Monday, June 13, 2011

Lillian Gish

Born Oct. 14, 1893 in Springfield, OH

Died Feb. 27, 1993 in New York, NY

Lillian Gish's portrayals of fragile innocence graced the golden age of silent films, extending into an eight-decade testament to dramatic perpetuity.

Gish was, according to many historians, the silent screen's greatest dramatic actress, and starred in more D.W. Griffith films than any other performer. Her work for him produced some of the silent era's most famous moments: the closet scene from "Broken Blossoms," in which she played a 12-year-old reacting in abject terror to a brutal father's pounding on the other side of the door; or the "smile" from the same film, in which, to form the only smile her anguished character could manage, she pushed upward the corners of her mouth with her fingers.

Though she did not at first survive Hollywood's transition from silent to talking films—by her personal choice, she always said—she later pursued a stage career and had supporting roles in about 12 "talking films," including "Duel in the Sun" (1946), "The Comedians" (1967), "A Wedding" (1978) and a costarring role opposite Bette Davis in "The Whales of August."

In 1971, Gish received an honorary Oscar "for superlative artistry and distinguished contribution" to the motion picture industry. In 1984 she was presented the American Film Institute's life achievement award.

— Penelope McMillan in the Los Angeles Times March 1, 1993

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