In Celebration of the Life and Accomplishments 





















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Tributes from Students

I was introduced to Lilyan in the latter part of the 1990's. I am a relic of the pre-R. S. C. English stage tradition and have not mixed well with modern ways. Basil Rathbone is my professional cousin - by apprenticeship through Sir Henry Irving. My tradition is that which was displaced by the "new bloods" who gained the ascendancy over our older ways on the West End by the mid-1920's (more about this in a moment),  and Dame Judith Anderson was part of the transition! She, of course, had been a close friend of Lilyan's.
Meeting Lilyan was electrifying. We had several delightful conversations by telephone, and met once for several hours by her graceful invitation to her pleasant home. Meeting Lilyan was, indeed, coming into my spiritual home.
       As an Englishman, I was born with the genetic anti-Gallicism inherent in our corner of the Earth, and, although my mother taught me French from infancy, I remember carving "je déteste la France" on my desk at school when I was six at the beginning of the term. The new French master then entered, a tiny elderly lady with an arch face and a sweet manner. She charmed all of us; as we did our first exercise on paper, she perambulated the room so quietly that I was startled to hear her voice behind me, quaking with laughter at the sight of my recent carving, asking me, "Pourquoi?" It was the surgical knife that cured me once and for all of any and all national prejudice.
       I told Lilyan this story, and heard the same laughter. Lilyan had the apogee of French elegance and grace, without the cynicism, hauteur, close-mindedness, and boorishness into which that elegance and charm have so often degenerated, yet she was also the apogee of the best of the British. Only the Queen and a few others have kept that spirit alive. Lilyan combined in herself all of my favourite and best early and later influences, and yet she treated me like an equal, a close friend.
       I had subsequently studied historical painting at the École des Beaux-Arts of the Sorbonne, have had several close French friends over the years, and so was no longer disarmed by French charm, but Lilyan transcended it.
       So, in this mass of indifference, ignorance, and lies called Hollywood, here before me was an Epiphany from Olympus, Lilyan. I could not decide at first whether she were a Muse or a Goddess. These two words are so misused nowadays by people who are looking either to sound clever or to superimpose false superiority on others that I hasten to say that I mean Muse or Goddess in the real sense, words which convey unearthly essence. And an epiphany is, of course, in the real sense, a presence of the Divine given us mortals by special grace.
       Such was and is Lilyan.
       I an not a religious fanatic or a cultist, I hasten to say, but, if an Epiphany be an event in which the Apparition flows straight into the core of one's being and speaks to that core in its most comfortable place without effort or delay, then Lilyan was and is an Epiphany.
       I was deprived of one of my greatest kindred spirits when Charles Bennett left us in 1993. He was the last of my school of acting on the West End stage, and left it in 1925 to become a writer, whom Alfred Hitchcock brought to Hollywood later. In 1925, Sir John Gielgud played second billing to him, and succeeded Charles that year when Charles abandoned acting for writing. In Gielgud, the Old School passed to the "new bloods", and so here is the quirk of Fate, because Dame Judith Anderson rose up the ladder with Gielgud.
       I met Dame Judith on the flight that brought me to San Francisco to play Richard III. thirty years ago. She struck me as the perfect Lady Macbeth: absolutely cold and chilling and powerful. She came up in the old school, and so never quite lost that touch, which Gielgud did lose.
       Lilyan and I traded anecdotes. Lilyan mentioned the Actor's Studio, knowing that she would elicit a tirade from me about method acting, over which we had a good laugh. "I transcended it, I hope, though I keep the connexions," she chuckled. Obviously, she had. She said that she knew of very little going on at that time (1998-ish) that would be suitable workwise for either of us, but said, in very diplomatic words, that it would be something very good if I were to add a class in traditional old-style Anglo-American acting to her school.


I was most flattered, and most perplexed, saying that the old apprenticeship, which I endured for seven years, required a working theatre, because the only way one could learn the trade was to do so before an audience, supported by the strength of the other players when one tripped. Hard, but effective.
       "Sixty hours a week?" She asked.
       "At least," I replied.
       "Then," said she, "I propose a compromise. Why don't we have a weekly reading with some of my students who are interested, and let the rest of them be the audience? We can trade parts. Just for fun."
       "Ahem," said I, unable to resist, "we could try it."
       "May I audition for a part?" She asked meekly.
       Lilyan knew how to put one on the spot. "Audition!" I roared. "Auditions are an insult. You," said I, bowing, "are herewith begged to be the Leading Lady!"
       With a perfect flourishing courtesy, she nodded assent.
       She and I each had certain other immediate commitments, but agreed to start this project within the next six months.
       "What play?" She asked, excited. We decided a few, and decided on Hamlet.
       After discussing logistics, Lilyan said, "Now, I want to change the subject slightly. Do you have an agent?"
       "Mine retired in 1994 and I haven;t been able to find another. I hate huckstering."
       "Well, they won't find you unless you are in something. Hmmm. Do you have a manager?"
       "Gad no."
       She smiled. "Let me make you a proposition. Will you permit me to play the part of your manager at no charge to you, put you in some play that we are doing here, and hope that some good agent will accept our invitation to come and see you?"
       My mouth dropped open.
       "We don't have much money to pay you for the acting," she continued, "but we'll feed and clothe you..."
       "PAY me for confering this kindness on me!" I bellowed. "How dare you suggest that you pay me!"
       She smiled. "It is settled, then. We already have our schedule of showcases for a few months, but I think that our little version of Hamlet might be suitable? May I do the Queen?"
       "You are too good to play that bad woman. But you are a consummate actress. It is settled."
       She nodded in her wise way.
       My expression must have resembled that of the Cheshire cat. "Vous êtes subtile, Mademoiselle, subtile." Said I.
       She bowed.
       After further pleasantries, we concluded our first meeting.
       We spoke a few times over the next few months.
       I then came down with Lyme disease and was quarantined when on a business hourney to Virginia. Squatters, meanwhile, sneaked into my house, and so, by the time I returned, I was faced with a horrific legal nightmare that did not end until I won the battle in 2005. Because of the situation, I did not have time to communicate with many people; I did leave another message for Lilyan, but presume that she must by then have been restricting her activities because of the sad illness of which I knew nothing.
       That horrible legal matter had not been settled for a month when I was struck by a motor car when walking.
       So, having legitimate excuses, I still blame myself for not communicating with Lilyan more regularly. And now it is too late.
       Having recovered from the accident, I attempted to reach Lilyan in hopes that we might begin where we left off, and was crushed by the sad news.
       I write all this to offer my humble contribution to her glorious memory. Lilyan was one of the few people in Hollywood, but not of Hollywood, who understood me. She is one of the few people in this Art whom I trusted. She was the last person that I knew on this Earth with whom I could talk about this Art without having to translate. I shall now wail and gnash my teeth.
       If my brief but deep history with her be but one facet of the infinity of her faces, she should be canonised.    - Edwin Hale

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