Welcome back! I’m cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook but I’m taking a detour today to try something a little older. In 1916, Photoplay magazine published a collection of sandwich recipes that were said to be based on the screen personalities of the biggest female stars. This time around, we will be tasting the Lillian Gish sandwich.
The home invasion robbery was one of the most popular suspense tropes of the nickelodeon era. It was cheap to stage and could really have audiences on pins and needles.
Yes, the hug-me-tight is not exactly popular these days but they were everywhere 100+ years ago. And, no, they aren’t bizarre and villainous contraptions invented by Dr. Seuss. (That would be a lock-me-tight.)
“Are you burying bodies in the back yard again?”
The Wind is a complicated psychological puzzle of a film and thousands of words have been written examining its story and characters. Lillian Gish gives the performance of her career as a completely self-absorbed character who finds herself without the necessary tools to cope with harsh desert life. The supporting cast is also excellent with Montagu Love playing a perfectly hissable sleaze and Lars Hanson as the rough but kind-hearted fella who gets that kind heart broken.
One supporting player who gets relatively recognition is Dorothy Cumming as Cora. She thinks that Lillian is after her husband. She may be right, the movie is ambiguous. Not only is Cumming a good physical counterpoint to Gish, she gives a performance that is a study in smouldering.
This is the scene where the unspoken dislike finally comes bursting out. I certainly wouldn’t want Dorothy Cumming mad at me. And I love the phrase Miss Sly Boots. Isn’t it just perfection? (Trivia! Cumming played the evil queen in the 1916 version of Snow White, the one the inspired a certain Mr. Disney to try his hand at the fairy tale game.)
Availability: The Wind was released on VHS with a brilliant score by Carl Davis and the music is such a big part of the film’s impact that I know a lot of fans (myself included) cannot imagine a viewing without it. This version is NOT yet available on DVD, Blu-ray or via streaming in the U.S. as of this writing. There are PAL format DVDs available if you are a good movie buff and own a region-free player. But do seek out the Carl Davis scored version.
The Gish girls made their debut in the 1912 short, An Unseen Enemy, in which they are menaced by a “slattern maid” and Harry Carey. Fortunately, their brother steals Antonio Moreno’s car and races to the rescue. Yes, it is just chock-full of soon-to-be-famous people.
It’s interesting that Dorothy Gish’s persona as “the sassy one” is already in place at the tender age of fourteen. She is in love with Bobby Harron but Lillian will not put up with any hanky-panky on her watch. Dorothy’s expression as she is pulled away matches mine exactly when I am told there is no time for an ice cream run. “But, but… WANT!”
(You can read my review of the short here.)
The Wind is among my favorite silent films so I am very excited about this article. It is an examination of three myths that have attached themselves to the 1928 Lillian Gish vehicle:
Another wonderful Elmer Booth moment from The Musketeers of Pig Alley. Lillian Gish is the tomato of his dreams but she just wants to be pals. Oh well, plenty more fish in the sea, I guess.
Booth played Gish’s loving brother in An Unseen Enemy, her movie debut, and Mary Pickford’s ex-con husband in The Narrow Road. He would have likely been in demand during the gangster boom of the 20’s but tragically lost his life in a 1915 car accident. The driver, director Tod Browning, had been driving while intoxicated and was seriously injured.
While he did not make his mark on feature films, we still have Booth’s signature role to remember him by.
I always crack up at this part of The Musketeers of Pig Alley. Elmer Booth feels that as he has saved Lillian Gish from a rival gang, he is entitled to certain privileges. Not so! Lillian is happily married, thank you very much.
Elmer finds this odd as this is the guy he mugged earlier in the movie. He considers him a bit of a wimp. And Lillian prefers HIM? Women!
Two sisters, an empty house, a dishonest maid and a fortune in the safe. A recipe for a melodrama if I ever saw one! D.W. Griffith directs the Gish sisters in their motion picture debut, with able support from Bobby Harron, Elmer Booth, Harry Carey and a very early appearance from Antonio Moreno!
Continue reading An Unseen Enemy (1912) A Silent Film Review
See poor Lillian Gish, a damsel in distress once again! What can she possibly do when Elmer Booth (one of the screen’s first charming gangsters) tries to make her his chicken? Why, she must faint, of course!
(I hope you can see the GIF. Lillian smacks Elmer and shoves him back. Good girl!)
On a side note, Elmer Booth’s oddly made-up friend is future cowboy star and John Wayne mentor Harry Carey.
I can’t believe it’s almost here! The Gish Sisters Blogathon is launching this Saturday.
Some of the contributors expressed a day preference while others were free to be penciled in any time. My co-hostess, Lindsey of The Motion Pictures, did a marvelous job of scheduling everyone between the three days of the blogathon.
If you need to reschedule:
No problem! Just let one of us know and we will be happy to accommodate you.
If you want to join:
You can still do that too! Let us know your topic and the day you prefer.
Day 1: September 7
Critica Retro – Orphans of the Storm
Donald Mania – Video tribute
Falderal – The White Sister
Films Worth Watching – The Battle of Elderbush Gulch
The Great Katherine Hepburn – Remodeling Her Husband
The Motion Pictures – List of participants (to be updated throughout the blogathon w/ links)
Movies, Silently – Gretchen the Greenhorn
Once Upon a Screen – The Musketeers of Pig Alley
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion – Have You Been Gished?
portraitsbyjenni – The Scarlet Letter + BGSU’s Gish Theater
The “Semi” Daily Main — Broken Blossoms
Silent Volume – La Boheme
Silent Volume – Mothering Heart
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To – The Whales of August
Day 2: September 8
Cinemalacrum – The Night of the Hunter
Cinematic Catharsis – Broken Blossoms
Donald Mania – Article on Lillian’s influence on cinema
Films Worth Watching – True Heart Susie
MIB’s Instant Headache – Birth of a Nation Blu-ray
The Motion Pictures – Sweet Liberty
Outspoken and Freckled – The Night of the Hunter
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion – Don’t you wish you were a Gish?
Girls Do Film – Romola
Silent Volume – Birth of a Nation
Silent Volume – Intolerance
Silver Screenings – Portrait of Jennie
The Soul of the Plot – Duel in the Sun
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear – The Wind
Day 3: September 9
Don’t Upset Granny Gish – His Double Life
The Joy and Agony of Movies – Intolerance
The Last Drive In – Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “The Body in the Barn”
The Man on the Flying Trapeze — The Day I Insulted Lillian Gish
Motion Picture Gems – Centennial Summer
The Motion Pictures – The Cardinal
Movie Classics – The Scarlet Letter
The Movie Rat – Orphans of the Storm, Lillian and Dorothy Together
Movies, Silently – An Unseen Enemy
The Nitrate Diva – Hearts of the World
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion – Gish Sisters Have Imperfect Noses
Silent Volume – Rebirth of a Nation
Strictly Vintage Hollywood – Nell Gwynn
True Classics – La Boheme
It’s hard to believe that the Gish Sisters Blogathon is less than a month away! I just wanted to update everyone on what has been happening.
What is it
A three day celebration of the careers of Lillian and Dorothy Gish.
When is it?
September 7, 8 and 9
Where is it?
Right here or at my co-hostess Lindsey’s blog, The Motion Pictures.
How can I join?
Just contact either one of us and say what you would like to contribute. We
Here is the roster, if you want to take a peek at what other folks are contributing.
If you can’t join…
You can still help us by spreading the word. Every little bit helps and is enormously appreciated.
If you want to join but aren’t sure what to contribute…
Here is a list of film suggestions!
Dorothy needs a little help!
While her films are not quite as available as Lillian’s, there are still lots to choose from so please consider contributing something about Dorothy.
Greetings! Well, it looks like I am at it again! Another blogathon!
September 9, 2013 is going to mark the 101st anniversary of Lillian and Dorothy Gish’s motion picture debut. I was really excited and wanted to do something special. However, the Gish sisters spent even more time making talkies than they did silents. I needed someone to help me, someone who was an expert on mid-century film…
My wonderful co-hostess is Lindsey of The Motion Pictures! Together, on September 7-9, we are going to celebrate the careers of these amazing women.
We are inviting bloggers to join us in this celebration. The event is open to all!
While they are best remembered for their silent work, Dorothy enjoyed a 51 year career, acting until 1963. Lillian’s 75 year career lasted until 1987! And the versatile sisters made films in every imaginable genre. There is truly something for everyone.
What you can contribute:
- A review of a film that has one or both of the Gishes
- Information on their stage work
- A biography
- An article on their films, careers, relationships, etc.
- A pictorial post
- Get creative! I have seen blogathons feature video slideshows, poetry, works of art and more. If it is Gish-related, please consider submitting it.
- No film is “taken” so feel free to select a film even if others are already reviewing it.
(note: this list has been updated and the latest version can be found here)
Cinemalacrum – A review of The Night of the Hunter (Lillian)
Cinematic Catharsis – A review of Broken Blossoms (Lillian)
Crítica Retrô – A review of Orphans of the Storm (Lillian and Dorothy)
Donald Mania – A video tribute to the sisters and an article on Lillian’s influence on cinema
Don’t Upset Granny Gish – A review of His Double Life (Lillian) and an article on becoming a Gish fan
Falderal – Lillian Gish’s relationship with fellow screen star Mary Pickford
The Film Writer – An article profiling each sister and a video
Films Worth Watching – Reviews of True Heart Susie and The Battle of Elderbush Gulch
Girls Do Film – A review of Romola (Lillian and Dorothy)
The Great Katharine Hepburn – An article on Remodeling Her Husband (Lillian and Dorothy)
The Joy and Agony of Movies – A review of Intolerance (Lillian)
The Last Drive In – The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Body in the Barn (Lillian)
MIB’s Instant Headache – A review of The Birth of a Nation Blu-ray (Lillian)
Motion Picture Gems – TBD
The Motion Pictures – Sweet Liberty (Lillian) and The Cardinal (Dorothy) as well as keeping a list of the participants.
Movie Classics – A review of The Scarlet Letter (Lillian)
The Movie Rat – An article on the Lillian and Dorothy’s film careers.
Movies Silently – The Unseen Enemy and Orphans of the Storm (the first and last films that the sisters made with director D.W. Griffith), Gretchen the Greenhorn (Dorothy)
The Nitrate Diva – Way Down East (Lillian) and/or Hearts of the World (Lillian and Dorothy)
Nitrate Glow – A review of Broken Blossoms (Lillian) and poetry selections inspired by the film.
Once Upon a Screen – A review of The Musketeers of Pig Alley (Lillian and Dorothy), one of the earliest gangster films, and a pictorial post
Outspoken and Freckled – A review of The Night of the Hunter (Lillian)
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion – A collection of contemporary newspaper clippings on the sisters
Silent Volume – Reviews of La Boheme, Mothering Heart, Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, and DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation recut
Silver Screenings – Portrait of Jennie (Lillian)
The Soul of the Plot – Duel in the Sun (Lillian)
Strictly Vintage Hollywood – Nell Gwynn (Dorothy)
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To – A review of The Whales of August (Lillian), plus, we get Bette Davis in the bargain! Hurrah!
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear – A review of The Wind (Lillian)
True Classics – Review of La Boheme (Lillian)
Remember, no movie is “taken” so don’t be afraid to pick a title even if it is already listed!
How do I join up?
Contact us and let us know your blog address, what you would like to contribute and the date on which you would like to participate. Here are some ways to get in touch:
- Leave a comment
Tweet me @MoviesSilently or Lindsey @TMPLindsey or both!
Then snag one of the banners we have supplied for the occasion.
Please link back to http://moviessilently.com/tag/gish-sisters-blogathon/
Director D.W. Griffith took a creaky melodrama and… kept it creaky! Lillian Gish is used and tossed aside by a rich creep. She stumbles onto Richard Barthelmess’s farm, where the whole family embraces her with open arms. Then said rich creep shows up. Works surprisingly well thanks to great work from Gish and Barthelmess, as well as one of Griffth’s very best Races to the Rescue™… On Ice! (On tour this winter!)
Lillian Gish was one of the staunchest defenders of silent films in general and D.W. Griffith in particular. Her interviews and recollections are woven into almost every book and documentary that covers the early American motion picture industry. However, she was a fiercely private person who carefully curated her public image. Charles Affron proposes to go where no biographer has gone before: to find the woman behind the legend.
At least that was the idea. For me, mixed results.
What is it? An attempt to get under the skin of Lillian Gish. Affron uses Gish’s personal papers, as well as autobiographies of fellow actors, contemporary interviews, fan magazines, scholarly works and Gish’s films.
What works: There is no doubt that the book is well-researched. Affron is able to bring out nuances of Gish’s personality from forgotten information, redacted sections of letters and long-buried interviews.
For example, Lillian Gish was stuck playing a wire-flying fairy in a Belasco stage production in New York. Her sister, Dorothy, was in California making films. A stage accident resulting in Gish being dropped six feet and scaring her out of her wits. Considering what happened to the cast of Spiderman, I think that is understandable. Meanwhile, she had been offered a handsome salary to make motion pictures in California.
Let’s see, stay in New York to be lifted around on dangerous rigging for a bit part or go to California for more money and be able to join her beloved mother and sister… Hmm…
Gish wrote to her best friend with a description of the events:
“But as I am offered more money with the Biograph and the three of us can be together I think it is better for me to play sick here and go out there, now don’t you think so?”
Gish later redacted this part of the letter when it was published in a biographical series. I enjoyed this glimpse at a young Lillian Gish, more than a little sheepish at her subterfuge.
What doesn’t work: This is where things get a little sticky for me. I understand the desire to debunk the legends and self-aggrandization that, frankly, crop up around most major stars. However, Affron takes this to extremes. Every tiny misremebered detail, every exaggeration, every small inconstancy is dragged out and paraded. Should biographies be honest? Of course. Should biographers try their best to get to the truth? Naturally. Was Lillian Gish perfect? No, not at all. However, I felt that Affron’s approach was ham-fisted. Let me give you an example of what I mean:
At the start of chapter 8, Affron describes a car accident in which Dorothy Gish was struck by a car, dragged 40 feet and had to have one of her toes amputated. He then goes on (in the same paragraph) to debunk Lillian Gish’s claim that this accident prevented Dorothy from being in Birth of a Nation. And I was still thinking “Dorothy was dragged 40 feet and lost her toe? Dorothy was dragged 40 feet and lost her toe?!” What was Lillian’s reaction to her little sister’s accident? What did their mother say? Who nursed her? No information? None at all? Just more debunking? Sheesh.
Let me be clear, I am all for setting the record straight in historical matters but this just seems a little mean.
I also noticed Affron’s tendency to accentuate negative comments about Gish and bury more positive words. For example, he quotes liberally from Miriam Cooper’s bitter autobiography, Dark Lady of the Silents, which I had recently read. All of Cooper’s negative words about Gish are quoted verbatim. Her positive recollections, on the other hand, are paraphrased and placed at the very end of the chapter. Is this the truth? Technically. Is it really very honest to the reader? I don’t think so.
Tanner Colby, biographer of the late John Belushi, had an interesting observation about Bob Woodward’s book on Belushi, Wired.
“I say it’s like someone wrote a biography of Michael Jordan in which all the stats and scores are correct, but you come away with the impression that Michael Jordan wasn’t very good at playing basketball.”
I think that applies very well in this case.
Is this a bad book? Not really. Is it a fair book? Again, not really. I read it. It had some enjoyable passages. And Gish’s blind defense of D.W. Griffith’s obvious racism needed a bit of debunking. However, there is a mean-spiritedness to this biography that prevents it from being an entirely pleasant reading experience.
Lillian Gish is a Virginia belle who moves to Texas and slowly begins to lose her mind due to, you guessed it, the wind.
Lillian Gish (1893-1993)
Country of birth: USA
Director D.W. Griffith dives back into country melodrama with this adaptation of a hoary stage smash. Lillian Gish plays Anna, a country girl seduced and abandoned by a rich cad. The resulting baby dies and Anna is alone in the world. She meets the kindly Bartlett family and it seems that her life is taking a turn for the better… that is until her past is exposed.
Lillian Gish plays an innocent girl thrust into the harsh elements of the American West. The unceasing wind batters the landscape and begins to unravel her sanity. Beautiful direction from Victor Seastrom and intense acting from both Gish and Lars Hanson. Silent cinema at its finest. For goodness sake, see it!