Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Legacy of D.W. Griffith


None knew it then, but in 1915, Southern agrarian influence on the movies was at its height. The film trade had just left Fort Lee, New Jersey, only to land in the equally piously named Mount Lee, California. Of course, the latter’s new name was Hollywood, due to its Kansas prohibitionist developers, but it was also the same name as the Richmond cemetery sanctified by so many Confederate figures.

More important was that the industry leader was director David Wark Griffith, son of a Kentucky Confederate colonel and the man who dominated the industry almost from the moment he started making shorts for Biograph. All that was really pre-history. On February 8, he premiered The Birth of a Nation at Clune’s Auditorium. This Southern view of the Confederacy and Reconstruction is the most important movie in history. It became the biggest hit ever and provided the cash for innumerable film fortunes. Politics aside, no film historian disagrees that it’s the most important film artistically in that it served as the textbook for generations of filmmakers.

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