Lillian Gish: Cinematic Centenarian

The camera loved her; look at those eyes

Today’s the birthday of Lillian Gish (1893-1993). She was the principal muse of one of my favorite (though problematic) film directors D.W. Griffith, starring for him as early as 1912, back when the pictures were only ten minutes long.  Gish starred in his films (and those of others) all through the nineteen teens and twenties, including Judith of Bethuliah (1914), The Birth of a Nation (1915), Enoch Arden (1915), Intolerance (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), The Scarlet Letter (1926) and The Wind (1928)

When talkies came in she appeared in movies less frequently, although she managed to pop up in at least one important film per decade for a surprisingly long time: Duel in the Sun (1946); Night of the Hunter (1955); The Comedians (1967); A Wedding (1978) and The Whales of August (1987). After that, she loafed around for six years. She passed away at the age of 99 and a half!

Here she is in more vigorous days, in her most famous scene, the famous ice floe sequence in Griffith’s 1920 melodrama Way Down East:


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