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Lillian Gish

Real name: Lillian Diana de Guiche
Birthdate: October 14, 1893
Status: N/A
Partner: N/A

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The American Film Institute (AFI) named Gish 17th among the greatest female stars of all time. She was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1971, and in 1984 she received an AFI Life Achievement Award.

Having appeared in over 25 short films and features in her first two years as a movie actress, Lillian became a major star, becoming known as "The First Lady of the Silent Screen" and appearing in lavish productions, frequently of literary works such as The Scarlet Letter (1926). MGM released her from her contract in 1928 after the failure of The Wind, now recognized by many as among her finest performances and one of the most distinguished works of the late silent period.

She directed one film, Remodeling Her Husband (1920), when D.W. Griffith took his unit on location -- he told Gish that he thought the crew would work harder for a girl. Gish apparently preferred to remain in front of the camera rather than behind it, since she never directed again. She told reporters at the time that directing was a man's job.

Returning to movies, Gish was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1946 for Duel in the Sun. She appeared in films from time to time for the rest of her life, notably in Night of the Hunter (1955) and A Wedding (1978). She was considered for various roles in Gone with the Wind ranging from Ellen O'Hara, Scarlett's mother to the red-headed prostitute Belle Watling.

In addition to her latter-day acting appearances, 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.

Her last film role was in The Whales of August in 1987 at the age of 93, with Vincent Price, Bette Davis, who was dying of cancer, and Ann Sothern, who earned her only Academy Award nomination for her final film performance.

During the period of political turmoil in the United States that lasted from the outbreak of World War II in Europe until the attack on Pearl Harbor, she was unable to find work in Hollywood due to being blacklisted for her outspoken non-interventionist stance. She was an active member of the America First Committee, a controversial anti-intervention organization founded by retired General Robert E. Wood with aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh as its leading spokesman.

She died in her sleep on February 27, 1993 as a result of heart failure aged 99. Her estate, which she left to Helen Hayes, who died a month later, was valued at several million dollars, and went to provide prizes for artistic excellence.

The main street in Massillon, Ohio is named after Gish, who had lived there during an early period of her life and fondly referred to it as her hometown throughout her career. She was interred beside her sister Dorothy at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church Columbarium in the undercroft of the church in the heart of New York City.

- The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me (with Ann Pinchot) (Prentice-Hall, 1969)
- Dorothy and Lillian Gish (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973)
- An Actor's Life For Me (with Selma G. Lanes) (Viking Penguin, 1987)


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