Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lillian Gish

Lillian Gish was a was an American stage, screen and television actress whose film acting career spanned 75 years, from 1912 to 1987.

Lillian Gish was born October 14, 1893 in Springfield, Ohio. The older sister of actress Dorothy Gish and the daugher of Mary Robinson McConnell and James Lee Gish.

After her father abandoned the family, he mother began acting in order to support the family. When Lillian and Dorothy were old enough, they joined the theatre and took modeling jobs.

In 1912, Lillian's friend Mary Pickford introduced her to director D.W. Griffith and helped them get contracts with Biograph Studios.

Lillian Gish made her film debut in An Unseen Enemy (1912).

From 1912 to 1930, Lillian Gish would appear in over 70 silent films including The Rebellion of Kitty Belle (1914), Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), The Children Pay (1916), The Greatest Thing in Life (1918), Broken Blossums (1919), Way Down East (1920), The White Sister (1923), Ben-Hur (1925) and the Scarlett Letter (1926).

In 1930, she appeared in her first talkie, One Romantic Night (1930).

With her debut in talkies only moderately successful, she acted on the stage for the most part in the 1930s and early 1940s, appearing in roles as varied as Opelia in Hamlet and Marguerite in La Dame aux Camelias.

In 1942, after a nine year absence from the silver screen, she appeared in Commandos Strike at Dawn. Roles would follow in Duel in the Sun (1942), The Night of the Hunter (1955) and The Unforgiven (1960).

Her final film appearance was The Whales of August (1987) at the age of 93 with Vincent Price, Bette Davis and Ann Sothern.

Lillian Gish also frequently appeared on television in such shows as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Love Boat, The Defenders, and Robert Montgomery Presesents.

Lillian Gish was nominated for one Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1946 for Duel in the Sun.

She was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1971 for Lifetime Achievement.

In 1982, she received a Kennedy Center Honor.

In 1984, she received the AFI Life Achievement Award.

She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.

The First Lady of the Silent Screen, Lillian Gish became one of the leading advocates on the lost art of the silent film often giving speeches and touring to screenings of classic works. In 1975, she hosted The Silent Years, a PBS film program of silent films.

Lillian Gish never married nor had children. She left her entire estate to Helen Hayes (who died a month later) which was valued at several million dollars. Her estate went to provide for prizes for artistic excellence.

Lillian Gish died in her sleep of natural causes on February 27, 1993 at the age of 99.

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