Lillian Gish

American actress (1893-1993)

Lillian Diana Gish (October 14, 1893February 27, 1993), the "First Lady of American Cinema", was an American actress of the screen and stage, as well as a director and writer. Regarded as the greatest silent film actress and one of the greatest actresses in cinema history, Gish is credited with pioneering fundamental film performing techniques.

I believe there's something for us after we die. The world isn't wasteful.


  • You know, when I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather. Later he played my father, and finally he played my husband. If he had lived I'm sure I would have played his mother. That's the way it is in Hollywood. The men get younger and the women get older.
    • As quoted in An Uncommon Scold (1989) by Abby Adams
  • I don't feel I'm old. I just feel I'm me. And I've always been a happy person. I love the human race. I love my work. I love the world—I've been around it four times, you know. And I'm a believing person. I believe in God, even though I can't see him. You can't see the air in this room, right? But take it away and you're dead. And I believe there's something for us after we die. The world isn't wasteful. It keeps going on and I think we do too.
    • As quoted in Lillian Gish : Her Legend, Her Life (2002) by Charles Affron, p. 353
  • If you're caught acting, nobody believes you.
  • When I was in films, we pretended to kiss but we didn't. It was considered unsanitary. Now they swallow each others' tonsils. It's disgusting.
  • I never chose money, I always chose people. I wanted to be around people who knew more than I did. I think that’s why I never fell in love with an actor. They never seemed to know any more than I did. I wanted to be with writers… My idea of a dream man was Thornton Wilder.
  • I'm so glad I didn't ruin a man's life by marrying him.
  • Thalberg wanted commercial hits. I wanted art.
    • [3] (On her work with MGM)


  • According to director Lindsay Anderson, one day while filming The Whales of August he said to Lillian Gish, "Miss Gish, you have just given me a perfect close-up." Bette Davis remarked: "She should. She invented 'em."
  • Lillian Gish is not only the best actress in her profession, but has the best mind of any woman I have ever met.
  • For Lillian Gish, My Favorite Actress. On the occasion of her 1st visit to New York of which this book is a practical guide. From Her Chattel, F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald's letter to Gish, written within a copy of Tender is the Night [5]
  • I never cease to wonder at my luck in having for my sister the woman who, more than any other woman in America, possesses all the qualities of true greatness.
  • The Cobweb was just plain weird, but I got to know and admire Miss Lillian Gish.
    • Fay Wray, speaking with James Bawden between 1972 and 1989; as quoted in Conversations with Classic Film Stars; Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era (2016) by Bawden and Ron Miller, p. 273

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