An Intimate Diary of America’s Affair with the Movies
1920: Filmed amid much wintry hardship at White River Junction, VT, Way Down East premieres on this day at New York’s 44th Street Theater—and the dark clouds that plagued the production have not lifted: Bobby Harron, 26, the Biograph office-boy who became D.W. Griffith’s top juvenile actor but somehow got left out of this film (supplanted, pointedly, by Richard Barthelmess)—shot himself to death the night before the big launch. Then, there was the mysterious location death of Clarine Seymour, 21, who was playing Barthelmess’ intended and had to be replaced by Mary Hay. Death was, however, breathlessly averted once—and the cameras caught it, the genuine heroics of Barthelmess, snatching Lillian Gish to safety just as the ice floe they were riding on went over a waterfall. Gish did not escape entirely unharmed, though. The hand she dangled so long in the icy river suffered permanent damage.
1925: At MGM’s “Circus Maximus” in Culver City, 48 horses and a dozen chariots driven by Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman and 10 stuntmen begin the chariot race in Ben-Hur. Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Harold Lloyd, Lillian Gish and the Barrymore brothers bopped by for the long-delayed event, lorded over by Fred Niblo and his 60 assistant directors. One toga-clad A.D. would command Ben-Hur’s next day at the races 33 years later: William Wyler. On his first day in the stadium built at Rome’s Cinecitta, Wyler addressed the 6,000 extras in the stands and, indicating the dozens of A.D.s on the track, “Which one of these guys is going to direct the next Ben-Hur?” Of course, the crowd roared.
1986: The Wails of August (as Vincent Price tagged it] starts subsiding on this day as The Whales of August finishes filming. Not a happy shoot, this—due to Bette Davis’ chronic crankiness over the TLC accorded co-star Lillian Gish. When director Lindsay Anderson complimented Gish on “a lovely closeup,” Davis was heard crabbing, “She ought to know about closeups. Jesus, she was around when they invented them!” Indeed, Gish was. For this swan song performance, The Guinness Book of Movie Facts & Feats calls Gish “the oldest actress to have played a major role in a movie.” The movie bowed in New York on Gish’s 93rd birthday, which could explain Davis’ absence. Davis skipped the L.A. launch because she learned the gala sponsors, Women in Film, were giving her its newly established Lillian Gish award.
1993: Lillian Gish dies at 99—”the same age as film,” her manager, James E. Frasher, noted: “They both came into the world in 1893.” Gish began acting on stage, at 5, as “Baby Lillian” with her sister, Dorothy; they film-debuted together as extras in D.W. Griffith’s 1912 An Unseen Enemy and eventually became his Orphans of the Storm—but Lillian toiled too for modern directors like Robert Altman (1978’s A Wedding) and Lindsay Anderson (1987’s The Whales of August). When a reporter reminded her in her dotage that her 75-year career got her Guinness’ title as “most enduring actress of the large screen,” she paused a thoughtful beat, then said, “I made a movie with him once”—and the interview careened to West Africa, Sir Alec and The Comedians.
Gish and Davis: Could the Two Work Together? – By Mike Kaplan (The New York Times – 1993) FILM; Gish and Davis: Could the Two Work Together? By Mike Kaplan The New York Times – April 18, 1993 When “The Whales of August” was filmed in 1986, the story of the relationship between two elderly sisters brought together two of the screen’s most enduring stars, Lillian Gish and Bette Davis. Miss Gish, who died Feb. 27 at the age of 99, will be remembered on Thursday at the Museum of Modern Art with a program called “In Memoriam.” It will include “The Whales of August,” her final film, directed by Lindsay Anderson, as well as her first, D. W. Griffith’s “Unseen Enemy” (1912). Here, Mike Kaplan, who co-produced “The Whales of August,” reflects on the interaction of its two stars. Bette Davis and Lillian Gish – The Whales of August, 1987 In the tributes to Lillian Gish that followed her death, references to her final starring role in “The Whales of August” were always glowing. B
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
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