Pictures and Picturegoer – October 1924
What Love Means to Me
By Lillian Gish
“What did you think of it?”
Lillian Gish asked me on the day following the world premiere of The White Sister. And so we drifted into a discussion of the concluding scenes of that photoplay, in which ” Sister Angela ” keeps her vows to the church, while her love for a man is annihilated.
It was late afternoon in the Vanderbilt Hotel, and the frail Lillian was lying on a couch, resting from the excitement and thrills of the night before, a night which concluded with a fifteen minute long distance telephone call to Mother Gish up in the mountains.
‘ It’s amusing,” Lillian remarked, “to read the remarks of one or two reviewers who believe that The White Sister has an unhappy ending. “For love means two things to a woman.
Above all it means happiness, and those of us who can find happiness in love for a man should cherish that love and hold it holy,” she told me. “To the other sort of woman, love means satisfaction. It means satisfaction of vanity for one thing. This sort of woman wants to possess a man, she wants to have the world know that she has the power of holding a man. And she wants the man for what he can give her in material goods, quite apart from happiness. There is a finer type woman, however, a rare type, who holds something beyond mere happiness and mere material satisfaction. Angela is of this type. Sensitive, with eyes uplifted from the earth, she first seeks happiness from a man. “Then this man is apparently wrested away from her by a fate stronger than any human power. Where can she renew her hope, her faith? To what can she turn?
” Because she is a Catholic she turns to the church. And when, later, her lover returns and she finds she has taken a step which turns her forever from him, she is met with a problem which is almost transcendental. She has the choice between love and honour. ” Love means nothing when you have no happiness, and what happiness could Angela have had if she had forsaken her vows? She would have been an outcast nun and her lover a broken officer of the army. She might have fled from Rome, she might have left Italy, and she might have begun life anew with him. But even if the world had forgotten that she had broken her vows, she herself could never have forgotten.
“So Angela, in the picture, takes the one and only path. The Japanese, you know, are reputed to be ready to commit harikari – (*harakiri) – if they feel their honour has been besmirched. Angela feels the same. When her lover takes her in his arms and kisses her, the lips that would have passionately met his own, are cold and lifeless, and she tears herself away from him and drives evil thoughts from her mind by telling the beads of her rosary.
” This is what love means to a woman of Angela’s type. Love means something different to every woman. To one it means a home, children, the thought that a loving being is near at every moment. To another love means the meeting of minds on an equal plane, the smoothing of life’s rough edges by a loving hand.
To another love means the sharing of great things, a mutual accord and helpfulness, the lifting of one’s life from the plane of every day living to a level of almost sublime joy.”
When Lillian has told you this interpretation of the character she plays in The White Sister, you begin to understand why she was able to give so realistic and so finely restrained a portrait of the Italian heroine of the tale. She had taken that character to her own heart and before giving screen life to Angela had thoroughly understood her. So, when you see The White Sister, recall that behind the mask of Lillian’s face beats the heart of a girl who held honour higher than anything else in the world, higher even than love.
” Love means something different to every woman,” says Lillian Gish. ” Those of us who can find happiness in love for a man, should cherish that love and hold it holy.”
Theatre Magazine, August 1923 – Page 35
Lillian Gish in “The White Sister”
One of the longest journeys yet undertaken by an American cinema troupe is just ended by Miss Lillian Gish and her company. The film star, along with Henry King, her director, and a score of players, left six months ago for Italy where they made the views for a screen version of F. Marion Crawford’s old play. The scenario os by Edmund Goulding, George V. Hobart and others.