Lillian Gish is Hollywood’s living legend (San Bernardino Sun, 1978)


Lillian Gish is Hollywood’s living legend (San Bernardino Sun, 1978)

  • San Bernardino Sun, 3 December 1978
  • Lillian Gish is Hollywood’s living legend

Sophie Newsome padded off across the red velvet carpet of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with the violets and the card that said “Miss Lillian Gish.” “This is one fine Lady … always has been in the 50 years she’s been coming here…one fine lady.”

It was the same across Los Angeles as the movie city’s longest running star Lillian Gish, 82 made her comeback in her 100th film, Robert Altman’s “A Wedding.” When the satire on modern marriage mores premiered at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an opening night crowd of 1,000 celebrities roared with applause as she came to the stage. They were still clapping when she moved out in front, held out her arms and said: “I’m really glad to be back this town and this business has been so good to me.” Gish is the only superstar from the silent era still working in major motion pictures. “When I first came here in 1913 it was on the old Sunset Limited…I can still remember that wave of perfume that hit me as the train left San Bernardino and headed into Los Angeles, there were the orange blossoms from row after row of groves…then as we got into Hollywood, there were the roses. I thought I was in paradise. “It’s been 10 years since I made my last film (The Comedians’) but it seems as if there were no break at all in the timing because I’ve been so busy on stage (‘Musical Jubilee’) and in working on my own filmed retrospective history of the movies, ‘Infinity In An Hour.'” Her role as the bedridden matriarch in “A Wedding” resulted from a visit Altman made to Gish’s apartment a year ago.

“I’d had lots of offers during the 10 years,” she said. “But nothing really appealed to me…I make it a point only to work with people I like, you know. “A press agent friend of mine brought Bob Altman over one afternoon and he stayed two or three hours, telling me the story. What caught my attention was the death scene. He said I would die but that it would be amusing. Now, I’ve died lots of times in films, but never was it amusing.” The night after the premiere, Gish made preliminary arrangements for a feature length Gothic production, “The Bat” to be filmed in London. The resurgence is hardly a surprise to old-timers: Gish has been carefully timing her entrances and exits since the silent era ushered out with her classic MGM film “The Wind” in 1928. “I’ve always picked my films and plays by picking people,” she said. “Integrity and Intelligence are what’s important. I’ve never picked money. “Film is the greatest power the world has ever known…nothing else can so move the minds and hearts of the world.” Two hours later, at a Beverly Hills party, Carol Burnett leaned over and asked Lillian Gish: “What must it feel to be a living legend?” Gish winked. “Stick around, kid, you’ll find out.”

A Wedding

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