Would I Do It Over Again? – Lillian Gish said … Photoplay June 1922

Way Down East - filming the "Ice Floe Scene" (Lillian Gish)
Way Down East – filming the “Ice Floe Scene” (Lillian Gish)

Photoplay June 1922

Would I Do It Over Again? – Lillian Gish said …

Would you do it over again? I asked. She gave me a stricken look, a sudden red flag of defiance in her cheeks.

“No—no. Never. Oh, never. Work on a farm—scrub floors. Anything! “But go through again what I have gone through, work as I have worked, knowing,—I couldn’t.”

Lillian Gish and Donald Crisp in Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish and Donald Crisp in Broken Blossoms

A vibrant silence fell on the room. Lillian Gish sat looking into the fire with her head bent. Schopenhauer said that not one of us, given the privilege of a choice, would live again the life already lived. Yet here sat a girl who in her early twenties is not only the idol of a nation, but a great artist — perhaps the greatest tragic artist of the screen. A girl who had climbed from obscurity, poverty, to the top rung of the ladder. What more could she want? That is why I asked her that question. I have given you her answer. The road had been too hard, the sacrifices of personal life and privacy too great. And yet—I didn’t believe her. It was my great good fortune, in the first place, to find Lillian Gish furious. I realize this rings heretical to those confirmed in the belief that she is a sister of the saints and speaks never a word that could not be incorporated in a Book of Good Thoughts. Dervish devotees, celebrating her virtues in a dizzy fervor, have made one almost suspect her kinship with that Asiatic trinity which hears no evil, speaks no evil, sees no evil. After reading certain of these hymns, purporting to be works of portraiture, I have felt that their subject was not in reality a human being but a sweet floral token velvetly inscribed “At Peace.” But Lillian was in a rebellious mood. Pushing back her hair from a forehead that is high, she inveighed gloriously against law,—government—its tyranny democracy— its mockery. It was good old-fashioned indignation. But it was far from lily-like. She had just come from the office of an income tax Shylock.

Unemployment Depression Crisis USA 1921
Unemployment Depression Crisis USA 1921

“It makes you feel like leaving the country when you realize the things that are going on. What is the government thinking of? What is the matter –with everything? Laws, laws, laws,—but where is justice? I tell you—it makes you feel like— ”

“A bolshevist. Bravo, Comrade Gish!”

That soothed her. She wearily accepted the arms of a big chair. Let me tell you this, Lillian Gish is no broken blossom. She has been painted for you as a rushed lily—a saccharine goddess.

Lillian Gish in Daphne and the Pirate

I found her strong fibre. No meek and unassertive yes-girl She has stamina and surprising vitality. Practicality is one of the keynotes of her character. She possesses entirely the faculty of calculation. Her decisions are instantaneous when necessary to enforce respect from those under her. Not one ounce of mawkish sentiment. While she was working with Director Jerome Storm. I heard her argue many a point. Always with brilliant logic, but with an almost stubborn determination. Upon one occasion when the director remained unconvinced, she said,

“Let me act it for you. It is always best to demonstrate what you mean if you can. Any good salesman can tell you that.”

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Lillian Gish’s genius is tributary to Griffith’s. She did—by way of demonstration for us— a bit of impromptu acting, in a cold rehearsal hall, that had the entire company in tears. When she had finished she turned to us in a matter of fact manner and said.

“Is that it?”

Lillian Gish - Sold For Marriage 1916
Lillian Gish – Sold For Marriage 1916

It is understanding rather than sweetness that looks from Lillian Gish’s eyes. I wondered how she, among the stars of the tinsel realm, had attained such detachment, such tolerance, such forgetfulness of self. I put the question bluntly.

“Perhaps—” she hesitated, “perhaps it is because I started on a career so young.

Yes, I think that is it.”

“I d rather work ten weeks in a sweat shop than one day in that closet of ‘Broken Blossoms!”

exclaims Lillian.

Lillian Gish - Broken Blossoms
Lillian Gish – Broken Blossoms

If Apollo goes to see “Orphans of the Storm” he’ll walk right out and have his face lifted so as to look like Joseph Schildkraut. So say the ladies. Joseph is a gay and gallant Viennese who acknowledges but one master,—his father, Rudolph Schildkraut. a fine old actor now appearing in a Yiddish theater in New York. Joseph invited papa out to the Griffith studio to watch the taking of the love scene in which the Chevalier Joseph creates an ecstatically purple moment with Lillian Gish. The elder Schildkraut watched his son and Miss Gish with rapt attention. When it was over Joseph asked, “Did you like me. papa?” The old gentleman, still spellbound, his eyes on Lillian, finally said: “Oh. you—I can’t see you when that girl is around.” This proves our contention that even a god couldn’t win laurels when Lillian Gish is around,—not even when she hides her face and turns her Grecian profile camera-ward.

Lillian Gish and Joseph Shildkraut - Orphans of the Storm - Promo V22
Lillian Gish and Joseph Shildkraut – Orphans of the Storm – Promo

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Photoplay (June 1922) Lillian Gish
Photoplay (June 1922) Lillian Gish

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