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The Birth of a Nation (1915)

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

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Writers:

(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

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Elsie - Stoneman's Daughter
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Col. Ben Cameron (as Henry Walthall)
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Lydia - Stoneman's Mulatto Housekeeper
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Tod - Stoneman's Younger Son
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Jeff - The Blacksmith (as Wallace Reed)
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Abraham Lincoln (as Jos. Henabery)
Elmer Clifton ...
Phil - Stoneman's Elder Son
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Spottiswoode Aitken ...
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Wade Cameron - Second Son (as J.A. Beringer)
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

D.W. Griffith's immortal masterpiece. (Reissue ad). See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

3 March 1915 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan  »

Box Office

Budget:

$100,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$3,000,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film made a star out of Lillian Gish. See more »

Goofs

The South Carolina coastline does not have bluffs overlooking the ocean. See more »

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Spoofed in South Park: Here Comes the Neighborhood (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The first true American Cinematic Masterpiece
20 December 2001 | by (Birmingham, AL) – See all my reviews

Perhaps it is fitting that the first American Masterpiece, is also one of the most controversial films ever made.

D. W. Griffith may not have invented every single technique used in Birth of a Nation (that is a hotly debated topic, since other filmmakers were also experimenting with similar techniques at around the same time), but he nonetheless provided a seemless use of closeups,panning shots, cross cutting and other devices we now take for granted, and put them in a package that made it seem like it was *the* natural way for a director to tell a story in film. And in fact it has been the natural way directors have told stories for the last 87 years.

It's unfortunate that the visionary scope of this picture has been overshadowed of late by the rising tide of Political Correctness in America. There is no doubt that bad racial stereotyping occurs throughout the movie. And our vantage point from the present can easily see that the Ku Klux Klan are not the right people to set up as "saviors" of the ways of the Old South.

But to appreciate this movie, one must watch with the hindsight of history. Griffith was the son of a confederate solder, the War Between the States was still within living memory for many Americans in 1915. And let's face it... Reconstruction was deliberately demeaning and punishing to the South. This was not Lincoln's fault at the film clearly states, but it was the policy of the Union towards the South after his death. The resentment of this treatment was still alive in Griffith and many others living in the early 20th century.

If one can put the subject matter into the context of the times the film was made, they will find a stirring melodrama with tremendous scope, and the Birth of modern movie making.


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