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The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me (1969)

by Lillian Gish

Other authors: Ann Pichot

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1804153,221 (4)4
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A dual biography of D. W. Griffith and an autobiography of Lillian Gish, so also a sort of history of film. Mr. Griffith is handled somewhat worshipfully, but his eccentricities are not concealed. The book was written with the help of Ann Pinchot, still, Ms. Gish, in her writings, seems to be dignified, clear-headed, and observant. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith are perhaps the two most important figures in early film. At the time, Griffith was making movie and after movie, ground-breaking in scope and technique while Gish was creating one of the most memorable dignified movie star personaes around. I find Gish a fascinating person, with her kind of Victorian sensibility thrown headlong into the modern world of movie-making as she spins her POV of the excitment and experiment that was early filmmaking. She makes for some interesting yarns, which a lot of this turns out to be, all in a kind of matter-of-fact way that you can totally see her saying in a conversation, especially if you have seen any video of her speaking (as in the KINO Broken Blossom DVDs bonus material).

Still, you have to wonder how much of it is "true", particularly when it comes to her claiming to have influenced D.W. on the making of some of his most important work such as Intolerance. I for one believe her to an extent, and really appreciate her take on how movies were made in the early days, when everyone did everything and the material was not overtaken by producers and the Studios, which she claims lead to Griffith's demise as a filmmaker; the lack of control over his material. (Well, that and the drinking.) If you love the silent era and early Hollywood storytelling, and don't mind the yarning, this is right up your reading alley and perhaps required reading. ( )
1 vote noblechicken | Apr 25, 2013 |
Sometimes interesting, and somtimes not. But it passed the time...but a little technical.

I think the most interesting thing about her was that she was a very successful, well, professional (woman), in a way, who was still very traditional--I think she had traditional manners. But the worst part is reading about all the technical effects, which must all be enormously obsolete by now--I mean, she worked in silent, black-and-white films!--and not just that, but she is quite verbose at times, relating all the little details of production. I mean, she was certainly very interested in it, and pretty well-informed about it too, apparently, but I had just been hoping for a little more emotion coming from an actress: reading her is a bit like reading about a cameraman (like the amusingly alliteratively-named Billy Bitzer!).

But at least it was slightely relevant from a historical perspective: sometimes you hear about film beginning in the twenties, but from reading this, it's clear that its history streches back at least to the 1910s--when film actors were seen as upstarts, who were looked down upon by stage actors!--and the 'roaring 20s' is just when it became big business...although still, in a way, an almost embryonic and near-primitive business. And, of course, it could be amusing to hear about Mr. Griffith, the master amateur and amateur historian, full of high-minded historical dramas, and six-hour movie scripts written on the back of his hand...{most notably "The Birth of a Nation", in which he was at least able to draw on material near to his own experiences, being a southerner, and "Intolerance", the most famous of his many attempts to give some kind of endless sermon on something or another, using disjointed historical episodes...}

I just never really got to really *like* him, or her...They never had fun, they only knew things, and they only knew how to work.

And, without trying to be too mean, I think the fact that neither Gish nor Griffith survived (professionally, in the movies, at least) the transition from silent films to "talkies" says something about which direction they were facing in, in some ways. It also seems fair to say that neither seemed entirely at home in the less puritanical atmosphere of the 1920s...somewhere in one of the forwards (the two "appreciations") it says that Lilian would have been equally at home with either the Beatles or the Archbishop of Canterbury--but eventually you realize that that's not quite true, she would have had a preference, and she never would have made the "scandalous" choice...

I know that some people must think that she must have hated certain people, since she starred in "The Birth of a Nation"--but I don't think that's true: I don't think she (or Griffith) really hated anybody. But I don't think she liked anybody either, except in a polite sort of way. I don't think she ever really loved anybody: I don't think she let herself. I think she bottled up all her real feelings inside, and if they ever got out, she just acted like it was somebody else who did that, not her. (Although there are always plenty of excuses, especially with those dreary, unromantic, traditional, sorts of men.) I still think though, that she could have benefited from a little love, and a little hate. It never really helped her to be too pious to protest, but too brittle to forgive. I think she was as cold as ice, and I'm glad I never knew her.

And, if I may be forgiven for saying so, I find much of the detail to be rather dry.

(7/10) ( )
2 vote Tullius22 | Dec 15, 2011 |
Autographed by author.
  iwb | May 7, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lillian Gishprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pichot, Annsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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