The Films of D. W. Griffith serves as an introduction to, and a cultural argument for, the work of the first widely acknowledged master filmmaker. Situating D. W. Griffith within film history and American studies, Scott Simmon addresses Griffith's competing reputations as a genius of cinematic form and a retrograde purveyor of reactionary and racist tales. His study includes extended discussion of Griffith's controversial drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction, The Birth of a Nation, and of his grandiose historical epic, Intolerance, but identifies his enduring work within the approximately 450 shorter films that he directed for the Biograph Company between 1908 and 1913, years of rapid change in the film industry. Major discussion is given to the evolution of Griffith's Biograph films about contemporary city life and to his early domestic melodramas or 'woman's films'. In this cultural reading, Griffith's films are located at a crisis point between two centuries, drawing power from the popular attitudes of nineteenth-century America as they create the patterns for the twentieth century's most distinctive art form.
1. Griffith, film theory and American culture; 2. The shame of the cities: the urban drama at biograph; 3. The female of the species: origins of the women's film at biograph; 4. Mr Griffith's civil war: The Birth of a Nation and family honour; 5. Art, Intolerance, and the work of the movies; Notes; Select filmography; Select bibliography.