La Boheme (1926)
Director: King Vidor Writers: Fred De Gresac (screen play) Henri Murger (suggested by "Life in the Latin Quarter") 13 March 1926 (USA) In 1925 Lillian Gish signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: six pictures in two years for which she would be paid one million dollars. She was given complete control over director, story and cast. Miss Gish was the first established movie star to be signed by the studio. As she walked on the studio lot for the first time, banners festooned the place proclaiming that Lillian Gish was now an MGM star! Unfortunately though, no one seemed prepared for her arrival. There were no scripts for her to look at, no story outlines, not even any ideas about what her first project for the studio might be. Miss Gish relates, “So I brought out my little chest of stories, among which was La Bohčme.” The studio approved. Irving Thalberg then asked Miss Gish whom she would like as her director. As she had been in Italy for two years, she had seen few recent films. Thalberg screened several for her including two reels of the yet uncompleted The Big Parade. She was so smitten with what she saw she requested the services of that film’s director, King Vidor, as well as star John Gilbert, leading lady Renée Adorée, and comic sidekick Karl Dane. She also asked for and got Hendrik Sartov as her cinematographer. Sartov had shot some of Gish’s later films for director D.W. Griffith including Orphans of the Storm (1921) and parts of Way Down East (1920). After a rehearsal period (something unheard of in studio film making of the day but part of Miss Gish’s contract) production began Artists struggle to survive in Paris, and a poor woman sacrifices herself to help a young playwright. This romantic drama reflects the sacrifice a woman often makes to help the career of a young man she loves. In modern civilization the quest to achieve success in the arts often requires years of personal sacrifices. John Gilbert was infatuated with Lillian Gish, and would mess up his "love scenes" with her on purpose, so he could keep kissing her.