The Longevity of Lillian Gish

Day 296 of Colourisation Project – February 27

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Dubbed The First Lady of American Cinema, Lillian Diana Gish was an American  actress, whose career spanned an amazing 75 years, from 1912 to 1987 and which encompassed silent screen, sound film, stage and television work for the best part of the 20th century. 

Photo APEDA NY – Lillian Gish – Colourised by Loredana Crupi

Born in Springfield, Ohio, she was regarded as one of silent cinema’s finest, starring in many of D.W. Griffith’s most acclaimed films, including the first full length motion picture, the controversial The Birth of a Nation (1915). Although groundbreaking for its innovative techniques, it was criticized by many for its blatant racism in its portrayal of blacks and for its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. For her part Gish always maintained that Griffiths was not racist.

Film critic Roger Ebert, wrote:

The Birth of a Nation is not a bad film because it argues for evil. Like Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, it is a great film that argues for evil. To understand how it does so is to learn a great deal about film, and even something about evil.”

Gish, the archetypal silent film heroine also starred in his follow up film, Intolerance (1916), in which he tried to make amends by addressing the concepts of prejudice and intolerance.


Gish continued to work until the late 1980s. Her last film role was in The Whales of August in 1987 at the age of 93.

Lillian Gish died in her sleep of heart failure, age 99 on this day February 27, 1993. Given her longevity in the industry she was the last of the great silent film stars at the time of her death.

Gish was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1971, ‘for superlative artistry and distinguished contributions to the progress of motion pictures’ and in 1984 she received an American Film Institute (AFI) ‘Life Achievement Award.’

Gish has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1720 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.


“Lionel Barrymore first played my grandfather, later my father, and finally, he played my husband. If he’d lived, I’m sure I’d have played his mother. That’s the way it is in Hollywood. The men get younger and the women get older.”   ~  Lillian Gish

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Film, Hollywood, Photography, USA, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Longevity of Lillian Gish

  1. Nathan Hobby says:

    You find so many intriguing people to write about! Thank you.


    • Loredana Isabella Crupi says:

      Thankyou, Nathan….I sometimes worry that I focus too much on Hollywood stars in this colourisation project but the subjects I choose are more often determined by the availability of copyright free images.

      Notwithstanding, Hollywood has so many fascinating stories as I have come to discover.

      Cheers L 🙂


      • Nathan Hobby says:

        I find the Hollywood stars particularly interesting – the way the celebrities of just a couple of generations ago have become obscured by time. And how in colour they come to life in a new way.


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  4. Anonymous says:

    APEDA NY and she was blonde …


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