- Women Film Directors
- An International Bio-Critical Dictionary
- Gwendolyn Audrey Foster 1995
- Greenwood Press Westport, Connecticut • London
Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary is a reference book designed primarily for use by students, historians, film critics, and film enthusiasts. The entries are arranged alphabetically and include biographical information, critical essay, selected filmography, and selected bibliographic information. Filmmakers were chosen on the basis of availability of information.
GISH, LILLIAN (1896-1993). United States. Lillian Gish is well known as an early screen actress who worked closely in collaboration with D. W. Griffith. Born in Springfield, Ohio, Lillian Gish and her sister, Dorothy Gish, are perhaps the best-known screen actresses from the silent film period. Lillian Gish usually played the victimized heroine in early Griffith films, the embodiment of Victorian notions of feminine sexual purity and, as Richard Dyer notes, the essence of “whiteness.” Gish starred in The Mothering Heart (1913), Way Down East (1920), Orphans of the Storm (1921), and many more films until 1987, when she acted in The Whales of August. Gish may have been passive in front of the camera in her early roles, but she was active behind the camera and behind the scenes on many of her films. She not only was active as a producer and collaborator but also directed one film, Remodeling Her Husband (1920).
D. W. Griffith was initially slated to direct Remodeling Her Husband, starring Dorothy Gish, but at the last moment, for reasons that are still obscure, Griffith turned the direction of the film over to Lillian Gish. Dorothy Gish herself chose the story for the film, which was based on a cartoon in a magazine depicting a husband’s dissatisfaction with his wife’s appearance. Dorothy Parker wrote the comic subtitles for the film, which was her first Hollywood writing job. Unfortunately, Remodeling Her Husband appears to be a lost film, but if the plotline of the cartoon upon which the film is based is any indication, Remodeling Her Husband is a feminist critique of patriarchal gender expectations. The idea of making such a film must have attracted the Gish sisters, who were well aware of their iconic status as the quintessentially objectified women of the silent cinema. Remodeling Her Husband is a clever comedic subversion of male and female codes of beauty, which includes a scene of the leading man’s having his nails filed at a barbershop. Dorothy Parker’s subtitle for the scene reads, The divinity that shapes our ends,” a typical Parkeresque jab at masculine pomposity.
Remodeling Her Husband depicts an unfaithful husband whose wife goes to work to punish him for his actions. It seems appropriate that the Gish sisters, the penultimate screen “beauties,” irreverently mocked male attitudes so blatantly in Remodeling Her Husband. The film was a critical and box-office success. Budgeted at $50,000, the film made over $460,000 and was one of Gish’s most successful comedies. Despite this acclaim, after Remodeling Her Husband, Gish said she “never wanted to direct another film” (Gish, 226).
Lillian Gish describes the making of the film in detail in The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me. Not only was Gish responsible for directing Remodeling Her Husband in the winter of 1919, but Griffith also left her in charge of building a studio in his absence, while he went on location to shoot another film in Florida. Perhaps if Gish had not been saddled with the excess responsibility of overseeing construction on top of directing her first film, she may not have turned completely against the idea of film directing. Instead, Gish returned to acting and had one of the most famous and long-running careers in Hollywood. In 1970***, she earned the Academy Award for her Life Achievement in films. She was also awarded the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984. Gish pioneered “naturalistic” acting and leaves a formidable legacy in motion picture history. It seems odd that Gish’s one feminist directorial effort is lost, given the fervor with which Griffith is obsessively archived by film historians. ***
Remodeling Her Husband (1920)
*** 1971 – Academy Awards, USA – Honorary Award – For superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures.
*** Kindly search this website with the key word “remodeling”. The results are conclusive.
Remodeling Her Husband – Photo Gallery