D. W. GRIFFITH: THE BIRTH OF A NATION AND INTOLERANCE
THE second period ( 1914-1917) of D. W. Griffith's career saw the production of his two greatest films, The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. High points in the history of the American movie, these two pictures far surpassed other native films in structure, imaginative power, and depth of content, and they marked Griffith's peak as a creative artist. They foreshadowed the best that was to come in cinema technique, earned for the screen its right to the status of an art, and demonstrated with finality that the movie was one of the most potent social agencies in America.
Neither The Birth of a Nation nor Intolerance was an accident --a "lucky fluke" of directorial frenzy: both were the consummation of five years of intensive movie making. Griffith's Biograph apprenticeship is replete with presages of these two compositions. Ingenious organizational devices, startling compositional sketches, sentimental cameos, and high-powered episodes, which time and again had appeared in his hundreds of Biograph miniatures, reappeared in these two works with superlative effects. Without his experimental years at Biograph it is doubtful whether Griffith could have made at this time two such profound and triumphant films.
After leaving Biograph, Griffith produced for his new employers, Mutual, four films in quick succession, none of which particularly interested him: Home Sweet Home; The Escape; The Avenging Conscience (The Tell-Tale Heart); and The Battle of the Sexes. Griffith was getting $1,000 a week salary, and he did these minor pictures rapidly to accumulate money--this time not so he could