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David Llewelyn Wark Griffith

Page history last edited by Monty Risenhoover 14 years, 6 months ago

Born David Llewelyn Wark Griffith
January 22, 1875(1875-01-22)
La Grange, Kentucky,
United States
Died July 23, 1948 (aged 73)
Hollywood, California,
United States
Occupation film director, Actor, film Producer
Spouse(s) Linda Arvidson (1906–1936)
Evelyn Baldwin (1936–1947)



















D.W. Griffith had his first ambition to become a playwright shortly after high school when he got a job at a bookstore. He called it his, "university" because of all of the ideas surrounding him (William M. Drew Sep. 15 2009). In 1907, Griffith had a play that he had written named A Fool and a Girl, produced by James K. Hackett. Too bad for Griffith, the play was a giant flop. This is what inspired him to take his writing to movie form where it would be better appreciated. At the end of 1907, Griffith went to Edwind Porter to try to sell him a script. Porter did not buy Griffith's script, but he did give him the lead role in Porter's new movie, Rescued from an Eagle's Nest. You can watch a clip of this five minute movie below, and see the full movie HERE.



We can see in the beginnings of continuity editing and narrative story telling going on in this clip. The film "tricks" are simply showing the same clip but backwards and having stage birdabduct the child. The clips of the cottage, the bird "flying" and the lumberjacks seem to be the distinction between narrative film making and the actualities we've seen before. The lumberjack scene could have been filmed by the Lumiere brothers in the way it was shot. I think that small snip it of the lumberjacks against the stage of the cottage is a wonderful example of the juxtaposition of the two genres of film making.

The Importance of Porter's Rescued from an Eagle's Nest to Griffith.

Why would this clip of Griffith's acting career be important to the overall history of cinema? Griffith must have felt he had finally found an artform that would accept his vision of the world. What is amazing is that Griffith was involved at the beginnings of narrative film making. Even though Porter's film was basically a filmed theatrical production it was a narrative film. Griffith used this experience of acting in the short film to great affect with his master piece The Birth of a Nation. But Griffith wasn't just satisfied with a mere stage production, he changed every thing we think about when it comes to narrative filmmaking and revolutionized editing with the creation of continuity editing.


Griffith's first shot at writing for the movies was in New York and given to him by the Biograph Company. Aside from writing a few stories for them he also acted in many of the films. Griffith made over 450 short films for Biograph. Throughout all of these films Griffith experimented with an array of camera angles, lighting, closeups and so on. He began to show the art of filmmaking. One of the first feature films was written an directed by Griffith for the Biograph Company. The movie was called Judith of Bethulia. The company didn't believe that feature length films were a good idea so Griffith left them and took an entire company of actors with him.

     With six years of directing, writing, and extensive knowledge of the in's and out's of filmmaking, Griffith produced one of the biggest and the longest blockbusters of his time, The Birth of a Nation. This movie shattered box office records and was seen all over the U.S. and Europe. This film showed off the art of film. This film was amazing visually, creative, and three hours long. It portrayed an African American controlled south. The incredibly controversial nature of this film led to Griffith's next film, Intolerance. Intolerance's did great in the box office but was still a failed film. The film was a failure because Griffith had used way too much money making the film and was unable to earn it back at the box office.

     Griffith started a company called, United Artists. He continued to make films for awhile but never made a movie that could compare to The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. He worked with Paramount as a director after leaving the United Artists. He made several successful films but was still unable to create any more blockbusters.


"Rescued from an Eagle's Nest 1908 Staring D.W. Griffith" Youtube.com, n.d. Web September 2009.

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