Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Battle Royale #9: Battle of the Silent Queens

Welcome to the ninth Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.   It is an ongoing series that will pit two classic cinematic greats against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.

A long time ago, before movies could talk, or at least before they were willing to talk, there lived a time in cinema called the silent days.  Back in these days of yore, there lived two women who were considered the best of the best when it came to acting.  These queens of the silent days - this Mary Pickford and this Lillian Gish - were the end all and be all of this still young medium called the moving pictures - the flickers if you will.  Gish was called "The First Lady of American Cinema," and Pickford, "America's Sweetheart," and now here they are, nearly ninety years past their hey day, and placed in battle - or, more appropriately, placed in Battle Royale.

Mary Pickford, born Gladys Marie Smith in 1892, in Toronto, Canada (and still, to become America's Sweetheart), made her screen debut in 1909, in a Biograph short directed by D.W. Griffith.  She would spend a good majority of her career making films for Griffith, a man that would become one of her closest friends, and would later help form United Artists with Pickford, her then husband Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and good friend Charlie Chaplin.  At one point in 1919 and 1920, Pickford was quite possibly the most well known woman on the planet.  The supposed storybook marriage of Pickford and Fairbanks was what legends were made of, and helped give birth to the fan magazine.  Mary would move into the sound era, and become an Oscar winner for Best Actress in Coquette, in the second Academy Award ceremonies, but would soon retire from acting.  She appeared in her final film in 1933.  After retirement, Pickford would fall into alcoholism, eventually become a recluse, allowing only her stepson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and good friend Lillian Gish, visitation rights.  But still, her memory lives on as America's Sweetheart.  

Meanwhile, friend Lillian Gish, born just a year later, in Ohio, would make her screen debut in 1912.  It too was produced at Biograph, and it too was directed by D.W. Griffith, and she too would spend the majority of her silent career under the tutelage of Mr. Griffith.  She would go on to star in such films as The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms and Orphans of the Storm.  While Mary was the covergirl, Lillian was usually the more lauded for her acting prowess.  Gish, unlike friend Pickford, would keep going well into the sound era, including most notably, in one of the greatest films ever made, The Night of the Hunter, in 1955.   Gish's final film would be the 1987 film The Whales of August, also starring Bette Davis and Vincent Price.  Gish would live until the age of 99.

So there you have it ladies and germs.  Choose your favourite between these Silent Queens.  All you need do is to go on over to the poll, found conveniently near the top of the sidebar of this very same site, and click on who you think is the greater of these two great ladies.  And remember, you can comment all you wish (and please do comment - we can never have too many of those) but in order for your vote to be counted, you must vote in the actual poll.  After doing that, then you can come back over here and leave all your comments.  Who knows, maybe we will get some sort of lively cinematic discussion going.  And also please remember to tell everyone you know to get out the vote as well.  I would like to see us reach triple digits this time around.  Voting will go until midnight, EST, the night of Friday Dec 21st (just over two weeks from the starting gate).  The results will be announced the following day.  So get out there and vote vote vote.

11 comments:

Michaël Parent said...

To me it is Gish all the way. I haven't been very fond of Pickford anyway. I loved Gish in Sjostrom's The Wind. She makes the film with her over the top acting.

David Morrison said...

For a split second, I thought you were inviting me to a mud-wrestling showdown or some other in-person competition. Is it true they both still live at the Motion Picture Country Home?

Kevyn Knox said...

Hey, if it was going to be mud-wrestling, I think I would have gone with Jean Harlow and Louise Brooks. Now I would pay to see that.

Carrie said...

Both important, but Gish is the Pope and Pickford the Bishop. Gish worked with Griffith and Seastrom, her career continued into the talkies era -- she anchors Duel in the Sun, Night of the Hunter, etc. Gish was an actress and Pickford a star. In their cases, the actress's work is more enduring than Pickford's archetype of American femininity.

Kevyn Knox said...

Carrie, I could not agree with you more.

I did figure Gish would wind up winning (she got my vote) but I did not thing it was going to be a landslide, which is the way it seems to be going in the early stages of voting.

Anonymous said...

I'm going with Gish! More like Mary NOTGONNAPickford! Ha!

Dave Enkosky said...

Gotta go with Gish, if only for Night of the Hunter.

Kevyn Knox said...

Yes, Night of the Hunter. Anyone who can take down Mitchum has got my vote.

100 Years of Movies said...

I would love to be the contrarian here, but there's no comparison. Pickford basically played a variation on one role (and well past the age she should have been). Gish all the way!

Kevyn Knox said...

I am still quite surprised at how this battle is going. Like I said before (scroll up), I figured Gish would pull off the victory here (she got my vote as well), but for some reason I also figured it would be a relatively close race.

Helen said...

Gish is the iconic Griffith heroine. She was a great tragedienne who starred in a handful of great movies. She was more admired than loved. She was devoted to her craft and re-made herself as a character actress late in life.

Pickford was the most powerful woman in Hollywood and the world's most popular actress. She was a great comedienne and made some wonderful movies. She was on top for a long time, and when her era ended she knew it and retired.

It's a hard call to make because they're so different but I have to vote Pickford.