On this day in Film History: Meet the “Inventor of Hollywood”

This day in film history witnessed the birth of one of the most important figures in the history of early cinema: David Llewellyn Wark Griffith (otherwise known as D.W. Griffith), was born on this day in 1875 in LaGrange, Kentucky.

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Griffith circa 1907

In 1907, Griffith, then a struggling playwright, traveled to New York in an attempt to sell a script to Edison Studios. While the script was rejected, Griffith himself was offered a part in a picture entitled Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest and thus became introduced to the motion picture business.

In 1908, Griffith began working for the Biograph Company and during that year became the head director for the company, ulimately directing 48 shorts by year’s end.

By the end of his time in Biograph, Griffith had begun to make films that were much longer in length (in this case, over an hour in length). The first feature length film that Griffith made was Judith of Bethulia (1914).

Watch the full film above

Biograph balked at producing another film that was so expensive (Judith cost $3,000 ($71,823 today)), Griffith left the company, taking his company of actors with him and ultimately forming Reliance-Majestic Studios, where Griffith, in 1915, directed and produced the film that would ultimately be known as The Birth of a Nation, considered to be the first American feature film (at well over two hours in length) and a landmark production in terms of editing

Watch the full film above

The year after, in 1916, Griffith released a sequel of sorts entitled Intolerance, a film that tracks four parallel storylines through different eras of history

As the silent era wound down, financial success eluded Griffith more and more, and once the sound era began in earnest, Griffith’s film career slowly wound to a close. His last films (two “talkies”) were Abraham Lincoln (1930) and The Struggle (1931).

D.W. Griffith died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 23, 1948. He was buried in Centerfield, Kentucky. Today he is recognized (and rightfully so) as one of the founders of modern cinema and one of the greatest silent film directors of all time.

For more “On this day” posts, see here

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