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The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Not Rated | | Drama, History, War | 21 March 1915 (USA)
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.

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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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Col. Ben Cameron (as Henry Walthall)
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Lydia - Stoneman's Mulatto Housekeeper
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Silas Lynch - Mulatto Lieut. Governor (as George Seigmann)
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Jeff - The Blacksmith (as Wallace Reed)
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Abraham Lincoln (as Jos. Henabery)
Elmer Clifton ...
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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:

100 people have seen it - have you? (Reissue ad). See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

21 March 1915 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$100,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$10,000,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$11,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| | (video) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After D.W. Griffith's death, Donald Crisp claimed to have personally directed the battlefield sequences. Historians dismiss this claim as total nonsense, as Griffith did not delegate second units but directed every scene himself. Crisp may or may not have been one of the dozen or so assistant directors who were sent into the action to help maneuver the extras. See more »

Goofs

The position and condition of the flag on the left-hand side of Lincoln's box at Ford's Theater varies between shots. In the first long shot after Elsie points out Booth, it is hanging downwards from the middle, whereas in the shots immediately before and after, it is shown draped across the front of the left-hand railing. Similarly, after Booth shoots Lincoln and jumps from the box, the flag falls to the left-hand side of the box and an audience member is later shown pulling it down twice. See more »

Quotes

intertitle: If in this work we have conveyed to the mind the ravages of war to the end that war may be held in abhorrence, this effort will not have been in vain.
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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

Featured in The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

What does it mean to say something is 'Politically Correct'?
17 July 2000 | by See all my reviews

I don't think there's ever been a more maligned phrase than "politically correct" out there; the words immediately evoke a kind of liberal pseudo-fascism that some would have you believe is dominating freedom of speech and thought around universities and media outlets everywhere. I'm not so sure about that, but I am concerned at the counter-trend, of things that are labeled politically incorrect now proudly sporting that label as if they were a rebel, a David fighting these psedo-fascist Goliaths. That is hardly the case. D.W. Griffith's movie, far from being a politically incorrect movie unfairly condemned by the liberal elite, was a movie that perpetuated and, to a certain extent, created a Southern Myth that was damning to black people all throughout the country. The scary bit about this movie is not that it is one voice amoung many giving a personal recount of reconstruction. The movie is not presented that way, nor was it received that way. Until the 1960s, this movie WAS the commonplace, everyday understanding of reconstruction, understood by both Northerners and Southerners (aside: notice how the movie intentionately put as much distance between Northerners and Southerners as possible? The enemy is blacks and "radicals" (who were nothing of the sort), not Lincoln or the union soldiers. The movie was trying to appeal to a Northern audience).

Anyone who ever complains about the political correctness or historical "revisionism" of today's academics, see this movie. And understand, that it is the work of historical "revisionists" that are responsible for teaching the facts about our nation's history, grasped out of the hands of fictions like Griffith's horrific Birth of a Nation. And don't be so smug about complaining of political correctness in the future.

And don't try to seperate this film as an artistic work with the historical perspective of the film. Keep in mind, this film was not only a portrayl of history, it was also a *part* of history. It served to defend racial segregation, lychings, and the Klan at a time when all three of those were very real political issues. It is not a coincidence that the greatest period of lychings and Jim Crow laws came shortly after this movie. In short, this film oppressed people. So don't treat it like it existed in an entertainment vacuum, unaffected by and unaffecting everything else around it.


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