D. W. Griffith had long been a living monument when he died in relative obscurity July 23, 1948, in the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. He had not directed a film since The Struggle in 1931, and his brave front had collapsed in the face of industry indifference. Had he lived, he would have celebrated his hundredth birthday on January 23, 1975. On that day, to commemorate the D. W. Griffith Centennial the Museum of Modern Art in New York City launched a massive retrospective of his works in a two-part cycle. Part One focused on one hundred of the five hundred films Griffith turned out between 1908 and 1913 at the Biograph Studios, located in that period at 11 East 14th Street on the island of Manhattan. Griffith's predilection for the realism of location shooting provided the historically and nostalgically minded with many glimpses of New York City as it looked before World War I. Part Two exhumed rather than revived the feature-length movies directed by Griffith from 1914 to 1931.
I had been "teaching" D. W. Griffith in my college courses for a number of years, sometimes by way of The Birth of a Nation ( 1915), more often by way of Intolerance ( 1916) and True Heart Susie ( 1919) ( JeanLuc Godard's favorite Griffith film). I had nothing but praise for the Museum's (and particularly Eileen Bowser's) diligence in preserving the