Based on the Rev. Thomas Dixon Jr's deliriously racist The Clansman, a melodramatic novel about the American Civil War and its aftermath, Griffith's film is remarkable for its technical innovations and for the truly epic feel created by the carefully orchestrated, swirling masses of figures in the battle scenes. It's also remarkable for having had no written scenario, costumes that were made by Lillian Gish's mother, battle scenes that were shot in a day, and a cost that meant Griffith had nothing left but the shirt on his back. The biggest challenge the film provided for its audiences is perhaps to decide when 'ground-breaking, dedicated, serious cinematic art' must be reviled as politically reprehensible. The film's explicit glorification of the Ku Klux Klan has never tempered with time.
Cast and crew
DW Griffith, Frank E Woods