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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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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 ...
...
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:

The dawn of a new art! 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  »

Box Office

Budget:

$100,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$3,000,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| | (video) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During filming, camera operator Karl Brown was sure that the movie was just another typical melodrama. At the film's premiere, D.W. Griffith had hired the entire Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra to play the score for the film. Brown was amazed; nothing like this had been done before. When the conductor raised his baton, and the orchestra started playing, he said it was so amazing and loud he was shaking his head, "It was like nothing I ever heard." Brown additionally remembers that Griffith hummed certain themes to the composer of the original score that he wanted. See more »

Goofs

Car tire tracks are visible in the KKK segment. See more »

Quotes

Elsie Stoneman: [Ben is to be hanged. Elsie has an idea] We will ask mercy from the Great Heart.
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 »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Bad History
28 July 2003 | by (Champaign, IL) – See all my reviews

Anyone who thinks that this film depicts real history is seriously deluded. One commenter noted that the KKK was fighting for a good cause during Reconstruction, but not now. I guess to him good causes include killing and intimidating freed slaves who were merely attempting to exercise their rights to vote and make a living.

Griffith's portrayal of Reconstruction black politicians is not only racist, but blatantly untrue. Only in rare instances and for a short time did black representatives control any Southern legislatures, and this at a time when they were the majority of voters in many Southern states! For years teachers of Reconstruction have emphasized carpetbaggers, but have ommitted the fact that the post-Reconstruction governments were founded with the explicit purpose of disenfranchising blacks and violently enforcing their underclass status. For this reason and others, Birth of a Nation's claims to historical accuracy would be comical, if not for the horrific implications of the film.

That said, this film should be seen, mainly because it provides a document of a poisonous way of thinking that is by no means dead. It also represents the pop cultural moment when Northern and Southern whites reconciled over the memory of the Civil War, mainly to the detriment of blacks. Lastly, those who want this film burned only give ammunition to the idiots who still praise the KKK. It's better to let these jerks hang themselves with their own rhetorical ropes than to let them claim victim status.


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