He was the son of Confederate US Civil War hero Jacob “Roaring Jake” Griffith, David Llewellyn Wark Griffith was born on January 22nd, 1875 in La Grange, Kentucky. A failed career as an actor – stage name Lawrence Griffith – and playwright saw him turn his back on the theatre and turn to movies.
He was raised as a Methodist.
He attended a one-room schoolhouse where he was taught by his older sister, Mattie Griffith. After his father died when the boy was ten, the family struggled with poverty. When Griffith was 14, his mother abandoned the farm and moved the family to Louisville, where she opened a boarding house. It failed shortly after. Griffith left high school to help support the family. He first took a job in a dry goods store, and later in a bookstore.
He tried to sell a story to The Edison Company but they hired him as an actor instead. He went from being a bit player to being the industry's leading director in a period of only five years.
He has been called "the father of film technique", "the man who invented Hollywood" and "the Shakespeare of the screen".
“The Adventures of Dollie” (1908), a Biograph Company release, was his directorial debut.
He produced and directed the first movie ever made in Hollywood, “In Old California” (1910), which was produced by the American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. which is still in existence today and the oldest movie company in America.
On August 17, 1908, the Biograph Company signed him to a contract at $50 per week plus a small royalty on each film.
Pioneered the technique of parallel editing, which he used extensively after 1909.
By 1909 he was turning out 2 to 3 films per week.
Invented false eyelashes in 1916 for his film “Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages” (1916). Griffith wanted Seena Owen (who plays Attarea, the Princess Beloved, in the film's Babylonian segment) with lashes luxurious enough to brush her cheeks when she blinked. In collaboration with a wig-maker, who did the actual fabricating, the solution Griffith is credited with involved weaving human hair through a fine strip of gauze, creating false eyelashes.
Was the first to utter the catchphrase "Lights, camera, action!" in 1910, on the set of “In Old California” (1910).
On May 26, 1918, he was elected president of the Motion Picture War Service Association, an organization charged with boosting war bond sales.
In 1920, he established United Artists with Charles Chaplin
, Mary Pickford
His first sound film was “Abraham Lincoln” (1930).
Charles Chaplin called him "the teacher of us all".
Griffith was discovered unconscious in the lobby at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles, where he had been living alone. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 23, 1948, at 3:42 PM on the way to a Hollywood hospital. A large public service was held in his honor at the Hollywood Masonic Temple. He is buried at Mount Tabor Methodist Church Graveyard in Centerfield, Kentucky. In 1950, The Directors Guild of America provided a stone and bronze monument for his grave site.
When Knighthood Was in Flower (1908) $35
Rescued from an Eagle's Nest (1908) $5/day
Old Isaacs, the Pawnbroker (1908) $15
The Music Master (1908) $15
'Ostler Joe (1908) $15
At the Crossroads of Life (1908) $15
The Stage Rustler (1908) $35
Her First Biscuits (1909) $52.50
The Birth of a Nation (1915) $300 per week plus 37.5% of net profits
Birth of a Nation (1915)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Orphans of the Storm (1921)
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