ACF Podcast: Birth of a Nation


So here’s something that might interest you on a weekend afternoon: Long time Ricochet member Eric Cook joined me to talk about silent cinema–about the beginning of American cinema, of cinema in general–the first great or at least very impressive movie. It’s a story of the Civil War, since people used to know, that’s the definitive American story! It was made in 1915 and it lasts three hours, it involves everything from portraits to long shots of battles, and pioneered or perfected every technique from playing with shadows and lighting to editing. As Chaplin says, D.W. Griffith was the father of all artists in cinema. It’s also a shockingly racist movie–the more so when you think about the Progressive pacifist politics of the director and of the movie. But in certain ways we will try to explain, all the successes and failures make sense together–the promise and disappointments of Hollywood can already be glimpsed. Eric is an expert on silent cinema, is involved in music for silent cinema, scoring, conducting, and playing, and has studied Griffith with great care, so you are in for a delight! Listen, my friends, and get to know Griffith, or look at him with fresh eyes!

Or on Apple Podcasts, if you prefer: Part 1 & Part 2.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey

    Forty years ago, I was a projectionist at the Liberty Theater on 42nd Street–Times Square. It had been built as a “legit” stage, not a movie theater, in 1904, but a decade later it was turned into a cinema, and it was the location of New York City’s premiere of “The Birth of a Nation”. I’m not superstitious, but I sometimes wondered if, like the cursed Overlook Hotel in “The Shining”, the Liberty was doomed to racial strife by the association with Griffith’s film. In the Seventies and early Eighties, it certainly seemed that way. But as a film nut, I was always proud of working in the same room that projected “The Birth of a Nation”.

    • #1
  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Gary, I read this to the wife, she says, you’re full of amazing stories that we wouldn’t expect to hear! For may part, I only add that, it’s called Liberty Theater, you can’t make it up–it’s America!

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  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey

    The March 1915 exclusive NY run of Birth of a Nation is mentioned down the page. But by the time I worked there, regrettably the decorative eagle, liberty bell, and flag motifs were gone. 

    • #3
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