Dorothy Gish biography
Born on March 11, 1898, in Dayton, Ohio, Dorothy Gish started acting at the age of four. With the help of childhood friend Mary Pickford, Dorothy was soon under the directorship of D.W. Griffith, making her film debut in 1912's An Unseen Enemy. She and her sister Lillian Gish became early stars of the silent screen. Early on, she made several memorable films, including Hearts of the World and Orphans of the Storm. After talking pictures became the norm, Gish transitioned back to the stage. She died in Rapallo, Liguria, Italy, on June 4, 1968.
Actress Dorothy Elizabeth Gish was born on March 11, 1898, in Dayton, Ohio. Though many saw her as the less-celebrated younger sister of the famous Lillian Gish, Dorothy was an adept comedienne who went on to star in more than 100 short films and features.
Her father James was a candy maker who eventually abandoned the family after his business failed. Her mother Mary took up acting to support the family, using the stage name Mae . Dorothy Gish and her older sister, Lillian, soon followed their mother onto the stage. Dorothy started performing at the age of 4, appearing as a boy in a production of East Lynne.
Mary, Dorothy and Lillian Gish spent years working on theatrical tours, sometimes together on the same show and other times working on different productions. When not with their mother, the Gish girls were looked after by theatrical friends and associates. During their off-season, Dorothy and her family would spend time in Massillon, Ohio, with her mother's sister.
In addition to acting, Mary Gish also rented out rooms in their New York apartment. This is how Dorothy and her sister met future film star Mary Pickford, who was originally known as Gladys Smith. Years later, the Gish sisters approached Pickford once she had started appearing in movies by D.W. Griffith. Pickford introduced them to Griffith, which soon led to their film debut. Dorothy was 14 years old when she and Lillian appeared in An Uneasy Enemy.
Silent Film Star
Both Dorothy and Lillian Gish enjoyed huge success in films. Dorothy distinguished herself as a fine comedic performer while her sister usually tackled more dramatic roles. Dorothy was one of the busiest actresses in the silent film era, making more than 60 movies during the first few years of her career. Sadly many of her early works have been lost.
Dorothy Gish made several memorable films as a young woman, including 1918's Hearts of the World with her sister. Her comic turn as Little Disturber in this movie earned her great praise. More humorous parts soon followed, including Battling Jane (1918) and The Hope Chest (1919). With her sister directing, Dorothy starred opposite James Rennie in the popular 1920 comedy Remodeling Her Husband. Later that year, she married Rennie.
The following year, Dorothy showed off her dramatic talents. She played a blind woman in Orphans of the Storm (1921), co-starring with her sister. Dorothy made her last film with Lillian, Romola, in 1924.
After the film industry converted to talking pictures, Gish transitioned back to the stage. By this time she was an enormous star, and her performances drew large crowds eager to see her in person. Notable stage performances include 1928's Young Love directed by George Cukor.
For much of the 1930s and 1940s, Gish focused primarily on stage work. She and her husband divorced in 1935. Gish returned to films in 1944 with a supporting role in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. Two years later, she appeared in Centennial Summer. But for Gish, the "talkies" held little appeal. She starred on Broadway as painter Mary Surratt in 1947's The Story of Mary Surratt. In 1950, Gish made her final Broadway appearance in The Man.
The following year, Gish returned to the screen in The Whistle at Eaton Falls starring Lloyd Bridges. She told The New York Times how much filmmaking had changed since her heyday. "Films have become easier work since I was last here. In the old days an actress did her own make-up and hair, prepared her costumes and sometimes worked fifteen and sixteen hours a day." She worked with director Otto Preminger on her last film, The Cardinal (1963).
Dorothy Gish spent her final years at a clinic in Italy, according to a report in The New York Times. Her sister was with her when she died of bronchial pneumonia on June 4, 1968, in Rapallo, Italy. Years later, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater and Gallery was established on the campus of Bowling Green State University to honor the work of two of film's great early stars.