dwgriffith.jpgControversial moviemaker D.W. Griffith was born this day in 1875. Despite having made an impressive 400-plus short films between 1908 and 1913—and being the first person to shoot a movie in Hollywood (In Old California, 1910)—Griffith is inextricably linked to the disturbingly racist film, The Birth of a Nation. Griffith, whose father was a colonel in the Confederate Army, used white actors in blackface to play the black characters in his interpretation of the heroically portrayed Ku Klux Klan during the American Civil War. Still, the film is notable for solidifying the director’s original technique of crosscutting, for being the first feature-length American film, for its record-breaking box-office numbers at the time of its release and for the controversy that has forever surrounded it. Griffith died in July of 1948.

Filmmaker Factoid: D.W. Griffith was a revolutionary moviemaker in many ways, and a central figure in early Hollywood social circles. Counted among his friends were Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Together, the foursome formed United Artists in 1919.