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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.

Director:

D.W. Griffith

Writers:

Thomas Dixon Jr. (adapted from his novel: "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan") (as Thomas F. Dixon Jr.), Thomas Dixon Jr. (play) (as Thomas F. Dixon Jr.) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Henry B. Walthall ... Colonel Ben Cameron aka The Little Colonel (as Henry Walthall)
Lillian Gish ... Elsie - Stoneman's Daughter
Mae Marsh ... Flora Cameron - the Pet Sister
Miriam Cooper ... Margaret Cameron - the Elder Sister
Mary Alden ... Lydia Brown - 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 - the 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 Fiery Cross of the Ku Klux Klan! See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Release Date:

21 March 1915 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan See more »

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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

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| | (video) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Klansmen in full robes were used to publicize the opening in Los Angeles, where the film's premiered with the title "The Clansman", after the novel on which it was based. 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: Over four hundred thousand Ku Klux costumes made by the women of the South and not one trust betrayed.
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 »

Alternate Versions

In 1931 a shorter version with an orchestral track was released. The reissue version was reedited and shorted under Griffith's supervision, and also included sound effects. Also filmed and added to this version was a prologue featuring Griffith in conversation with actor Walter Huston, introducing the film. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Bad History
28 July 2003 | by jdabSee 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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