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Lillian Gish

Lillian Gish

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Way Down East DVD The great director D.W. Griffith flexes his creative muscles and shows off his... more info $6.98was $6.98 Buy Now

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Also Known As: Dorothy Elizabeth Carter, Lillian Niles, Lillian Diana Gish Died: February 27, 1993
Born: October 14, 1893 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Springfield, Ohio, USA Profession: actor, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Having pioneered screen acting from vaudeville entertainment into a form of artistic expression, actress Lillian Gish forged a new creative path at a time when more serious thespians regarded motion pictures as a rather base form of employment. Gish brought to her roles a sense of craft substantially different from that practiced by her theatrical colleagues. In time, her sensitive performances elevated not only her stature as an actress, but also the reputation of movies themselves. Her finest work came in the silent era, when she was dubbed The First Lady of the Silent Screen, thanks in large part to her many collaborations with director D.W. Griffith, which included "The Birth of a Nation" (1915), "Intolerance" (1916), "Broken Blossoms" (1919) and "Way Down East" (1920). In the 1920s, Gish was one of the most powerful performers in early Hollywood and signed a lucrative contract with MGM to star in more serious fare like "La Boheme" (1926), "The Scarlet Letter" (1926) and "The Wind" (1928); the latter of which marked what many considered to be her finest performance. With the advent of sound, Gish stepped away from the screen in favor of the Broadway stage, only to make intermittent supporting...

Having pioneered screen acting from vaudeville entertainment into a form of artistic expression, actress Lillian Gish forged a new creative path at a time when more serious thespians regarded motion pictures as a rather base form of employment. Gish brought to her roles a sense of craft substantially different from that practiced by her theatrical colleagues. In time, her sensitive performances elevated not only her stature as an actress, but also the reputation of movies themselves. Her finest work came in the silent era, when she was dubbed The First Lady of the Silent Screen, thanks in large part to her many collaborations with director D.W. Griffith, which included "The Birth of a Nation" (1915), "Intolerance" (1916), "Broken Blossoms" (1919) and "Way Down East" (1920). In the 1920s, Gish was one of the most powerful performers in early Hollywood and signed a lucrative contract with MGM to star in more serious fare like "La Boheme" (1926), "The Scarlet Letter" (1926) and "The Wind" (1928); the latter of which marked what many considered to be her finest performance. With the advent of sound, Gish stepped away from the screen in favor of the Broadway stage, only to make intermittent supporting appearances in films like "Duel in the Sun" (1947), which earned the actress her only Oscar nomination. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, she appeared on stage and television, as well as in film, suiting herself with a wide range of supporting roles. As her career wound down in the 1970s and 1980s, Gish pulled off one last great performance opposite an equally elderly Bette Davis in "The Whales of August" (1987), which helped stake her claim as being one of the greatest actresses of any era.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Remodelling Her Husband (1920) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 TBD (2005)
4.
 MGM: When the Lion Roars (1992) (Archival Footage)
5.
 Whales of August, The (1987) Sarah Webber
6.
 Sweet Liberty (1986) Cecelia Burgess
7.
 Hambone and Hillie (1984) Hillie Radcliffe
8.
 Hobson's Choice (1983) Miss Molly Winkle
9.
 Lillian Gish (1983) Herself
10.
 Thin Ice (1981) Grandmother
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1902:
Stage acting debut in tour of the play "In Convict Stripes"; billed as Lillian Niles; subsequently replaced in role by Gladys Smith (later known as Mary Pickford)
1903:
NYC stage acting debut in "At Duty's Call"
1912:
With mother and sister, moved to NYC
1912:
Film acting debut, "An Unseen Enemy"; first film with D.W. Griffith; sister Dorothy was also in the cast
1912:
Had featured role in "The Musketeers fo Pig Alley"
1913:
Returned to the NYC stage in "A Good Little Devil", supporting Mary Pickford; directed by David Belasco
1914:
Appeared in Griffith's "Judith of Bethulia"
1915:
Was featured in "The Birth of a Nation"
1915:
Starred in "The Lily and the Rose"
1916:
Reunited with Griffith for small role in "Intolerance"
1916:
Had rare role as a saucy vixen in "Diane of the Follies"
1919:
Headlined "Broken Blossoms", directed by Griffith
1920:
Starred in "Way Down East" under Griffith's direction
1920:
Feature directorial debut, "Remodeling Her Husband"; co-wrote script with sister Dorothy (billed under the pseudonymous Dorothy Elizabeth Carter); Dorothy Gish had lead role
1921:
With sister Dorothy, starred in "Orphans of the Storm"; final film with Griffith
1922:
Had lead role in the melodramatic "The White Sister"
1924:
Signed to contract with MGM; first film with the studio "Romola"
1926:
Played Mimi in the silent screen version of "La Boheme"
1928:
Had one of her most remembered roles as the plucky heroine of "The Wind", directed by Victor Sjostrom
1930:
Returned to Broadway to appear in "Uncle Vanya" alonside Osgood Perkins
1932:
Enjoyed stage triumph as "Camille"
1933:
Last film for nearly a decade, "His Double Life"
1934:
Acted in the Broadway production "Within the Gates", staged by Melvyn Douglas
1936:
Starred in Zoe Akins' adaptation of "The Old Maid"
1936:
Played Ophelia to John Geilgud's "Hamlet" on Broadway
1940:
Agreed to star in a tour of "Life with Father"; performed in Baltimore and Chicago
1942:
Returned to features in "Commandos Strike at Dawn"
1946:
Received only Academy Award nomination for supporting work in "Duel in the Sun", starring Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones
1947:
Starred opposite Sanford Meisner in the stage play "Crime and Punishment"
1948:
Second film with Jennifer Jones, "Portrait of Jennie"
1949:
TV acting debut in the "Philco Television Playhouse" presentation of "The Late Christopher Bean" (NBC)
1952:
Starred in the CBS presentation "The Autobiography of Grandma Moses"
1953:
Originated role of Carrie Watts in Horton Foote's teleplay "The Trip to Bountiful", aired as a presentation of NBC's "Goodyear Television Playhouse"; directed by Vincent J. Donahue; in November, recreated role in Broadway version, also directed by Donahue
1955:
Played the godfearing, maternal Rachel Cooper in "The Night of the Hunter", directed by Charles Laughton
1956:
Toured with sister Dorothy in "The Chalk Garden"
1957:
Appeared in Berlin in the double bill, "Portrait of a Madonna", a one-act which Tennessee Williams wrote for her and which served as the prototype for Blanche DuBois, and "The Wreck on the 5:25" by Thornton Wilder, co-starring Burgess Meredith
1958:
Directed a stage production of "The Beggar's Opera" in New Orleans
1958:
Had one scene role in "Orders to Kill", directed by Anthony Asquith
1959:
Starred in the John Huston-directed "The Unforgiven"
1959:
Co-starred in the award-winning Broadway production of "All the Way Home"
1961:
Acted in a TV version of "The Spiral Staircase" (NBC)
1963:
Starred as Mrs. Moore in a Chicago stage production of E.M. Forster's novel "A Passage to India"
1965:
Broadway musical debut as the Russian Dowager Empress in "Anya", based on "Anastasia"
1966:
Had featured role in the Disney movie "Follow Me Boys!"
1967:
Acted in "The Comedians" alongside Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
1968:
Returned to Broadway to co-star in "I Never Sang for My Father"
1970:
Was featured in a Mike Nichols-directed version of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya", starring George C. Scott and Julie Christie
1975:
Final Broadway performance, "A Musical Jubilee"
1978:
Appeared in Robert Altman's "A Wedding" as the family matriarch who passes away
1984:
Starred in the ill-advised "Hambone and Hillie"
1985:
Last TV role, as Mrs. Loftus in the PBS miniseries "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
1986:
Cast as the aged mother of a history professor in "Sweet Liberty"
1987:
Final film appearance as one of a pair of aged sisters in "The Whales of August"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Ursuline Academy: East St Louis , Missouri - 1909 - 1910

Notes

Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse had asked Lillian and her sister Dorothy not to sign run-of-the-play contracts when each agreed to head a tour of "Life with Father". The playwrights had hoped the sisters would star in "Arsenic and Old Lace", but neither Gish sister listened and were thus unavailble to originate the roles of the Brewster sisters. Lillian did get to star with Helen Hayes in a 1969 ABC television adaptation of the play.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Virginia Nell Becker. Born in 1895; met when Gish lived in Massillon, Ohio; were lifelong friends; in a 1932 biography of Gish, writer Albert Bigelow Paine referred to an "instant attraction" and noted that "whatever romantic love she [Lillian Gish] had, she gave to Nell".
companion:
Charles Duell. Producer. Began relationship in 1923 while he was still married; reportedly became engaged; went into business together briefly; relationship unraveled in 1924; in 1925, he sued her for breach of contract, but she won; Duell's wife sued Gish for alienation of affections but suit seems to have been dropped; in 1927, Duell once again sued Gish and MGM; he again sued her in 1930 and 1932.
companion:
George Jean Nathan. Critic. Born in 1882; was having simultaneous relationships with Gish and singer-dancer-actress Adele Astaire in 1924; separated c. 1936.

Family close complete family listing

father:
James Leigh Gish. Traveling salesman. Born c. 1875; alcoholic; separated from family; died in 1912.
mother:
Mary Robinson McConnell. Actor, department store worker. Born in September 1876; died in 1948.
sister:
Dorothy Gish. Actor. Born on March 11, 1898; acted together in many films including their first, "An Unseen Enemy" (1912), and "Orphans of the Storm" (1921).

Bibliography close complete biography

"Life and Lillian Gish" Macmillan
"Lillian Gish: The Movies, Mr. Griffith & Me" Prentice-Hall
"Dorothy and Lillian Gish" Charles Scribner's Sons
"The Films of D.W. Griffith" Crown
"Vanessa"
"Lillian Gish: An Actor's Life for Me!" Viking Kestrel
"A Moment with Miss Gish" Saint Teresa Press
"Lillian Gish: A Life on Stage and Screen" McFarland
"Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life" Scribner
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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