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June 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Jun 1994 14:40:33 EDT
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On Wed, 15 Jun 1994 02:01:10 -0400 Mary C. Kalfatovic said:
>I don't think that people from the past, such as D.W.Griffith, should be
>judged by 1990s standards.
This is a defensible position if it weren't that BIRTH OF A NATION was
attacked from the first showings in 1914 on the basis of its racist
thrust.  Perhaps it is useful to remember is that the second Klan was
organized in 1915 following the release of BIRTH OF NATION and that the
film was used through the 'twenties (and even later) for KKK recruiting.
Nevertheless Griffith might be distinguished from Reifenstahl.  On the
evidence, her work was informed by Nazi principles.  It is less clear
whether Griffith was simply reflecting his era or consciously expounding
racist principles.
What is clear is that the author of the book CLANSMAN (later dramatized
for stage and source of BIRTH OF A NATION), was explicitly and proudly
a racist.
I leave others to adjudicate the widely expressed argument that Griffith
softened Dixon's vitriol.
Cal Pryluck, Radio-Television-Film, Temple University, Philadelphia
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