D. W. Griffith – American film maker
D. W. Griffith was an American film maker, who invented much of the basic technical grammar of modern cinema.
David Wark Griffith was born on January 22, 1875 at Crestwood, Oldham County, Kentucky. At the age of 18 he became an actor in Louisville. He was a supporting player in provincial companies for 10 years performing under the stage name Lawrence Griffith. In 1906 he secretly married actress Linda Arvidson Johnson. However, they parted 5 years later.
In 1907 Griffith sold a poem to Frank Leslie’s Weekly and a play, A Fool and a Girl, to actor James K. Hackett. The play failed and Griffith decided to try his hand in the movie business.
In 1908 Griffith sold several stories to the Biograph Company and also acted in them. During 5 years with Biograph, Griffith made hundreds of short pictures. With the help of his famed cameraman, G. W. Bitzer, he made revolutionary technical innovations in film making. He started the cinema careers of Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett, the Gish sisters, Lionel Barrymore, and many other famous actors.
Griffith experimented with different camera angles, editing, and narrative styles. He used close-ups to produce greater emotional drama and sharp cuts between scenes to quicken a story’s pace.
In 1913 Griffith founded an independent company. His epic masterpiece The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915. It is considered the most important film ever made. It was not only the longest and most expensive movie to date, but also the most politically explosive film in American history.
In 1917 Griffith made a propaganda film for the British government, Hearts of the World.
Griffith, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin formed United Artists. They released such famous pictures as Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1921).
Later he was obliged to work as an employee in the new Hollywood studio system. Unfortunately, his career finished by 1931.
For the last 17 years of his life he was unemployed. In 1947 his second marriage ended in divorce.
He died at age 73, on 24 July, 1948. Griffith died alone and almost forgotten.