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"The Birth of A Nation"
1915 Silent Movie

opening title card from "The Birth of A Nation" [1915] classic silent film epic by D.W. Griffith           

synopsis & history

author Thomas Dixon

the movie




           The plot follows two families in South Carolina on opposite sides in the U.S. Civil War; later events include recreations of historic Civil War battles, the assassination of President Lincoln, the post-war Reconstruction, and the founding of the Ku Klux Klan.

TCM synopsis

History of The Film
           American baptist Minister Thomas F. Dixon, Jr. published the novel "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of The Ku Klux Klan" in 1905. It was the middle book of his 'Ku Klux Klan trilogy', which included "The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of The White Man's Burden, 1865-1900" [1902] and "The Traitor: A Story of The Fall of The Invisible Empire" [1907]. All three books were bestsellers, and "The Clansman" became a successful stageplay. While Dixon was opposed to slavery, his works promoted racial segregation; he felt that the K.K.K. was necessary at the time to enforce that policy.
           D.W. Griffith's father, who served as a colonel in the Confederate Army, made a deal to purchase the rights to Dixon's book and play, but he was able to come up with only a fourth of that amount. Dixon reluctantly accepted a one-fourth interest in the planned film instead of cash up front – the film's amazing success made Dixon a millionaire.
           The film was originally released as "The Clansman", and premiered at Clune's Auditorium in Downtown Los Angeles on 8 February 1915; it was shortly retitled "The Birth of A Nation". The film reflects the racist nature of the Dixon book, and of the Reconstruction Era. The inflammatory nature of parts of the film are blamed for riots that broke out in Boston, Philadelphia, and other major cities; because of that violence, the film was not allowed to open in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City (Missouri), Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. The film was protested by the N.A.A.C.P. & others, and even Dixon's friend President Woodrow Wilson was drawn into the fray.
           The film was screened inside the White House (the first feature film to do so) in February 1915, but the tale that Wilson stated that it was "history written with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true" is entirely false. Griffith was quoted in an interview several days later as saying that government officials were amazed how the film 'teaches history by lightning'. Several versions of the quote were passed around by Dixon and by the filmmakers, but an exchange of letters told them to stop, otherwise the falsely-quoted officials would issue press statements deploring the film's content.

           The film was re-released in 1922, and is said to be a major cause for a resurgence in Klan membership in the Twenties – the K.K.K. did in fact screen the film as a recruiting tool.

Thomas Dixon, Jr.  [1864-1946]

Thomas Dixon, Jr. entry at Wikipedia
Thomas Dixon, Jr. credits at Internet Movie Database
Thomas Dixon, Jr. bio page at U.N.C.

The Clansman novel by Thomas Dixon  "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of The Ku Klux Klan" [1905]
by Thomas Dixon, Jr.

NuVision Publns 9x6 pb [7/2005] for $15.59
Univ Press of KY 7¾x5¼ pb [12/70] for $22.00
M.E. Sharpe edited & abridged pb [10/2000] for $32.95
M.E. Sharpe 9¼x6¼ library hardcover [12/2000] for $82.95
book entry at Wikipedia
Reconstruction Trilogy novels by Thomas Dixon   prequel "The Leopard's Spots" [Doubleday 1902] by Thomas Dixon, Jr.
Pelican Publng 8x5 pb [10/2001] for $19.95
Smyth Press 8½x5½ hardcover [8/2008] for $32.95
sequel "The Traitor" [1907] by Thomas Dixon, Jr.
Firebird Press 9x6 pb [8/2001] for $18.95
Kessinger Publng 9x6 pb [8/2004] for $25.24
"The Reconstruction Trilogy" (in one volume) Preface by Sam Dickson
Noontide Press 9x6 pb [1/2001] out of print/used
American Racist / Thomas Dixon  
"American Racist: The Life and Films of Thomas Dixon" [2004]
by Anthony Slide

Univ Press of KY 9x6 pb [9/2004] for $35.00
Thomas Dixon bio   "Thomas Dixon, Jr. and The Birth of Modern America" [2006]
Edited by Michele K. Gillespie & Randal L. Hall

LSU Press 8½x5½ hardcover [4/2006] for $35.22

"The  Birth  of  A  Nation"
[D.W.G./Epoch silent classic Feb 1915]
The full-length version is 190 minutes. Co-written & directed by D.W. Griffith; based on the 1905 novel & play "The Clansman" by Thomas F. Dixon Jr. [1864-1946]; starring Ralph Lewis, Elmer Clifton, Robert Harron, Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Mary Alden, Walter Long, George Siegmann, Wallace Reid, Joseph Henabery {as Abraham Lincoln}, Josephine Crowell, Spottiswoode Aitken, George Beranger, Maxfield Stanley, Jennie Lee, Raoul Walsh {as John Wilkes Booth}, Donald Crisp (as Gen. Grant} & Howard Gaye {as Gen. Lee}; listed on National Film Registry (1992)

film credits at Internet Movie Database
movie entry at Wikipedia

watch online for free [3 hours] at Internet Archive

Kino Intl. Deluxe Edition 187-minute b&w Blu-ray [11/2011] 3 disks for $24.93
Kino Intl. Deluxe Edition 187-minute b&w DVD [11/2011] 3 disks for $18.36

Kino Video 187-minute b&w silent DVD [12/2002] 2 disks - out of prodn/used
this DVD set includes a "Making of ..." documentary [1998] and 7 short films by D.W. Griffith: "In The Border States" [1910],
"The House With The Closed Shutters" [1910], "The Fugitive" [1910], "His Trust" [1911], "His Trust Fulfilled" [1911],
"Swords and Hearts" [1911] and "The Battle" [1911]

Big D Films 190-minute silent b&w DVD [5/2009] for $15.08
Image Ent. 187-minute b&w silent DVD [11/98] for $14.91
Desert Island Films 163-minute silent b&w DVD [8/2011] for $12.65
Reel Enterprises 159-minute b&w DVD [11/2006] for $12.95
Triad Prodns 125-minute remastered silent b&w DVD [10/2008] for $14.95
Delta Video 103-minute silent b&w DVD [3/2004] out of prodn/used
Alpha Video 90-minute silent b&w DVD [4/2005] for $7.71

Kino Video 165-minute b&w silent VHS [12/2002] 2 tapes for $24.95
Republic Pictures 165-minute b&w silent VHS [9/94] 2 tapes for $9.69
Madacy 165-minute b&w silent VHS [9/97] for $3.88

"The Making of The Birth of A Nation"
[Film Preservation Assocs. video release Nov 1998]
Directed by Robert G. Beecher; written by Russell Merritt; narrated by David H. Shepard
available on DVDs above • full credits from IMDb

·            ·

Birth of A Nation Story book by Roy E. Aitken & Al P. Nelson  
"The Birth of A Nation Story" [1965]
by Roy E. Aitken, as told to Al P. Nelson

Denlinger hardcover [1965] out of print/scarce
Birth of A Nation critical text   "The Birth of A Nation: D.W. Griffith, Director" [1994]
critical text by Robert Lang

Rutgers Univ Press 9x6 pb [2/94] for $22.95
Rutgers Univ Press 9¾x6½ pb [2/94] out of print/used
Birth of a Nation / The Film That Transformed America  "D.W. Griffith's Film The Birth of A Nation: The Film That
Transformed America" [2006] by Michael R. Hurwitz

BookSurge Publng 7¾x5¼ pb [9/2006] for $13.99
Birth of A Nation / Controversial Motion Picture  "D.W. Griffith's The Birth of A Nation: A History of The
Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time" [2007]
by Melvyn Stokes

Oxford Univ Press 9¼x6 pb [12/2007] for $24.95
Oxford Univ Press 9x6 hardcover [12/2007] for $99.00
Birth of a Nation / Reignited America's Civil War book by Dick Lehr  "The Birth of A Nation: How A Legendary Filmmaker and A
Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War" [2014]
by Dick Lehr

The fiery story of Monroe Trotter’s titanic crusade to have Griffith's pro-K.K.K.
film censored; Trotter's methods of peaceful protest became a model for dissent
during the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement.

Kindle Edition from PublicAffairs [11/2014] for $17.99
PublicAffairs 9½x6½ hardcover [11/2014] for $20.33

'Birth of A Nation' Posters
( shut down their affiliates program in June 2015)

Griffith's Birth of A Nation 1915 movie poster
11"x17" poster
from Amazon
for $19.99
Griffith's Clansman 1915 movie poster
11"x17" poster
from Amazon
for $14.99
Griffith's Birth of A Nation 1915 movie poster - John Wilkes Booth
11"x17" poster
from Amazon
for $14.99

27"x40" poster
from Amazon
for $19.99
Griffith's Birth of A Nation 1915 movie poster - red circle / Seattle
retail source
not found
Griffith's Birth of A Nation 1915 movie poster - red & white & blue
retail source
not found
Griffith's Birth of A Nation 1915 movie poster - horse, green gound
11"x17" poster
from Amazon
for $14.99
Griffith's Birth of A Nation 1915 movie poster - horse, blue ground
18"x28" poster
from Amazon
for $19.95
Griffith's Birth of A Nation 1915 movie poster - white hooded horse
retail source
not found

L i n k s
D.W. Griffith entry at Wikipedia
Magic Lantern's D.W. Griffith [1875-1948] Page
official Souvenir Guide for The Birth of A Nation, circa 1924

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