The longer the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, the more some of us are finally getting some work done.
Lillian Gish at Chatsworth's "Lillian Gish Rocks" (promo still from the early silent movie era)
One movie researcher who's putting his "stay at home" orders to good use is Tyler Malone, who sent word that he had tracked down the story behind an old Lillian Gish photo that was the focus of a blog post here in 2017.
Chatsworth's "Lillian Gish Rocks" in 2020 (Jerry Condit photo)
Photographer Jerry Condit stopped off at the site earlier this year and was able to snap a nice shot of the rocks, even though today they're behind a fence and are usually somewhat hidden from view.
Lillian and her artsy admirer: Who was that unmasked man?
We knew the original photo was from about 1915-1917 and came from Triangle Films. What we didn't know was the name of the movie or the identity of the guy with the receding hairline who's also in the shot.
Mystery solved: Tyler figured out that the guy is Alfred Paget, a silent film actor who appeared in more than 225 short features and was close to wrapping up his career at the time he ventured into the tall grass with Lillian.
Born in London in 1879, Paget had been appearing on the silver screen since way back in 1908. He was apparently already dealing with that hairline situation by the time he started having publicity shots taken.
The movie is one that most or all of us have probably never heard of: A 1916 short feature called "Pathways of Life," directed by Christy Cabanne.
Even though the movie is pretty obscure, it has some interesting bloodlines. D.W. Griffith, who was one of the top movers and shakers at Triangle Film Corp., oversaw the project — he's officially listed as the film's "supervisor."
D.W. Griffith points the finger at Lillian Gish as actor Robert Harron stays out of the way
Griffith had a long-running professional relationship with Gish, and there were rumors that at times it was more than just professional — know what I mean, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more.
Lillian and Dorothy Gish in "An Unseen Enemy" (1912); the sisters were about 18 and 14 at the time
Griffith began putting the Gish sisters in his movies in 1912, with "An Unseen Enemy" — the first film role for both Lillian and her kid sister Dorothy. Lillian Gish would go on to work with Griffith in almost 50 films, while Dorothy ... well, let's just say she might have dodged a bullet by being underage at the time.
Lillian Gish rubs elbows with the Klan in "The Birth of a Nation" (1915)
The highest-profile Gish-Griffith collaboration, the pro-Ku Klux Klan landmark "The Birth of a Nation," would stir up a controversy that continues to haunt the legacies of both D.W. Griffith and Lillian Gish to this day.
2019 Deadline article on the Bowling Green-Lillian Gish controversy
The racist aftertaste of "The Birth of a Nation" reared its head again just last year when Bowling Green State University in Ohio removed Lillian Gish's name from its campus theater because of her involvement in the movie.
Students read a notice about the Gish Theater name controversy at Bowling Green State
Almost as soon as the new site opened for business, a big orange notice went up announcing that the school was having second thoughts about the theater's name.
Hollywood responds to the controversy
The Hollywood community came out with a show of support for keeping the name, with insiders including James Earl Jones, Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Peter Bogdanovich, Malcolm McDowell and Lauren Hutton among those signing off on a letter aimed at convincing the school to keep the Gish name.
The former Gish Theater — now the BGSU Film Theater
In the end, though, the school went with a rename and the Gish display went dark.
Lillian Gish handles the honorary Oscar she received in 1971
Controversy or not, Lillian Gish became known as the First Lady of American Cinema and had one of the most celebrated careers in Hollywood history. It was also one of the longest, spanning 75 years.
"The Whales of August" (1987): Lillian Gish, left, and Bette Davis
She packed it in after the 1987 feature "The Whales of August," in which she and Bette Davis starred as aging sisters reflecting on their lives. Gish was 93 and Davis was 78 years young at the time.
"Pathways of Life" (1916): Lillian Gish with W.E. Lawrence (left) and Spottiswoode Aitken
The "Pathways of Life" mystery from 71 years earlier (wow!) broke when Tyler found the promo still seen here, in which Gish appears in the same dress she was wearing in the "Lillian Gish Rocks" photo.
Lillian Gish in the same outfit in two promo stills for "Pathways of Life"
The shading on Gish's dress looks much darker in the second photo. But knowing what we know about the "Lillian Gish Rocks," it does appear that the two pictures may have been taken in the same general area.
"Pathways of Life": The "Hotel Abandon" promo still
Gish appears in a similar costume in the "Hotel Abandon" promo still, but if we look closely we can see that that this is not her free-flowing "Lillian Gish Rocks" dress. The devil is in the details.
"Intolerance" (1916): Alfred Paget as Belshazzar
A little more research on Paget confirmed his history with D.W. Griffith — Paget worked with Griffith on almost 200 movies from 1908-1916, including playing Prince Belshazzar in Griffith's epic "Intolerance."
"Martyrs of the Alamo" (1915): Alfred Paget, center, as Jim Bowie
Paget also had a history with Christy Cabanne, the director of "Pathways of Life," including playing Jim Bowie the previous year in Cabanne's "Martyrs of the Alamo."
"Pathways of Life" director Christy Cabanne
I felt compelled to include Cabanne's photo here, mainly because he has such a classically villainous look.
Come to think of it, has anyone ever seen Christy Cabanne and Snidely Whiplash in the same room?
Intrepid LAPD Det. Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver)
Nice detective work, Tyler. Thanks for all of your contributions to the research!