D. W. Griffith

David Wark Griffith (January 22, 1875 – July 23, 1948) was an American film director. Considered one of the most influential figures in the history of the motion picture,[2] he pioneered many aspects of film editing[3] and expanded the art of the narrative film.[4]

D. W. Griffith
Griffith in 1922
David Wark Griffith

(1875-01-22)January 22, 1875
DiedJuly 23, 1948(1948-07-23) (aged 73)
Resting placeMount Tabor Methodist Church Graveyard,
Centerfield, Kentucky, U.S.
  • Director
  • producer
Years active1895–1931
    (m. 1906; div. 1936)
      Evelyn Baldwin
      (m. 1936; div. 1947)

      Griffith is known to modern audiences primarily for directing the film The Birth of a Nation (1915). One of the most financially successful films of all time, it made investors enormous profits, but it also attracted much controversy for its degrading portrayals of African Americans, its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan and support to the Confederacy, and its racist viewpoint. The film led to riots in several major cities all over the United States, and the NAACP attempted to have the film banned. Griffith made his next film Intolerance (1916) as an answer to critics, who he felt unfairly maligned his work.

      Together with Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Griffith founded the studio United Artists in 1919 with the goal of enabling actors and directors to make films on their own terms as opposed to the terms of commercial studios. Several of Griffith's later films were successful, including Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1921), but the high costs he incurred for production and promotion often led to commercial failure. He had made roughly 500 films by the time of his final feature, The Struggle (1931), all but three of which were completely silent.

      Griffith has a controversial legacy. Despite criticism, he was a widely celebrated and respected public figure during his life, and modern film historians continue to recognize him for his contributions to the craft of filmmaking. Nevertheless, many critics have characterized both Griffith and his work (most notably, The Birth of a Nation) as upholding white supremacist ideals both during his life and in the decades that have followed since his death. Historians frequently cite his most famous work, The Birth of a Nation, as a major factor in the KKK's revival in the 20th century, and it remains largely condemned to this day.

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