Alternate Oscars – By Danny Peary – 1993 (Why not Gish?)
Alternate Oscars – By Danny Peary – 1993 (Why not Gish?)
One Critic’s Defiant Choices for Best Picture, Actor, and Actress—From 1927 to the Present
A Delta Book Published by Dell Publishing a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1540 Broadway New York, New York 10036
THE BEST CHOICE: Lillian Gish (The Wind)
Award-Worthy Runners-Up: Betty Compson (The Docks of New York), Marion Davies (Show People), Bessie Love (Broadway Melody)
Mary Pickford was happy to vote for Janet Gaynor as Best Actress for 1927-28, and didn’t even mind that her own terrific performance in My Best Girl went unnominated. But, as the story goes, she began to feel jealous that she didn’t have a statue herself. So when she was nominated in the second year of the Academy Awards for her performance in Coquette, her first talkie and first film without her famous curls, she got serious. No longer on the voting committee, she invited the current judges to Pickfair for tea, thereby qualifying as the first star to campaign for an Academy Award. And she defeated several respected, veteran actresses, including the late Jeanne Eagels, who had died of a drug overdose after making The Letter. It was hard for the Academy to justify her victory because the film was one of the worst received of her career; it was generally recognized that she had been miscast as the Southern flirt who ruins men’s lives, a part played by Helen Hayes on Broadway.
Surely, Lillian Gish was more deserving for her riveting performance in The Wind. And even if, as many contended, the award was given to Pickford as a tribute to a great career, Gish was still the better choice. Pickford may have been the most popular actress of the silent era, but Gish was the most talented. If Academy Awards had been given out in the silent era, Lillian Gish would have won a few, having given beautifully conceived performances in such features as The Birth of a Nation, Broken Blossoms, True Heart Susie, Way Down East, and Orphans of the Storm for D. W. Griffith, and The White Sister, La Boheme, and The Scarlet Letter (MGM).
Gish made her reputation as an innocent, passive heroine who undergoes much suffering. As critic Arthur Lenning wrote of Broken Blossoms’ Lucy Burrows, Lillian represented “the innocent waif sacrificed in the moral and emotional slaughterhouse of the world.” Her parts were more adult after she left Griffith, but she still sought roles that were consistent with those she played for him.
Having played Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Gish again played a heroine who is an outcast in her community’ in The Wind. As in her other films Gish is initially virtuous, but learns the ways of the hard, cruel world. She endures much pain, suffering, and humiliation. Unlike her roles in the Griffith films, however, her character does waver from the path of righteousness; she does not survive with honor intact. But when, in The Wind, she is attacked by a scoundrel and ravaged by nature, her part recalls the Griffith films. The scene in which she feels trapped in the small cabin while a storm rages outside reminds one of the harrowing scene in Broken Blossoms when the terrified Lucy Burrows is locked in a closet while her brutal father stalks outside. Her hysteria in the Griffith scene was so convincing that during the filming, several people on the set became ill watching her; she is just as believable in The Wind.
Gish is dynamic in a role that lets her run the gamut of emotions. At first she is carefree, later apprehensive, finally tormented; she tries to suppress her paranoia, but ultimately allows madness to replace her terrible fears. As Gish was well aware, it is through her incredible eyes that we perceive the changes her character goes through.
We sense her paranoia the first time she watches the sand swirling toward the train windows (she realizes she isn’t strong); later we see absolute fear in those eyes; finally they are blurred and unfocused and we realize she has lost her senses. As it is with her hands and her body, Gish moves her eyes (usually preceding the movement of her head) only at those moments when she wants to convey a thought. No one was more aware of the camera than this shrewd actress.
Gish said working on The Wind was the most difficult experience of her career because of the blowing sand, which cut into her skin and shredded her garments, and the intense heat. It was even harder than doing twenty-two takes on an ice floe with her hand in the freezing water in Griffith’s Way Down East. So the lack of studio support for the film was a great disappointment. Because it failed at the box office, Louis B. Mayer told Gish that her career needed a boost. He said he was going to invent a scandal to soil her pristine image. When she refused to go along with his scheme, he suspended her. Undaunted, she went to New York to do theater. The Wind was Lillian Gish’s last silent picture.***
No one has ever been better at playing traumatic scenes than Lillian Gish, but she outdid herself as the lonely bride driven crazy by The Wind.
*** The Wind was MGM’s last silent production as well.
When Mamaroneck Upstaged Hollywood – By Bruce Berman (The New York Times – June 19, 1977) When Mamaroneck Upstaged Hollywood By Bruce Berman The New York Times – June 19, 1977 BACK in the early 1920’s when Mamaroneck was a center of movie‐making, Joseph Rigano was an employee of D.W. Grif fith’s studio at Orienta. “I was atone mason and mechanic,” the energetic 80year‐old said as we toured on foot Edgewater Point, at the top of the Orienta Peninsula. Griffith Studios, Orienta Point, Mamaroneck NY 1921 “After the studio was finally built, Mr. Griffith asked me to stay on as a set builder. Stone fireplaces were my specialty, but I worked on everything from Gothic walls to painted desert backdrops. The actors were almost always friendly, and I was getting $55 a week and drove a $1,200 Buick. What more could a young man desire?” DW Griffith filming team – Mamaroneck NY – Way Down East In those days the area was less the “East Coast Hollywood” than Hollywood was “the West Co
The Movie Magazines and Lillian Gish … The moving Picture World 1914 detail The moving Picture World 1914 The moving Picture World 1914 detail Moving Picture World, November 21, 1914 Her Awakening – Lillian Gish The Angel of Contention Poster The moving Picture World – Mutual Program – A Question of Courage names wrong Lillian Gish And Dorothy The moving Picture World – Mutual Program – The Sisters The Birth of a Nation (David W. Griffith Corp., 1915). Herald2 Sold for Marriage Triangle Plays Program 1916 lillian_gish_photoplay_1917 08 ID Photo Back to Lillian Gish Home page Photoplay, August, 1918 – Dorothy and Lillian Gish in their dressing room Lillian Gish Photoplay August 1918 Lillian Gish Photoplay February 1919 Lillian Gish Photoplay, July, 1919 Back to Lillian Gish Home page Lillian Gish Photoplay October 1920 Orphans of The Storm Prog Herald 1921 Lillian Gish 1921 – The Girl Back Home Motion Picture Classic Magazine (Brewster, 1921) The Lily Maid from Ohio Ph
Lillian Gish Still Favors Long Tresses – By Antoinette Donnelly (Chicago Tribune – 1938) Chicago Tribune – Saturday, April 9, 1938 Page 9 Lillian Gish Still Favors Long Tresses By Antoinette Donnelly We talked backstage recently with Lillian Gish, player of the leading role in one of Broadway’s hits of the season, “Star Wagon”. We found her with her waist-length hair hanging, a sight that gladdens the eye unaccustomed to hair rarely even more than shoulder length. Miss Gish’s hair is a beautiful color, too. A silvery ash blonde that she claims has darkened as this type of hair usually does, but it still is, to us, a beautiful silvery ash tone. We asked Miss Gish how she managed to survive the temptation to cut the long locks, after she admitted never having succumbed once to the urge for short hair. She explained that her hair had been earning her living for her since she was a youngster and that now she has a superstition about cutting it. Incidentally, we had been at a smart hair sho