Who Was Dorothy?

Dorothy as Tessa in Romola

 She was the talent in the family
– Lillian Gish

She was the female Chaplin
– Julian Johnson

Today she is all but forgotten.

Dorothy lived and worked in the shadow of her elder sister Lillian Gish.  Both Gish sisters began their careers on stage, Dorothy at the tender age of 4.

In 1912, the pair began working with D.W. Griffith at Biograph Studios and by 1915 they (and Griffith) had moved to Triangle.   Dorothy soon thereafter left the Griffith stable of actors and signed with Paramount/Artcraft in 1917.  She was soon making a series of very successful “black wig” comedies. In 1921 the sisters appeared in D.W. Griffith’s epic Orphans of the Storm.  Lillian also left Griffith and both Gish sisters had reunited under the independent banner of Inspiration Pictures.  Dorothy made several films with their Inspiration partner Richard Barthelmess as well as Romola with Lillian and Ronald Colman and William Powell.

Dorothy next traveled to England for a series of films produced by Herbert Wilcox including the successful Nell Gwynne and Madame Pompadour.  She her talkie debut in 1930 starring with Charles Laughton.  Declaring the film horrible, Dorothy fled the screen and returned to the stage in several productions throughout the depression.  She toured to the delight of all who saw her as Vinnie in Life With Father (as did sister Lillian).  Sadly she was not considered for the film role which was optioned by Mary Pickford and ultimately played most delightfully by Irene Dunne.  Dorothy returned to the screen in the 20th Century Fox film Centennial Summer and also appeared on television in the 1950′s.  She continued to appear in a few films with her final screen appearance in 1962.  Her stage work continued until the early sixties, as well.  Dorothy passed away in 1968 at the age of 70 in Italy.

This brief summary does little justice to the career nor the delightful personality that was Dorothy Gish.  Her life and career will be explored in detail via a biography that is currently being researched with the intent for publication. While a publisher will be sought, the proposed biography is not yet ready to pitch.

Lillian never forgot her beloved sister, but the general public and many historians have.

We hope to change that.