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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:
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 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)
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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:

Mighty Spectacle 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

The actor who played the sentry in the hospital was a bit player whose performance touched audiences all over the country in his scene where he wistfully sighs at the sight of Lillian Gish entering the hospital. In fact, audiences loved the actor's performance so much so that D.W. Griffith tried to track him down, supposedly to no avail. Some filmographies credit William Freeman in this role. Gish corroborates this credit in her autobiography, writing that she met Freeman years later when she was riding in a parade. See more »

Goofs

The position of the window in the small cabin changes. See more »

Quotes

intertitle: 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 conceded to the art of the written word - the art to which we owe the Bible and the works of Shakespeare.
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 »

Connections

Spoofed in Zoolander (2001) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Simple in appearance, but speaks volumes
12 October 2003 | by mozart182See 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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