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D.W. Griffith

(1875—1948) American film director


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(1875–1948)

US film director, who was one of the most influential figures in the early history of the film industry.

After a somewhat inauspicious beginning as an actor and writer, Kentucky-born Griffith turned to films in 1907. His first film as director, The Adventures of Dollie (1908), was followed by over 150 one-reel films. Then came the more ambitious Enoch Arden (1911; his first two-reel film), Man's Genesis (1912), and his most famous epic, The Birth of a Nation (1915). Though highly successful, the last of these was attacked for its blatant colour prejudice. A good deal of controversy raged around its release, to which Griffith responded with the four-part Intolerance (1916). Griffith not only developed and exploited cinematic techniques to the full but also worked with actors such as Mary Pickford, Donald Crisp (1880–1974), Dorothy Gish (1898–1968), and her sister Lillian Gish to produce a style of acting less theatrical and more suitable for the camera.

During World War I Griffith made Hearts of the World (1918) in France and England. Subsequently he joined Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin in the formation of United Artists. Notable postwar films included Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1922), Orphans of the Storm (1922), and Isn't Life Wonderful (1924).

Griffith's sentimental Victorian outlook eventually put him out of business in the 1930s but, in recognition of his achievements in motion pictures, he was presented with an Honorary Oscar in 1935.

Subjects: contemporary history (post 1945).


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