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Thread: D.W. Griffith

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    D.W. Griffith

    David Llewelyn Wark "D. W." Griffith (January 22, 1875 – July 23, 1948) was an American film director. He is best known as the director of the controversial 1915 film The Birth of a Nation and the subsequent film Intolerance (1916).
    D. W. Griffith has been called the father of film grammar. Few scholars still hold that his "innovations" really began with him, but Griffith was a key figure in establishing the set of codes that have become the universal backbone of film language. He was particularly influential in popularizing "cross-cutting"—using film editing to alternate between different events occurring at the same time—in order to build suspense. Some claim, too, that he "invented" the close-up shot. That being said, he still used many elements from the "primitive" style of movie-making that predated classical Hollywood's continuity system, such as frontal staging, exaggerated gestures, minimal camera movement, and an absence of point of view shots.
    He died of cerebral hemorrhage in 1948 on his way to a Hollywood hospital from the Knickerbocker Hotel where he had been living alone.

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    Griffith made only two sound films, Abraham Lincoln(1930) and The struggle (1931). Neither was successful, and he never made another film. For the last seventeen years of his life he lived as a virtual hermit in Los Angeles.

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    Has anybody seen "Birth Of A Nation"? It's startling in a way, then again it's not. From what I've read about Griffith and seeing a filmed interview, "Birth" could have easily reflected his own personal beliefs.
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    I remeber seeing him years ago. Thanks for the other info.

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    I thought I had read somewhere that Abraham Lincoln was considered a success for the time...maybe I am wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bidmor View Post
    Has anybody seen "Birth Of A Nation"? It's startling in a way, then again it's not. From what I've read about Griffith and seeing a filmed interview, "Birth" could have easily reflected his own personal beliefs.
    I watched Birth of a Nation. I did find it startling but very educational. I looked up Scally wags and Carpet baggers. They were real people. The KKK STARTED as a social club for civil war veterans. I do think the D.W.'s portrayal of the black man in the Carolina government wad biased as a lot of the black men in the Carolina government (post Civil War) were educated Northerns.

    And the scenes where President Lincoln is assassinated! OMFG...I feel like I was there after watching that. So impressive!

    I have seen pictures of extras dressed as KKK members on horseback lining Hollywood Blvd for the premier of Birth... Some say that D.W. made Intolerance as a 'sorry' for making Birth.

    But in the end Hollywood turned it's back on D.W. Griffith. Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of his death and yet I didn't see one article in the L.A. Times yesterday. And at the Knickerbocker Hotel where he died under it's beautiful chandelier....not even one plaque or marker notes that D.W. lived there alone for the last 10 years of his life. Or that he died in the lobby.
    He would sit in the hotel's bar drinking...willing to talk about his movie making to anyone that would listen. Here's to you D.W.

    Lobby of Knickerbocker Hotel (May 2008)
    Last edited by SistaSara; 07-24-2008 at 09:29 PM.

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    Sara, you're quite correct about "Birth"...in fact I'd say it's a promo film for the Klan...depicting them as the good guys...the saviours of America and in the process, illustrating the Klan's stance on blacks. The KKK was founded by former confederate general and Freemason Nathan Forrest and five other former confederate officers. Albert Pike was a chief justice of the Klan. Pike wrote the book "Morals And Dogma" which is given to Masons when they reach the 32nd degree, and blacks are not exactly embraced by Freemasonry.

    More on the Klan and Freemasonry: http://www.freemasonrywatch.org/kkk.html and http://www.freemasonrywatch.org/albertpikeandkkk.html .

    More to the thread, D. W. Griffith was a Mason too: http://www.masonicinfo.com/famous1.htm

    Kinda ties together.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bidmor View Post
    Sara, you're quite correct about "Birth"...in fact I'd say it's a promo film for the Klan...depicting them as the good guys...the saviours of America and in the process, illustrating the Klan's stance on blacks. The KKK was founded by former confederate general and Freemason Nathan Forrest and five other former confederate officers. Albert Pike was a chief justice of the Klan. Pike wrote the book "Morals And Dogma" which is given to Masons when they reach the 32nd degree, and blacks are not exactly embraced by Freemasonry.

    More on the Klan and Freemasonry: http://www.freemasonrywatch.org/kkk.html and http://www.freemasonrywatch.org/albertpikeandkkk.html .

    More to the thread, D. W. Griffith was a Mason too: http://www.masonicinfo.com/famous1.htm

    Kinda ties together.
    But also in Birth...he also depicts that the KKK was not accepted socially. Even in the film he shows that it was punishable by death if convicted of owning a KKK robe (or whatever they wear.)
    I don't know a lot about the Freemasonry. But I do know that D.W's memorial service was held at the Hollywood Masonic Temple on Hollywood Blvd (now where Jimmy Kimmel tapes his show from) So that is proof that ol DW was a Mason.

    People lined to see D.W. Griffith for the last time.
    Last edited by SistaSara; 07-25-2008 at 10:35 AM.

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    The Birth of a Nation was racist. Even for its time.

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    D.W. Griffith largely invented the art of film as we know it. So much of what we take for granted today as the language of the medium comes from Griffith. But Hollywood would prefer to drop him down the memory hole. If he'd been a Stalinist, they'd adore him.

    Birth of a Nation single handedly revived the Ku Klux Klan which had been dead for decades.

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    He must of been a great Director in the early
    part of the 20th Century.
    But one of his mistakes was doing that awful film
    Birth of a Nation. (1915)
    Carolyn(1958-2009) always in my heart.

  13. #13
    Have read that Billy Wilder saw Griffith approach Cecil B. deMille in Chasen's in the 40's. Wilder thought Griffith was a bum, until he saw de Mille at the studio and mentioned it. Wilder was shocked when he found out who the bum really was, and that he had been asking deMille for work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AtlantaBlair View Post
    Have read that Billy Wilder saw Griffith approach Cecil B. deMille in Chasen's in the 40's. Wilder thought Griffith was a bum, until he saw de Mille at the studio and mentioned it. Wilder was shocked when he found out who the bum really was, and that he had been asking deMille for work.
    I would take that story with a grain of salt. Contrary to the popular myth that D.W. died broke, he actually left behind a nice sum of money that he kept well hidden from the tax buzzards. Griffith was a gentleman who lived in comfortable, but modest homes and always dressed well, but not flauntingly so. Griffith's real tragedy was that, by the late 1920s, the medium had passed him by and it kept him from making films.

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    I have the film "Birth Of A Nation: and I've seen it! Way ahead of it's time! And a silent film to boot! The Civil War scenes were
    pretty good for it's time! They are so old that they actually seem like the real thing being filmed.
    Last edited by MoonRabbit; 08-16-2012 at 05:48 PM. Reason: Forgot the title

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    Intolerance which Griffith made later wasn't an apology at all. It was a middle finger to his critics.

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    When I was young miss the silent films.
    Carolyn(1958-2009) always in my heart.

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    I am currently reading an autobiography about Lillian Gish which brought up my interest in Griffith. I can't really find anything on the man. The book alludes to his fascination with young girls and of course his racism but doesn't back up any fact. The man seems to be a mystery. If anyone has a better link or a recommended book I would appreciate it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taggerez View Post
    I would take that story with a grain of salt. Contrary to the popular myth that D.W. died broke, he actually left behind a nice sum of money that he kept well hidden from the tax buzzards. Griffith was a gentleman who lived in comfortable, but modest homes and always dressed well, but not flauntingly so. Griffith's real tragedy was that, by the late 1920s, the medium had passed him by and it kept him from making films.
    It's amazing how people can invent an industry, and yet over time, young guns come along and re-invent it, often surpassing the original innovators.

    My guess is that the originals get comfortable in what they are doing and don't experiment and push the medium, lest they screw up their meal ticket. This leaves a huge opening for the next generation, as newer methods develop and newer technologies evolve.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SheeBee View Post
    I am currently reading an autobiography about Lillian Gish which brought up my interest in Griffith. I can't really find anything on the man. The book alludes to his fascination with young girls and of course his racism but doesn't back up any fact. The man seems to be a mystery. If anyone has a better link or a recommended book I would appreciate it.
    He's covered to a better extent in some of the Pickford biographies.
    You can't "nu uh" death. That's bad debating.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by SheeBee View Post
    I am currently reading an autobiography about Lillian Gish which brought up my interest in Griffith. I can't really find anything on the man. The book alludes to his fascination with young girls and of course his racism but doesn't back up any fact. The man seems to be a mystery. If anyone has a better link or a recommended book I would appreciate it.
    The problem is that all Hollywood biographies and autobiographies are rife with misinformation, distortions, half-truths and outright lies. Hollywood is an illusion factory and preserving the illusion is a booming business.
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    Autobiographies, yes. There are some extremely thorough biographers out there though. Emily Leider, for example did a great book on Myrna Loy. Lee Server's books on Ava Gardner and Robert Mitchum dispel a lot of the myths surrounding both figures. James Curtis did exhaustive digs into both W.C fields and Spencer Tracy. It really depends on the writer and the sources. Lee Isreal's books are all 40 years old, but their great too.

    I would recommend avoiding books by the following if you're looking for well sourced fact:

    Charles Higham
    William J Mann
    Charlotte Chandler (although her books are fantastic reads because they contain lengthy excerpts of actual interviews with the subjects)
    You can't "nu uh" death. That's bad debating.

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    Turner Classic Movies, This is why I enjoy all
    the old silent films.

    But would so love to see them in a old movie
    house.

    Seen alot during the 1970s.
    Carolyn(1958-2009) always in my heart.

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    Quote Originally Posted by theotherlondon View Post
    Turner Classic Movies, This is why I enjoy all
    the old silent films.

    But would so love to see them in a old movie
    house.

    Seen alot during the 1970s.
    Indeed. Last Friday night I listened to the local high school football game on the radio while watching (again) the amazing "Metropolis". Not the first time I'd seen the restored version. I appreciated an explanation of the missing scenes which had been cut in ensuing years. A complete but well worn 16 mm negative copy of the original 35 mm negative was found in Argentina, containing some 25 minutes worth of footage that had been cut from the original release over the years.

    Just like Birth Of A Nation, Metropolis used hundreds of extras. Handy, too, that I could listen to our local team play while not missing one word of movie dialog.
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    I'm surprised DW Griffith's movies have not been banned or destroyed

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    Quote Originally Posted by theotherlondon View Post
    Turner Classic Movies, This is why I enjoy all
    the old silent films.

    But would so love to see them in a old movie
    house.

    Seen alot during the 1970s.
    We don't live too far from each other....you might take a little drive and check out the Redford Theatre in Detroit. I've seen great silents on the big screen accompanied by a live musician on a huge pipe organ. They've been getting a bit too much into some newer films for my taste...but they play a lot of gems. Last year they had a special presentation of "The Birds" with a live interactive session with Tippi Hedren. This year, "The Music Man" with guest, Shirley Jones. So wonderful to see some favorites on the big screen. It's truly a labor of love...run by volunteers and donations. The "Three Stooges" Festivals are a lot of fun!

    http://redfordtheatre.com/movie/
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  27. #27
    Since everyone was talking about it..went and rented Birth of a Nation. A bit haunting really. Of course we can look at it now and pooh-pooh it all we want, but PC or not, history gets more romanticized as we get further away from the actual events. Still, it gave me the impetus to look up the actual events.

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