Once regarded as irrelevant by the Hollywood he helped to establish, D.W. Griffith is now considered one of the most important directors in film history. Griffith was instrumental in the emergence of cinema′s transitional period of the early 20th Century, when the nickelodeon–era short gave way to the multi–reel feature, and when motion pictures became both a national pastime and a form of artistic expression. His crucial role in the development of filmic style and narrative conventions made him one of the first auteurs of the American cinema and a key figure in its aesthetic history.
A Companion to D.W. Griffith offers a collection of 21 original essays that analyze Griffith′s work from a variety of perspectives, collectively providing an exhaustive examination of the filmmaker′s life, work, and lasting filmic legacy. Leading scholars from North America and Europe investigate Griffith′s use of allegory and symbolism, his role in establishing popular editing techniques such as crosscutting and scene analysis, and his attention to aspects of mise–en–scène, from performance to lighting. Contributors also study the role of gender and race in both Griffith′s Biograph films and his features, and discuss his relationship to the Progressive movement. Others extend our knowledge of the reception and critical reputation of rarely considered mid–period features, in addition to key masterworks such as The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), and Broken Blossoms (1919).
With the recent revival of scholarly interest in Griffith′s career and contributions to cinema, A Companion to D.W. Griffith is a timely and comprehensive exploration of this influential yet controversial pioneering figure, and a valuable resource for students of film history, silent cinema, and film directing.
Preface ixPaolo Cherchi Usai
Part One Griffith Redux
1 Disciplinary Descent: Film Studies, Families, and the Origins of Narrative Cinema 17Jennifer M. Bean
2 Griffith s Moral Profile 34Ben Singer
3 The Beauty of Moving Wind in the Trees : Cinematic Presence and the Films of D.W. Griffith 74Daniel Fairfax
Part Two Style in the Biograph Era
4 D.W. Griffith and the Emergence of Crosscutting 107André Gaudreault and Philippe Gauthier
5 D.W. Griffith and the Primal Scene 137Tom Gunning
6 Griffith s Biograph Shorts: Electric Power and Film Style, from East to West 150Charles O Brien
Part Three Imagery and Intermediality
7 Deep Theatrical Roots: Griffith and the Theater 175David Mayer
8 Notes on Floral Symbolism, Allegory, and Intermediality in the Films of D.W. Griffith 191Jan Olsson
9 Living Portraits: Signs of (the) Time in D.W. Griffith 216Joyce E. Jesionowski
Part Four Gender and Progressivism
10 Griffith s Body Language and Film Narration: The Voluptuary Versus the Spirituelle 245Maggie Hennefeld
11 Cross ]Dressing in Griffith s Biograph Films: Humor, Heroics, and Edna Billy Foster s Good Bad Boys 284Laura Horak
12 Space, Gender, Oversight, and Social Change: Progressivism and the Films of D.W. Griffith, 1909 1916 309Moya Luckett
13 Progressive Pastoral: Social Justice Reforms and Biograph Films, 1908 1911 330Grant Wiedenfeld
Part Five Revisiting Failed Features
14 Gendering Ministry and Reform: Griffith and the Plight of Protestant Uplift 361Anne Morey
15 Squalid Without Being Tragic : Griffith s Isn t Life Wonderful 385Russell Merritt
16 Faust at Famous Players 423Andrew Nelson
17 Griffith in a Minor Key: Early Art Cinema Looking Backward 440Kaveh Askari
Part Six Reception at Home and Abroad
18 Damage Unwittingly Done : D.W. Griffith and the Re ]Birth of the Ku Klux Klan 463Tom Rice
19 History by Lightning : D.W. Griffith in South Africa 486Nicole Devarenne
20 Blossoms Breaking at the Dawn of Cinephilia: The Reception of D.W. Griffith in France 510Annie Fee
21 The legacy of Intolerance 533Paul McEwan
Charlie Keil is the Principal of Innis College, and is also a Professor at the Cinema Studies Institute and History Department at the University of Toronto. He has published six books, many focusing on aspects of silent cinema. He is an editorial board member of Cinema Journal, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, and Film Quarterly.