In reviewing a few interviews with Dorothy Gish, I came upon some anecdotes that were naturally of great interest. I thought I'd share the gist of them here.
Dorothy starred in a film in 1919 called Nobody Home (aka Out of Luck) and one of her leading men in the film was a young Italian by the name of Rudolph Valentino. The film was supervised by D.W. Griffith and directed by Griffith alumnus Elmer Clifton. Dorothy plays a young woman who is unable to make a decision between two suitors. Valentino was cast as the slightly shady and villianous suitor. It was he to whom the stars pointed as the man she should choose. Sadly this is one of many lost films starring Dorothy. All that remains are stills and lobby art. As a Valentino fan and a Dorothy Gish fan, the stills are tantalizing and tormenting.
Dorothy never had anything but nice things to say about Rudolph Valentino throughout her life. She liked him tried her level best to get D.W. Griffith interested in the young actor. As in Nobody Home, the stars did not bode well for Valentino. Try as she might, Dorothy could not interest Griffith in Valentino. Griffith, it would seem, could not see or was immune to the talents and charm of Rudolph Valentino and he refused to sign him. Griffith's rejection did not stall Valentino's career, he went on to bigger and better things shortly thereafter with June Mathis and Rex Ingram.
Dorothy always said what a nice man Valentino was. Dorothy often accepted his invitation to enjoy horseback riding and stated that he went so far as to take her to a tailor so she could have a proper suit of riding clothes made (Lillian, too).
Dorothy also related how Valentino would call and ask to come over for a visit. Valentino was friendly not only with Dorothy but with her sister Lillian. Valentino also loved the Gish sister's mother, Mary Gish. Valentino having so recently lost his own mother clearly found a tender heart in Mary Gish. Dorothy also related that her mother was a fine cook. Valentino joined Mary Gish in the kitchen and made many a meal together. Dorothy, left no record of recipes but stated as late as 1966 that she remembered Valentino's spaghetti "was SO good!"
In working previously on Valentino, I knew all too well primary source material would be hard to come by and direct testimony impossible since there is nobody left alive who knew him.
Dorothy Gish is a little different. She lived longer, into my own lifetime. She worked through the early 1960's. I hoped and believed that there are a few people left who knew her, worked with her and would be willing to talk to me about her. I've had confirmation this morning that I've succeeded in finding my first direct link back to Dorothy.
Scheduling a telephone call next week! Excitement! Off to a great start!
With Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol completed, I've been bitten by the research bug. To begin rediscovering Dorothy Gish, I've taken on a project I think I can really sink my teeth into.
Dorothy was a little less famous than her more ambitious sister Lillian. That being said, Lillian always made a point to credit Dorothy as being the more talented sister. This will be a journey of discovery in every sense of the word to find out who she was and hopefully what made her tick.
In speaking recently with theatre historian and author Miles Krueger, he said to me the instant her name came up "She was a real live wire!" He said this with the brightest smile and dancing light in his eyes. It was a recollection of unbridled joy. How can you not be intrigued by that? This is one facet of Dorothy I hope to uncover as I begin this research journey. I have a feeling that won't be hard, her sense of humor precedes her.
The journey will not only be a virtual time travel back to find Dorothy and her extant films, it's going to be a literal journey and I will be wading through paper and scrapbooks more than knee deep and not in my home office (at least not yet). I can hardly wait!
I've already had some generous and wonderful help with some leads and preliminary material. The list of acknowledgments is already growing and the process has barely begun.