BIRTH OF A NATION Released
Director D.W. Griffith joined Biograph in 1908 as a writer and actor, but within months became their principal director. Griffith’s prolific output and willingness to experiment in many different genres helped the company become a major commercial success. In January 1910 Griffith traveled to Los Angeles to shoot the film RAMONA in authentic locations. Griffith and his players decided on a small village they had heard about that wasfriendly and had beautiful floral scenery called Hollywood. Biograph then made the first film ever in Hollywood called IN OLD CALIFORNIA. After the east coast film community heard about Hollywood other film companies began to migrate there. Griffith traveled back to the east coast to make films at the Biograph Studios in New Jersey.
The Civil War is only 50 years past and everyone has a grandfather or an uncle who was in the conflict. Griffith’s father served as a Confederate Army colonel in the American Civil War and was elected as a Kentucky state legislator. One of Griffith’s fondest boyhood memories was looking up to General Robert E Lee. The South had it’s own view of how the what the Civil War was fought for. All this comes out in Griffith’s new epic, BIRTH OF A NATION based on two historical novels, The Clansman, An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905) and The Leopard’s Spots: A Romance of the White Man’s Burden (1902), and a play, The Clansman (1906), written by a North Carolina lawyer turned preacher, Thomas Dixon Jr. Griffith’s blatant use of racial stereotypes and distorted racial history has already caused controversy. Widespread black protests had greeted the staging of Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman nine years earlier and BIRTH OF A NATION already promises to bring much of the same.
On February 8, 1915 BIRTH OF A NATION premiered at it’s release in Los Angeles, California. The film was originally presented in two parts, separated by an intermission. It is the first 12-reel feature film in America Cinema, running 2 hours 13 minutes.