alphabetical author index

Biograph Girl, The

This British salute to Hollywood's glorious era of silent pictures is ideal for stock and community theatres. Characters include D. W. Griffith, Mack Sennett, Mary Pickford, and Lillian Gish.

  • Full Length Musical
  • Drama, Biography

  • Time Period: 1920s, 1910s / WWI
  • Target Audience: Adult
  • Set Requirements: Unit Set/Multiple Settings
  • Orchestra Size: Small/Combo

  • Performance Group:
  • Dinner Theatre, College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre
Set in the early 20th century when silent film was sill a new form of media, Dorothy and Lillian Gish follow their family friend, the newly dubbed Mary Pickford, to New York City to become actresses in moving pictures. They are introduced to D.W. Griffith and he casts Lillian in his film The Birth of a Nation.

The movie's lack of success forced D.W. to vow to make an even bigger movie, while Lillian struggles with maintaining the image that the audiences have attributed to her. When Intolerance is also a commercial flop, D.W. urges Lillian to take an offer from another studio so that she can earn a living wage. Soon after the industry makes a huge shift with the introduction of sound in pictures, forcing every film industry to assess their place in the business.

This British salute to Hollywood's glorious era of silent pictures is ideal for stock and community theatres.


"This delightfully unassuming show contains the same naive charm as those early flocks... [it's a] minor miracle."

 The Daily Mail

"A joyous celebration."

 International Herald Tribune

Premiere Production: The Biograph Girl premiered at the Gardner Centre Theatre at the University of Sussex in October of 1980, under the direction of Victor Spinetti.
  • Casting: 4M, 5F
  • Casting Attributes: Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle), Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)

  • LILLIAN GISH - A major star of silent films and a greatly respected figure of the American theatre to this day.
    DOROTHY GISH - Her younger sister and an equal success in silent films though in a lighter vein.
    MRS. MARY ROBINSON GISH - Actress mother of Lillian and Dorothy. Her close friend was Mrs. Charlotte Smith, mother of Gladys Smith.
    GLADYS SMITH aka MARY - Achieved international fame and considerable fortune as Mary Pickford, "the world's sweetheart". Although not the original "Biograph Girl", she inherited the title when Florence Lawrence left Griffith to go to another studio.
    DAVID WARK GRIFFITH - Greatest of the pioneer film directors. His classic, The Birth of a Nation, is still frequently shown in specialist cinemas.
    G.W. "BILLY" BITZER - Griffith's cameraman for 16 years. Primitive camera obliged him to improvise which accidentally gave Griffith some of his finest effects, among them the fade-out.
    JOHANNES CHARLEMAGNE EPPING - Griffith's accountant who secretly invested D.W.'s money in non-revocable annuities and saved him from spending his last years in penury.
    ROSE SMITH - Griffith's long time assistant, but the character as presented in this play is a compilation of several different people.
    ADOLPH ZUKOR - One of the small time sales (mostly from central Europe) who became the big time bosses of Hollywood. He died in 1976 aged 103.
    MACK SENNETT - The king of silent film comedy who introduced Charlie Chaplin to the screen and created the Keystone Kops.
    WALTER L. HALL - Nicknamed "Spec" (short for perspective), pioneer scenic designer, was largely responsible for the famous set design of Babylon. It was often thought Griffith produced his own designs on an ad-hoc basis, but Hall's plans exist to prove the contribution he made to Intolerance.