Movie Star Memories: Lillian Gish

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through

While most of the movie stars I’ve met over the years are those from Hollywood’s golden age (1930s to 1950s, my favorite era), I did get to meet one of Hollywood’s silent era stars — the wonderful Lillian Gish — at a Smithsonian Institution event in Washington, D.C. celebrating the first century of movie-making.

Lillian’s career spanned an impressive amount of time: from 1912 to 1987. Although she continued working on various projects long after “talkies” (movies with sound) hit theaters, her best-known work was in silent movies. Lillian became known for her ability to captivate audiences with her extraordinarily expressive face — a talent best showcased in silent films.

Silent movies were her favorites, Lillian admitted when I met her, but she took the lessons she’d learned about how to convey emotion on camera visually  in silent films and transferred that knowledge to sound films, with great success.

What struck me most about Lillian was how strong her spirit was compared to how diminutive she was physically. While us audience members interviewed her, she commanded the stage with impressive authority. I could definitely picture her doing the many dangerous stunts that she did for her silent films, such as jumping off runaway horses, filming while live ammunition was firing around her, and laying down on an ice slab that was floating down a river toward a waterfall. Lillian did all of her own stunts in her many popular silent films, and her spunk and confidence was evident many years later!

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