Based on a play called "The Clansmen," D.W. Griffith's three-hour Civil War epic traces the development of the Civil War itself, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan through the lives of two families.
A pivotal moment in film history. After The Birth of a Nation
, nothing was the same: not the way audiences watched movies, not the way filmmakers created them. D.W. Griffith's jumbo-size saga of the Civil War expanded the boundaries of storytelling on the screen, conveying a richer, more complicated (and certainly longer) tale than anyone had seen in a movie before. The delicate relationships, the sad passage of time, the spectacular battle scenes all look as fresh and innovative today as they did in 1915. So do Griffith's brilliant actors, most of them--including favorite leading lady Lillian Gish--drawn from his regular stock company. What has become increasingly problematic about The Birth of a Nation
is Griffith's condescending attitude toward black slaves, and the ringing excitement surrounding the founding of the Ku Klux Klan. Griffith, whose political ideas were naive at best, seemed genuinely surprised by the criticism of his masterwork, and for his next project he turned to the humanist preaching of the massive Intolerance
. Despite protests, Birth
sold more tickets than any other movie, a record that stood for decades, and President Woodrow Wilson famously compared it to "history written in lightning." That judgment has lasted. --Robert Horton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.