National Association for the Advancement of Colored PeopleNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)N.A.A.C.P.
The following year, the NAACP organized a nationwide protest, with marches in numerous cities, against D. W. Griffith's silent movie The Birth of a Nation, a film that glamorized the Ku Klux Klan. As a result, several cities refused to allow the film to open. The NAACP began to lead lawsuits targeting disfranchisement and racial segregation early in its history. It played a significant part in the challenge of Guinn v. United States (1915) to Oklahoma's discriminatory grandfather clause, which effectively disenfranchised most black citizens while exempting many whites from certain voter registration requirements. It persuaded the Supreme Court of the United States to rule in Buchanan v.

Victor Fleming

He soon rose to the rank of cinematographer, working with both Dwan and D. W. Griffith, and directed his first film in 1919. Many of his silent films were action movies, often starring Douglas Fairbanks, or Westerns. Because of his robust attitude and love of outdoor sports, he became known as a "man's director"; however, he also proved an effective director of women. Under his direction, Vivien Leigh won the Best Actress Oscar, Hattie McDaniel won for Best Supporting Actress, and Olivia De Havilland was nominated. In 1932, Fleming joined MGM and directed some of the studio's most prestigious films.

The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan

The ClansmanThe Clansman,
The novel was twice notably adapted, immediately by its author as a play entitled The Clansman (1905), and a decade later by D. W. Griffith in the 1915 silent movie The Birth of a Nation. The play, being concerned with the KKK and Reconstruction, is adapted by the second half of The Birth of a Nation. According to Professor Russell Merritt, key differences between the play and film are that Dixon was more sympathetic to Southerners' pursuing education and modern professions, whereas Griffith stressed ownership of plantations.

Laurel and Hardy

Laurel & HardyStan Laurel and Oliver Hardycomedy duo
After Stan Laurel's death in 1965, there were two major motion-picture tributes: Laurel and Hardy's Laughing '20s was Robert Youngson's compilation of the team's silent-film highlights, and The Great Race was a large-scale salute to slapstick that director Blake Edwards dedicated to "Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy". For many years the duo were impersonated by Jim MacGeorge (as Laurel) and Chuck McCann (as Hardy) in children's TV shows and television commercials for various products. In 1966, the company Hanna Barbera produced a Laurel & Hardy animated cartoon series.

Reconstruction era

ReconstructionpostbellumReconstruction period
D. W. Griffith adapted Dixon's The Clansman for the screen in his anti-Republican movie The Birth of a Nation (1915); it stimulated the formation of the 20th-century version of the KKK. Many other authors romanticized the benevolence of slavery and the élite world of the antebellum plantations in memoirs and histories published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy promoted influential works by women in these genres.


intertitlestitle cardtitle cards
They were a mainstay of silent films once the films became of sufficient length and detail to necessitate dialogue and/or narration to make sense of the enacted or documented events. The British Film Catalogue credits the 1898 film Our New General Servant by Robert W. Paul as the first British film to use intertitles. Film scholar Kamilla Elliott identifies another early use of intertitles in the 1901 British film Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost. The first Academy Awards presentation in 1929 included an award for "Best Title Writing" that went to Joseph W. Farnham for no specific film. The award was never given again, as intertitles went out of common use due to the introduction of "talkies".

Theatre organ

theater organorgancinema organist
Today, there are none of those original silent film organists still alive. Today's theatre organists present the art form to the public in a variety of ways, through concert appearances, silent film accompaniment, and commercial recordings. Organists such as Walt Strony, Jelani Eddington, Peter Carroll-Held, Jonas Nordwall, Donna Parker, David Peckham, Martin Ellis, Ken Double, Chris Elliott, Dave Wickerham, Lew Williams, and Bob Ralston maintain active concert schedules and continue to promote the instrument and its preservation through their worldwide travels and musical talents.

American Civil War

Civil WarU.S. Civil Warthe Civil War
The Birth of a Nation (1915, US). The General (1926, US). Gone with the Wind (1939, US). The Red Badge of Courage (1951, US). The Horse Soldiers (1959, US). Shenandoah (1965, US). The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966, Italy-Spain-FRG). The Beguiled (1971, US). Glory (1989, US). The Civil War (1990, US). Gettysburg (1993, US). The Last Outlaw (1993, US). Cold Mountain (2003, US). Gods and Generals (2003, US). North and South (miniseries). Lincoln (2012, US). 12 Years a Slave (2013, US). Free State of Jones (2016, US). The Gettysburg Address (2017, US). "Johnny Reb" (1959) written by Merle Kilgore, sung by Johnny Horton.


close upclose-upscloseup
D. W. Griffith, who pioneered screen cinematographic techniques and narrative format, is associated with popularizing the close up with the success of his films. For example, one of Griffith's short films, The Lonedale Operator (1911), makes significant use of a close-up of a wrench that a character pretends is a gun. Lillian Gish remarked on Griffith's pioneering use of the close-up: The people in the front office got very upset. They came down and said: 'The public doesn’t pay for the head or the arms or the shoulders of the actor. They want the whole body. Let’s give them their money’s worth.’ Griffith stood very close to them and said: ‘Can you see my feet?’

Western (genre)

Westernwestern filmwesterns
Western films were enormously popular in the silent film era (1894-1927). With the advent of sound in 1927-28, the major Hollywood studios rapidly abandoned Westerns, leaving the genre to smaller studios and producers. These smaller organizations churned out countless low-budget features and serials in the 1930s.

Mack Sennett

Bathing BeautiesSennettSennett Bathing Beauties
In 1915, Keystone Studios became an autonomous production unit of the ambitious Triangle Film Corporation, as Sennett joined forces with D. W. Griffith and Thomas Ince, both powerful figures in the film industry. Also beginning in 1915, Sennett assembled a bevy of women known as the Sennett Bathing Beauties to appear in provocative bathing costumes in comedy short subjects, in promotional material, and in promotional events such as Venice Beach beauty contests. Two of those often named as Bathing Beauties do not belong on the list: Mabel Normand and Gloria Swanson.

Mary Pickford

Mary Mary Pickford FoundationMary Pickford Award
With a career spanning 50 years, she was a co-founder of both the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio (along with Douglas Fairbanks) and, later, the United Artists film studio (with Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith), and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who present the yearly "Oscar" award ceremony. Pickford was known in her prime as "America's Sweetheart" and the "girl with the curls". She was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting.

Cecil B. DeMille

Cecil B. De MilleDeMilleCecil DeMille
Silent films Sound films Criticism and commentary Archival materials * The Mary Roberts Rinehart Papers - includes conversations with DeMille about her plays Orrison, Katherine. Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille's Epic, The Ten Commandments. New York: Vestal Press, 1990. ISBN: 1-879511-24-X. Presley, Cecilia de Mille, and Mark Alan Vieira. Cecil B. DeMille: The Art of the Hollywood Epic. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-7624-5490-7. Cecil B. DeMille at Virtual History. Cecil B. DeMille's Early Films' Costs and Grosses by David Pierce - Silent Film Bookshelf. Higashi, Sumiko. Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture: The Silent Era.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. PicturesWarner BrothersWarner Bros. Entertainment
It signaled the beginning of the era of "talking pictures" and the twilight of the silent era. However, Sam died the night before the opening, preventing the brothers from attending the premiere. Jack became sole head of production. Sam's death also had a great effect on Jack's emotional state, as Sam was arguably Jack's inspiration and favorite brother. In the years to come, Jack kept the studio under tight control. Firing employees was common. Among those whom Jack fired were Rin Tin Tin (in 1929) and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (in 1933), the latter having served as First National's top star since the brothers acquired the studio in 1928.

Edison Studios

EdisonEdison CompanyEdison Manufacturing Company
Griffith. * (includes a viewable Edison Studios 1910 adaptation of "Frankenstein")

Billy Bitzer

G. W. BitzerG.W. BitzerBitzer
He eventually succeeded Marvin as Griffith's regular cinematographer, working with him on some of his most important films and contributing significantly to cinematic innovations attributed to Griffith. In 1910, he photographed Griffith's silent short, In Old California, in the Los Angeles village of "Hollywoodland", qualifying Bitzer as, arguably, Hollywood's first Director of Photography. The apex of Bitzer and Griffith's collaboration came with The Birth of a Nation (1915), a film funded in part by Bitzer's life savings, and the epic Intolerance (1916).

Lost film

lostsurviveslost films
Occasional exceptions exist; almost all of Charlie Chaplin's films from his entire career have survived, as well as extensive amounts of unused footage dating back to 1916. The exceptions are A Woman of the Sea (which he destroyed himself as a tax writeoff) and one of his early Keystone films, Her Friend the Bandit (see Unknown Chaplin). The filmography of D. W. Griffith is nearly complete, as many of his early Biograph films were deposited by the company in paper print form at the Library of Congress.

Sound film

In 1921, the Photokinema sound-on-disc system developed by Orlando Kellum was employed to add synchronized sound sequences to D. W. Griffith's failed silent film Dream Street. A love song, performed by star Ralph Graves, was recorded, as was a sequence of live vocal effects. Apparently, dialogue scenes were also recorded, but the results were unsatisfactory and the film was never publicly screened incorporating them. On May 1, 1921, Dream Street was re-released, with love song added, at New York City's Town Hall theater, qualifying it—however haphazardly—as the first feature-length film with a live-recorded vocal sequence. There would be no others for more than six years.

Henry B. Walthall

Henry B Walthall
His fellow cast member James Kirkwood introduced Walthall to D. W. Griffith, and at the conclusion of that engagement, Walthall joined the Biograph Company. His career in movies began in 1909 at Biograph Studios in New York with a leading role in the film A Convict's Sacrifice. This film also featured James Kirkwood, and was directed by D. W. Griffith, a director that played a huge part in Walthall's rise to stardom.

The Jazz Singer

1927 film19271927 film version
D. W. Griffith's feature Dream Street (1921) was shown in New York with a single singing sequence and crowd noises, using the sound-on-disc system Photokinema. The film was preceded by a program of sound shorts, including a sequence with Griffith speaking directly to the audience, but the feature itself had no talking scenes. On April 15, 1923, Lee De Forest introduced the sound-on-film system Phonofilm, which had synchronized sound and dialogue, but the sound quality was poor, and the films produced in this process were short films only. The first Warner Bros.


black faceblacked upblackface minstrelsy
D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) used white people in blackface to represent all of its major black characters, but reaction against the film's racism largely put an end to this practice in dramatic film roles. Thereafter, white people in blackface would appear almost exclusively in broad comedies or "ventriloquizing" blackness in the context of a vaudeville or minstrel performance within a film. This stands in contrast to made-up white people routinely playing Native Americans, Asians, Arabs, and so forth, for several more decades.