The Plot

'Lilian's Last Dance' follows lively performers as silent movies give way to talkies 

 "...a marvelous romp through the history of film and performance, with a pure love for the stage, in whatever form it presents itself....." Acclaimed writer Ruth Rudner on “Lilian’s Last Dance.” 

Gertrude Stein, right, and her lover
and companion Alice B. Toklas --
 cameos in "Lilian's Last Dance."

IT'S 1907  and New York is teeming with immigrants and new ideas. “Lilian’s Last Dance” unfolds in this fertile and revolutionary time as “the flickers” grab America’s attention.
Art, music, movies, fashion and mores are changing. The global stage is in flux. Women are exploring their independence and admitting they can enjoy sex.

A traveling troupe of repertory players makes silent movies, performing musical acts and comedy sketches between film shorts from its New York base. The impresario is a hard-working British-born film maker -- a romantic who loves America and her ambitious, talented people. He sees a changing audience, in the transition from Vaudeville and “the silents” to Hollywood filmmaking and the first talkies.

Montana cowboys cross rivers and oceans in the story of a troupe
of performers, outlaws, and the emergence of the film industry.
LOOKING FOR a dazzling headliner to wow crowds, the troupe plucks up a disgruntled sharpshooter from the waning days of Buffalo Bill’s once famous Wild West show. French born Lilian Dumont is sexy, opinionated and eager to leave Cody’s fading extravaganza. She’s a natural before the camera. When Lilian takes aim – on a target or a crowd’s attention -- she doesn’t miss! The film maker is smitten.

CRAVING CHANGE and new territory, the troupe heads west, criss-crossing the U.S., plying its wares in storefront theaters to sold-out crowds. A love triangle develops when a dashing Montana outlaw shows up at a Midwest Nickelodeon and falls hard for Lilian. She reciprocates. But a jealous federal marshal is courting her, too. As the company travels through Oklahoma, Texas, and finally Hollywood, passions flare and loyalties shift.

The "Lilian" characters arrive in Hollywood and
become part of film myth and history.
ARTISTS, actors, movie moguls, ranchers, cowboys, law makers and law breakers inhabit this carnival of color which takes a bow in Paris, London and other lively locales. Adding color and intrigue are a Hawaiian cowgirl with a Pancho Villa fetish, a jilted sheriff out for revenge and a gay Peruvian painter about to make it big.

AS THE performers write and film their theatrical dramas, opium addiction, bank robbing, murder, honor, loyalty, sex and revenge play out on a larger stage, with the world on the brink of World War.

“Lilian’s Last Dance” artfully moves its action from the streets of Paris to the European Front, to an Oklahoma ranch, a secluded Montana hide-out, to Chicago and to San Francisco rebuilding after the devastating quake. Real-life cameos include Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, Conrad Hilton, Edith Wharton, Ty Cobb, Pablo Picasso, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Gertrude Stein and others.