Celebrity Biographies

Lillian Gish
Film

Lillian Gish (1893-1993) was one of the most successful silent-film actresses; she also enjoyed a successful career in theater and television. Born in Ohio, Lillian Diana de Guiche moved to Hollywood with her sister, silent-film actress Dorothy Gish, at a very young age. She was quickly recognized by D.W. Griffith, and entered into a long working relationship with him, signing a contract with his Biograph Studios in 1912. Her extensive filmography begins with the short film An Unseen Enemy in 1912 and ends with The Whales of August in 1987. After just two years with Griffith, she became known as "The First Lady of the Silent Screen." She starred as Elsie Stoneman in one of the first great film epics, Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915). Her other silent films with Griffith included Intolerance: Love's Struggle Through the Ages (1916) and Brother Blossoms (1919). In 1926 she began working with MGM, where she had popular success with La Boheme (1926) and The Scarlet Letter (1926).

After receiving a less positive critical reception in the talkies, Gish transitioned to theatrical roles in 1933, playing Ophelia in Hamlet and Marguerite in La Dame aux Camélias, and did not return to cinema until 1943. However, she made up for lost time quickly, receiving a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her work as Laura Belle McCanles in Duel in the Sun (1946). She also played the heroine in the 1955 cult classic The Night of the Hunter. From the 1950s onward, Gish made multiple television appearances, including The Trip to Bountiful (1953), Arsenic and Old Lace (1969), and The Love Boat (1981). Today Gish is recognized as the American Film Institute's Seventeenth Greatest Female Star. She received an Honorary Academy Award in 1971 and an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984.