producing, directing, researching costumes and customs there just is no end to it! It would be nice to hear that some ‘stars’ throwing their tiny weight about were put in their places and told to get on with their job, which is acting, and allow the producer to get on with his lighting the thing. But for Lillian Gish to be told this seems impertinent. About her work there is nothing she doesn’t know. And she’s been working at it for a long time. Obviously from the book this is not a pose to impress somebody. The lady really does know her okra.

This charmer has set an example for any workman alive. The next time anyone asks you if it is true that Talkies ruined the careers of silent film stars please quote the career of Lillian Gish.

LILLIAN GISH in (BATTLE OF THE SEXES 1914) Donald Crisp Lillian Gish Robert Harron D W GRIFFITH (scenario)

You couldn’t make her redundant if you tried. She’s way ahead of you, already polishing up on what she knows about something else. A great deal can be said about the self-effacing style of Miss. Pinchot’s writing. She doesn’t fling about big words to prove Miss. Gish an intellectual. The whole thing has a feeling of sincerity Constantly I saw only Lillian telling me all the facts in the book, herself experiencing the fears, horrors, terrors, joys and happinesses. What I want to see now is for La Gish to make a small, low budget, experimental film, which means that she would be able to make it just the way she thought it ought to be made. A film she mentions ‘of affirmation’ that D. W. Griffith wanted to make about the American black. On page 163 she says, “Shortly before his death we talked of doing such a film …. The white man had taken centuries to attain the intellectual and spiritual powers that many black citizens had achieved in a few decades …. No other race in the history of mankind had advanced so far so quickly.” — BESSIE LOVE —

Admin note: Replacement /edit made in the last phrase, considering some words have become offensive (1969 vs 2020). Thank you for your understanding.

The Movies Mr.Griffith and Me

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.