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Notes on the Arts

Lillian Gish, silent-film actress

Lillian Gish, a resilient actress who appeared in more than 100 films in a career that stretched from the silent era to the television age, died Saturday, her manager said Sunday.

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"She was film. Film started in 1893, and so did she," said James Frasher, her manager for the last 25 years.

Miss Gish's film career spanned 75 years, starting with one- and two-reelers in 1912 and ending with 1987's "The Whales of August." Even before that, she was a child stage actress. The large-eyed, porcelain-skinned actress often portrayed childlike young women she called "ga-ga babies." But even in those roles, she displayed an indomitable spirit, as in "Way Down East," when she refused a stand-in and clung to an ice floe as it swept toward a waterfall.

Gish showed the same dedication to her craft to the end of her life, working, traveling, fighting studios, battling for film preservation, and scorning "talkies" and modern movies.

"I have never approved of talkies," she once said. "It seemed to me that movies were well on their way to developing an entirely new art form. It was not just pantomime, but something wonderfully expressive."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized her work in 1970, presenting her with an honorary Oscar, and the American Film Institute presented her with its lifetime achievement award for 1984. In 1982, she received a Kennedy Center Honor. Ruby Keeler, dancer in musicals

Ruby Keeler, the winsome dancer who tapped her way through a string of glittering Warner Bros. musicals in the 1930s, died Sunday in Rancho Mirage, Calif., said her son, John Lowe.

Miss Keeler made her film debut in the 1933 hit "42nd Street," in which she played a chorus girl who went onstage for the ailing star with the prediction by director Warner Baxter: "You're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star." The story was later made into a Broadway musical.

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She went on to star in eight more musicals, usually as the wide-eyed Broadway newcomer who falls in love with the buoyant tenor, Dick Powell. Asked for her favorite movie, she once replied, "Gee, I don't remember, they were all so much alike." In 1941, Keeler made her last film, "Sweetheart of the Campus" - "it was so bad I had no regrets about quitting."

Apart from a cameo appearance in a 1970 film called "The Phynx," she appeared in only two more films, the non-dancing "Mother Carey's Chickens" in 1938 and "Sweetheart of the Campus."

In 1971 she made a spectacular return to Broadway in a revival of "No, No, Nanette."

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