IMDb > The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Birth of a Nation
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The Birth of a Nation (1915) More at IMDbPro »

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Overview

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Director:
Writers:
Thomas F. Dixon Jr. (adapted from his novel: "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan")
Thomas F. Dixon Jr. (play) ...
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for The Birth of a Nation on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
3 March 1915 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Tagline:
Mighty Spectacle See more »
Plot:
The Civil War divides friends and destroys families, but that's nothing compared to the anarchy in the black-ruled South after the war. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Awards:
1 win See more »
User Reviews:
The Conventional Wisdom is Partially Right See more (302 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Lillian Gish ... Elsie - Stoneman's Daughter

Mae Marsh ... Flora Cameron - The Pet Sister
Henry B. Walthall ... Col. Ben Cameron (as Henry Walthall)
Miriam Cooper ... Margaret Cameron - Elder Sister

Mary Alden ... Lydia - Stoneman's Mulatto Housekeeper
Ralph Lewis ... Hon. Austin Stoneman - Leader of the House
George Siegmann ... Silas Lynch - Mulatto Lieut. Governor (as George Seigmann)
Walter Long ... Gus - A Renegade Negro

Robert Harron ... Tod - Stoneman's Younger Son

Wallace Reid ... Jeff - The Blacksmith (as Wallace Reed)
Joseph Henabery ... Abraham Lincoln (as Jos. Henabery)
Elmer Clifton ... Phil - Stoneman's Elder Son
Josephine Crowell ... Mrs. Cameron
Spottiswoode Aitken ... Dr. Cameron
George Beranger ... Wade Cameron - Second Son (as J.A. Beringer)
Maxfield Stanley ... Duke Cameron - Youngest Son
Jennie Lee ... Mammy - The Faithful Servant

Donald Crisp ... Gen. U.S. Grant
Howard Gaye ... Gen. Robert E. Lee
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Monte Blue ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Harry Braham ... Cameron's Male Servant (uncredited)
Bob Burns ... Klan Leader (uncredited)
Edmund Burns ... Klansman (uncredited)
Edward Burns ... Klansman (uncredited)
Fred Burns ... Klansman (uncredited)
David Butler ... Northern Soldier / Confederate Soldier (uncredited)
Peggy Cartwright ... Young Girl in Cabin (uncredited)
William E. Cassidy ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Dark Cloud ... General (uncredited)
Lenore Cooper ... Elsie's Maid (uncredited)
Sam De Grasse ... Sen. Charles Sumner (uncredited)
William De Vaull ... Nelse (uncredited)
Charles Eagle Eye ... Man Who Falls from Roof (uncredited)

John Ford ... Klansman on Horse Holding Up Hood with Hand (uncredited)
Alberta Franklin ... Minor Role (uncredited)
William Freeman ... Jake / Sentry at Hospital (uncredited)

Gibson Gowland ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Olga Grey ... Laura Keene (uncredited)

D.W. Griffith ... Himself (1931 reissue version) (uncredited)
Fred Hamer ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Russell Hicks ... Minor Role (uncredited)

Walter Huston ... Himself (1931 reissue version) (uncredited)
Charles King ... Undetermined Role (uncredited) (unconfirmed)
Alberta Lee ... Mrs. Lincoln (uncredited)
Elmo Lincoln ... Blacksmith (uncredited)
Betty Marsh ... Child with Dr. Cameron (uncredited)
Donna Montran ... Belle of 1861 (uncredited)

Eugene Pallette ... Union Soldier (uncredited)
Vester Pegg ... Minor Role (uncredited)

Alma Rubens ... Belle of 1861 (uncredited)
Allan Sears ... Klansman (uncredited)
Charles Stevens ... Volunteer (uncredited)
Madame Sul-Te-Wan ... Black Woman - Dr. Cameron's Taunter (uncredited)

Erich von Stroheim ... Minor Role (uncredited)
George Walsh ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Raoul Walsh ... John Wilkes Booth (uncredited)
Jules White ... Confederate Soldier (uncredited)
Violet Wilkey ... Flora Cameron as a Child (uncredited)
Tom Wilson ... Stoneman's Servant (uncredited)
Mary Wynn ... Minor Role (uncredited)
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Directed by
D.W. Griffith 
 
Writing credits
Thomas F. Dixon Jr. (adapted from his novel: "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan")

Thomas F. Dixon Jr.  play "The Clansman" and
Thomas F. Dixon Jr.  novel "The Leopard's Spots"

D.W. Griffith  &
Frank E. Woods 

Produced by
D.W. Griffith .... producer
H.E. Aitken .... executive producer (uncredited)
 
Original Music by
Joseph Carl Breil (music)
D.W. Griffith (music)
 
Cinematography by
G.W. Bitzer 
 
Film Editing by
D.W. Griffith 
Joseph Henabery 
James Smith 
Rose Smith 
Raoul Walsh 
 
Costume Design by
Robert Goldstein (uncredited)
Clare West (uncredited)
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Monte Blue .... assistant director (uncredited)
Christy Cabanne .... assistant director (uncredited)
Elmer Clifton .... assistant director (uncredited)
Jack Conway .... assistant director (uncredited)
Donald Crisp .... assistant director (uncredited)
Allan Dwan .... assistant director (uncredited)
Howard Gaye .... assistant director (uncredited)
Fred Hamer .... assistant director (uncredited)
Robert Harron .... assistant director (uncredited)
Joseph Henabery .... assistant director (uncredited)
Thomas E. O'Brien .... assistant director (uncredited)
George Siegmann .... chief assistant director (uncredited)
Herbert Sutch .... assistant director (uncredited)
W.S. Van Dyke .... assistant director (uncredited)
Erich von Stroheim .... assistant director (uncredited)
Baron von Winther .... assistant director (uncredited)
Raoul Walsh .... assistant director (uncredited)
Henry B. Walthall .... assistant director (uncredited)
Tom Wilson .... assistant director (uncredited)
 
Art Department
Ralph M. DeLacy .... property master (uncredited)
Shorty English .... carpenter (uncredited)
Jim Newman .... assistant carpenter (uncredited)
Cash Shockey .... set painter (uncredited)
Joseph Stringer .... set builder (uncredited)
Hal Sullivan .... assistant property master (uncredited)
Frank Wortman .... set designer (uncredited)
 
Special Effects by
Walter Hoffman .... special effects supervisor (uncredited)
'Fireworks' Wilson .... special effects (uncredited)
 
Stunts
Monte Blue .... stunts (uncredited)
Charles Eagle Eye .... stunts (uncredited)
Leo Nomis .... stunts (uncredited)
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Karl Brown .... camera operator (uncredited)
Frank B. Good .... assistant camera (uncredited)
 
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Robert Goldstein .... costumer (uncredited)
 
Editorial Department
Karl Malkames .... negative: Killiam Shows
 
Music Department
Fraser Macdonald .... score arranger: Killiam Shows
William Axt .... music arranger: 1921 revival (New York ) (uncredited)
Harry Berken .... musician: trumpeter (uncredited)
Carli Elinor .... conductor (uncredited)
Louis F. Gottschalk .... music adaptor: 1930 synchronized version (uncredited)
Herman Hand .... music arranger: 1921 revival (New York ) (uncredited)
Joseph Nurnberger .... composer: overture (Los Angeles premiere ) (uncredited)
Erno Rapee .... music arranger: 1921 revival (New York ) (uncredited)
 
Other crew
D.W. Griffith .... presents
Jim Kidd .... security officer (uncredited)
Abe Scholtz .... laboratory technician (uncredited)
 

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Additional Details

Also Known As:
"In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan" - USA (cut version)
"The Birth of the Nation; Or The Clansman" - USA (second copyright title)
"The Clansman" - USA (Los Angeles première title)
See more »
Runtime:
190 min (16 fps) | USA:125 min (video version) | USA:187 min (DVD) | Argentina:165 min
Country:
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Certification:
Argentina:Atp | Australia:PG | Australia:M (2009) | Canada:PG (Manitoba) | Canada:G (Quebec) | Finland:K-16 | Germany:o.Al. | South Korea:15 (2002) | Sweden:15 | UK:U (original rating) | UK:15 (video rating) | USA:Not Rated

Did You Know?

Trivia:
Each major character in the film had a particular musical theme, to be played by either an orchestra or a theater organ during theatrical engagements. While D.W. Griffith was choosing musical themes for the characters, he allowed Lillian Gish to choose her own, or Elsie Stoneman's, theme. Later, that same melody was re-titled "The Perfect Song", and was used as a theme song for the radio and television versions of "The Amos 'n Andy Show" (1951).See more »
Goofs:
Continuity: 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:
Col. Ben Cameron:[to Elsie, whose portrait he has been carrying] Though we had never met, I have carried you about with me for a long, long time.See more »
Movie Connections:

FAQ

Wallace Reid---What Happened to Him?
See more »
138 out of 181 people found the following review useful.
The Conventional Wisdom is Partially Right, 26 January 2005
Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio

The conventional wisdom about "The Birth of a Nation" is that it represents an impressive and innovative display of cinematic skill that was unfortunately wasted on a story that promotes a bizarre and disturbing point of view. While that is certainly true in a general way, it might also be something of an oversimplification.

It really is almost like two different movies. The first part, which takes place in the era before and during the Civil War, contains little objectionable material, and it deserves praise both technically and for the acting. The second part, set in the reconstruction era, contains almost all of the disturbing material, and it also is really not all that great in terms of cinematic quality.

Then also, the degree to which "The Birth of a Nation" may have influenced the development of cinema has very likely been overstated . The controversy that it generated may very well have helped it to remain better known than other films of the era that were equally innovative and/or lavish, or nearly so.

If the movie had ended shortly after the memorable and well-crafted Ford's Theater scene, the anti-war sentiment and similar themes would remain the main focus, since the effects of war on families and individuals is depicted convincingly and thoughtfully. In that case, its occasional lapses would possibly at the worst be called "dated", given the quality of the rest of this part of the movie.

The second half, though, is completely unfortunate in almost every respect. Not only does it promote a distorted viewpoint, but the story becomes labored, and the characters lose their depth and become more one-dimensional. The purely technical side, such as the photography and the use of cross-cutting, might still be good, but much of the rest of it loses its effectiveness.

Perhaps more importantly, it really seems rather difficult to justify the credit that this one film gets in the development of cinema. There had already been numerous feature-length movies, and most of the techniques that Griffith used were also in use by others. He may well have been ahead of the pack in terms of appreciating their possibilities, but that does not mean that cinema would not have developed as it did without this particular movie.

Just as one example, the Italian epic "Cabiria", from the previous year, has the same kind of lavish scale, is quite resourceful in its techniques, and is quite entertaining, without causing so much controversy.

Other early feature-length films also include some creative efforts to adapt film-making techniques to longer running times and more complex stories. Finally, many short features from the pre-Griffith era experimented with the same kinds of techniques that he later would use systematically. There's no denying Griffith's considerable technical skill, but others of the era also deserve some credit, even if they and their works were less controversial, and are now largely forgotten as a result.

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