Back in Time: In Proctors visit, Gish made case for cinema’s importance in culture

Silent film star Lillian Gish had plenty to say in Schenectady on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1970.

Silent film star Lillian Gish had plenty to say in Schenectady on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1970.

The actress was on the Proctors stage on a cold winter night to lecture on the history of American films. She also brought film clips.

“Much of Miss Gish’s footage and talk were devoted to D.W. Griffith, early filmmaker, often called the father of modern films, who created the close-up, the methods of editing and the flashback so popular today,” wrote Louise Boyka, who reviewed the show for the Schenectady Gazette.

The show started at 8:45 p.m. Gish began her talk with a film clip from 1906 that showed ladies dressed in bustles, ruffles and parasols climbing into an old-fashioned automobile. Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino also were introduced for appearances on the theater screen.

Exciting personality

Gish, then 76, was in fine health.

“In a picture book gown of brocaded ivory silk, Miss Gish looked like the fairy tale princess heroine of her films,” Boyka observed. “Her eyes are as bright a blue, her hair a strawberry blonde and her skin as fair and smooth as many women half her age. Her manner and voice never faltered in their image of a wonderful and exciting personality.”

Gish didn’t mind stirring emotions a bit. She told her fans she was disgusted with American audiences for their failure to recognize the importance of cinema as a force in government and culture. She met fans after the show, signing copies of her then-new book “Mr. Griffith, The Movies and Me.”

Gish would work on several movie projects during the 1970s and 1980s.

Her final film, at age 93, was 1987’s “The Whales of August.”

She died on Feb. 27, 1993, at age 99.

Categories: Life and Arts

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