”I just love to be subservient,” said silent-movie icon Lillian Gish shortly after her only attempt at directing a ”flicker” (1920’s Remodeling Her Husband). But according to this undernourished, polite biography, the prim, ethereal actress, who became famous in mentor D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), was actually an ”iron butterfly” whose perseverance kept her career going for nearly a century. Affron casts light on Gish’s acuity at spinning her own importance in cinematic history. But frustrated by the lack of evidence about the nature of her relationship with Griffith (whom she idolized; were they lovers?), Affron fails to uncover much dish, except for some mild anti-Semitism and a couple of sour love affairs. Either Gish’s personal life was notably dull, or she covered her tracks like a pro.