1896–1993, American stage and movie actress, b. Springfield, Ohio. In 1912 she began her film career with D. W. Griffith
. A fragile, delicate beauty, Gish often played a heroine rescued from cruel fate at the last moment. For Griffith, she appeared in The Birth of a Nation
(1915), Broken Blossoms
(1918), Way Down East
(1920), and many other films. Possessed of great pantomimic gifts and an expressive face, she brought these qualities to many personally chosen vehicles, including The Scarlet Letter
(1926) and The Wind
(1928). She returned to the stage (1930), after which she made occasional films, including Night of the Hunter
(1955). Her later stage work included acclaimed performances in Hamlet
(as Ophelia, 1942), All the Way Home
(1960), and Uncle Vanya
(1973). She teamed with screen legend Bette Davis
in the film The Whales of August
(1987). Her sister, Dorothy Gish,
1898–1968, was also an actress, who co-starred with Lillian in such films as Hearts of the World
(1918) and Griffith's Orphans of the Storm
(1921) and did a good deal of work on the stage.
See Lillian Gish's autobiography (1969, repr. 1988); biography by C. Affron (2000).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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