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D.W. Griffith

Summary Article: Griffith, D(avid) W(ark), (22 Jan 1875 – 23 Jul 1948) from The Crystal Reference Encyclopedia
The Birth of a Nation. This 1936 movie poster...
Image from: The Birth of a Nation. This 1936 movie poster... in Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century [cite image]

Film director, born in La Grange, Kentucky, USA. The son of a Confederate cavalry hero, he grew up in poverty in Louisville, KY, and in 1897 began a stage career. He wrote poetry and plays, then found work with the Edison film company in New York, where he starred in a short film, Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (1907). He joined Biograph as a writer and actor, and his first directorial effort was The Adventures of Dollie (1908). By 1909 he was the general director of Biograph. While there he developed undercutting, crosscutting, parallel action, mobile cameras, close-ups, and other techniques now common in film-making. He also assembled a ‘stock company’ that was to include Mary Pickford and the Gish Sisters among others. Feeling restricted, he left Biograph (1913) to join Reliance-Majestic, where he began work on The Birth of a Nation (1915). Still regarded as one of the most influential films ever made, it was also criticized for its bias in favour of the South in the Civil War. His next work was the epic Intolerance (1916), four separate stories about inhumanity throughout history. A founder of United Artists (1919), he continued directing until 1931 but nothing went right after 1924. Although he received a special Academy Award in 1935, he died alone and almost forgotten.


Major works:


Silent Films
 (1908) The Adventures of Dolly
 (1909) The Violin Maker of Cremona
 (1910) A Romance of the Western Hills
 (1912) The Unseen Enemy
 (1914) Judith of Bethulia
 (1915) The Birth of a Nation
 (1916) Intolerance
 (1918) Hearts of the Wild
 (1919) Broken Blossoms
 (1920) Way Down East
 (1924) America
 (1928) Drums of Love


Sound
 (1930) Abraham Lincoln
 (1931) The Struggle

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