Times Square Tintypes: Dorothy Gish

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles stage and screen actress Dorothy Gish.
 

ISN’T SHE SWEET!

DOROTHY GISH. She is five feet four inches. Weighs a hundred five pounds. Wears a size four shoe. She has gray eyes. When she wears a blue hat, however, they appear bluish.
Caricature of Dorothy GishShe has traveled from New York to Hollywood forty times.
Is the proud possessor of six first editions and an original letter from Byron, denying that he wrote “The Vampire.”
The Gish girls, still in pigtails, began their theatrical careers touring the country in “10-20 and 30” melodramas in the days when movies were not only unheard of but also unseen.
Her first rôle was Little Willie in East Lynne. Her next appearance was with Lillian Gish in Her First False Step. Lillian played the rôle of Her First False Step. She was the Second False Step.
Doesn’t know a thing about cards. Consequently, she doesn’t play. She calls clubs, clovers.
For the last seven years she has been married to James Rennie.
Is not athletically inclined. Would much rather go shopping than play golf or tennis.
She is happiest when traveling. Will take a long trip on the slightest provocation. Many times she has left a happy home, almost on a moment’s notice, to sojourn in Italy, France, England, Cuba, and Rising Sun, Ohio.
She attended school for only two years. Reads omnivorously to make up for this. Read Schopenhauer when she was fourteen.
When she appeared in New York recently everybody asked her, “How’s Hollywood?” She hasn’t been in Hollywood since 1919. She has been working in studios in Italy, England, France and New York.
Is terribly superstitious. The first thing she does when she arrives in a town is to look up the local fortune teller.
She has never seen a prize fight, a Bernard Shaw play, Rin-Tin-Tin, a bicycle race, a Turkish bath or Van Cortlandt Park.
Every night before retiring she washes her stockings.
Very seldom attends the movies. Has seen only six pictures during the last two years.
Has had her hair treated by the same hairdresser for the last ten years. No matter where she may travel the hairdresser goes along. When playing in a picture she will not change her hair to fit the role but wears a wig.
She believes that all man should be tall, dark and handsome.
Her favorite drink is a frosted chocolate. And that tastes simply horrid to her unless she can sip it through a straw.
Made most of her big pictures abroad. Nell Gwynn and Madame Pompadour were made in England. Romola was made in Italy. The Bright Shawl in Havana.
In 1917 she was in France making Hearts of the World. She survived ten air raids.

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How to succeed in Hollywood, ca. 1921

Mae Marsh was a movie star whose heyday occurred in the era of silent pictures. She appeared in more than 100 pictures before 1928, including D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) and The Birth of a Nation (1915), and made another 90 or so once the switch had been made to talking pictures.

In 1921, in response, she claimed, to thousands of requests for advice from her fans, she authored a short book, “Screen Acting” that is one part memoir and two parts instruction book for those hoping to find work acting on the screen.

We were particularly intrigued (and, we’ll admit, amused) by the book’s third chapter, in which Ms. Marsh addresses, among other salient matters, the need for actors to be , er, clean-living and pure of heart and mind.

Does that describe the Hollywood of legend and lore? No, bless Ms. Marsh’s earnest heart.

Chapter III
Seven qualities that indicate fitness for a screen career
–Why they are important–An illustration of vitality.

   As I have said, I have been asked by thousands of correspondents for the formula for screen success. I have never felt able to answer. I don’t believe htere is any such formula.
   Putting the proposition another way:
   If I were requested to choose from among ten beginners the one who would go farthest in motion pictures I should unhesitatingly lay my finger upon the one who possessed the following qualifications:
   (1) Natural talent.
   (2) Ambition.
   (3) Personality.
   (4) Sincerity.
   (5) Agreeable appearance.
   (6) Vitality and strength.
   (7) Ability to learn quickly.

   I’m sure I would not go far wrong if I were to place my trust in one endowed with these qualities.
   A natural talent for acting implies more than a mere desire to act. It is the art, usually discovered during childhood, of mimicry, and the joy in that art.
   How many of us have been convulsed in our earlier years at some school girl friend’s take-off of our teacher? I seem to remember that in my grammar school days I was called upon more or less to take-off one of our teachers.
   If not called upon I volunteered. None of my school chums got more enjoyment out of my “imitation of Miss Blank” than I did. I never dreamed at that time –or, if I did, they were vague dreams–that I was to become an actress. Since then I have come to the conclusion that I was actually taking my first steps toward what I chose as a career.
   Natural talent, as I have called it, is no more than a tendency toward, or an aptitude for, some form of endeavor. In youth my first artistic lvoes were for mimicry and painting–the latter of which took the form of sculpturing–and both of these loves have been enduring.
   For that reason unless my candidate for screen success previously shown some love for acting or mimicry I should come to the conclusion that he or she was intoxicated merely with the glamour of the profession, with no especial love for the fundamental thing itself.Read More »