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Fri, 01.22.1875

D. W. Griffith, Film Director born

D. W. Griffith

*On this date in 1875, “D. W." Griffith was born.  He was a white-American film director.  

David Wark "D. W." Griffith was born on a farm in Oldham County, Kentucky, the son of Jacob Wark "Roaring Jake" Griffith and Mary Perkins.  His father was a Confederate Army colonel in the American Civil War who was elected as a Kentucky state legislator.  Young Griffith was raised as a Methodist and he attended a one-room schoolhouse, where he was taught by his older sister Mattie. His father died when he was 10, and the family struggled with poverty.  

When Griffith was 14, his mother abandoned the farm and moved the family to Louisville, Kentucky; there she opened a boarding house, which failed shortly afterward. Griffith then left high school to help support the family, taking a job in a dry goods store and later in a bookstore. He began his creative career as an actor in touring companies. Meanwhile, he was learning how to become a playwright but had little success only one of his plays was accepted for a performance. He traveled to New York City in 1907 trying to sell a script to Edison Studios producer Edwin Porter; However, Porter rejected the script but gave him an acting part in Rescued from an Eagle's Nest instead. He then decided to become an actor and appeared in many films as an extra.  

Widely considered an important filmmaker of his generation, he pioneered the feature-length movie and many enduring cinematic techniques, such as the close-up.  His film The Birth of a Nation (1915) broke box-office records, but also attracted much controversy, as it depicted Blacks in a negative light and glorified the Ku Klux Klan. Intolerance (1916) was made as an answer to his critics. Several of Griffith's later films were also 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).  

He co-founded United Artists, enabling them to control their own interests, rather than depending on commercial studios. Griffith was also a founder member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences On the morning of July 23, 1948, Griffith was discovered unconscious in the lobby at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles, where he had been living alone. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on the way to a Hollywood hospital. A public memorial service was held in his honor at the Hollywood Masonic Temple, but few stars came to pay their last respects.  

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