The Gish Sisters: Dorothy and Lillian
Lillian Diana Gish, born Oct. 14, 1893, was the more prominent star of the two and was one of America’s best loved actresses during the 1910’s and 20’s. Lillian’s acting career spanned 75 years, from 1912 to 1987. The longevity of her career earned her the nickname “The First Lady of American Cinema”. The American Film Institute (AFI) named Lillian Gish 17th among the greatest female stars of all time. She was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1971, and in 1984 she received an AFI Life Achievement Award.
Dorothy Elizabeth Gish, born March 11, 1898, would go on to star in over 100 short films and features herself, many of them with Lillian. For her contribution as an actress in motion pictures, Dorothy Gish was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, California.
When the sisters were young their father left the family before they old enough to remember him. Their mother then took up acting to support the family. When Lillian and Dorothy were old enough, they joined the theatre, often traveling separately in different productions. They also took modeling jobs. In 1912, their friend Mary Pickford introduced the sisters to D. W. Griffith, and helped get them contracts with Biograph Studios. The sisters debuted together in Griffith’s short film “An Unseen Enemy” (1912). The sisters maintained a very close relationship with each other throughout their life, as well as with Mary Pickford.
Dorothy Gish died in 1968 from bronchial pneumonia at the age of 70 at a clinic in Rapallo, Italy where she had been a patient for two years, with sister Lillian at her side. Dorothy Gish was entombed in Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City in the columbarium in the undercroft of the church. Lillian Gish died in her sleep of natural causes on February 27, 1993, aged 99 and is interred beside her sister Dorothy at Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City.