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The First lady of the silent screen

miss lillian gish

A Century of Dreams...

The sad story of “The Gish”, victim of ignorance, politics and hatred

If the present period is one of heightened concerns about race, it is also one with a reawakened feminism, a fresh emphasis on the need to recover and remember a long-suppressed history of women including their pioneering contributions to cinema. One sure way to rebuild support for the Gish Film Theater is to remind people of the roles of Lillian and Dorothy as strong, emancipated women at a time when females were struggling to obtain the vote and define themselves as something other than the property of their husbands.

Trying to talk to BSU protesters, to reason with them, seemed almost as futile as saying to the flames at Notre Dame, “Please stop burning up everything in this wondrous artistic monument.”

Lillian Diana Gish - Oct. 14, 1893

Lillian Diana Gish (October 14, 1893 – February 27, 1993) was an American actress of the screen and stage, as well as a director and writer whose film acting career spanned 75 years, from 1912 in silent film shorts to 1987. Gish was called the First Lady of American Cinema, and she is credited with pioneering fundamental film performing techniques.Gish was a prominent film star of the 1910s and 1920s, including her leading role in the highest-grossing film of the silent era, Griffith's seminal The Birth of a Nation (1915). At the dawn of the sound era, she returned to the stage and appeared in film infrequently, including well-known roles in the controversial western Duel in the Sun (1946) and the offbeat thriller The Night of the Hunter (1955). She also did considerable television work from the early 1950s into the 1980s and closed her career playing, for the first time, opposite Bette Davis in the 1987 film The Whales of August. In her later years Gish became a dedicated advocate for the appreciation and preservation of silent film. Gish is widely considered to be the greatest actress of the silent era, and one of the greatest actresses in cinema history. Despite being better known for her film work, Gish was also an accomplished stage actress, and she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1972.

An American actress of the screen and stage,as well as a director and writer whose film acting career spanned 75 years, from 1912 in silent film shorts to 1987.

Gish was called the First Lady of American Cinema

Miss Lillian Gish's films

I never approved of talkies. Silent movies were well on their way to developing an entirely new art form. It was not just pantomine, but something wonderfully expressive.

Theatrical Career

[1939] I believe that marriage is a career in itself. I have preferred a stage career to a marriage career.

Camille 1932

Camille 1932

Miss Lillian Gish, as Marguerite Gautier, takes the leading role, with Raymond Hackett playing opposite her as Armand. It was the first time "Camille" has played in the old opera house in fifty years."

Hamlet 1936

Hamlet 1936

Producer /Director: Guthrie McClintic Starring: Sir John Gielgud - Hamlet Miss Lillian Gish as Ophelia Dame Judith Anderson as Queen Gertrude John Emery Malcolm Kean Mary Lee Logan Evelyn Abbott "The first time I stepped on a Shakespearean stage was to play Ophelia with the world's finest Hamlet.

Life With Father (1939 - 1941)

Life With Father (1939 - 1941)

The Blackstone Theatre, a mile away from Rialto in Chicago, had been closed for seven years when this play opened there. It was such an instant success that it revived business in the hotels and shops of the entire district.

Philco Television Playhouse

Philco Television Playhouse

Broadcast initially from New York City and later from Los Angeles as well, anthology dramas presented a new "play," with a new cast, each week. When the major American radio networks—CBS, NBC, and ABC—expanded into television, they carried over many popular formats of radio programming, including the anthology drama

The Chalk Garden - 1956

The Chalk Garden - 1956

"We will always be grateful to Charles Bowden and Richard Barr for our tour of "The Chalk Garden". Later Richard went on to produce the Edward Albee plays and Charles produced several Tennessee Williams plays as well as "The Changing Room" by David Storey." "Posing for publicity stills by Bert and Richard Morgan in Palm Beach, Florida."

The Grass Harp - 1960

The Grass Harp - 1960

The Grass Harp - 1960

"We missed doing "The Grass Harp" and "Arsenic and Old Lace" which were written for two Gishes. I also missed "A Streetcar Named Desire" which was written for one. Later I did do "The Grass Harp" on television for Word Baker and cherish a charming letter Truman Capote wrote me after seeing it. With Georgia Burke and Carmen Mathews."

Jersey Standard, WNTA-TV, March 28, 1960 Photograph - Wagner International Photos Inc.

(Dorothy and Lillian Gish - By Lillian Gish)

Anya - 1965

Anya - 1965

"My first Broadway musical and I loved "Anya". It is the story of a great legend of our century, the czar and his family and what happened to them. We had Rachmaninoff's music and it was so beautiful. We also had voices from Metropolitan Opera singing the music and we had Constance Towers who was a lovely "Anya". We played "Anya" previews in New York for three weeks (the production was too expensive to tour) and did sell-out business until we opened and the critics turned thumbs down on us. I don't know why."

(Dorothy and Lillian Gish - By Lillian Gish)

Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" 1930

Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" 1930

"Uncle Vanya was a result of a bottle of Clos Vouget wine. While lunching with Ruth Gordon and George Jean Nathan I said it was my favorite of red French wines. She replied that her friend, Jed Harris, had the same opinion. We agreed to a foursome with the first one to find a bottle. It was a thrilling evening for me to listen to Jed's inspired talk about the theatre. When I said goodnight, I whispered to Ruth that I would work for him for nothing. By the end of our first week on the road I had not changed my mind and was surprised to be handed an envelope with, I felt, too much money. To be able to play "Helena" convincingly in a distiguished classic with the best actors in New York was worth more than any salary.

Within The Gates 1934

Within The Gates 1934

Sean O'Casey came to New York for our rehearsals and stayed on for weeks, spending all his time in the audience of the (now) Billy Rose Theatre and in my dressing room between acts. He said "I can't stay out there. They ask me what my play is about and I don't know what to tell them." When he went home he wrote that he was sorry not to be with us in Philadelphia and when he heard that we were banned in Boston he said he "would have enjoyed hitting out in the center of the fight." I kept his letter, forgive me for quoting "Let me thank you Lillian, for a grand and great performance, for your gentle patience throughout rehearsals and for the grand way you dive into the long and strenuous part of the 'Young Whore.'" (Miss Lillian Gish - Dorothy and Lillian Gish) Photo: Edward Steichen (Vanity Fair 1934)

The Star Wagon (1937)

The Star Wagon (1937)

"After you leave the stage in the first scene as a sixty-five-year-old woman, you enter five minutes later as a eighteen-year-old girl" Changing the entire costume, removing the white wig and dressing my hair was easy. For the lightning change of the make-up I called on a Russian actress who told me how it had been done in "Chauve Souris". (Miss Lillian Gish) Starring: Miss Lillian Gish Burgess Meredith Photographed by Vandammm (production)

I'm a believing person. I believe in God even though I can't see him. You can't see the air in this room, right? But take it away and you're dead. And I believe there's something for us after we die. The world isn't wasteful.

I've never been in style, so I can't go out of style.

Miss lillian diana gish

[Receiving an honorary Academy Award in 1971] - Oh, all the charming ghosts I feel around me who should share this! It was our privilege for a little while to serve that beautiful thing, the film, and we never doubted for a moment that it was the most powerful thing, the mind and heartbeat of our technical century.

An Unseen Enemy (1912)

Two Daughters of Eve (1912)

In the Aisles of the Wild (1912)

The One She Loved (1912)

The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)

My Baby (1912)

Gold and Glitter (1912)

The New York Hat (1912)

The Burglar's Dilemma (1912)

A Cry for Help (1912)

Oil and Water (1913)

The Unwelcome Guest (1913)

The Stolen Bride (1913)

A Misunderstood Boy (1913)

The Left-Handed Man (1913)

The Lady and the Mouse (1913)

The House of Darkness (1913)

Just Gold (1913)

A Timely Interception (1913)

Just Kids (1913)

The Mothering Heart (1913)

During the Round Up (1913)

An Indian's Loyalty (1913)

A Woman in the Ultimate (1913)

A Modest Hero (1913)

So Runs the Way (1913)

The Madonna of the Storm (1913)

The Blue or the Gray (1913)

The Conscience of Hassan Bey (1913)

The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1913)

The Green-Eyed Devil (1914)

The Battle of the Sexes (1914)

The Hunchback (1914)

The Quicksands (1914)

Home, Sweet Home (1914)

Judith of Bethulia (1914)

Silent Sandy (1914)

The Escape (1914)

The Rebellion of Kitty Belle (1914)

Lord Chumley (1914)

Man's Enemy (1914)

The Angel of Contention (1914)

The Wife (1914)

The Tear that Burned (1914)

The Folly of Anne (1914)

The Sisters (1914)

His Lesson (1914)

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

The Lost House (1915)

Enoch Arden (1915)

Captain Macklin (1915)

Souls Triumphant (1915)

The Lily and the Rose (1915)

Daphne and the Pirate (1916)

Sold for Marriage (1916)

An Innocent Magdalene (1916)

Intolerance (1916)

Diane of the Follies (1916)

Pathways of Life (1916)

Flirting with Fate (1916)

The Children Pay (1916)

The House Built Upon Sand (1917)

Hearts of the World (1918)

The Great Love (1918)

Liberty Bond Short (1918)

The Greatest Thing in Life (1918)

The Romance of Happy Valley (1918)

Broken Blossoms (1919)

True Heart Susie (1919)

The Greatest Question (1919)

Way Down East (1920)

Remodeling Her Husband (1920) - Director

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

The White Sister (1923)

Romola (1924)

La Boheme (1926)

The Scarlet Letter (1926)

Annie Laurie (1927)

The Enemy (1927)

The Wind (1928)

One Romantic Night (1930)

His Double Life (1933)

Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942)

Tap Man (1943)

Miss Susie Slagle's (1946)

Duel in the Sun (1946) - Academy Award Nomination

Portrait of Jennie (1948)

The Cobweb (1955)

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Salute to Theaters (1955)

Orders to Kill (1958)

The Unforgiven (1960)

Follow Me, Boys! (1966)

Warning Shot (1966)

The Comedians (1967)

The Comedians in Africa (1967)

Arsenic and Old Lace (1969)

Henri Langlois (1970)

Twin Detectives (1976)

A Wedding (1978)

Thin Ice (1981)

Hobson's Choice (1983)

Hambone and Hillie (1984)

Sweet Liberty (1985)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1986)

The Whales of August (1987)

Miss Lillian Gish
I think the things that are necessary in my profession are these: Taste, Talent and Tenacity. I think I have had a little of all three.
Miss Lillian Gish

Receiving an honorary Academy Award in 1971
I think the things that are necessary in my profession are these: Taste, Talent and Tenacity. I think I have had a little of all three.
Miss Lillian Gish

Receiving an honorary Academy Award in 1971
I think the things that are necessary in my profession are these: Taste, Talent and Tenacity. I think I have had a little of all three.
Miss Lillian Gish

Receiving an honorary Academy Award in 1971

Downloadable items

Miss Lillian Gish publications, photographs, books

Lillian Gish Publications

Various publications where Miss Lillian Gish was mentioned

  • I can't remember a time when I wasn't acting, so I can't imagine what I would do if I stopped now.

Life and Lillian Gish

Life and Lillian Gish by Albert Bigelow Paine 1932

PDF free download
    I'm a believing person. I believe in God even though I can't see him. You can't see the air in this room, right? But take it away and you're dead. And I believe there's something for us after we die. The world isn't wasteful.

Photo Archive

Archived (Zip) Photographs

Miss Lillian Gish
    Fans always write asking why I didn't smile more in films. I smiled in Annie Laurie (1927), but I can't recall that it helped much.