David Wark Griffith
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Griffith, David Wark
Born Jan. 22. 1875. in La Grange, Ky.; died July 23, 1948, in Hollywood. American film director.
Griffith had worked as a journalist and an actor. He made his film debut at the Edison Company and the Biograph Company in New York in 1907. In his early period he directed dramas, comedies, and screen adaptations of novels; many of his films touched on social problems. He moved to Hollywood in 1913 and became an independent producer. He released his films through United Artists distributors, founded by him in 1919 together with C. Chaplin, M. Pick-ford, and D. Fairbanks. Griffith made a great contribution to the development of world film art. Striving to enrich the cinema with new means of expression, Griffith developed the method of parallel action, which became a major means for the arrangement of film material. He also used close-ups. dissolves and fade-out, and he altered cinematographic techniques (use of moving cameras to overcome static frames).
Griffith’s work is ideologically contradictory. In 1915 he produced the reactionary racist film Birth of a Nation, which provoked the indignation of progressive viewers. Yet his film Hearts of the World (1918) asserted the unity of whites and Negroes. His most significant work is Intolerance (1916), in which he touches on a wide range of philosophical and moral problems. Intolerance is shown to be a constant evil. The film’s cinematographic devices were unusual for their time and established Griffith’s importance as an innovator.
In the 1920’s, Griffith for the most part made sentimental melodramas whose level attested to his creative decline. In 1931, after producing the short-lived film The Struggle, Griffith quit film-making.