Lillian Gish

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

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.


  • 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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