Ahh, A fellow southern home slice & great friend and of Sir Chaplin!! If you could go back in time and look inside this mans head, you'd probably most likely see no doubt... sugar-plum's dancing & alotta entertainment!! A masterful, imaginative and GIANT pioneer! My idol, Charlie Chaplin once said about D.W. ... 'He undoubtedly was genius of silent cinema,' and went on... 'though his work was melodramatic & at times outre and absurd, he had an original touch that made each of his pictures worth seeing.' and ''he is the teacher of us all." D.W. Griffith lived by his filmmaking methods, & it's those same methods, Hollywood lives by today!! Edison brought the motion-picture to life .. but D.W. Griffith brought the ingrediants together to make magic with the motion-picture camera...ideas, imagination, innovativness, and technique. He knew it too. Seen by some as arrogant, but if ever there was a case for earned arrogance or pride ... it was D.W. Griffith!
D.W. was born David Llewelyn Wark Griffith, on January 22, 1875 in La Grange, Kentucky. His father was in the military, (a Confederate Army colonel), and made young D.W. tow the straight and narrow early on. Though his father died when D.W. was just 10 - he later recalled that his father quote ...'he made me, through principles, what I am.' His fathers stories of the Confederate South was the basis for his controversial 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, and the subsequent 1916 film Intolerance. He held on tight to the stories his father told, pictures going through his head like a film as his father told them. In school, he would try acting them out at recess..and in class - he would often picture whatever the cirriculum was, as a film in his head, (which put a strain on his sister, the school teacher of the town<sibling rivvvvalry>.) When D.W. was 14, the family was facing financial hardship...his mother moved the family to Louisville, Kentucky and started a boarding home, where they also lived. The home was doomed to fail, and D.W. quit school to make money for the fam. He worked a series of odd jobs. All the while, longing to be a playwright.
By 1907, D.W.'s mother moved with family, & through savings, he moved to New York in search of making his dreams as a playwrite into a reality. He submitted several scripts to Edwin Porter ... a producer at Thomas Edison's Black Maria studios in West Orange, New Jersey. He rejected the script .. but offered D.W. a role in a film there. D.W. accepted and became instantly acclaimed as an actor. He soon moved from acting to directing for (the newly built) Thomas Edison's Studios in Manhattan, New York. Here is a pic of that historic facility now!! A friggin parking garage!! Yay New York!! In 1908, D.W. was offered a first-assistant director's job at the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, commonly known as Biograph. Literally after only one week there - Biograph's head director Wallace McCutcheon got sick. His son was set to originally take his place - however, after a week .. it was realized Jr. did not know what he was doing...as a result, Biograph head Henry Marvin decided to give Griffith the position. D.W. made his debut 'playwright' film. It was a 'fo shizzle - of - a - success!!' 1910 took D.W. to California to film, 'In Old California.' It would be during this filmming, D.W. coined the now famous catchphrase ...'lights, camera, action.' The phrase came out of a day of filmming where none of the actors were on their marks, lights were failing, and a reel of film got used twice .. essentially filmming over previously shot scenes. So in essense the 'LIGHTS' .. were for the lighting crew to be in place, 'CAMERA,' was for cameraman to be on mark ready to record, and 'ACTION' was called to begin the magic!! It stuck - and is one of D.W.'s techniques still widly used in Hollywood today. Had it happened during the time of 'talkies,' the phrase may be 'lights, SOUND, camera, and action.' Some directors have added 'background' to the phrase .. to signal background motion.
By 1914, the 'feature film' craze was in effect by some studios, in experimental mode by others. The first feature length film, 'The Squaw Man,' had just been released by Famous Players-Lasky (aka Paramount), to great success. Dispite the success, Biograph, was in the 'NAY' category when it came to feature-length films. Biograph, in the words of film legend and beauty, Lillian Gish ..'thought that a movie that long would hurt [movie-goers] eyes". D.W., whole-heartedly dis-agreed, and so much so - he showed himself the door at Biograph determined to create his own studio & be a pioneer in feature-films. (It could be rightly said that if 'The Squaw Man' was not released at the time it was, the father of feature-films could rightly be known as D.W. Griffith, and not Jesse Lasky).
In 1915, D.W. joined the Mutual Film Corporation and formed a studio, with Majestic Studio manager Harry Aitken known as Reliance-Majestic Studios (which was later renamed Fine Arts Studio). His new production company became partner in Triangle Film Corporation along with Thomas Ince and Keystone Studios' Mack Sennett. Through this new studio, D.W. made one of the most influencial and controversial films of all time. 'The Birth of a Nation,' met the public with praise and some harrrrd criticism! Based on stories his father used to tell him, it was made with, according to D.W. - 'pride and passion.' There were those who got it, and those who misunderstood. Of coouuurrrssee the NAACP came out against it (noone shocked there), some walked out of the theater, and some picketed outside theaters. D.W. was hurt by the response of those who 'didn't get it'...and responded with his next film Intolerance, which dealt with the intolerant people picketing and coming out against 'The Birth of a Nation.' After the release of 'The Birth of a Nation,' & 'Intolerance,' the production partnership with Triangle dissolved in 1916. Other ventures were just around the corner ...
In California .. he called home this pad .. a bungalow he rented from The Garden of Allah. It was the place to be in the 20s and 30s. Joni Mitchell had a hit song once called 'Big Yellow Taxi' and the words went ...'don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got till it's gone.' That song was written about the Garden. Stopping by there today .. you can find Joni's inspiration. It indeed is .. JUST a parking, paved over paradise!! On the plus side - there IS a Mickey Dee's there now to soften the blow!!! The new Big Mac wraps are absolutely DELISH!!
In 1917, a conversation with old friend Charlie Chaplin, D.W. had heard about a company and studio where the talents had full creative control in all aspects. He liked the idea and wanted in on it. The result was a new studio in Hollywood called, United Artists. Along with Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks ... D.W. stood (or sat) at the opening. The new venture did not prove to be as good as it sounded. D.W. made six films at United Artist. 3 were successful, 3 failed at the box office. After leaving United, D.W. went on to make three more films ... all to poor turnouts from movie patrons. Even though his 1931 film, Abraham Lincoln, had moderate success .. he was convinced the magic had disappeared, and retired from making films in 1931. In doing this - he left a legacy he was unaware of for years. He quietly lived in L.A. for the remainder of his life. He was financially set through investments made early on in his career.
In 1936, Woody Van Dyke, whom D.W. had mentored during his filmming of Intolerance ... asked D.W. to help him shoot the famous earthquake sequence for San Francisco. He did .. but asked not to be credited. The film was a blockbuster success, and was promoted on that paaarticular scene in the film. In 1939, producer Hal Roach hired Griffith to produce Of Mice and Men and One Million B.C., writing to him, "I need help from the production side to select the proper writers, cast, etc. and to help me generally in the supervision of these pictures." When Roach advertised the film in late 1939 with Griffith listed as producer, Griffith asked that his name be removed.
Generally - by the mid-30s, Griffith was disregarded or unknown by the movie-goers he once commanded the attention of.. He was NEVER forgotten & CERTAINLY not unknown or disregarded by the industry, whom, still have the highest respect for him.
A middle school named after him!! = MEGA LEGACY
By the mid-40s - he was living here.. where he had been living alone. He frequented the lobby quite often- preferring it over his room. On the afternoon of July 23, 1948.. He was found slumped over, & unresponsive on a lobby couch.. 911 was dialed & he was transported to Ceder's (they DO all the celebs), however, not D.W. - he died en route at approximately 3:42p.m...
For the sheer amount of entertainment he gave to Hollywood over the years - he was living quietly away from films for nearly 17 years.. Thus the industry had changed. New ones had come in.. old ones too quickly forget.. Thus - the memorial service held for him here, (nowadays.. In true L.A. fashion... it's went all entertainment)... Went 'nearly' unnoticed in L.A. He went back home to be placed in the ground at Mount Tabor Methodist Church Graveyard, in Centerfield, Kentucky.. You can visit his grave here and leave flowers & a comment.
RIP D.W.!! Your legacy will NEVER go unnoticed 'within the industry' that YOU helped to shape!!
His star?? Just outside of Butcher's & Barber's on Hollywood Boulevard.
Remember how small the world was before I came along? I brought it all to life:
I moved the whole world onto a 20-foot screen. ~ D.W. Griffith
We had many worries in those days, small worries. Now you people have your worries and they are big ones. They have grown with the business -
and no matter what its problems,... it's the greatest business in the world.