Actress. Legendary actress mostly remembered for her ability to play vulnerable and waif-like fragile, yet inwardly strong roles in many silent films, including her most famous roles in "Birth of a Nation" (1915) and "Intolerance" (1916). In 1984, she received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. Born Lillian Diana de Guiche, on October 14, 1893, in Springfield, Ohio, her father was an alcoholic who left the family to fend for itself. To help make ends meet, Lillian, her sister Dorothy, and her mother acted in local productions. Lillian made her first stage appearance at the age of six. Initially, she proved to be a very good stage actress, which attracted D. W. Griffith to her in 1912. He immediately cast her in his film, "An Unseen Enemy" (1912), quickly followed by "The One She Loved" (1912), and many later silent movies. Her success in the role of Elsie Stoneman in "Birth of a Nation" (1915) made her a star with the public. The next year, she starred in "Intolerance" (1916), which cemented her career with the public. However, by the mid-1920s her youth had faded, and her career suffered, despite great roles in "La Boheme" (1926) and "The Scarlet Letter" (1926). She survived the transition to sound films, continuing to make movies well into the early 1930s. In 1933, she took a break away from films, but continued to act on stage. During World War II, she played in "Commandos Strike at Dawn" (1943) and in "Top Man" (1943). In 1946, she was nominated for her first Oscar, for her Best Supporting role in "Duel in the Sun"(1946), losing to Anne Baxter. She continued to appear periodically in the 1960s and 1970s on Television and in movies. In 1971, she received a special Academy Award Oscar for "superlative artistry and distinguished contributions to the progress of motion pictures." Her last picture was "The Whales of August" (1987). In 1969, she published her autobiography "The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me," followed in 1973 with "Dorothy and Lillian Gish." She never married, and died in her sleep at the age of 99.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson