Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Great American Play at Last! -- February 25, 2015

New York Evening World, 20-February-1915

I have spent most of the month of February trying to work myself up to write about the premiere of DW Griffith's epic The Birth of a Nation.  I read about the movie for years before I saw it.  I saw it in 16mm somewhere while I was in high school.  Later I saw it at the Avenue Theater in San Francisco, where they played silent movies every Friday night, accompanied by Bob Vaughn on the Mighty Wurlitzer.  I remember that they chose not to put the name of the movie on the marquee.  I remember the audience getting very excited during the battle scenes and the ride of the Klan.  I got excited, too, which made me uncomfortable.  The distortions of history also made me uncomfortable. 

Professor John Fell showed the movie, without music, in a film class at San Francisco State.  The audience got agitated during some of the Reconstruction scenes and hissed during some of the bad stuff.  I didn't hiss, but I understood their feelings. 

This is one silent movie I chose not to show my daughter when she was growing up. 

The ad above promotes the New York premiere.  "Romance and Comedy Midst Historic Scenes."  The Romance and Comedy are not what stick in my mind. 

East Oregonian, 22-February-1915
This gossip column item mentions that BOAN will be the "first $2 moving picture." 

Washington Evening Star, 18-February-1915
This story talks about the famous White House showing for President Woodrow Wilson.  It reminds us that Thomas Dixon, the author of the two books upon which the movie is based, was "an intimate friend" of Wilson's. 

New York Evening World, 27-February-1915
The circle logo appears many times in ads for the movie.  I think this is the earliest example I have seen.  "The Expression of Genius in a New Realm of Art."  "Rich in Historical Value." 

Motography, 06-February-1915

"How the Clansman Was Made" was written before Griffith changed the name of the movie.  Don't believe all the stories. 

Motography, 13-February-1915
Griffith formed the Epoch Company to handle the roadshow release of the movie. 

Moving Picture World, 20-February-1915

The movie, now called The Birth of a Nation, had its exclusive New York first run at the Liberty Theater on 42nd Street near Broadway. 

Motography, 20-February-1915
"After arrangements had been made with Thomas Dixon to utilize his well known story, the author suggested the change in name so that the scope and tremendous appeal of the enlarged story could be more comprehensively covered in the title." 

Moving Picture World, 20-February-1915
An attempt was made to block showing of the movie in Los Angeles. 

Motography, 20-February-1915
"soon to begin work on a production that is to be even greater than 'The Clansman.'"  That would be Intolerance

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