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Lillian Gish

Page history last edited by William Palm 11 years, 4 months ago




 Full Name: Lillian Diana Gish  



Date of Birth: October 14, 1893. Springfield, Ohio.



Date of Death: February 27, 1993. New York City, New York.



Parents: James Lee Gish and Mary Robinson McConnell



Introducing Ms. Lillian Gish


Lillian Gish was involved in the theatre from an early age. Her father, James Lee Gish, abandoned her family when Lillian was a small child and her mother found work at a local theatre company as an actress. At an early age Lillian joined her mother working in the theatre at The Little Red School House in Rising Sun, Ohio, with her little sister Dorothy (Lillian Gish). In addition to theatre work, Gish took on modeling jobs to help support her family (Wikipedia). In 1912 Gish was introduced to director D.W. Griffith and was able to impress him so much that he cast her (as well as her sister Dorothy) in his film An Unseen Enemy (IMDB). This appearance would not be her only time working with Griffith, however. Gish appeared in twelve Griffith films in 1912, including The One She Loved and My Baby. Her career was soon launched forward and Gish was seen in 25 films over the course of the next two years (IMDB).  


Gish Sets the Standard


The art of acting became an obsession for Gish, and she took her obsession to extreme measures in order to produce the best performance she thought was possible. These extreme measures sometimes came in the form of suffering under conditions such as starvation, intense heat, and bitter cold (Lillian Gish). Today, this is commonly referred to as method acting and is practiced by many contemporary actors. In spite of the inner struggle she was facing, Gish produced acting that was phenomenal not only for the time in which she lived, but also set a standard of what “good acting” could be that would influence film acting from that time forward. 


The Dream Team: Gish and Griffith


Gish worked well with D.W. Griffith for a few reasons, one of which being that Griffith often liked to portray the women in his films as angelic, beautiful, and rooted in the Victorian notions of womanhood (TCM). Gish was able to envelop this type of persona well with her subtle acting and was able to beautifully display complicated emotions such as distress or grief. Griffith was able to create more complicated and complex stories knowing that Gish would be able to sustain the story with her acting abilities (TCM). Gish worked with Griffith on films such as An Unseen Enemy (1912), The One She Loved (1912), The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916) and Way Down East (1920).



All Good Things Must Come to an End  


In the late 1920s Gish’s career in film started to decline. Gish was able to prolong her work through appearances on both the theatre stage and television (TCM). She did, however, perform in the occasional film, including her 1946 Academy Award nominated performance in the film Duel in the Sun (Wikipedia). Gish never married and never had children. There are rumors that she was involved romantically with D.W. Griffith for at least a short period of time (Wikipedia). 


Works Consulted 


"Biography." The Official Website of Lillian Gishn.d. Web. September 15, 2009.


“Biography for Lillian Gish.” Turner Classic Movies. n.d. Web. September 15, 2009.


“Lillian Gish.” The Internet Movie Database. n.d. Web. September 15, 2009.


“Lillian Gish.” Wikipedia. July 9, 2009. Web. September 15, 2009.


Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 9:28 am on Oct 13, 2009

* Layout
* Not sure what "this" is in paragraph on acting style ("This is called method acting")
* Citations need to be clearer, and of course they call out the fact that your sources are not the world's deepest
* There's a clip that illustrates her performance style on the acting page--may be worth mentioning. May also be useful to provide another clip

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