Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Lillian Diana Gish (October 14, 1893 – February 27, 1993), was an Oscar-nominated American actress. The American Film Institute named Gish 17th among the greatest female stars of all time.
Their first role was in Griffith's short film An Unseen Enemy. Lillian went on to star in many of Griffith's most acclaimed films, among these The Birth of a Nation (as Elsie), Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, and Orphans of the Storm.
Having appeared in over 25 short films and features in her first two years as a movie actress, Lillian became a major star, becoming known as "The First Lady of the Silent Screen" and appearing in lavish productions, frequently of literary works such as The Scarlet Letter (1926). MGM released her from her contract in 1928 after the failure of The Wind, now recognized by many as among her finest performances and one of the most distinguished works of the late silent period.
She directed one film, Remodeling Her Husband (1920), when D.W. Griffith took his unit on location -- he told Gish that he thought the crew would work harder for a girl. Gish apparently preferred to remain in front of the camera rather than behind it, since she never directed again. She told reporters at the time that directing was a man's job.
With her debut in talkies only moderately successful, she acted on the stage for the most part in the 1930s and early 1940s, appearing with distinction in roles as varied as Ophelia in Guthrie McClintic's landmark 1936 production of Hamlet (with John Gielgud and Judith Anderson) and Marguerite in a limited run of La Dame aux Camélias. Of the former, she said, with pride, "I played a lewd Ophelia!," contrasting the role with the virginal "ga-ga babies" she had tired of portraying on screen.
Returning to movies, Gish was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1946 for Duel in the Sun. She appeared in films from time to time for the rest of her life, notably in Night of the Hunter (1955) and A Wedding (1978). She was considered for various roles in Gone with the Wind ranging from Ellen O'Hara, Scarlett's mother to the red-headed prostitute Belle Watling.
Gish made numerous television appearances from the early 1950s into the late 1980s. Her most acclaimed television work was starring in the original production of The Trip to Bountiful in 1953. She appeared as Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in the short-lived 1965 Broadway musical Anya.
In addition to her latter-day acting appearances, Gish became one of the leading advocates on the lost art of the silent film, often giving speeches and touring to screenings of classic works. In 1975 she hosted The Silent Years, a PBS film program of silent films.
Gish received a special Academy Award in 1971 "for superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures." In 1984 she received an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, only the second female recipient (Bette Davis was first in 1977) and only recipient who was a major figure in the silent era. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1720 Vine Street.
Her last film role was in The Whales of August in 1987 at the age of 93, with Vincent Price, Bette Davis, who was dying of cancer, and Ann Sothern, who earned her only Academy Award nomination for her final film performance.
Her final professional appearance was a cameo on the 1988 studio recording of Jerome Kern's Show Boat starring Frederica von Stade and Jerry Hadley, in which she affectingly spoke the few lines of The Old Lady on the Levee in the final scene. The last words of her century-spanning career: "Good night, dear."
Some in the entertainment industry were angry that Gish had not received an Oscar nomination for her role in The Whales of August, despite the fact that it was obviously her swan song. Gish, herself, was more complacent, remarking that it saved her the trouble of "losing to Cher" (who did, in fact, win the Oscar for her performance in Moonstruck). Ironically enough, Cher's then-boyfriend, Rob Camiletti, confided to a friend before the nominations were announced that, while Cher deserved to win the Oscar, she didn't have a chance of winning because the Academy would inevitably give it to Lillian Gish.
The association between Gish and Griffith was so close that some suspected a romantic connection, an issue never acknowledged by Gish although several of their associates were certain they were at least briefly involved. For the remainder of her life she always referred to him as "Mr. Griffith".
She was involved with Charles Duell (a producer) and the drama critic and editor George Jean Nathan. Gish's association with Duell was something of a tabloid scandal in the 1920s after he sued her and made the details of their relationship public.
During the period of political turmoil in the United States that lasted from the outbreak of World War II in Europe until the attack on Pearl Harbor, she was unable to find work in Hollywood due to being blacklisted for her outspoken non-interventionist stance. She was an active member of the America First Committee, a controversial anti-intervention organization founded by retired General Robert E. Wood with aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh as its leading spokesman.
She maintained a very close relationship with her sister Dorothy, as well as with Mary Pickford for her entire life. One of her closest friends was actress Helen Hayes. Gish was the godmother of Hayes' son James MacArthur.
She was a Republican.
She died in her sleep on February 27, 1993 as a result of heart failure aged 99. Her estate, which she left to Helen Hayes, who died a month later, was valued at several million dollars, and went to provide prizes for artistic excellence.
The main street in Massillon, Ohio is named after Gish, who had lived there during an early period of her life and fondly referred to it as her hometown throughout her career. She was interred beside her sister Dorothy at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church Columbarium in the undercroft of the church in the heart of New York City.
Biographical & Other:
The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me (with Ann Pinchot) (Prentice-Hall, 1969)
Dorothy and Lillian Gish (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973)
An Actor's Life For Me (with Selma G. Lanes) (Viking Penguin, 1987)
Lillian Gish an Interpretation - Edward Wagenknecht (University of Washington, 1927)
Life and Lillian Gish - Albert Bigelow Paine (Macmillan, 1932)
Star Acting - Gish, Garbo, Davis - Charles Affron (E.P. Dutton, 1977)
A Moment with Miss Gish - Peter Bogdanovich (Santa Teresa Press, 1995)
Lillian Gish A Life on Stage and Screen - Stuart Oderman (McFarland & Company, 2000)
Lillian Gish Her Legend, Her Life - Charles Affron (Scribner, 2001) Books
Gish's life is documented in Terry Sanders' 1988 documentary Lillian Gish: An Actor's Life for Me.
Actress Jeanne Moreau produced a documentary on Lillian in the 1980s that has not been released. Documentaries about Lillian Gish
1893 Born in Springfield, Ohio on October 14
1912 Appeared in her first film, D.W. Griffith's An Unseen Enemy
1920 US Census in Mamaroneck, New York as "Lillian Gish"
1987 The Whales of August as final film
1993 Death in Manhattan on February 27 Trivia
Posted by so2374 at 9:25 AM