Lillian Gish papers, 1909-1992

Gish, Lillian, 1893-1993


75 linear feet (119 boxes and 33 scrapbooks).
10 reels of microfilm.
Series I: Correspondence; Series II: Personal Papers; Series III: Legal and Financial Papers; Series IV: Professional Work Files; Series V: Writings; Series VI: Subject Files and Tributes; Series VII: Scripts: Series VIII: Presentations and Awards; Series IX: Dorothy Gish Papers; Series X: Photographs; Series XI: Clippings; Series XII: Oversized Photographs; Series XIII: Oversized Materials; Series IV: Scrapbooks.
The Lillian Gish papers (75 lf.) span the years 1909-1992 and consist of correspondence including letters from friends, family, fans and business associates, personal papers, business, legal and financial documents, scripts, writings, photographs including early D.W. Griffith silent film photographs both candid shots taken during shooting and film stills, portraits by famous photographers, personal and family photographs, publicity and production photographs and snapshots, scrapbooks on the careers of both Dorothy and Lillian Gish, programs for early silent films and theatrical productions, clippings and ephemera that document the life and career of Lillian and Dorothy Gish from the early 1900's until Lillian's death in 1993.
The collection contains information about the personal and professional lives of both the Gish sisters and many biographical bits of information about their family and friends as well. The papers are valuable documentation not only for the early days of film and the theater of the 20th century, but also for the broad scope of friends and acquaintances who corresponded regularly with Lillian Gish and influenced all aspects of 20th century life, history and culture. Gish's correspondents included statesmen, writers, ambassadors, housewives, professors, critics, playwrights, actors, producers, directors, photographers, soldiers, children and students. The materials in the collection document broad aspects of 20th century social history including politics, current events, journalism, performing arts, daily life and culture. Missing from the collection is correspondence from George Jean Nathan.
The correspondence series, containing approximately 10,000 letters, not only gives a intimate view of the theater and film industries of the 20th century but also reveals the variety of relationships in her life including friend, sister, film idol and professional colleague. In her personal correspondence there are not only letters from her childhood friend, Nell Dorr, but also her replies to Nell, which were likely returned to her after Nell Dorr's death. Similarly, there is a series of letters from Laura McCullaugh, a long-time friend of Lillian and Dorothy who was Dorothy's companion in Rapallo, Italy until her death in 1968. Other correspondents include: George Abbott, James Abbe, Rodney Ackland, Mary Astor, Brooke Astor, Brooks Atkinson, Hugh "Binkie" Beaumont, Romney Brent, Kevin Brownlow, Huntington Cairns, Ronald Colman, Katharine Cornell, Noel Coward, Nell Dorr, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gielgud, Dorothy Gish, Peter Glenville, Ruth Gordon, Helen Hayes, Lucy and Nathan Kroll, Emmet Lavery, James MacArthur, Maurice Maeterlinck, Sir Ian Malcolm, H.L. Menken, Una Merkel, Colleen Moore, George Jean Nathan, Sean and Eileen O'Casey, Eugene and Carlotta O'Neill, Albert Bigelow Paine, Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers, Cyril Ritchard, Herb Sterne, Gloria Vanderbilt, Edward Wagenknecht, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams and Alexander Woollcott, among others.
The personal papers include appointment books and notebooks; biographical materials, including testimonials to Lillian Gish and family genealogical data; personal data including dress size and phone and address lists; medical papers; Dorothy's Gish estate papers. Other items included are inspirational writings and invitations including 2 inaugural invitations from Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Legal and financial papers contain information on her real estate matters in New York, Masillion, Ohio and California. Included in the legal files are the papers dealing with the breach of contract lawsuit filed against her by Charles Duell and Inspiration Pictures in 1924.
The photograph series, over 4000 items, is a large part of the collection and contains photographs pertaining to the life and careers of both Lillian and Dorothy Gish. There are many portrait photographs done by well known artists such as James Abbe, Charles Albin, Kenneth Alexander, Apeda Studios, Cecil Beaton, Nell Dorr, John Engstead, Friedman-Abeles, Hartsook, Roddy McDowall, Ben Pinchot, Maurice Seymour, Talbot, Vandamm, Edward Steichen, Carl Van Vechten, White Studios and Witzel, among others.
Production photographs include a large collection of photographs of her days with D.W. Griffith and the silent film era as well as photographs of theatrical and other film roles. Some titles include: HER FIRST FALSE STEP, AN UNSEEN ENEMY (1912), THE SAVING GRACE (1914), THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), ENOCH ARDEN (1915), THE LILY AND THE ROSE (1915), DAPHNE AND THE PIRATE (1916), INTOLERANCE (1916), SOLD FOR MARRIAGE (1916), HEARTS OF THE WORLD (1918), BROKEN BLOSSOMS (1919), I'LL GET HIM YET (1919), PEPPY POLLY (1919), FLYING PAT (1920), WAY DOWN EAST (1920), ORPHANS OF THE STORM (1922), THE WHITE SISTERS (1923), ROMOLA (1924), LA BOHEME (1926), THE SCARLET LETTER (1926), NELL GWYN (1926), ANNIE LAURIE (1927), TIP TOES (1927), THE ENEMY (1928), THE WIND (1928), ONE ROMANTIC NIGHT (1930), CAMILLE (1932), HAMLET (1936), LIFE WITH FATHER (1939-1940), OUR HEARTS WERE YOUNG AND GAY (1944), THE MAGNIFICENT YANKEE (1946), DUEL IN THE SUN (1947), TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (1953), THE COBWEB (1955), NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955), THE UNFORGIVEN (1960) and UNCLE VANYA (1973), among others.
Remaining materials in this series consist of art photographs by Nell Dorr of her family and friends, 2 photographic scrapbooks containing platinum prints for production of Camille, family photographs and photograph scrapbooks of Lillian and Dorothy Gish and autographed photographs of friends and professional acquaintances. Professional Work Files include correspondence, contracts, programs and other ephemera dealing with films, plays and public appearances made by Lillian Gish throughout her life. Materials on WAY DOWN EAST, THE BIRTH OF A NATION and many others are included.
Writings in the collection are primarily from Lillian Gish's original work entitled SILVER GLORY. This manuscript evolved through time to become The Movies, Mr Griffith and Me, her book about D.W. Griffith and the silent film era; Infinity in an Hour, a television program which dealt with the same topic; and a lecture series Lillian Gish and the Movies, also with the same focus. Other writings in the collection include speeches and lectures by Lillian Gish as well as writings by others which she collected.
Presentation items from fans and friends contain poetry, cards, writings, handmade books and other ephemeral materials proclaiming the love and devotion felt by so many towards Lillian Gish. Scrapbooks consist of 33 volumes of clippings on the careers of Lillian and Dorothy Gish. These scrapbooks primarily document the period between 1914 and 1940. Some production scrapbooks include: STAR WAGON, YOUNG LOVE, LIFE WITH FATHER, NELL GWYN, BEAUTIFUL CITY and CLOTHES MAKE THE PIRATE, among others.
Lillian Gish, legendary star of the silent film era, was born in Springfield, Ohio in 1893 -- Although best known as one of the earliest stars of the nascent film industry, Lillian Gish began as a child trouper on the stage with her sister Dorothy and their mother. At the age of five, she made her first appearance in a melodrama IN CONVICT STRIPES. A chance meeting in 1912 with another child actress Gladys Smith, who became world renowned as Mary Pickford, brought her and Dorothy to the attention of D.W. Griffith, a pioneering director in silent film days. She soon became his leading star, achieving stardom in his productions of BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), INTOLERANCE (1916), and most notably in ORPHANS OF THE STORM (1922), playing opposite her sister Dorothy. She was the perfect Griffith heroine, revealing a strong will and intelligence under a fragile, almost ethereal exterior.
She parted company with Griffith over a salary dispute, later joining MGM in 1925. One of the few stars to have control over story and director, Gish made only two successful movies at MGM, LA BOHEME and THE SCARLET LETTER. Overshadowed by the rising prominence of Greta Garbo, she left MGM and made a few films as an independent. She then decided to return to the Broadway stage and found the right vehicle in director Jed Harris's production of UNCLE VANYA in 1930. Her success in the play led to other starring roles, among them Ophelia opposite John Gielgud in the 1936 production of HAMLET. Thereafter, she never lacked for roles on Broadway and worked steadily as a stage actress until 1973.
In 1968, she suffered a personal blow when her sister Dorothy, with whom she was extremely close throughout her life, died. From time to time, she returned to the movies and also appeared on television from the 1950s to the 1970s, making her final appearance on screen in the movie THE WHALES OF AUGUST in 1987. In 1970, she was awarded a special Oscar for her lifetime contributions to motion pictures. Lillian Gish died in 1993 in her hundredth year. She recorded the account of her life in LIFE AND LILLIAN GISH (1932), THE MOVIES, MR. GRIFFITH AND ME (1969) and DOROTHY AND LILLIAN GISH (1973).
The first ten boxes of the correspondence are also available on microfilm, The Billy Rose Theatre Collection, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (*ZC-591).
Finding aid available in repository and on Internet.
Forms part of The Lillian Gish Papers and Sound Recordings.

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