D.W. Griffith's the Birth of a Nation: A History of the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time
In this deeply researched and vividly written volume, Melvyn Stokes illuminates the origins, production, reception and continuing history of this ground-breaking, aesthetically brilliant, and yet highly controversial movie. By going back to the original archives, particularly the NAACP and D. W. Griffith Papers, Stokes explodes many of the myths surrounding The Birth of a Nation (1915). Yet the story that remains is fascinating: the longest American film of its time, Griffith's film incorporated many new features, including the first full musical score compiled for an American film. It was distributed and advertised by pioneering methods that would quickly become standard. Through the high prices charged for admission and the fact that it was shown, at first, only in "live" theaters with orchestral accompaniment, Birth played a major role in reconfiguring the American movie audience by attracting more middle-class patrons. But if the film was a milestone in the history of cinema, it was also undeniably racist. Stokes shows that the darker side of this classic movie has its origins in the racist ideas of Thomas Dixon, Jr. and Griffith's own Kentuckian background and earlier film career. The book reveals how, as the years went by, the campaign against the film became increasingly successful. In the 1920s, for example, the NAACP exploited the fact that the new Ku Klux Klan, which used Griffith's film as a recruiting and retention tool, was not just anti-black, but also anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish, as a way to mobilize new allies in opposition to the film. This crisply written book sheds light on both the film's racism and the aesthetic brilliance of Griffith's filmmaking. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the cinema.
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actors Adventures African Americans Aitken American Film Anglo-Saxon April April 15 attempt audience battle Billy Bitzer Biograph Board of Censorship Booker Boston Bowser Cameron campaign Censors Chicago City Civil Clansman colored Confederate Cripps critics Cuniberti D. W. Griffith director DWGP early Elsie Stoneman February fight film’s finally Flora Governor Griffith’s film Griffith’s The Birth Ibid intertitle Invented Hollywood John June Kansas Karl Brown Klansmen Klux Klan Ku Klux Klan later Leopard’s Spots Lillian Gish Lincoln Little Colonel March Mayor Motion Picture movie NAACP Negro Nerney nickelodeon North Carolina novel October Ohio organization play political president produced protest race racial Racist Reconstruction release Richard Schickel role scenes Schickel screen sequence shot showing shown slaves South Southern Stern studio theater Thomas Dixon tion Tourgée Uncle Tom’s Cabin University Press W. E. B. Du Bois Walter White Washington William Wilson York