Picks and Pans Review: American Masters: Lillian Gish

UPDATED 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Mon., July 11, 9 p.m. ET)

B+

What's most amazing about Lillian Gish—besides her talent and those big, wide eyes—is the fact that she can still seem so nice after 86 years as an actress and 75 years in film. Other stars use show business as the excuse for their shrewish, rude behavior. Not Miss Gish. "I grew up in a beautiful, kind, generous world," she gushes—even though her father couldn't keep a job and she was put to work onstage at age 5. She still idolizes her first big director, D.W. Griffith, who made her famous in the 1915 silent classic The Birth of a Nation. His next film, 1916's Intolerance, was a flop ruined by the businessmen who made Griffith cut it up, but Gish says it "remains the greatest film ever made." She shows us some magnificent moments of acting from her silent films, tells about her friendship with Greta Garbo and explains her refusal to let MGM make up publicity-causing scandals about her. Nice lady. Nice show.

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