Belden, James Orson, 1914-1998

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James Orson Belden, born in Rochester, New York on August 4, 1914, was a long time fan and friend of Lillian Gish.

The friendship started when he wrote to her enclosing a copy of The Duchess of Malfi. This began a long-time friendly correspondence discussing the theater, film and literature. Belden's interests included silent film, literature, art, music and theater. He was mostly self-taught having attended Aquinas High School in Rochester, New York. During World War II, he worked as a clerk in the Ordinance section of the War Department and was stationed in England during that time. After the war, Belden applied for work in the Foreign Service. He was sent to Belgium in 1947 where he held the position of visa specialist. Throughout most of his career he was stationed in Western Europe having assignments in England (1953-1963) and in France (1963-1967). James Orson Belden retired to the United States and lived in Wilmington, Delaware where he died on August 12, 1998.

From the description of Lillian Gish letters and ephemera, 1936-1991. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122687200

James Orson Belden, born in Rochester, New York on August 4, 1914, was a long time fan and friend of Lillian Gish. The friendship started when he wrote to her enclosing a copy of The Duchess of Malfi . This began a long-time friendly correspondence discussing the theater, film and literature.

Belden's interests included silent film, literature, art, music and theater. He was mostly self-taught having attended Aquinas High School in Rochester, New York. During World War II, he worked as a clerk in the Ordinance section of the War Department and was stationed in England during that time. After the war, Belden applied for work in the Foreign Service. He was sent to Belgium in 1947 where he held the position of visa specialist. Throughout most of his career he was stationed in Western Europe having assignments in England (1953-1963) and in France (1963-1967).

James Orson Belden retired to the United States and lived in Wilmington, Delaware where he died on August 12, 1998.

Lillian Gish, best known as one of the earliest stars of the nascent film industry, began as a child trouper on the stage with her sister Dorothy and their mother. At the age of five, she made her first appearance in a melodrama In Convict Stripes . A chance meeting in 1912 with another child actress Gladys Smith, who became world renowned as Mary Pickford, brought her and Dorothy to the attention of D. W. Griffith, a pioneering director in silent film days. She soon became his leading star and achieved stardom in his productions of Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), and most notably in Orphans of the Storm (1922), playing opposite her sister Dorothy. She was the perfect Griffith heroine, revealing a strong will and intelligence under a fragile, almost ethereal exterior.

She parted company with Griffith over a salary dispute, later joining MGM in 1925. One of the few stars to have control over story and director, Gish made only two successful movies at MGM, La Boheme and The Scarlet Letter . Overshadowed by the rising prominence of Greta Garbo, she left MGM and made a few films as an independent. She then decided to return to the Broadway stage and found the right vehicle in director Jed Harris's production of Uncle Vanya in 1930. Her success in the play led to other starring roles, among them Ophelia opposite John Gielgud in the 1936 production of Hamlet . Thereafter, she never lacked for roles on Broadway and worked steadily as a stage actress until 1973.

In 1968, she suffered a personal blow when her sister Dorothy, with whom she was extremely close throughout her life, died. From time to time, she returned to the movies and also appeared on television from the 1950s to the 1970s, making her final appearance on screen in the movie The Whales of August in 1987. In 1970, she was awarded a special Oscar for her lifetime contributions to motion pictures. Lillian Gish died in 1993 in her hundredth year. She recorded the account of her life in Life and Lillian Gish (1932), The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me (1969) and Dorothy and Lillian Gish (1973).

From the guide to the Lillian Gish letters and ephemera, 1936-1991, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lillian Gish letters and ephemera, 1936-1991 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Lillian Gish letters and ephemera, 1936-1991 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Belden, James Orson, 1914-1998. Lillian Gish letters and ephemera, 1936-1991. New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Arno, Peter person
associatedWith Belden, James Orson, 1914-1998 person
associatedWith Cadmus, Paul, 1904- person
associatedWith Dumas, Alexandre, 1824-1895 person
associatedWith Gilpin, Laura person
associatedWith Gish, Lillian, 1893- person
associatedWith Gish, Lillian, 1893-1993. person
associatedWith Lillian Gish person
associatedWith Lynes, George Platt, 1907-1955 person
associatedWith Paul Cadmus person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Theater--United States
Theater
Motion picture actors and actresses
Motion picture actors and actresses--United States
Occupation
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Person

Birth 1914

Death 1998

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