The War, the West, and the Wilderness – By Kevin Brownlow – 1979 (The Wind)
The War, the West, and the Wilderness – By Kevin Brownlow – 1979 (The Wind)
The War, The West and the Wilderness
By Kevin Brownlow – 1979
Alfred A. Knopf – New York
Manufactured in the United States of America – First Edition
The wretched conditions of sand, wind, and drought that characterized the Sundown location were brilliantly evoked in bleak, Scandinavian style by Victor Seastrom in MGM’s The Wind (1927, released 1928). Although more of a psychological than a realistic study, and more impressionistic than documentary in its treatment, The Wind is filled with remarkably expressive detail. For an utterly unromantic view of life on the desert, this film is unequaled.
Lillian Gish plays a delicate Virginia girl who comes to live with her cousin and finds the life intolerable. The wind howls symbolically around the tiny shack, until nerve ends are stretched to the breaking point. Even the children, usually a sentimental high point of a silent film, are treated abrasively; Lillian Gish makes a friendly, playful gesture to her cousin s small child, and receives a slap across the face. The cowboys are equally unromantic, and expectorate on the floor Lillian struggles to keep clean. She braces herself to finding sand in the bread, sand in the water, sand in her bed. She eventually has to wash the dishes with sand. The carcass of a steer hangs in the center of the room, and her cousin’s wife, already jealous of Lillian’s presence, slices unmentionable sections of its interior while Lillian holds back her repulsion.
Her affection for her cousin causes an outburst from the wife, and Lillian is faced with an ultimatum. Two men have asked her hand in marriage: choose one. With breathtaking economy, Seastrom bridges the next shattering events in her life with a series of dissolves: close-up of the ring being placed on her finger … a bowl piled with unwashed crockery … a heap of food waiting to be prepared . and a stunned Lillian, in her wedding outfit. The performance of Lillian Gish is beyond praise, and only the ending prevents The Wind from being a totally satisfying masterpiece. The picture originally ended with Lillian Gish wandering into the desert, insane, after killing a rancher. Eight exhibitors, reported Irving Thalberg, refused to run the picture with that ending, and a new sequence had to be shot showing her acceptance of her life. “It broke our hearts,” said Lillian Gish.
Though the interiors were shot at the MGM studios, Seastrom took the company to the Mojave Desert for exteriors. Katherine Albert, reporting for Motion Picture Magazine, followed them out there, and quickly regretted it. She had to drive one hundred fifteen miles to the town of Mojave, where the company made their headquarters at the country hotel. “To reach the location, one had to drive over awful dirt roads into the sweltering heat-the thermometer was never lower than one hundred and fifteen degrees all the time the company was on location-into the blinding sun, the bleak, barren waste that is the Mojave Desert. That anyone could be active in that scorching heat is almost inconceivable. Yet there were cameras, generators and other studio equipment planted in the broad expanse of wasteland. . . . There were the usual number of workers, all wearing high boots in case they encountered rattlesnakes, and most of them had whitish looking stuff smeared over their faces to keep off sunburn. Goggles, making them look like men from Mars, were worn to protect their eyes from sand.
But there was Lillian Gish in little, low-heeled slippers, hatless and without any protection for her eyes. As I drove up, I heard a frightful noise and in a second the scene was clouded by enormous drifts of sand. The noise came from the giant machines used to create wind. The nine propellers seemed to lift the desert and blow it before the cameras.
It is, without doubt, the most unpleasant picture I have ever made,’ said Lillian Gish. I mean by that, the most uncomfortable to do. I don’t mind the heat so much, but working before the wind machines all the time is nerve-wracking. You see, it blows the sand, and we’ve put sawdust down too, because that is light and sails along in the air, and then there are smoke-pots to make it all look even more dusty. I ve been fortunate. The flying cinders haven’t gotten into my eyes, although a few have burned my hands.’
“I Ieft Miss Gish burying the man she had murdered’ in the sand. I have never been happier to leave anywhere.”***
*** I left Miss Gish burying the man she had “murdered” in the sand. The wind kept blowing the sand away. She covered him over again and again. I have never been happier to leave anywhere. (A Picture That Was No Picnic – Motion Picture Magazine, 1927 – Lillian Gish has something to say about the location tortures accompanying the filming of “The Wind” by Katherine Albert from Motion Picture Magazine, October, 1927)
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