To mark the 67th birthday of the silent film director D.W. Griffith, the editors of a once illustrious Hollywood literary magazine pasted his famous profile on their magazine cover and devoted four columns to his achievements.
This 1940s Hollywood journalist refrained from using the pejorative "white cracker" while condemning silent film director D.W. Griffith for his racial views -and yet at the same time did something rather bold in that he put in print his views that the man has been erroneously credited as the creator of various assorted film innovations that were pioneered by other filmmakers.
One of Conde Nast's most popular magazines reviewed D.W. Griffith's film, "The Birth of a Nation" and gave a somewhat balanced account of the production. The journalist clearly recognized that the movie was "unfair to the Negro" yet "remarkable for it's photography".
In 1946 the Museum of Modern Art Film Department decided to exhibit only the most famous films of D.W. Griffith for the retrospective that was being launched to celebrate the famed director. This enormous omission inspired film critic Herb Sterne (1906 - 1995) to think again about the large body of work that the director created and, putting pen to paper, he wrote:
"Because of the museum's lack of judgment, the Griffith collection it has chosen to circulate is woefully incomplete, thereby giving contemporary students of the motion picture a distorted and erroneous impression of the scope of the man's achievements."
The Griffith films Sterne examined in this article are "Hearts of the West", "The Greatest Thing in Life", and "The Romance of Happy Valley".
To read a 1924 article regarding Hollywood film executive Irving Thalberg, click here.
Twenty-two years after wrap was called on the set of "The Birth of a Nation", leading lady Lillian Gish (1893 - 1993), put pen to paper and wrote this reminiscence about her days on the set with D.W. Griffith:
"In 'Birth of a Nation' we used as many as six hundred people, and the complete cost of the picture was ninety-one thousand dollars. It was the first motion picture to run for two hours, and to be shown in a legitimate theater twice a day at theater prices... D.W. Griffith had his reward however, when President Wilson saw it at the White House and said, 'It is like writing history with lightening, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.'"
*Watch the Trailer for BIRTH of a NATION*
A 1919 film review of BROKEN BLOSSOMS, directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess:
"Shown at the George M. Cohan Theater, the new Griffith picture attracts crowds of sophisticated New Yorkers who are only too willing to pay$2.50 (and the additional war tax) for the privilege of judging the latest achievement of the greatest master of 'movie' showmanship."
"BROKEN BLOSSOMS came to the screen a masterpiece in moving pictures. Bare narration of the story cannot hope even to suggest the power and truth of the tragedy that Mr. Griffith has pictured."