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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 ...
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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:

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) | (2011 Blu-ray Restoration Edition)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The original budget for the film was $40,000, but D.W. Griffith spent $110,000, the largest amount ever spent on a film up to that time. 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.
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

Featured in Inside Secret Societies: The KKK: Behind the Mask (2016) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Simple in appearance, but speaks volumes
12 October 2003 | by See all my reviews

This is a film which every movie buff really does need to see, for two reasons. 1) It shows how far the movie making process has come, and gives us all a way to truly appreciate some of the other early films, and how far the moviemaking technology advanced between 1915 and the 1930's. and 2) It also allows us the chance to appreciate just how conflicted our society has always been, not just today. Many of the other reviewers have labeled this film as racist garbage, but it truly does represent one group's view of society at the time, and gives us a great way to understand some of the driving factors behind the race relations problems we would have later. In particular, during the Civil Rights battles that would take place during the 1950's and 60's in the deep South.

The film is the story of two families, one Northern and one Southern, and how their lives would be intertwined during and after the Civil War. It focuses on two sons who fought in the war, and the effects their fighting would have on their families, mostly focusing on how one son would go on to be the founder of what we now know as the Klu Klux Klan. What I found most interesting is that a group we now speak of in such evil tones are represented in the movie as the defenders of all that is good and holy. When put in it's historical context and we realize that President Woodrow Wilson talked about the movie in such high praise, it gives us a real appreciation for how the world we live in has changed.

In particular, though, pay attention to the battle scene in the movie. What seems to us to be extremely simple special effects, were the highest technology available at the day, and viewed by the public as an incredible work of storytelling. When taken in context, you can only be impressed by Griffith's storytelling abilities, no matter what you thought of the story.

While the movie is no great work by today's standards, and I actually found it very hard to watch considering it's simple style as compared to today's movies, I think this is a movie you definitely must see. It gives one a real appreciation for how far movie-making technology has advanced, and makes us realize just how much different our society is now than we were just one century ago.


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