June 23, 2019

IT’S COME TO THIS: Ohio’s Bowling Green State University Strips Name of Lillian Gish (1893-1993) from Campus Theater.

The “First Lady of American Cinema” Lillian Gish has had her name removed from a university theater and it’s not sitting well with many movie buffs. More than 50 film industry leaders ranging from Martin Scorsese to Helen Mirren to James Earl Jones are protesting the decision of Ohio’s Bowling Green State University to remove the name of actress Lillian Gish from a campus theater because she appeared in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation.

The letter accuses the university of making “a scapegoat in a broader political debate.” Lillian Gish is considered a pioneer of film acting. Her career spanned 75 years, beginning in 1912 in silent film shorts. The Whales of August in 1987 was her last film. She was called the First Lady of American Cinema, and for more than 40 years, the theater at Bowling Green has honored Ohio-born actresses Dorothy and Lillian Gish with its name.

According to the IMDB, Gish appeared in 120 movies and TV shows during her lengthy career, which spanned the first eight decades of the movie industry. But if we’re going to banish all the bad people of the past because of hurt feelings, when does early “Progressive” Woodrow Wilson face the memory hole, given that he was an enthusiastic proponent of Birth of a Nation, including screening it in the White House and proclaiming the film “is like writing history with lightning.”

As Jonah Goldberg wrote in the Christian Science Monitor in 2008 to promote Liberal Fascism (Wilson stars in several early chapters, not surprisingly), “You want a more ‘progressive’ America? Careful what you wish for. Voters should remember what happened under Woodrow Wilson.”

Of course, all of the memory holing of the recent years helps to greatly reduce the odds of that happening. For that reason alone, perhaps it’s a good thing his name remains at Princeton.

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