Lillian Gish and her art are finding a home at BGSU

Lillian Gish blows a Kiss to BGSU "Former" President Olscamp.


Can anything be written about a legend?

Lillian Gish, famous the world over for her work in silent films, stage productions and sound motion pictures, has probably been asked more questions by more reporters than any other actor or actress in America. And with good reason, because no other actor or actress alive today has appeared in as many productions, in every decade of this century, as Lillian Gish.

Despite her fame and abundant talent, this wisp of a woman with the strong, rich voice is disarmingly humble. The actress seems delighted to be honored by Bowling Green, the university only 20 miles from the site of her professional debut in Risingsun. An Ohio native, Miss Gish has been officially recognized several times by the university. She, in turn, has unofficially adopted Bowling Green as her favorite university - endowing a scholarship fund, presenting her lecture series, visiting campus four times since 1976 and delighting the University community with her spunky comments and vivid recollections of a long-ago era. The occasion of her most recent visit was the October dedication of an impressive collection of photographs in the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater in Hanna Hall. Commemorating the enduring career of the pioneer cinema star, the collection was originally displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, for the 1980 Lillian Gish Retrospective.

Elegantly dressed in a black velvet suit and a lacy white blouse, Miss Gish relaxes in a loveseat in the University Guest House before the evening ceremony in Hanna Hall begins. Her manager, James Frasher checks last minute details as special invited guest Eva Marie Saint arrives, back from a tour of the campus, which she had not seen for 36 years. Miss Gish sits back, preparing to begin the interview, then looks down in chagrin.

"Oh, dear, I'm about to lose a button," she announces, her voice carrying across the room as though she were giving an important line in one of her films. "Does anyone sew?"

Actress Saint comes to the rescue, offering to sew the dangling button in place.

"Oh, my dear, they told me you were wearing black velvet, too," Miss Gish worries as she takes off her jacket.

Saint, dressed in a soft brown suit, laughs, "Lillian, we'd look like the Bobbsey Twins if we both wore black velvet tonight."

"Yes, well, I suppose you're right. That would have been all right, though," Miss Gish smiles.

Her celebrated lack of vanity is apparent and a bit touching in her wish to dress like her friend.

The two actresses, who first worked together in The Trip to Bountiful in 1953, are obviously fond of each other. Miss Saint quickly sews on the button and helps Miss Gish back into her jacket.

"Oh, that's so good of you, my dear." She is sincere, open and charming.

It is becoming obvious why one never reads or hears disparaging stories of the actress, well known for her admirable ability to easily make and keep friends. While Gish is busy, her manager recalls the day in 1969 when he was hired to manage Gish.

"My father said, 'Be careful, that woman will change your life.' And she has. She's made me realize the beauty of life. I'm younger today than when I started working for her. That's her great gift. That's why she tunes in to young people. College kids respond to her," Frasher says.

"She has great vitality and generosity. Coming to Bowling Green is truly exciting to her. She loves seeing the people, the trees, the town, the University. She has a very special feeling about Bowling Green - the people here have been so good to her, and she wants to return the good wishes. She doesn't visit any other university as often, or show as much interest."

-| D.W.Griffith | Lillian's Home Page | NEXT PAGE | Memorial |-
This page was originally created on December 6th 1994 by Dr. Paul Charlesworth,
Whilst working at the Center for Photochemical Sciences, BGSU.

Last modified on: Thursday, October 30, 1997.