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Birth Of A Nation

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stuart.uk
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Birth Of A Nation

Postby stuart.uk » June 7th, 2011, 10:49 am

In the first part of Paul Merton's Birth Of Hollwood series, he slaughtered Birth Of A Nation for it's length, its racism and its potrayal of the American Negro as ill mannered yobs.

So it begs the question was he right in his assessmet of the film, or as many consider it the first classic movie.

Merton also claimed Intolerence was a mess, or words to that effect

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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 7th, 2011, 2:20 pm

Paul Merton was right about BOAN but skewed on his assessment of Intolerance, in my opinion at least. Griffith has got a huge reputation for his innovations in silent cinema but some of these innovations are down to other directors in European countries. Griffith did bring these innovations together and BOAN has a narrative that includes close ups to tighten the action but it is utterly racist, so much so for me that I don't think I could watch it again. Merton was right too about the length, it is a bit too long but for it's time it's innovative. I like Intolerance, two segments are great, the modern segment and the Babyloian segment, the story of Christ and the story of the Hugenoets aren't given as much prominence. For some it would be difficult for others it's a joy. My guess is that Paul Merton is primarily a fan of the silent comedians not a comprehensive silent fan.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

Gary J.
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby Gary J. » June 7th, 2011, 3:04 pm

stuart.uk wrote:So it begs the question was he right in his assessment of the film, or as many consider it the first classic movie.


You need to watch these films yourself so you can make your own assessments. Then you can take on Merton's
judgement with your own and watch the feathers fly.

And no film historian actually considers BOAN 'the first classic movie' (whatever that means..). It is one of the
first feature films of epic quality that became a massive hit - that's for sure. As for it's obvious racism....well, it's there.
Clear as a bell. A blind child could see through that. So why do we still talk about this film? Because of it's historical
importance. The film industry did not just gestate from the labs of Edison and the Lumiere Bros. and then leap forward
onto the big screen beside LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (62). It was a series of baby steps....small baby steps....small
historical baby steps. And BOAN is part of those historical steps. People like Merton want to dismiss those parts of
history that upset their modern sensibilities over what's right and what's wrong. If that's the case our world history books
would be looking mighty thin by now. We can't whitewash the past so we feel good about ourselves today. We need to learn
how to get better by examining what came before us - warts and all.
Gary J.
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stuart.uk
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby stuart.uk » June 7th, 2011, 3:17 pm

Alison

I loved it when Merton took the theme music from BOAN and put it on a comedy, probably a Keystone production, just to see how important the music was to Griffith's epic, because it worked great on the comedy film too

stuart.uk
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby stuart.uk » June 8th, 2011, 6:20 am

In Merton's book Silent Comedy he makes reference to the appearence of 2 African American's in Chaplin and Keaton films

In Seven Chances Keaton puts an add in the paper asking for a bride so he could inherit a fortune. Among the may women that turned up one was a coloured woman who Buster, as a gag, looks on with some destain. Merton made the point while it was maybe funny then, it isn't now. In contrast Chaplin in The Kid cast an African American child actor as a page boy who has a lovely scene in a hotel room with Edna Purviance. The fact he was coloured was almost irrellevant to the role so in this case it was more positive

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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 8th, 2011, 2:48 pm

It's uncomfortable and surprising when Chaplin/Keaton have blackface in their films but I accept that it was acceptable at the time and I must judge appropriately. I tried to keep this in mind when I watched BOAN but it's not the blackface, it's how blacks are portrayed. I've read lots of books by the people who were around at the time of silent cinema, many of whom talk up Griffith and how great he was and I agree, he was touched by an ability to adapt, create and innovate in the nineteen tens. His portrayal of the blacks in BOAN makes BOAN intolerable to me, so the name of his next movie was quite apt. I like Intolerance, Way Down East and Broken Blossoms but I don't have a high personal opinion on the man who created them but then I can say that about a number of Hollywood's finest.

It's worth watching some of his works Stuart, depending on how much time you have, Broken Blossoms is my favorite, Intolerance is the one I'd recommend above all his work.

I don't think Merton was doing Griffith down, just putting a bit of perspective on it. Have you had chance to watch Paul Merton's latest offering Gary?
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

stuart.uk
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby stuart.uk » June 8th, 2011, 3:04 pm

Alison

Lillian Gish didn't think Griffith was racist. He was a Southerner who I think was just 13 at the end of the Civil War

Broken Blossoms is a great film, Though interesting enough Griffth felt a real child couldn't have played the abused little girl, hence Gish playing the role. Yet Chaplin coaxed a wonderful performance from Jackie Coogan in The Kid.

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intothenitrate
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby intothenitrate » June 8th, 2011, 10:14 pm

If I'm not mistaken, L.B. Mayer wasn't the only future mogul that made a lot of money exhibiting BoaN.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Birth Of A Nation

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 9th, 2011, 1:30 pm

Griffith was born in 1875 some years after the Civil War ended but he grew up on the stories his father told. Mayer wasn't the only one who got rich that's for sure.

I'm looking forward to this week's episode :D
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin


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