D.W.Griffith Essay

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Perhaps no other director has generated such a broad range of critical reaction as D.W. Griffith. For students of the motion picture, Griffith's is the most familiar name in film history. Generally acknowledged as America's most influential director (and certainly one of the most prolific), he is also perceived as being among the most limited. Praise for his mastery of film technique is matched by repeated indictments of his moral, artistic, and intellectual inadequacies. At one extreme, Kevin Brownlow has characterized him as "the only director in America creative enough to be called a genius." At the other, Paul Rotha calls his contribution to the advance of film "negligible" and Susan Sontag complains of his "supreme vulgarity and even…show more content…
Certain notable Biographs—The Musketeers of Pig Alley, The Painted Lady, A Corner in Wheat, The Girl and Her Trust, The Battle of Elderbush Gulch, The Unseen Enemy, and A Feud in the Kentucky Hills—have been singled out for individual study.
Griffith reached the peak of his popularity and influence in the five years between 1915 and 1920, when he released The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, and Way Down East. He also directed Hearts of the World during this period, a film that incorporates newsreel and faked documentary footage into an epic fictional narrative. A First World War propaganda epic, Hearts of the World, alone among his early spectacles, is ignored today. But in 1918 it was the most popular war film of its time, and rivalled The Birth of a Nation as the most profitable of all Griffith's features. Today, it is usually studied as an example of World War I hysteria or as a pioneering effort at government-sponsored mass entertainment.
Although Griffith's epics are generally grouped together, Paul Goodman points out
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