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Lillian Gish papers

Collection Data

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.
Gish, Lillian, 1893-1993 (Creator)
Abbe, James Edward, 1883-1973
Abbott, George, 1887-1995
Ackland, Rodney, 1908-1991
Albin, Charles
Anderson, Maxwell, 1888-1959
Astor, Mary, 1910-1987
Atkinson, Brooks, 1894-1984
Beaton, Cecil, 1904-1980
Beaumont, Hugh, 1908-1976
Brent, Romney, 1902-1976
Brownlow, Kevin
Cairns, Huntington, 1904-1985
Colman, Ronald, 1891-1958
Cornell, Katharine, 1893-1974
Coward, Noel, 1899-1973
Dorr, Nell
Duell, Charles H. (Charles Halliwell), 1905-1970
Dumas, Alexandre, 1824-1895
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Fairbanks, Douglas, Jr., 1909-2000
Gielgud, John, 1904-2000
Gish, Dorothy
Glenville, Peter, 1913-1996
Gordon, Ruth, 1896-1985
Griffith, D. W. (David Wark), 1875-1948
Hayes, Helen, 1900-1993
Kroll, Lucy
Kroll, Nathan
Lindsay, Howard, 1889-1968
MacArthur, James, 1937-2010
Malcolm, Ian, Sir, 1868-1944
McCullaugh, Laura
McDowall, Roddy
Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
Merkel, Una, 1903-1986
Moore, Colleen, 1900-1988
O'Casey, Eileen
O'Casey, Sean, 1880-1964
O'Neill, Carlotta Monterey
O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953
Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937
Pickford, Mary, 1892-1979
Reagan, Ronald
Steichen, Edward, 1879-1973
Sterne, Herb
Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964
Wagenknecht, Edward, 1900-2004
Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975
Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983
Woollcott, Alexander, 1887-1943
Gish family
Inspiration Pictures, Inc.
White Studio (New York, N.Y.)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1909 - 1992
Library locations
Billy Rose Theatre Division
Shelf locator: *T-Mss 1996-011
Annie Laurie (Motion picture)
Birth of a nation (Motion picture)
Broken blossoms (Motion picture : 1919)
Clothes make the pirate (Motion picture)
Hearts of the world (Motion picture)
Infinity in an hour (Television program)
Intolerance (Motion picture)
Nell Gwyn (Motion picture)
Night of the hunter (Motion picture)
Orphans of the storm (Motion picture)
Romola (Motion picture)
Scarlet letter (Motion picture : 1926)
Unforgiven (Motion picture)
Way down east (Motion picture)
White sister (Motion picture)
Motion picture actors and actresses -- United States
Motion picture industry -- United States -- History
Silent films -- United States -- History
Theater -- United States
Biographical/historical: Lilllian 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 Bohéme 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). Chronology of Selected Events in the life of Lillian Gish 10/14/1893 Lillian Gish born 1912 Met and started working for D. W. Griffith 1914 Judith of Bethulia ; Folly of Anne 1915 Birth of a Nation 1916 Intolerance 1917 Travels to Europe to film British propaganda film Hearts of the World 1918 Hearts of the World 1919 Broken Blossoms 1920 Directs her first film Remodeling Her Husband 1920 Way Down East 1922 Orphans of the Storm 1923 The White Sister 1924 Romola 1924-1925 Lawsuit with Charles Duell and Inspiration Pictures 1926 La Bohème 1930 Albert Bigelow Paine is contracted to write Lillian Gish biography 1932 Camille 1936 Hamlet 1939 Life With Father 1947 Duel in the Sun 1948 Mary (Mae) Gish dies 1955 Night of the Hunter 1957 Opening of Congress Hall in Berlin - special ANTA performance starring Lillian Gish and many others 1960 The Unforgiven 1965 Romeo and Juliet - American Shakespeare Festival 1966 Contracts with Disney for Follow Me! Boys 1967 Worked on The Comedians in Africa 1968 Dorothy Gish dies 1968-1979 Lecture tour Lillian Gish and the Movies 1969 The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me published 1970 Receives Oscar for lifetime work in motion pictures 1973 Dorothy and Lillian Gish published 1987 Whales of August 1993 Lillian Gish dies
Content: 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 any significant correspondence from George Jean Nathan. The correspondence series, containing approximately 10,000 letters, not only gives an 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 Sister (1923), Romola (1924), La Bohème (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.
Content: Abbe, James - photographer Abbott, George - produced Ackland, Rodney - actor, film director, writer and playwright Addis, Raymond - insurance agent and genealogist Adler, Elizabeth - writer, photographer and friend of Lillian Gish, nickname "Tommie" Agate, James - English critic Aherne, Brian - actor Aherne, Eleanor - wife of Brian Aherne Aitkin, Roy E. - silent film producer Akins, Zoe - screenwriter and playwright Albin, Charles - photographer Alda, Alan - actor Anderson, (Dame) Judith - actress Anderson, Maxwell - playwright Argyle-Stuart, Philip - fan Arlen, Michael - playwright Arms, Louis Lee - husband of Mae Marsh, silent film star and friend of Lillian Gish Artigue, Louis - agent Ashcroft, Peggy - actress Asquith, Anthony - director, nickname "Puffin" Astor, Brooke - friend of Lillian Gish Astor, Mary - silent film star and friend of Lillian Gish Atkinson, Brooks - theater critic Atkinson, Oriana - wife of Brooks Atkinson Bacigalupo-Natali, Frieda - doctor to Dorothy Gish and Laura McCullaugh Barthelemess, Richard - silent film actor and friend of Lillian Gish Becker, Minnie C. - mother of Nell Dorr Becker, Nellie - see Nell Dorr Belden, James - diplomat and correspondent of Lillian Gish Beaumont, Hugh - producer and friend of Lillian Gish, nickname "Binkie" Bidwell, Leonard - friend Bidwell, Russell - agent Bitzer, Billy - cameraman for D. W. Griffith Brent, Romney - actor Brown, John Mason - critic Brownlow, Kevin - director Buck, Pearl S. - author Burrows family - friends from Chicago Bush, George - U. S. president Cairns, Huntington - statesman, author and lawyer Capra, Frank - director Carr, Harry, journalist Carrington, Margaret - actress Clarke, John Stanley - fan Cleaver, Betty - first cousin of Lillian Gish Cleaver family - first cousins of Lillian Gish Coe, Fred - producer of stage and television Collendar, Reba - see Reba Hart Collier, Constance - actress and friend Collins, Mary Jane - relative through marriage to the Gishes Cornell, Katharine - actress Coward, Noel - playwright Cranmer, Helen - friend Crawford, Joan - actress Croy, Homer - author Cukor, George - director Curtiss, Tom - writer Dawson, Mary Jane - see Mary Jane Collins Davis, Dorothy - cousin of the Gishes, maiden name McConnell Davis, Joseph - husband of Dorothy McConnell Davis Dorr, John - second husband of Nell Becker Dorr Dorr, Nell - photographer and childhood friend of Lillian Gish, maiden name Nell Becker Eisenhower, Dwight - president Eisenhower, Mamie - wife of Dwight Eisenhower Fontanne, Lynn - actress Forbes, Phyllis - see Phyllis Moir Gielgud, John - actor and friend Gish, Dorothy - sister of Lillian Gish Gish, Mary - mother of Lillian and Dorothy Gish Glenville, Peter - director Gordon, Ruth - actress and friend of Lillian Gish Greene, Luther - producer and horticulturalist Gregory, Paul - screenwriter and friend Griffith, D. W. - silent filmmaker Guinness, Alec - actor and friend Hale, Nathan - lawyer Hart, Reba - maid of Lillian Gish; maiden name Reba Collendar Hepburn, Audrey - actress Hepburn, Katharine - actress Hirschfeld, Al - caricaturist Hobbs, Ida - mother-in-law of Clay McConnell Hopkins, Arthur - critic Hopper, Hedda - gossip columnist Howell, Bea - friend of Lillian Gish Hurst, Fannie - writer Hutton, Lauren - actress Johnson, Hiram W. - U. S. senator Jones, Robert Edmond - designer Judson, Katherine - financial secretary Kallir, Otto - professor and gallery owner Kanin, Garson - writer and playwright Keegan, Nellie - maid to Lillian Gish Kommer, Rudolf - Max Reinhardt's assistant Koons, Nell - see Nell Dorr Koons, Thomas - first husband of Nell Dorr Koons, Virginia - oldest daughter of Nell Dorr Kroll, Lucy - agent Lancaster, Burt - actor Lavery, Emmet - writer Le Gallienne, Eva - actress, producer, director and writer Lederer, Franz - Czech born leading man of stage and film Lloyd, Jack - friend of D. W. Griffith Loos, Anita - writer Lubitsch, Ernst - producer, director Luce, Clare Booth - writer Lunt, Alfred - actor Lunt, Cornelia Gray - correspondent and friend MacArthur, James - actor, son of Helen Hayes McClintic, Guthrie - producer McConnell family - relatives of the Gishes McConnell, Clay - Gish relative McConnell, Ida - see also Ida Hobbs McConnell, Mary - Gish relative McCullaugh, Laura - friend and companion of Dorothy Gish; with Dorothy Gish at the time of her death Macksoud, Edward - friend Malcolm, Ian (Sir) - British statesman Maeterlinck, Maurice - Belgian dramatist, won Nobel prize for literature in 1911 Malle, Louis - French director Marks, Montagu - British film producer and director Marsh, Mae - silent film star and friend of Lillian Gish Marshall, Armina - producer, actress and writer Mencken, H. L. - journalist Merkel, Una - actress Merrill, Emily Ward - first cousin of Lillian Gish, maiden name Cleaver Merrill, John - son of Emily Merrill Mitchell, Agnes - friend of Lillian Gish Moir, Phyllis - friend of Lillian Gish and wife of Henry Forbes Moore, Alexander - ambassador to Spain-Peru during the 1920s Moore, Colleen - actress, married name Hargraves Morley, Kay - friend of Laura McCullaugh and Lillian Gish Moses, Grandma - artist Nathan, George Jean - critic Nemirovitch-Danchenko, V. - associate of Stanislavsky and Moscow Art Theatre Neihaus, Coralie - friend Nixon, Richard - president Novarro, Ramon - actor O'Casey, Sean - playwright O'Neill, Carlotta - wife of Eugene O'Neill O'Neill, Eugene - playwright Paine, Albert Bigelow - biographer of Lillian Gish Pickford, Mary - actress Pinchot, Ann - co-author of The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me Porter, Cole - composer Price, Vincent - actor Rathbone, Basil - actor Reagan, Ronald - actor and president Rennie, James Mortimer - husband of Dorothy Gish Risher, Becky - daughter of Emily Ward Merrill Saint, Eva Marie - actress Sartov, Henrik - photographer Seith, Ruth - cousin of the Gishes, maiden name Cleaver Seith, Ted - husband of Ruth Cleaver Sjorstrom, Victor - filmmaker Serlin, Oscar - producer Sherwood, Robert - playwright Snell, Guy - friend of Laura McCullaugh, Kay Morley and Lillian Gish Steinbeck, John - author Sterne, Herb - press agent and friend of Lillian Gish and Laura McCullaugh Vanderbilt, Gloria - socialite and designer Vincent, Frank - friend Volck, A. George - agent Wagenknecht, Edward - writer Wilder, Thornton - author Williams, Emlyn - Welsh actor and playwright Williams, Tennessee - playwright Worth, Irene - actress
Content: Billy Rose Theatre Division Rare book - Costume Europeens du XVII au XIX Siecle *T-VIM 1996-001 - Jo Mielziner signed sketch of Ophelia costume for Hamlet *T-Cabinet - glass negative of The White Sister encased in silk envelope and signed leather folder *T-Cabinet - engraved notebook case *T-Cabinet - Lillian Gish's engraved card case enclosing Dorothy Gish's cards *T-Cabinet - two copper engraving plates *T-Cabinet - newspaper printing plate of Lillian Gish Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs Book of photographs of paintings by Sorine includes catalog of 1934 exhibition Rare Books Division Memoirs of Samuel Pepys presented to Dorothy Gish in 1925 Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1848) The American Revolution by John Fiske (1902) Four miniature books: The Christmas Dinner by Washington Irving Fifty Best Poems of England Friendship and Other Essays by Henry David Thoreau Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound Separated phonodiscs and tapes - see Lillian Gish Sound Recordings *L(Special) 97.03
Physical Description
Extent: 75 linear feet (119 boxes; 33 scrapbooks; 10 reels microfilm)
Type of Resource
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b14558226
MSS Unit ID: 21463
Archives collections id: archives_collections_21463
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 8a20b4d0-9e2e-0134-b9a6-00505686d14e
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