Saturday, September 7, 2013

Have You Been Gished? -- Dorothy Gish -- September 7, 2013

Cook County News-Herald, January 28, 1920.
This post is part of  the Gish Sisters Blogathon hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and Lindsey at The Motion Pictures.   Dorothy and Lillian Gish made their motion picture debut 101 years ago on 09-September-1912.  Be sure to click on most images to see larger versions.  

Photoplay, August, 1916.
 Sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish made their film debut 101 years ago, on 09-September-1912.  The girls had moved to New York when their Ohio home burned down.  They got to know their next door neighbor, child actress Gladys Smith.  Lillian and Dorothy became actresses and models.  The image shows Dorothy, age seven, in her first stage appearance, Her First False Step.  Gladys, who would soon change her name to Mary Pickford, persuaded them to visit the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company's studio at 11 East 14th Street in Manhattan.  Director DW Griffith approved of the sisters and put them to work.

In this, the first of three posts for Gish Sisters Blogathon, I feature younger sister Dorothy Gish, who is often overlooked because her sister Lillian is considered one of the greatest American actresses.  In the second post, I will write about Lillian, and in the third I will write about the sisters' work and life together.  In each post, I will cobble together a variety of newspaper and magazine items, looking for interesting items about the lives of the Gish sisters. 

I don't want to appear ungentlemanly, but I should point out that the Gishes, like many people in show business, were flexible about stating their ages and years of birth.

Moving Picture World, 03-October-1914.
Lillian and Dorothy followed Griffith from the Biograph to Reliance-Majestic and beyond.  Lillian Gish played a major role in Birth of a Nation and Dorothy appeared in two reelers like "Sands of Fate." 

Photoplay, February, 1915.
In December, 1914, Dorothy left the studio on her way home and was hit by a car.  Some accounts say she was dragged 40 feet.  She may have had a toe amputated.

Photoplay, July, 1915.

Photoplay, August, 1915.

Photoplay, February, 1916.
Dorothy's marital status became a hot topic in the "Questions and Answers" section of Photoplay.  I don't have room to include all the replies. 

Photoplay, November, 1916.

Photoplay, January, 1917.
Photoplay, March, 1917.

Photoplay, August, 1917.
By late 1916, the questions began to focus on actor Robert Harron, who had started as a boy at the Biograph, and had moved along with Griffith and the Gishes to Reliance-Majestic and beyond.

Photoplay, April, 1917.
 By 1917, Dorothy was popular enough to endorse Ingram's Milkweed Cream. 

Photoplay, June, 1918.
Griffith took Dorothy and Lillian across the Atlantic, risking attack from German U-Boats, to film scenes for Hearts of the World and The Greatest Thing in LifeHearts of the World became a huge hit.  Dorothy's role as "The Little Disturber" (Griffith liked character names like that) made her a star. 

Photoplay, November, 1918.

"Let us hope that the verve and fire Dorothy Gish poured forth as 'The Little Disturber' will find another medium."  This turned out to be an issue for Dorothy. 

Photoplay, November, 1918.

Bobby Harron did not enlist, but he was losing roles to Dick Barthelmess.

Photoplay, December, 1918.

Photoplay, January, 1919.

I like this photo of Dorothy sitting on the porch of the Gish family home on Serrano Avenue in Los Angeles. 

"She sat down on one end of a perfectly enormous purple velvet divan, tucked her feet under her, kid-fashion, and began to laugh.  Out of a clear sky it bubble, that laugh -- just girl.  And there you have the secret of Dorothy Gish and her superlative charm -- just girl -- the sort of girl you adored in high school, and worshiped out of it -- the girl you waltzed with under soft, shaded lights -- the girl that's always held a little, wee place in your heart --

"'Mother'll be here in a minute,' she announced.  'She's doing some Red Cross thing, of course.  My mother,' with that positive, almost belligerent little stare that belonged so completely to the famous 'Little Disturber' of Hearts of the World, 'is the nicest woman in the world.  She's always doing something for somebody.'

"'Now Lillian -- here's a funny one.  You know we were brought up with the Pickfords.  Well, Mary and I always seemed to be the ones that started things.  We used to hear mother say, 'Lillian is too good to live.'  And then Mrs. Pickford would sigh and say, 'Yes, that child is almost too good for this world.'  Then Mary and I would follow Lillian around all day to see if she wasn't going to fall over, or something.  It fascinated us.  But Lillian is still like that -- so quiet and good.  Gee, I've got a nice family -- all but me.  I'm the black sheep'"

Photoplay, February, 1919.

Dorothy's black wig became a popular topic.

Photoplay, February, 1919.

"Dorothy Gish -- by the way we have had more queries about this young lady than anyone this month..."

Photoplay, May, 1919.
Dorothy gave Photoplay writer Elmer Robbins permission to look over the first 1000 letters she received in a a month.  9 marriage proposals.  879 no return postage.

Photoplay, August, 1919.
"NOT married."  Eva Tanguay was a famous vaudeville performer.

Film Fun, February, 1920.
 I thought about using this as the title of my post, but then I thought better of it. 

Photoplay, October, 1920.
Photoplay, November, 1920.
On 01-September-1920, Bobby Harron checked into the Hotel Seymour in New York.  Some time later, he called the desk and said he had been shot.  When the manager came to his room, Harron explained that a loaded pistol had fallen out of his luggage while he was unpacking.  The gun fell to the floor and fired, hitting him in the chest.  He refused an ambulance, asking for a doctor.  A doctor was not available, so he allowed an ambulance to take him to the hospital.  He died on 05-September-1920.  While he was in the hospital, rumors started that he had shot himself on purpose because of losing roles and perhaps because Dorothy Gish had spurned him.  We will never know.

Photoplay, October, 1920.

Because the dates on publications usually don't match the dates they were published, it is often hard to judge the sequence of events, but Dorothy Gish and her mother took a European vacation right around the time that Bobby Harron died.

Photoplay, November, 1920.
A list of men fans hoped Dorothy would marry.

Photoplay, November, 1920.
Dorothy sailing for Europe.

Photoplay, March, 1921.
Dorothy and her buddy Constance Talmadge went to Greenwich, Connecticut one day and got married in a double ceremony, Dorothy to Broadway actor James Rennie and Connie to John Piagoglou.  The Piagoglous honeymooned in Atlantic City.  The Rennies had to go back to New York so James could appear in that night's performance.  The Piagoglous divorced in 1922.
Dorothy Gish and James Rennie appeared in Flying Pat for Paramount in 1920. I like the poster.

Photoplay, March, 1921.
Dorothy met James Rennie, who had flown airplanes during World War One, while appearing in Remodeling Your Husband, which was directed by her sister Lillian.  He also appeared with her in Flying Pat, playing a flier.

Photoplay, July, 1921.
 Dorothy was musical and could play the mandolin and other instruments.  The image in the ad shows her as The Little Disturber in Hearts of the World

Photoplay, September, 1921.
 Soon people were asking if Dorothy had divorced.

Photoplay, November, 1921.

Photoplay, January, 1922.

This is a nice story, if true, about Dorothy taking over for the leading lady, but Pot Luck had a short run.

Photoplay, March, 1922.
Dorothy or a ghost writer wrote about her marriage in Photoplay.  "I married Mr. Rennie before I had time to think ... Although you know and I know that happy marriages don't 'just happen,' neither are they made in heaven.  It takes a lot of love and tact and common sense."  I admire his bravery, moving into an apartment with his wife, her sister, their mother and two cousins, both women.  When her mother got sick, Jim visited her in the hospital every day for a month.  "In fact, the only fault I have to find with my husband is that he always smiles.  When he is angry, he smiles.  It is a habit which might get on the nerves of some wives.  When most men emit angry sounds, or grown when they are put out, Jim smiles."  Sounds like a keeper.

Photoplay, April, 1922.
Many Photoplay cover paintings did not resemble the actresses that they were supposed to depict.  This one is not bad.

Photoplay, August, 1922.

I assume the ungentlemanly Elmer Clifton was talking about Down to the Sea in Ships.

Photoplay, September, 1922.

Inspiration Pictures made all sorts of trouble for both Dorothy and Lillian.  See Lillian's post for more details.

Photoplay, October, 1922.

The author hoped that Dorothy's part in Fury would be as good for her as The Little Disturber in Hearts of the World.

Photoplay, November, 1922.

 In 1925, Richard Barthelmess starred in a movie version of Hubert Osborne's play Shore Leave.

Photoplay, December, 1922.

Dorothy and Dick Barthelmess in Fury "together again".

Photoplay, September, 1922.
Dorothy on Jim: "patience, sympathy, love of humanity ... and a delightful sense of humor."

Motion Picture Classic, April, 1926.
Nell Gwyn, the story of the actress and mistress of King Charles II, was produced in Britain.  It was Dorothy's last big success in silent films.

Dorothy worked on the stage and made a few scattered talkies.  When television arrived, she made several appearances.  Dorothy Gish died on 04-June-1968.  Her sister Lillian was by her side.

Wireless Age, March, 1923.

I wanted to end on a happier note.  "I think the time is coming when we of the movies will be doing our acting in front of something or other and the reflection of it will be sent into the homes by radio."  Crazy idea.

This post was part of the Gish Sisters Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently and Lindsey at The Motion Pictures.  Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read as many posts as you can.  

My posts for the blogathon:
Post One: Have You Been Gished? -- Dorothy Gish
Post Two:  Don't You Wish You Were a Gish? -- Lillian Gish
Post Three: Gish Sisters Have Imperfect Noses -- The Gish Sisters


Lindsey said...

As a collector of old fan mags I'm completely biased, but this is one of my favorite contributions to the blogathon so far! I especially like "Dorothy the Disturber" -- what a fantastic nickname. Thank you so much for sharing these!

Joe Thompson said...

Lindsey: I'm very happy you enjoyed it. Dorothy the Disturber must have been a wonderful person to know. I found a lot more things about Dorothy than I could fit in here. Thank you for visiting. Wait till you see what I have for Lillian tomorrow.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for your tribute to Dorothy! I have a huge soft spot for her as a performer and I loved your collection of clippings. Looking forward to those next posts!

Anonymous said...

What an incredibly well-researched post! I enjoyed reading all the magazine clips so much, the language and style of writing never fails to amuse me - and I second Lindsey, 'Dorothy the Disturber' really is the BEST nickname!
Thank you

Joe Thompson said...

Hi Fritzi: I'm really grateful that you and Lindsey put this blogathon together. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Hi girlsdofilm: Thank you. If I could spend all day every day digging through old newspapers and magazines, I would be very happy.

Jon said...

Wow what a beautiful collection you have put together on Dorothy. I am very impressed and so glad you took the time to do this for us all. Great work.

Joe Thompson said...

Jon: I'm glad you liked it. I had fun. I've enjoyed reading everyone's posts.

Silver Screenings said...

This was utterly fascinating, and a wonderful tribute to Dorothy G. Thank you for sharing all this research with us -- it's something you can truly get lost in.

Joe Thompson said...

I'm happy you enjoyed it. I wanted to make sure Dorothy got a good share of the tribute. Thanks for commenting.