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D.W. Griffith Movies at Biograph: The Birth of a Cinema at the American Cinematheque

D.W. Griffith MoviesD.W. Griffith movies at the American Cinematheque (image: D.W. Griffith circa 1915)

A series of D.W. Griffith movies made at Biograph at the dawn of both the 20th century and the art of moviemaking will be screened at the American Cinematheque next weekend. “Retroformat Presents: D.W. Griffith at Biograph, Part 3 - 1909 – 1910” will take place on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the Steven Spielberg auditorium of The Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The evening will be hosted by Tom Barnes; musical accompaniment will be provided by Cliff Retallick.

Among the D.W. Griffith films to be presented by Retroformat are the following:

  • Lines of White on a Sullen Sea
  • The Gibson Goddess
  • The Mountaineer's Honor
  • Through the Breakers
  • A Corner in Wheat
  • Her Terrible Ordeal
  • The Last Deal
  • Faithful

D.W. Griffith and his stars

As found in Retroformat's press release, those early D.W. Griffith efforts feature “innovative cinematography” by frequent Griffith collaborator G.W. Bitzer, in addition to “breakthrough performances” by a group of notable actors at the very beginning of their film careers. Griffith, in fact, probably launched more movie-star careers than any other individual in the last century.

Part 3 of “D.W. Griffith at Biograph” features the likes of future Hollywood superstar and Oscar winner Mary Pickford (Coquette); future Oscar winner Donald Crisp (How Green Was My Valley); and future Hollywood stars James Kirkwood (whose movies included Under Two Flags, opposite Universal star Priscilla Dean, and Circe, the Enchantress, opposite then MGM star Mae Murray), Owen Moore (Pickford's husband from 1911-1920, and a leading man in movies such as The Road to Mandalay, opposite Lon Chaney, and The Taxi Dancer, with Joan Crawford), and Blanche Sweet (who had the title role in Anna Christie in 1923 and Tess of the D'Urbervilles in 1924 – later remade by Roman Polanski as Tess, with Nastassja Kinski).

Also: future movie comedy producer-director Mack Sennett (Tillie's Punctured Romance, with Charles Chaplin and Mabel Normand); future screenwriter and Cecil B. DeMille collaborator Jeanie Macpherson (The Ten Commandments in 1923, The King of Kings in 1927); plus long-forgotten names such as Arthur Johnson (a handsome leading man of the early 1910s), Robert Harron (Intolerance), Henry B. Walthall (The Birth of a Nation), Linda Arvidson (D.W. Griffith's wife from 1906-1936, though the couple separated in the early 1910s), Kate Bruce, Frank Powell, Marion Leonard, Billy Quirk, Dorothy West, and Charles West.

For more information on “Retroformat Presents: D.W. Griffith at Biograph, Part 3 - 1909 – 1910,” visit the American Cinematheque website.

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