By the Editors of TIME-LIFE BOOKS Alexandria, Virginia
America is in a period of clamor, of bewilderment, of an almost tremulous unrest. We are hastily reviewing all our social conceptions. We are profoundly disenchanted. – The New Democracy by Walter Weyl, 1912
The Movie Queens
LILLIAN AND DOROTHY GISH, two sisters who exuded a rarefied aura of crushed lavender and moonbeams (opposite), were among the first representatives of a new phenomenon in America—the movie queen. They belonged to a celebrated handful of film actresses, some demure ingenues, some femmes fatales, who had come to symbolize through their movie roles the romantic ideals of the nation. An adoring public showered them with fan letters, and girls all over America tried to emulate their clothes, their hair styles and their ways with men.
But like many silent film queens, the Gish sisters in real life were not quite what they seemed on the screen. Neither innocent nor fragile, they had already knocked about the theatrical world for almost a decade, playing children’s parts in road companies. They joined the movies in 1912, when Lillian (at left in the photograph) was 16 and Dorothy 14, after discovering that a friend, another child actress named Gladys Smith (below), was earning $175 a week at Biograph and riding around in a limousine.
The Gishes were unruffled by Biograph’s unorthodox screen test, an unnerving 10 minutes during which the director, D. W. Griffith, chased them around the studio with a revolver, shooting off blanks. They signed up at five dollars a day and plunged into an arduous dawn-to-dusk work schedule that included frequent hardship and even danger. In one movie, Way Down East, Lillian was sent floating down Connecticut’s Farmington River on an ice pack, clad in a thin dress, her arm trailing in the frigid water, for more than 100 takes. Her prescription for surviving such ordeals was a regimen of spartan self-discipline: “Don’t eat much, take calisthenics every morning, sleep out of doors, take plenty of cold baths.”
Both sisters won kudos for acting; but Lillian achieved the greater acclaim for her outstanding work in The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance and Hearts of the World. After her performance as a slum waif in Broken Blossoms, the theater critic George Jean Nathan rhapsodized, “The smile of the Gish girl is a bit of happiness trembling on the bed of death; the tears of the Gish girl are the tears that old Johann Strauss wrote into the rosemary of his waltzes.”
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
Portrait of Lillian Gish and Mother 1920 Nell Dorr Errata: Amon Carter Museum description "Lillian Gish and an elderly woman in lace"; The Movies, Mr.Griffith and Me description of this photo session - "with Mother"