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Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish

Lillian & Dorothy Gish

Paternal 10th cousins, 1x removed

Lillian and Dorothy Gish and I were actually very closely related through my paternal 10x Great Grandfather, Henry Burt who was their 9x Great Grandfather on their maternal side.

When I fist discovered my connection to the Gish's, I really wished that my maternal Grandmother was still around to hear the news as I recall her speaking about them both. My maternal Grandmother, born in 1912, had grown up watching the movies of the two Gish actors, who were both famous Hollywood actors starting with the silent movies and ending with the "talkies".

Lillian Gish was born on October 14th, 1893 and was the elder of the two famous sisters. During the 1910's and 1920's, Lillian was a prominent Hollywood star, well known for her roles in films directed by D.W. Griffith. Prior to her1912 debut movie, An Unseen Enemy, in which her sister Dorothy also had a role,  Lillian had been a successful stage actress for 10 years.


Lillian is widely known as one of the greatest Silent Film era actresses as well as one of the greatest film actresses, period. With the advent of talking motion pictures, Lillian would appear in films less frequently but remained an accomplished stage actress. In the 1950's through the 1980's, Lillian was involved in a considerable amount of television work.

Lillian was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Duel In The Sun in 1946 and received a Special Academy Award in 1971 for "superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures". In addition, Lillian was awarded the Women in film Crystal Award in 1979 and the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984 (becoming only the 2nd woman to receive this award following Bette Davis who received the award in 1977). Lillian was the only silent film actress to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lillian passed away in her sleep on February 27, 1993 at the age of 99, having never married nor had any children.

Dorothy Gish was born on March 11, 1898 and was the younger sister of Lillian. Dorothy and her sister Lillian were childhood friends with actress Mary Pickford, and in 1912, Mary introduced the Gish sisters to director D.W. Griffith. The sisters were soon signed to Biograph Studios and both made their on-screen acting debut in An Unseen Enemy.

Dorothy made a series of silent films between 1912 and 1918. Between 1918 and 1920, Dorothy made several films in which here character was comedic (her sister, Lillian, always played dramatic/heroic roles) which made her a star of comedies. Dorothy acted continuously in movies until 1930, after which she only made 5 more movies in her lifetime.

Dorothy married once, in 1920 to Canadian-born actor, James Rennie. Dorothy and James did not have any children and divorced in 1935.

Dorothy passed away on June 4, 1968 at the age of 70 from bronchial pneumonia at a clinic in Rapallo, Italy, where Dorothy had been a patient for two years. Her sister, Lillian, was at Dorothy's side when she died.

Lillian and Dorothy Gish, two famous American Actresses, known to millions of people even to this day, and, I am proud to say, my cousins.

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