In the 1970′s I wrote to the great actress Lillian Gish and she actually replied! My method was to send a S.A.S.E. (a self-addressed stamped envelope) containing blank index cards. This worked well, leading to several amazing notes and autographs. I wish I’d known about acid free paper then. Some of them are already yellowing. When I figure out the exact year, I’ll add that information here. The notes were separated from their envelope and I didn’t want to write on the cards.
This was on one side of the cards:
Then on the other side of the card was this handwritten message:
I love her handwriting. A transcription:
All my thanks also for your interesting letter. The world does not know of the power of the silent film with great music and great themes, like Ghandi (Gandi), Napoleon, Birth of a Nation. We have lived through the stone age-the bronze age-the age of the printing press-Now the film and most powerful of all It is the universal age the Bible tells us will end wars and bring about the Millennium-It is still in its babyhood. Look how long it took the printing press-this will take longer to make the world One. So please don’t lose your interest.
So please don’t lose your interest! I love that. She took time to write to a young fan. The message has its real progressive even radical side too. Can cinema help change the world? Will the more recent digital/computer revolution also have positive repercussions? Yes silent movies! Yes end wars and bring on the universal age, with one world all on the same page. Is all of that still in its babyhood?
I love her work. From The Wind to The Scarlet Letter to Broken Blossoms to Night of the Hunter, she had an amazing career.
D.W. Griffith did quite a few films. For many of us “The Birth of a Nation” ruins all of the rest of his work. I’m not that extreme about it but I won’t apologize for it. For about twenty years, I’ve refused to watch it again. That said, I think that he did make some solid films, both shorts and features.