Friday, October 14, 2016

Birthday Girl: The Girl for Life

She would have been 123 today, Miss Lillian Gish, which means it's nearly a quarter-century since she left us. Hard to believe.

I make no secret of being an acolyte of the star dear Mr. Ethan Mordden has characterized as "The Girl for Life" (in contrast, in a discussion of the great impresario, to the transitory nature of being a Ziegfeld Girl. When you were a Griffith Girl, you were in fact at some level making a lifelong commitment).

It's always interesting to run into her in the interregnum between her heyday (from roughly the First War through The Wind) and her resurgence as a character lady and Sibyl of the Flickers. Here she is, I believe, in the latish '20s or early '30s, in a portrait that reminds us that in private life she was very far indeed from the waif in curls and ruffles she so often played. The streamlined look suits her, and it's characteristic of her that she could step out of this portrait and into a dressy setting here in 2016 and look utterly at home.

It's been too long since I've seen a Gish movie; perhaps it's time to grab an hour or two and see once again just what nearly perfect artistry looks like...


  1. Night of the hunter was one of her best movies!

    1. You'll get no argument from me on that. She's haunting in it - the absolute embodiment of the Griffith ethos, turned into an old, wise woman.

  2. The only reason I watch Duel in the Sun is to see Lillian G. I love that she had all these wonderful Valentina clothes that are in the Metropolitan

  3. How prescient you are! I recently had a look at "Broken Blossoms" & "Intolerance", more for their artistic style than plot, and I found Miss Gish rather charming in both. Intolerance (as a film) was, ummm, lengthy, and it was hard to get past the racial stereotyping in Blossoms, but as period pieces both were quite interesting...

  4. Lillian Gish was so beautiful and then aged into a beautiful old woman and a remarkable actress who never seemed to be "acting"