Over to Channel 4 now for a documentary series, DW Griffith: Father of Film. A look at the racist innovator of cinema.
Among those interviewed is Lillian Gish.
His first film as director recounts the adventures of a little girl kidnapped by gypsies. So I guess he started as he meant to go on.
Lyndsey Anderson’s narration, at one point, says “A favourite theme for his ‘Racist and Rescue’ was a besieged group facing overwhelming odds.” At least i think that’s what he’s saying. Maybe it’s “Racist to the Rescue” or “Racing to the Rescue”.
Griffith’s seminal work is, of course, Birth of a Nation, originally released under the title The Clansman.
The documentary isn’t remotely trying to downplay the racism – it includes a test scene with an actor in blackface.
Although Griffith’s collaborators, interviewed for the documentary, try to defend him. “He has been accused of being a racist, and I don’t think that he was, consciously. And I think anyone raised in an atmosphere where there were slaves would be unconsciously racist to a certain extent.”
Lillian Gish’s defence is even clumsier. “Mr Griffith loved the black people, we never thought there was anything against the blacks. As you noticed, the blacks are led by a white man who was patterned after Thaddeus Stevens, a Senator, who said to the black people ‘We will crush the white south under the heel of the black south'”
So not racist at all, obviously.
To one Griffith defender, the fact that there were riots and ‘blood on the streets’ was proof it was a great picture.
His later films don’t fill me with confidence of his non-racist nature. Here’s a page from a novel he adapted, about a ‘romance’ between a Chinese man and a 15 year old English girl.
After these three episodes, the recording continues for a bit with the start of a TV Movie called Babies starring Lindsay Wagner. The tape ends after a bit of this.
- Stella Artois Dry
- Standard Life
- Virgin Upper Class
- Color Magic
- Corn Flakes – James Nesbitt
- Jif Mousse
- American Airlines
- trail: Film on Four
- Bird’s Eye Potato Edgers
- Air Canada
- Sara Lee
- trail: The Big Breakfast
- trail: Tales of the City