D. W. Griffith

D. W. Griffith: Interviews

Edited by Anthony Slide
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hwmp
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  • Book Info
    D. W. Griffith
    Book Description:

    D. W. Griffith (1875-1948) is one of the most influential figures in the history of the motion picture. As director of The Birth of a Nation, he is also one of the most controversial. He raised the cinema to a new level of art, entertainment, and innovation, and at the same time he illustrated, for the first time, its potential to influence an audience and propagandize a cause.

    Collected together here are virtually all of the "interviews" given by D. W. Griffith from the first in 1914 to the last in 1948. Some of the interviews concentrate on specific films, including The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, and, most substantially, Hearts of the World, while others provide the director with an opportunity to expound on topics of personal interest, including the importance of proper exhibition of his and other's films, and his search for truth and beauty on screen.

    The interviews are taken from many sources, including leading newspapers, trade papers, and fan magazines. They are often marked by humor and by a desire to please the interviewer and thus the reader. Griffith may not have been particularly enthusiastic about giving interviews, but he seems always determined to put on a good show.

    Ultimately, D. W. Griffith: Interviews provides the reader with a unique insight into the mind and filmmaking techniques of a director whose work and philosophy is as relevant today as it was when he was at the height of his fame in the 1910s and 1920s.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-299-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    When I began writing books on film history some forty years ago, my greatest admiration was for D. W. Griffith, his films, and his leading players. My second book, published in 1973, wasThe Griffith Actresses, devoted to the major stars in the director’s stock company, and while Griffith had long since died, I was able to know well some of his “discoveries,” including Blanche Sweet, Margery Wilson, Miriam Cooper, and, of course, Lillian Gish.The Griffith Actresseswas followed two years later byThe Films of D. W. Griffith, coauthored with my mentor, Edward Wagenknecht. Since that time, many...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xxv-2)
  6. At the Sign of the Flaming Arcs
    (pp. 3-5)
    George Blaisdell

    It was a wise person who remarked that a really big man is never pompous. Which saying is recalled to mind by a mighty pleasant half hour’s chat on an early Saturday afternoon with David W. Griffith. It is a remarkable fact that the most striking figure in the motion picture industry—the man who in whole truth may be said to have done more than any other to advance and bring us now to the day of the universal recognition of the greatness of the screen as a factor in the amusement world—it is, we repeat, a remarkable...

  7. David W. Griffith Speaks
    (pp. 6-10)
    Robert E. Welsh

    There is a gray-haired, cigar-chewing city editor in my mind just now whose only guide in the writing of headlines is, “Say something that will tempt them to read the article through.” What could better carry out this gospel than the line, “David W. Griffith Speaks?” He who knows not of David W. Griffith should be abashed at his temerity in wandering into the motion picture section [of this trade paper devoted to all aspects of entertainment], and he who knows David W. Griffith needs no other incentive to read. For as the statisticians say, “Were film progress to be...

  8. A Poet Who Writes on Motion Picture Films
    (pp. 11-15)
    Theatre Magazine

    It has been quite the fashion to say that the motion picture profession (art if you prefer) is in its infancy. This is true, for no invention since the printing press has contained such possibilities for future development. But the implication that the business of making motion pictures is today of small moment is not true. If money talks, here are items which are convincing.

    Several American directors are paid over twenty thousand dollars a year; a number over ten thousand. One has refused an offer which meant a salary in excess of that of the President of the United...

  9. Editorials in Films
    (pp. 16-17)
    New York Dramatic Mirror

    Just as there were “sermons in stones” a long time ago, so there were “editorials in films” back in the early days of pictures, but the helter-skelter march of progress in a new art drove along other avenues and the “film editorial” was allowed to languish. David W. Griffith was probably among the first to produce pictures of this type and it was Frank Woods, [critic for theNew York Dramatic Mirrorwho wrote under the name of] “The Spectator,” who christened them “film editorials.” Director Griffith’s productions were in thousand foot lengths and toldThe Story of WheatThe...

  10. D. W. Griffith Answers Two Vital Questions
    (pp. 18-19)
    Robert Grau

    “You ask me: ‘Do you think the stage and its craft are the best means of productivity for the camera man?’ No, I do not. The stage is a development of centuries, based on certain fixed conditions and within prescribed limits. It is needless to point out what these are. The motion picture, although a growth of only a few years, is boundless in its scope, and endless in its possibilities. The whole world is its stage, and time without end its limitations. In the use of speech alone is it at a disadvantage, but the other advantages of the...

  11. D. W. Griffith Producer of the World’s Biggest Picture
    (pp. 20-22)
    New York American

    If your mental picture of “Dave” Griffith is that of a man of the bludgeon type, you are mistaken. The biggest man in the moving picture business today is a curious mingling of the man of leisure, man of the world, and the dreaming poet.

    Yet his quarrel with life is that “They,” the indeterminate word with which he includes people and conditions of today, “keep him running around.” He clutches two telegrams that looked, as he said, like the afternoon editions of newspapers, as he talked to the interviewer across the luncheon table at a Broadway hotel and confided...

  12. Five Dollar Movies Prophesied
    (pp. 23-27)
    Richard Barry

    David Griffith is today the biggest figure in the moving picture world. As the creator who is stalking ahead of the procession and lifting it literally by its own boot straps, he is now a marked man throughout filmdom. He has done more subtle things, more delicate things on the screen than any other man.

    However, it was not in his capacity as a showman that I approached Mr. Griffith. While he is a producer without a rival and a generalissimo of mimic forces whose work has never been equaled, it was as a thinker, pondering the new problems of...

  13. Interviews with Prominent Directors: “And the Greatest of These Is”—David W. Griffith
    (pp. 28-30)
    Roberta Courtlandt

    One doesn’t interview David Wark Griffith. He’s too busy. One simply stands about the studio, wherever he may be working in the open, and gathers up the verbal pearls of wisdom which fall from his clean-cut, aggressive-looking mouth.

    Unquestionably the greatest director of Motion Pictures in the United States (which, of course, means the world), he is an intensely “human” man, one in whom great trust may be reposed. Always courteous, first of all a gentleman, he has risen rapidly to a position in the picture world where he may know that his wishes are carried out as promptly and...

  14. The Story of David Wark Griffith: Part One
    (pp. 31-36)
    Henry Stephen Gordon

    His personal story consists of fragmentary bits; a few facts noted during a few moments’ talk; a few more another time; his horror of egotism is extreme; he cannot believe that the world is interested in himself or his past, nor what may be intimate information about his personality, and he has learned to be cautious; he hasn’t written poetry since he was eighteen.

    He has but one trait of the prima donna nature; he does not tell his age; some publications of a Who’s Who order put his birth [incorrectly] in 1880; this may or may not be correct....

  15. The Story of David Wark Griffith: Part Two
    (pp. 37-45)
    Henry Stephen Gordon

    He [Griffith] grinned. “I will not unfold all the secrets of my young life,” was his response, “and as to being a book agent, I refuse to incriminate myself. I stand mute. But I admit selling theEncyclopedia Britannica; that isn’t a book, it is a freight commodity.

    “I did not sell very many—but even an occasional sale carried a very fat commission and enabled me to pack a meal ticket with my sample bindings, and to travel in railway cars in place of underneath them on a brakebeam.

    “I early learned to use means to discover the men...

  16. The Story of David Wark Griffith: Part Three
    (pp. 46-51)
    Henry Stephen Gordon

    He [Griffith] was given Arthur Marvin as his first photographer.

    Marvin was described by Griffith as an expert photographer who was seldom afflicted with exuberance of ambition.

    He would sometimes refer to himself as “the captain of the good ship ‘Take-It-Easy,’ with nine decks and no bottom, which sails on forever, and forever sails on.”

    He probably did have some hankering for [Billy] Bitzer’s job; not enviously, but in confidence in his own ability; but his master’s certificate as skipper of “Take-It-Easy” forbade any such event.

    “There was one occasion,” says Griffith in talking over this companion of his early...

  17. The Story of David Wark Griffith: Part Four
    (pp. 52-57)
    Henry Stephen Gordon

    Just Goldwas Griffith’s second picture.¹ In makingDolliehe had followed the scenario to the letter; that was the first and last time he paid any attention to the author.

    “In makingJust GoldI began to seek after atmosphere and effects,” he said, “and the clue to causes. If I have had a measure of success, possibly that effort was responsible largely, for it started me in the right direction.

    “It was in making a picture with Mary Pickford that I believe she first met Owen Moore.² It seems to me the title of the picture wasThe,...

  18. The Story of David Wark Griffith: Part Five
    (pp. 58-62)
    Henry Stephen Gordon

    In recording the history of this picture [The Birth of a Nation], [story editor] Frank Woods again takes the center of the stage as the moving movie, Impulse.

    It was in 1913 that Mr. Woods suggested to Mr. Griffith the value of the [Thomas] Dixon book as a feature picture.

    A year or so before, based on a scenario by Mr. Wood, the Kinemacolor people had made what was called a “Clansman” film.

    But the picture was so bad, from the difficulties of photography, and lack of discriminating direction, that it was never assembled for exhibition.

    Griffith inclined to the...

  19. The Real Story of Intolerance
    (pp. 63-69)
    Henry Stephen Gordon

    “Is this truly to be your last picture?” Griffith was asked.

    “It is,” he replied; “intolerance that I have met with and fought with in my other picture made it impossible to ask investment of the tremendous sums of money required for a real feature film with the result dependent on the whim or the lack of brains of a captain of police.”

    At that “runoff” showing, after the four spectators of fishy capacity for emotion had found their feet again firmly fastened in the clay of the commonplace, one said, “You’ve made a wonderful picture but you did have...

  20. The Making of a Masterpiece
    (pp. 70-72)
    Edward Weitzel

    After the curtain has descended upon the last scene of D. W. Griffith’s colossal spectacle, now being shown at the Liberty Theatre, New York City, and the mighty palaces of Babylon, the terrible massacre of St. Bartholomew, the tragedy on Calvary, the impressive story of a modern day, and all the wizardry of a master producer’s art is locked up in the small tin boxes that a man may carry away under his arm, the theater of Forty-Second Street becomes the scenes of long continued and exacting labors. The chief laborer is D. W. Griffith. Since the opening performance of...

  21. The Film World’s Greatest Achievement
    (pp. 73-78)
    Pictures and the Picturegoer

    Griffith the maker ofIntolerancehas pushed Griffith the maker ofThe Birth of a Nationoff the map. In the latter film spectacle he produced a story which made the whole world believe that the last word in motion-pictures had been said; in the former he is one of the towering geniuses of the world, the creator of one of the greatest works of art ever known in any shape or form, and certainly the biggest achievement ever presented in any theatrical line.

    To materialize his poet’s vision of the force of bigotry operating in every age and clime...

  22. D. W. Griffith Champions England’s Natural Light
    (pp. 79-79)
    Moving Picture World

    At various times we have either read or heard it said, that the natural light in England was poor for producing purposes. Now no less an authority than D. W. Griffith explodes the statement, as is shown by the following paragraphs from a recent interview which appeared in theWeekly Dispatchof London, England:

    “There is nothing to compare with the variety of color in an English landscape. You have old walls of between three hundred and four hundred years old which only time could have painted. The winding lanes have unexpected lines and changing beauty. In the new country,...

  23. Took Scenes in the Trenches
    (pp. 80-80)
    New York Times

    David W. Griffith, an American motion picture producer, who has been in France for seven months, taking scenes of real warfare at the front, returned yesterday to an Atlantic port, accompanied by the sisters Dorothy and Lillian Gish, who took part in the realistic drama [Hearts of the World] that will be produced in this country.

    “Thanks to the assistance of the British officers,” Mr. Griffith said, “we caught actual scenes in the first line trenches and the surrounding panorama which was often a view forty miles long and ten to fifteen miles deep. By the aid of the new...

  24. Griffith Returns from the Front with Official Pictures Made under Fire—Will Use Them in a Film Spectacle of War
    (pp. 81-84)
    Exhibitors Trade Review

    D. W. Griffith, who has been abroad for seven months co-operating with the British War Office in securing film records of events on the French and Belgian battlefields, arrived at an American port October 15.

    Mr. Griffith modestly admits that he has brought back with him some official war pictures which are to be woven into a spectacle of the world conflict [Hearts of the World] and that he is indebted to the English government for its great aid in making it possible for him to get up to the front line of the trenches with his cameraman, but asked...

  25. Griffith—and the Great War
    (pp. 85-91)
    Paul H. Dowling

    The massive walls of the lath-and-plaster Babylon were crumbling away slowly or being razed to the ground by scores of workmen. A fighting tower, swayed by the combined strength of half a hundred arms, bearing away at tackles and pulleys, toppled and crumbled into bits on the brown fields of stubble, raising into the clear air a cloud of dust and plaster and fine-chopped splinters. Babylon had fallen for the last time.

    In the shadow of a city wall, where men had fallen in the battles ofIntolerance, a small band of players were enacting a scene from a great...

  26. Griffith, Maker of Battle Scenes, Sees Real War
    (pp. 92-97)
    Harry C. Carr

    It was in the ruins of the Court of Belshazzar. A decayed and very tough-looking lion who once graced the Imperial throne of Babylon looked down with a dizzy smile. One of the beast’s majestic hoofs had been chipped off and some graceless iconoclast, with no respect for art, royalty, or lions, had thrust the decapitated member in the lion’s mouth. And you know that none of us could look our best with an amputated foot in our mouth.

    And the lion saw—what he saw.

    In the middle of Belshazzar’s court stood a small stage and at the edge...

  27. Pictures and Projectiles
    (pp. 98-99)
    New York Times

    A number of the scenes inHearts of the World, now showing at the Forty-Fourth Street Theatre, give the impression that D. W. Griffith and his company often worked dangerously near the center of the war, and, according to Mr. Griffith, they were actually exposed to considerably more than interesting excitement on several occasions. In relating yesterday some of his experiences and observations while making the picture, Mr. Griffith said:

    “We crossed the Channel to France and moved behind the firing line into the vicinity of the present fighting. I am not permitted to give the names of the different...

  28. Life and the Photodrama
    (pp. 100-103)
    Harry C. Carr

    The sun had gone on a little vacation behind the great Babylonian goddess Ishtar, and the camera had to stop. So Griffith came over and we sat down on one of the battlements of the weather-beatenIntoleranceset, which still stands in ghostly glory out Hollywood way.

    With tufts of his dark hair sticking out of the peek-holes in the funny old Mexican straw sombrero which “D. W.” always likes to wear when directing, he spoke of many things. Unlike the famous walrus, he did not confine his attention to shoes and ships and sealing-wax or cabbages and kings. But...

  29. How Griffith Picks His Leading Women
    (pp. 104-107)
    Harry C. Carr

    When the editor ofPhotoplayasked me to write a story about the methods that lie behind the visible work of David Wark Griffith, and the reasons for those methods, I simply answered: “Why don’t you send me to Great General Headquarters behind the German lines for a nice little advance announcement of Ludendorff’s plans for next Spring? I feel that will be much easier to get than the Griffith stuff you want.”

    Nevertheless, both the subject and the difficulty of it were fascinating.

    Mr. Griffith is not only remarkable because he remains year after year the supreme creator of...

  30. Humanity’s Language
    (pp. 108-110)
    New York Times

    D. W. Griffith was talking. The writer had gone to see him on business—the business of setting up an interview. But Mr. Griffith, producer of pictures, is not a producer of interviews, ready-made or made-to-order while you wait. Apparently he does not keep a stock of assorted statements and pithy sayings pigeon-holed and indexed in his mind to be drawn from for purposes of public education and self-advertising as occasion may require—or unguardedly permit. But he is a sociable man and talks, as one person does when he meets another, about whatever happens to come up as a...

  31. Griffith Points Out Need of Tragedy on the Screen; Likes San Francisco
    (pp. 111-112)
    Moving Picture World

    David Wark Griffith paid a high tribute to San Francisco when he selected this city for the premier Pacific Coast presentation ofBroken Blossoms, now being shown at the Curran Theatre. “I was governed in my choice of San Francisco for the first coast presentation ofBroken Blossoms,” he said recently in an interview, “primarily because of the reception the people of your city gaveThe First Bornwhen that one act play was produced here for the first time by David Belasco a number of years ago.¹ That is harking back rather but, but I felt that a people...

  32. The Poet-Philosopher of the Photoplay
    (pp. 113-116)
    Hazel Simpson Naylor

    Tuning a pen to the melody of the poet of the photoplay is a pleasant but difficult essay.

    For the melody of David Wark Griffith’s mentality is so entrancing that words are as empty of feeling in comparison; as a beautiful woman is without a soul.

    David Wark Griffith does not impress you as being superhuman or godlike. His very naturalness, simplicity and lack of pose are a few of the qualities which convince one that he is a great man. For it is an axiom that upon casual acquaintance, one cannot differentiate between a true genius and the ordinary...

  33. Exhibitor Is a Co-Artist, Says D. W. Griffith, Returns from Los Angeles to Open Eastern Studio
    (pp. 117-120)
    Exhibitors Trade Review

    The presentation of a motion picture by the exhibitor is as important and as vital to the success of that picture as is the careful and painstaking efforts of the director by whom it is produced. The exhibitor today must be an artist. This is particularly true of the exhibitors of the larger cities of the country, for upon his judgment depends hundreds of exhibitors who cannot spare the time nor money viewing trade showings at the exchanges.

    But David W. Griffith, director of such remarkable picture plays asThe Birth of a Nation, The Fall of Babylon, Hearts of...

  34. The Filming of Way Down East
    (pp. 121-128)
    Charles Gatchell

    On the north shore of Long Island Sound, not far from New York City, there is an estate of sloping lawns shaded by giant elms, on which Henry M. Flagler, the former Florida railroad magnate, once planned to have erected what he hoped would be the most beautiful country house in America. It was to have been a monument to the success of a multimillionaire, as distinctively the last word in dwellings of its kind as the Woolworth Building and tower was the last word in its type of city architecture.

    On this same estate, D. W. Griffith is now...

  35. The Moral and the Immoral Photoplay
    (pp. 129-131)
    Frederick James Smith

    David Wark Griffith sat on the edge of a camera platform in his Mamaroneck, N.Y., studios. He had been experimenting for hours with lights for close-ups ofWay Down East, and Billy Bitzer, his famous camera man, was “shooting” at the very moment.

    Griffith, like all unusual people, is a man of moods. An interview with him has to be caught at just the right moment. And this was obviously one of those moments, for he launched directly and abruptly into modern photoplay making. Someone has described Griffith by saying that he seldom emerges from silence, but, when he does,...

  36. The Greatest Moving Picture Producer in the World
    (pp. 132-132)
    Mary B. Mullett

    “I think the greatest thing in the world is unselfish love. The love between a boy and a girl is beautiful, and I like to show it. But love, in its greatest sense, is much more than just that. It is loyalty and sacrifice, forgiveness and service. The one word which covers it all is unselfishness. An unselfish love, that trusts and strives, and, if necessary, forgives, but never fails—that is the great fundamental appeal. I believe that every human being, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, city-bred or country-bred, good orbad, responds to that appeal.

    “Take the...

  37. Griffith Reveals Sartorial Secrets
    (pp. 133-134)
    Los Angeles Times

    David W. Griffith was seated in the darkened auditorium of the theater, and on the screen before him was shown his production,Way Down East, now playing at Philharmonic Auditorium [formerly Clune’s Auditorium, in downtown Los Angeles].

    It was a sort of dress rehearsal with the men who manipulate the lights, the experts engaged in the creating of effects and all the members of the orchestra, benefiting by the occasional suggestion the producer made. The picture had not long been running, when there came into view the scenes of luxury that are in contrast with those of the main part...

  38. D. W. Griffith’s Screen Version of The Two Orphans Would Fill Its Author with Awe
    (pp. 135-139)
    Edward Weitzel

    Strolling through the streets of old Paris, the Paris that saw the Revolution, and the head of Danton roll into the basket of the guillotine, I stopped and recalled the first time I witnessed the stage presentation ofThe Two Orphans, and I thought of the remark of the aristocratic Chevalier Vaudrey about having seen one of Beaumarchais’ plays¹ that contained revolutionary sentiments which the police had forbidden, but the people took sides with the author, and the king was compelled to yield:

    De Presles—The king compelled to yield? If that is true, royalty has lowered its dignity.

    Vaudrey—...

  39. An Intimate Closeup of D. W. Griffith
    (pp. 140-142)
    Movie Weekly

    “D. W. Griffith is the Shakespeare of the motion pictures,” a picture man propounded.

    “The secret of his success,” another declared, “is work, plus a human, vivid imagination.”

    Little or nothing has ever been printed about this master of screen artistry that has, to any extent, actually revealed the man more than the artist. Perhaps one reason is the difficulty to actually get to Mr. Griffith and have a few minutes alone. He is always busy.

    He rises in the morning about 7:30 or 8 o’clock. Before having breakfast he goes for a swim, if it is the summer, or...

  40. Griffith: Maker of Pictures
    (pp. 143-150)
    Harry C. Carr

    It is said that no one knows anything about any woman who has not seen her before breakfast. After she is marcelled and lip sticked—or lip stuck—all you are going to know about her is what she wants you to know.

    And that is just as true of directors. Especially D. W. Griffith.

    There is a D. W. Griffith that the world sees at banquets and at the theater when his pictures have their formal openings—a most attractive and rather regal gentleman in evening dress. But the public doesn’t know anything much about the real D. W....

  41. The Genius of a Masterpiece
    (pp. 151-151)
    Shadowland

    D. W. Griffith told a little story not so very long ago. It was about himself, and it possessed the qualities his pictures possess … whimsy and pain and laughter, intertwined. He told about himself as a little boy, living on a Kentucky farm, was—impoverished … buthome. “A castle of freedom, it was,” he said … He told how, among his many duties, he had to go at night and bring in the cows, and he told what peculiarly fearsome cows they were, and what a long distance it seemed to him he had to go for them...

  42. Griffith Film Stirs Anger of Parisians
    (pp. 152-154)
    New York Times

    Paris, Sept. 10—The disturbance caused last night in a Boulevard motion picture house during the first production [presentation] of D. W. Griffith’s filmOrphans of the Storm, although it was actually started by a handful of young royalists, whose ire was aroused by the manner in which theAncien Régimewas depicted, apparently has a wider significance than a mere demonstration by a few hot-headed, unbalanced youths. Their angry protests were supported by almost the whole body of spectators, the reason being that the American producer’s idea of conditions under the old monarchy profoundly offends French pride and self-respect....

  43. Stereoscopic Films
    (pp. 155-156)
    New York Times

    D. W. Griffith, who may be counted on to be interested in any new cinematographic development, whether he himself is responsible for it or not, has become interested in the possibility of motion pictures with three dimensions, and when asked to give his ideas on the subject, commented as followed:

    “Motion pictures will never realize their ideal effectiveness until they are stereoscopic. In every art where there is an industrial feature to it, the industrial part develops more rapidly than the artistic. That is because we are an industrial nation and have more minds trained that way.

    “With a real...

  44. In and Out of Focus: D. W. Griffith
    (pp. 157-159)
    Louella Parsons

    What is the matter with the movies will be answered when some theatre owner invents a remedy for the present handicap in the theatre of permitting the public to see the last half of a picture before the first has been unreeled, David Wark Griffith says. He believes conditions in the film world will continue as black as some of our most erudite writers have pictured them in the recent scathing magazine articles, until this crying evil is overcome.

    “How long could David Belasco hold his supremacy as the stage’s most artistic producer,” asked Mr. Griffith, “if his audiences straggled...

  45. What Are the Chances of a Beginner
    (pp. 160-161)
    Photoplay

    “There is always a good chance for the right sort of beginner. That applies to every field of human activity. Indeed, in making motion picture dramas I am inclined to favor beginners.

    “They come untrammeled by so-called technique, by theories and by preconceived ideas.

    “If you were to ask me what sort of beginner I liked best, I would say in brief: I prefer the young woman who has to support herself and possibly her mother. Of necessity, she will work hard. Again, I prefer the nervous type. I never engage a newcomer who applied for work without showing at...

  46. D. W. Griffith Is Struggling to Pay His Debts
    (pp. 162-167)
    Sara Redway

    Virtue, alas, is often its own reward. I have heard of genius, dying undiscovered in an attic, but I have never heard of a moving picture director peddling matches on Christmas Eve. I hope I never shall. I would sooner see a realtor’s lip quiver. Perhaps it is because genius doesn’t go about in riding breeches with a megaphone.

    No one with a megaphone could remain undiscovered. But I have seen a man who must be almost a genius, although being almost a genius is about the same as being almost an angel, so I will be milder with my...

  47. How Do You Like the Show?
    (pp. 168-174)
    Myron M. Stearns

    In one of his earlier successful motion pictures Charles Ray, as a young baseball player whose head had been turned by promotion to the majors, snubs the home-town folks who have come to honor him in the big city.¹ Beside me in the theater where I watched that film there was a pleasant old lady. At the snubbing scene, she turned to me—a stranger—and, with a voice full of apology as though the youth on the screen were her own son, she excused him: “But he’s such aboy!”

    That spontaneous remark, born of sympathy for the boy...

  48. Don’t Blame the Movies! Blame Life!
    (pp. 175-179)
    Selma Robinson

    Directors come and directors go. Stars shoot into the films like comets and disappear as rapidly. Innovations in photography are treated to a brief, brilliant career and are forgotten. And throughout the bright parade, David Wark Griffith goes about his own business, seemingly unaware of anything else, yet actually following every shifting movement.

    Griffith has often been called the dean of movies, and I can’t think of a more fitting title. He has an air of silent wisdom, of having long ago decided to forget what other men are now discovering. It is precisely the air of a learned professor...

  49. He Might Be the Richest Man in the World
    (pp. 180-183)
    Frederick James Smith

    Suppose the pioneer motion picture devices had been patented as everything has been patented in the modern field of radio. David Wark Griffith would be one of the richest men in the world, and the empire of films would be turned topsy-turvy.

    “Suppose I had patented the fade-out,” Griffith told me sadly the other day. “I would be drawing at least a million a year in royalties. The dissolve-out is absolutely necessary to the smooth telling of a story. Try counting the number of times it is used in a single picture.

    “To eliminate it would make necessary the abrupt...

  50. His Best Pictures Were the Least Expensive, Says “D. W.”
    (pp. 184-184)
    Tom Waller

    “My best pictures were my least expensive pictures.”

    That’s what D. W. Griffith told the writer the other day on the set ofDrums of Love[1928], this pioneer director’s first effort under his renewed affiliation with United Artists.

    Broken Blossoms[1919], which he regards as one of the greatest achievements, was lowest of all his pictures in production costs, he said.

    Sounding Griffith on Hollywood’s economy wave secured this information about his own productions.

    That artistry cannot be confined within rigid limitations is one of the reactions this writer got from Griffith’s observations between a ham sandwich and a...

  51. D. W. Griffith Addresses the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
    (pp. 185-186)
    AMPAS Bulletin

    Mr. Griffith responded in a somewhat facetious vein, apparently intended as a protest against a predominance of commercialism in motion picture production. He wondered what the Academy was all about, why the high sounding name, and why he should discuss talking pictures, concerning which he knew nothing. He questioned the right of motion pictures to any claim of art and declared the science of the pictures was mostly the science of making money. Therefore, he thought that it should be called a business and not a science or an art. Perhaps, he added, the talking pictures may in time bring...

  52. Walter Huston Interviews D. W. Griffith
    (pp. 187-188)
    Walter Huston

    From the prologue for the sound reissue ofThe Birth of a Nation, filmed spring 1930.¹

    Walter Huston: Is it generally known that you’re a Southerner?

    D. W. Griffith (laughs): I should think it should be. It’s been advertised enough. Yes, my father was a colonel in the Confederacy.

    Walter Huston: Now I want to ask you a question.

    D. W. Griffith: Go ahead.

    Walter Huston: When you madeThe Birth of a Nation, did you tell your father’s story?

    D. W. Griffith: No, no, I don’t think so. Well, after you mention it, perhaps I did.

    Walter Huston: How...

  53. David Wark Griffith Tells ’Em
    (pp. 189-191)
    Motion Picture Herald

    The business of motion pictures is being run by individuals displaying the mentality of children, according to D. W. Griffith, “old maestro” of production. While scores of executives from both coasts have been fighting the Battle of Hollywood, trying to figure ways and means of putting the industry on a sound operating basis, attempting to solve problems through numerous “conferences,” talking about dictators to oversee all production, and physical distribution mergers, the maker ofThe Birth of a Nation, Way Down East, andIntolerancefrom his apartment high up in the Park Central Hotel, New York, snaps his fingers and...

  54. The Star-Maker Whose Dreams Turned to Dust
    (pp. 192-196)
    Mildred Mastin

    At the window of a tall Manhattan hotel, a man stood looking down at Broadway. From the window, twenty-two stories above the street, he watched hundreds of dancing, burning electric signs, screaming the names of movies and their stars.

    For twenty years the man had been the outstanding creative genius in motion pictures. He was idle now. Out of the game.

    “Movies,” he commented slowly, “are written in sand. Applauded today, forgotten tomorrow. Last week the names on the signs were different. Next week they will be changed again.”

    It was a theatrical statement, made by a man who has...

  55. Film Master Is Not Proud of Films: “They Do Not Endure”
    (pp. 197-197)
    Daily Express

    “I am prouder that a magazine printed a two-verse poem of mine, for which they paid me fifteen dollars, many years ago, than I am of any film I have made.”

    So says great director, conversationalist, and arch-sentimentalist Griffith, who reached the Savoy [Hotel, London] from far places last night.

    “The movie is not an art,” says Griffith. “It is a beautiful business. So transient it cannot endure for a year. Why, the greatest films of the greatest masters of movie, made five years ago, shown today look ridiculous. I haven’t made a film myself that can endure. Words, painting,...

  56. D. W. Griffith Tells Plans Which Include Picture Making
    (pp. 198-200)
    Grace Kingsley

    To interview D. W. Griffith, giant of the films of other days, is also to interview his lovely young bride [Evelyn Baldwin]! And she is a charming chatelaine to any interview.

    And so it was while smiling down on her, in their suite at the Ambassador [Hotel], and telling her to “run away and put on the red shoes, because they match your red neck bow,” that we got under way as to his future plans.

    Looking in the very pink of condition, it is easy to believe that the famous pioneer is quite ready to undertake new enterprises, but...

  57. Return of a Master
    (pp. 201-203)
    Herb Sterne

    Frantically manufacturing new gods for public worship, Hollywood soon forgets the names of the haloed ones of yesterday. Several weeks ago a terse item, relegated to the subsequent pages of the daily press, announced that “D. W. Griffith, director of silent films, has been signed as supervisor by Hal Roach.” No adjectives. No fanfare. Ignored was the fact that the motion picture, as we know it today, was founded and developed by Griffith. Overlooked were the technical devices—the close-up, the flash-back, the moving camera shot, narrative story-telling on the screen—which he introduced. Of no seeming interest to any...

  58. Griffith Back to Live Here “for Half Century”
    (pp. 204-205)
    James Warnak

    “Winston Churchill and the late Gabriel D’Annunzio are the smartest scenario writers I ever met,” said David Wark Griffith, producer of [The]Birth of a Nationand other cinema classics in an interview yesterday at the Roosevelt Hollywood [Hotel], at which he and Mrs. Griffith are guests.

    “Unfortunately, I could not produce either the story outlined to me by Mr. Churchill in 1917, nor the one offered by the Italian poet,” said Mr. Griffith. “Their production would have cost more money than I had at the time. Besides, Churchill’s story contained too much thought, while D’Annunzio, then in his sixties,...

  59. “Cinema’s Fullest Scope Still Ahead”—D. W. Griffith
    (pp. 206-208)
    Fred W. Fox

    David Wark Griffith, who made what is probably the most ambitious mistake in motion picture history, also gave to the world the most memorable of all films,The Birth of a Nation, which many authorities claim is the greatest money-making photoplay ever produced. Gross ofThe Birth, estimated as high as $48 million since it was first screened more than thirty years ago, no doubt is the largest return per dollar invested in cinema annals, since its production cost was only $90,000.

    The “mistake,” however, was notThe Birth of a Nation, but the fourteen-reel spectacleIntolerancethat followed. The...

  60. Forty-Seven Questions from Seymour Stern to D. W. Griffith
    (pp. 209-211)
    Seymour Stern

    What was your boyhood like? Was it a happy one?

    Very happy.

    Was it entirely spent in La Grange and Louisville?

    House was on stock farm—was in country, not in La Grange itself. About eighteen miles from Louisville, seven or eight from La Grange village on a rural turnpike. Best farm in Oldham County. Worth $30,000 today. At thirteen, went Louisville for first time.

    Did you go to public (grammar) school?

    Passed exam for second year high school, but didn’t go…. Chief intellectual influences: father and moreso the sisters.

    Apart from school, what was the chief cultural and intellectual...

  61. Flash-Back to Griffith
    (pp. 212-218)
    Ezra Goodman

    David Wark Griffith, the father of films, the maker ofThe Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, andWay Down East, sat in a hotel room overlooking the heart of Hollywood. He sat in an easy chair, attired in pajamas and a patterned maroon dressing gown, his lordly aquiline features surmounted by sparse white hair. Standing about the room were several trunks. On one of them reposed Griffith’s floppy felt hat, against it leaned his cane. In the kitchen stood two large cans of film containing a rare, good print [presumably 16mm] of the twelve reels ofOrphans of...

  62. The Writings of D. W. Griffith
    (pp. 219-220)
  63. Index
    (pp. 221-224)