The Birth of a Nation: D.W. Griffith, Director
The Birth of a Nation (1915) remains the most controversial American film ever made, and its director, D. W. Griffith, one of the most extraordinary figures in film history. It was the first true feature film and did more than any other to launch Hollywood both as an industry and as an idea. The film consolidated a trend in cinematic technique and an approach to dramatic narrative that define American cinema to this day. As a great but ideologically troubled film that offers us a reflection of ourselves as Americans,
The Birth of a Nation continues to intrigue, challenge, infuriate, and awe. Robert Lang's introduction to this volume explores in fascinating detail the warped view of history that this great film presents. Griffith, a Southerner, was intent on resurrecting, idealizing, and justifying the South. In The Birth of a Nation, it is racism that unites the white North and South; the protection or abolition of slavery is not the divisive issue. In a powerful synthesis of spectacle and narrative, Griffith seeks to give the Southern cause a sense of glamour and high purpose. Lang considers the film as a historical melodrama, and by examining Griffith's "historiography as ideological practice," he traces the way in which the bloody, traumatic reality of the Civil War and Reconstruction becomes melodramatic myth. This unparalleled guide to The Birth of a Nation offers a shot-by-shot continuity script; a biographical sketch of the director; a sampling of contemporary reviews; a series of essays by distinguished critics including James Chandler, Michael Rogin, Janet Staiger, and Mimi White; and a filmography and bibliography.
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Introduction Reply to the New York Globe I 168
The Historical Novel Goes to Filmography and Bibliography
The Sword Became a Flashing
Contexts Reviews Boston American
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American arms audience Birth black soldiers blackface cabin camera Cameron Hall chair Cinema Civil Clansmen ride comes forward Confederate crowd culture D. W. Griffith David Wark Griffith Dixon Duke embrace enters left enters right exits left exits right Fade father film film's fire Flora foreground George Siegmann gestures girl goes hand HThe intertitle Jake Jeff kisses Klux Klan Ku Klux Klan Laura Keene Lillian Gish Lincoln Little Colonel looks Lydia m c u m l s Mae Marsh Mammy Margaret melodrama moves movie mulatto narrative Nation Negro novel opens parlor pauses Phil picture Piedmont play porch rear Reconstruction rescue runs scene Schickel Scott screen seated servant shakes shot sits slaves smiles South Southern stands Stoneman story street sword takes Theater Thomas Dixon troops turns Union walks Wilson woman women York