Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8: "Birth of a Nation"

On this date in History  ..... 1915:

D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” is released in Los Angeles. 
Made for slightly more than $100,000 (the largest amount ever spent on a film at the time), it grossed over $10 million worldwide in its 1st year. It was the first film shown in the White House, to Woodrow Wilson.
While the film has been credited as “groundbreaking”, many cities refused to allow the movie, depicting the Ku Klux Klan as “the good guys”, to be shown.  In many cities where it was shown, riots to protest broke out. Tickets were $2 when it opened, which was really expensive. It equates to about $17-$20 today.
Director Griffith had the whole script in his head and didn’t write out one word or keep notes. Black characters were frequently played by white actors in black make-up, particularly those who were required to come in contact with white actresses.
The KKK used it as a recruiting tool as late as the 1970s. It is credited with reviving the KKK, which had been considered dead for quite some time.  The same year of the movie's release, the KKK organization staged a 're-birth' in Georgia.
The film inspired many African Americans to begin making their own films to counter the images depicted in this one and to show African Americans in a much more positive light with alternative stories.  The NAACP's attempt to ban the film failed.

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