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D. W. Griffith

D. W. Griffith

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Also Known As: Lawrence Griffith, Captain Victor Marier, Roy Sinclair, David Lewelyn Wark Griffith, David W. Griffith Died: July 23, 1948
Born: January 22, 1875 Cause of Death: cerebral hemorrhage
Birth Place: Oldham County, Kentucky, USA Profession: director, actor, producer, short story writer, newspaper reporter, playwright, poet, salesman, clerk, elevator operator

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Both a filmmaking pioneer and a social provocateur, director D. W. Griffith almost singlehandedly developed the techniques by which films would be made while simultaneously showing how they could be both a significant commercial and cultural element of American culture for good or ill. Once called "the father of film" by actress Lillian Gish and "the teacher of us all" by Charlie Chaplin, Griffith took a nascent medium wallowing in mediocrity and used his insatiable desire to experiment to break the conventions of his era and develop new means of relating narratives for the screen. After making almost three movies a week from 1908-1913, where he innovated with new techniques like close-ups, cross-cutting and deep focus, Griffith made the feature length Civil War epic "The Birth of a Nation" (1915), a technical triumph and box office hit undermined by its overtly racist themes of the times. He responded to public outrage in the form of protests and riots with "Intolerance" (1916), an expensive masterpiece that sought to answer his critics that failed at the box office and left him in dire financial straits for the remainder of his career. Though he formed the studio United Artists with Chaplin, Mary...

Both a filmmaking pioneer and a social provocateur, director D. W. Griffith almost singlehandedly developed the techniques by which films would be made while simultaneously showing how they could be both a significant commercial and cultural element of American culture for good or ill. Once called "the father of film" by actress Lillian Gish and "the teacher of us all" by Charlie Chaplin, Griffith took a nascent medium wallowing in mediocrity and used his insatiable desire to experiment to break the conventions of his era and develop new means of relating narratives for the screen. After making almost three movies a week from 1908-1913, where he innovated with new techniques like close-ups, cross-cutting and deep focus, Griffith made the feature length Civil War epic "The Birth of a Nation" (1915), a technical triumph and box office hit undermined by its overtly racist themes of the times. He responded to public outrage in the form of protests and riots with "Intolerance" (1916), an expensive masterpiece that sought to answer his critics that failed at the box office and left him in dire financial straits for the remainder of his career. Though he formed the studio United Artists with Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in 1919, Griffith dropped out five years later over his failure to make a hit film that would resolve his debts. Though he continued making movies for UA and Paramount Pictures, nothing he made reached the heights of "Birth of a Nation" and "Intolerance." In the end, Griffith's legacy as a groundbreaking pioneer who gave birth to modern filmmaking was mired by his obvious sentiment to racial stereotypes, which haunted him for decades after his death.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Footlight Varieties (1951) Dir of "Confidence" excerpt
2.
  The Struggle (1932) Director
3.
  Abraham Lincoln (1930) Director
4.
  Lady of the Pavements (1929) Director
5.
  The Battle of the Sexes (1928) Director
6.
  Drums of Love (1928) Director
7.
  The Sorrows of Satan (1927) Director
8.
  Sally of the Sawdust (1925) Director
9.
  That Royle Girl (1925) Director
10.
  Isn't Life Wonderful (1924) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
3.
4.
6.
 The Fatal Hour (1908)
7.
 A Famous Escape (1908)
8.
10.
 The Kentuckian (1908)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1896:
First theater job as extra with Sarah Bernhardt's company
1897:
Stage acting debut with Meffert Stock Company (Louisville)
1906:
Published first poem in "Leslie's Weekly"
1906:
First play sold "The Fool and the Girl"
1906:
Hired by Edison Company (Bronx, NY) as actor
1907:
Film acting debut in "Rescued From an Eagle's Nest" (for Edwin S Porter)
1908:
Hired by American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (New York) as actor, writer
1908:
Film directing debut with "The Adventures of Dollie"
1911:
Directed first two-reeler "Enoch Arden"
1913:
Left Biograph; joined Mutual
1913:
Directed world's first four-reeler "Judith of Bethulia"
1915:
Joined Triangle Corporation; filmed "Birth of a Nation"
:
Re-released "Judith of Bethulia" in expanded six-reel version entitled "Her Condoned Sin"
1917:
Joined Adolph Zukor's Artcraft (pictures released through Famous-Players Lasky -- later Paramount)
1919:
Formed United Artists (with Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford); released first film for United Artists "Broken Blossoms"
1919:
Signed three picture deal with First National
1919:
Set up studio complex (Mamaroneck NY)
1920:
Incorporated enterprises into D W Griffith Corporation
1924:
Last independent production "Isn't Life Wonderful"
1924:
Left United Artists; signed with Adolph Zukor for Paramount
1927:
Returned to United Artists, signed personal contract with Joseph Schenck
1930:
Directed first sound film "Abraham Lincoln"
1931:
Directed last film "The Struggle"
1937:
Hired by Hal Roach to produce "One Million B C"
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Notes

"He was the first to photograph thought" (Cecil B. DeMille, quoted in Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion); "There is not a man working in movies, nor a man who cares for them, who does not owe Griffith more than he owes anyone else" (James Agee, quoted in Halliwell's FGC) The story goes that when an actor once asked him for a raise, Griffith responded, "It's worth a lot more than money to be working for me!" (related in Halliwell's FGC)

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Linda Arvidson. Actor. Met 1904, married 1906, divorced, appeared in Griffith's first film "The Adventures of Dollie".
wife:
Evelyn Baldwin. Actor. Married 1936, divorced 1947; featured in "The Struggle".

Family close complete family listing

father:
Jacob Wark Griffith. Farmer, prospector, politician, orator, soldier. Fought with US Army in Mexican War, fought against US during Civil War; died 1882.
mother:
Mary Oglesby. Had seven children by Jacob Griffith.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Star Maker: The Story of D.W. Griffith" Duell, Sloan and Pearce
"D.W. Griffith, American Film Master" Garland Publishing
"The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me" Prentice-Hall
"The Man Who Invented Hollywood"
"D.W. Griffith: His Life and Work" Oxford University Press
"D.W. Griffith: An American Life" Simon & Schuster
"D.W. Griffith's 'Intolerance': Its Genesis and Its Vision"
"Family Secrets: The Feature Films of D.W. Griffith" Indiana University Press
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