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The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Not Rated | | Drama, History, War | 3 March 1915 (USA)
The Civil War divides friends and destroys families, but that's nothing compared to the anarchy in the black-ruled South after the war.



(adapted from his novel: "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan") (as Thomas F. Dixon Jr.), (play) (as Thomas F. Dixon Jr.) | 3 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Elsie - Stoneman's Daughter
Henry B. Walthall ...
Col. Ben Cameron (as Henry Walthall)
Lydia - Stoneman's Mulatto Housekeeper
Ralph Lewis ...
Walter Long ...
Tod - Stoneman's Younger Son
Jeff - The Blacksmith (as Wallace Reed)
Joseph Henabery ...
Abraham Lincoln (as Jos. Henabery)
Elmer Clifton ...
Phil - Stoneman's Elder Son
Josephine Crowell ...
Spottiswoode Aitken ...
George Beranger ...
Wade Cameron - Second Son (as J.A. Beringer)


Two brothers, Phil and Ted Stoneman, visit their friends in Piedmont, South Carolina: the family Cameron. This friendship is affected by the Civil War, as the Stonemans and the Camerons must join up opposite armies. The consequences of the War in their lives are shown in connection to major historical events, like the development of the Civil War itself, Lincoln's assassination, and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. Written by Victor Munoz <vmunoz@macul.ciencias.uchile.cl>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Drama | History | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




Release Date:

3 March 1915 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan  »

Box Office


$110,000 (estimated)


$3,000,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (video) | (DVD) | (2011 Blu-ray Restoration Edition)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Future directors John Ford, Raoul Walsh, Elmer Clifton, Joseph Henabery, Karl Brown and Donald Crisp worked on this film as actors and/or crew members. Erich von Stroheim is also credited by some sources--including von Stroheim himself--with being an actor and/or assistant director on this film, but records show that the first time von Stroheim worked for D.W. Griffith was on Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916), which wasn't shot until more than a year after this film. See more »


The position of the window in the small cabin changes. See more »


Mrs. Cameron: [Northern solider is trying to keep wounded Ben's mother out of hospital] I am going into that room to my boy. You may shoot if you want to.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The following was listed in the opening credits: A PLEA FOR THE ART OF THE MOTION PICTURE: We do not fear censorship, for we have no wish to offend with improprieties or obscenities, but we do demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we may illuminate the bright side of virtue - the same liberty that is conceeded to the art of the written word - that art to which we owe the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. See more »


Referenced in Napoleon (1927) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

technically overrated, and historically laughable
18 April 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The technical: It's amazing how so many throw out their own common sense and swallow an idea if it's fed to them enough. So many people use the defense that this film was so innovative in order to excuse the extreme racism in depicts. First of all, there is still a dispute as to whether Griffith did indeed "invent" the close up shot and cross-cutting of scenes. But even if you accept that, so what? The film was made in 1915, during the very early stages of film-making. Just like with any industry, film-making was progressing, and such obvious shots were only a matter of time. To say that Griffith was ahead of his time is not saying much considering the youth of the industry. The film, even technically, does not stand the test of time. If it did, we would not have to continually be reminded that the film was made in 1915, and that's why we should be impressed. Citizen Kane was made in 1939, and it was truly ahead of it's time. The shots in that film wow me to this day. It just so happens that this film, BOAN, was the first to use simple techniques that were inevitable. (Some of which are believed to have been suggested by the cameraman, and not Griffith himself).

The history (Reconstruction): For those who argue that this film is historically accurate, I can only guess that you have another agenda, much like those who argued the same at the time. The debate about the reconstruction will never end because there was not the technology and a media capable of recording the events in a clear and unbiased way. The written accounts are widely varied, and debated. But again, let's use common sense. Of course there was violence and I'm sure some amount of treachery after the civil war. You have a new "regime" coming into a place full of strong feelings and tradition. Reconstruction would of course have meant getting rid of old leaders and old traditions, and it would have been met with opposition. Still, had the reconstruction been anywhere near as it was depicted in this film, the country would not have recovered and rebuilt as quickly as it did. I've read too much from both sides about the reconstruction to buy this extreme point of view.

We are in a rough time in this country right now. Should an anti-Bush filmmaker make a film about this time 50 years from now in the same vein as BOAN, it would depict this administration as Nazi-like extreme rightist who peer through citizens' window, randomly imprison Muslim-Americans and attack all underdeveloped Muslim countries with oil on their land. The whole administration would look like sinister villains and Bush would be a dopey puppet like imbecile. Of course, if it wasn't for us having the technology to record today's news, anyone with an anti-Bush agenda would rally behind the film and argue that it is historically accurate. Some might even believe it. Pro-Bush folks would argue that it had no validity at all. But like anything, it's more complicated than either extreme will admit.

This film was a racist satire of Reconstruction at best.

Quick response to volksgeist, from Canada: I've read all of your "reviews" and they are nothing more than quotes by historical racists and anti-Semites. Your agenda if obvious. Still, since your non-review made it on the site, I'd like to take the time and respond briefly to your quote. It is indeed an interesting quote. But, like this film, it's from a particular point of view with a particular agenda. Yes, Africans did walk among diamonds for generations. Yes they did have abundant natural resources. And, that remained true until they were invaded.

Perhaps, it was out of wisdom that they chose not to destroy the resources for wealth, but to live among them in balance with nature. Diamonds, after all, are not food or shelter. They are used mainly as symbols of status because they are "pretty". And now, people lose their lives over these pretty stones. Where is the wisdom in that? The natural resources of Africa have been diminished to almost nothing, and the continent is in shambles due to the "progressive" thinkers such as yourself. Maybe, just maybe, your ideas of progress are simply different from those of the natives of Africa. And considering where we are headed now, I'd argue that they were wiser.

Also, since that quote, it has been proved that Africans did indeed travel across the seas. In fact they visited the "Americas" long before Columbus "discovered" them. All your quote proves, to me, is that racists can be eloquent, but it doesn't make them any less wrong.

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