A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of October, Solar Year 2018
The Maroon Leather Armchair
October 14, 1893 was the birthdate of silent film and stage actress Lillian Gish.
After appearing for thirteen years with her sister Dorothy on the vaudeville stage, Lillian Gish eventually found her way onto the big screen. In 1912, she met famed director D. W. Griffith, who immediately cast her in what was to be her first film, the 1912 “An Unseen Enemy”. This was followed the same year bytwo more films: “The One She Loved”, and “My Baby”. Gish would make a total of twelve films for Griffith in 1912.
After performing in twenty five films in the next two years, Lillian Gish’s exposure to the public was so great that she fast became one of the top stars in the industry, alongside “America’s Sweetheart” Mary Pickford.. In 1915, Lillian Gish starred as Elsie Stoneman in Griffith’s most ambitious project to date, the 1915 “The Birth of a Nation”. Although the number of films that she now appeared in were not as frequent as her first years, she was popular and successful enough to be able to pick and choose the right films. In 1916, Gish appeared in another Griffith classic, “Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages”.
By the early 1920s, Gish’s career was slowing down; new actors and actresses appeared on the scene, replacing former stars. Lillian Gish did not appear at all on the screen again until the year of 1926. She appeared in “La Boheme” as Mimi and “The Scarlet Letter” in the lead role as Hester Prynne. As the 1920s ended, silent films were being replaced with the new sound films. At this time, Lillian Gish returned to stage productions which were acclaimed by the public and critics alike.
In 1933, Gish filmed “His Double Life” with Roland Young, and then didn’t make another film for ten years. When Gish did return in 1943, she played in two big-budget pictures, the 1942 “Commandos Strike at Dawn” and “Top Man” released in 1943. Although these roles did not bring her the attention she had in her early career, Gish still proved she could hold her own with the best of them. She later earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her role of Laura Belle McCanles in the 1946 “Duel in the Sun”, but lost to Anne Baxter for her performance in “The Razor’s Edge”.
One of the most critically acclaimed roles of Lillian Gish’s career came in the 1955 thriller “The Night of the Hunter”, also notable as the only film directed by actor Charles Laughton. Lillian Gish made in 1987 what was to be her last motion picture, “The Whales of August”, a box-office success that exposed her to a new generation of fans. After a seventy-five year career in film, on February 27, 1993, Lillian Gish died at age 99 peacefully in her sleep in New York City.