Liz Smith: Letters From a Legend

SHE’S a bang bang boogie!” said Jamie Foxx, the dynamite star of “Django UnChained,” of the one and only Beyonce.

We’d already written our accolade to the Queen of the Super Bowl, but I couldn’t resist this quote.

THE OTHER day this column went off the deep end remembering our friend Lillian Gish, the first among early black silent motion picture stars, and how she lived into a great old age, acting on stage and screen, and not bothering to leave this world until 1993.

SYNCHRONICITY happens all the time and in this case, a whole file of correspondence with Lillian came to light the day after this column appeared. Letters from Lillian were typed and usually began, “My dear Liz Smith” and are signed — “as always … ever gratefully … most earnestly … affectionately … someday I hope to even the score … adoration is a two way street.”

Here are just a few fascinating remarks by Lillian from her letters: Regarding the erratic and not-too-nice producer Jed Harris: “He was our mid century theatre genius … it makes me thankful that I had sense enough early in life to choose people, not money, to work for. It makes for a happier life I firmly believe.”

Here’s another: “It was lovely seeing you at ‘Napoleon’ and how wonderful that maybe at last the public will finally understand the importance of film preservation. I pray so. Aren’t you a dear to remember to send me the clippings. My original I sent off to Nancy Reagan at the White House and I have glued your signed one in my scrapbook. The third I’m mailing to Nancy’s mother, Edie, in Phoenix.”

And a 1979 letter that goes like so: “Am off to Louisville, Kentucky to introduce ‘Broken Blossoms’ at the D.W. Griffith Theatre in J.B. Speed Art Museum.” Then, in her own handwriting, Lillian adds what I consider to be an important historic film P.S. It goes like this:

“(D.W.) Griffith needed a figure to rock the cradle in ‘Intolerance.’ I was free for half an hour one morning, so dressed in a non-period outfit, did it. Was not supposed to leave my name in the cast. How I got top billing. Will wonders never cease!”

DANIEL CRAIG was impressive in the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” (The Swedish version arrived a couple of years earlier. Film fans have been known to come to blows comparing the two films, based on the work of the late novelist Stieg Larsson.)

But if you think that Daniel Craig will be jumping back into the role of journalist Michael Blomkvist for the sequel, don’t get too excited. Craig’s last 007 film, “Skyfall,” was the most successful Bond epic of all time, taking in over a billion dollars. Mr. Craig and his agents think he deserves a bigger bite of the “Dragon” pie. (No one wants to remember that he starred in the dismal “Cowboys and Aliens.”)

The producers of the sequel are said not to be so hot to spend that kind of cash. Of course, they might be swayed by Craig’s co-star, Rooney Mara, who was Oscar-nominated for her role as Lisbet Salander. She says, with some confidence that Craig’s character “will not be written out” of any sequel. The implication seems to be, “If he’s written out, don’t count me in.”

LOOKING FOR an unusual Valentine’s gift for that unusual, special someone? Check out Winnie & Belle in Midland Park, N.J.

Talented owner/designer Mari Keating Scholfield creates one-of-a-kind jewelry and specialty gifts. Can’t make the trek to The Garden State? Then go to Mari’s wonderful website, and take a look at the fabulous wares.

NOW, all of you know that I loved, absolutely loved the revised and controversial musical “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark” at the Foxwoods Theater. Everyone connected, whether they are still speaking or not, is so talented and even the love story comes across — and that’s always a miracle onstage.

So, it’s no wonder the producers want to offer you a chance to see it at the “High School Sweetheart Valentine’s Day Giveaway” and once you win this little lottery, just by entering, you’ll also get dinner for two at Bocca di Bacco. No, it doesn’t mean “kiss me my fool!” but ”the Mouth of the god of wine, Baccus.”

Before Feb. 13 send a photo of you and your beloved with a brief caption to

And you may have not only Spider-Man flying over you but you’ll get a backstage pass and be full of food and wine.

AND HERE is our tribute to all dogs at the Westminster!

This column originally appeared on on 2/11/13

3 Responses so far.

  1. avatar jjfnygrl says:

    Thank you for sharing some of your correspondence from Ms. Gish. I especially loved the remark”…to choose people,not money,to work for.”
    Sending letters,cards use to be a normal thing to do. Now letter writing,pen to paper or by typewriter, is getting lost, but I do my best to keep it alive.

    Have a wonderful day!

  2. avatar omasan says:

    … Lillian Gish, the first among early black silent motion picture stars … ??!

  3. avatar central coast cabin home says:

    I too am a little confused over the post of “Lillian Gish, the 1st among early black silent motion pictures stars”….I researched it as I am never surprised at anything these days and what the heck do I know anyway?! But, alas, by chance is it technical motion picture speak?