Motion Picture Director. Called by many as “The Father of the Motion Picture”, he was the first to recognize the new medium's potential, and invented many of the common film techniques used today, such as the Flashback, the Iris shot, the mask, and Crosscutting. He is best remembered for his epic "Birth of a Nation" (1915), considered by most his best work, despite its racist message. Born in rural Kentucky to Jacob Griffith, a Confederate Army Colonel and Civil War hero, he grew up hearing tales of his father's romantic war experiences and the Horatio Alger tales of hard work paying off that were to form his view of the world. In 1897, he set out to pursue a career of acting and writing in theater, but he proved unsuccessful for the most part. The new media of movies was just beginning, and in 1907, he took a job with the Edison Moving Picture Company, acting in a number of small films, and eventually took over as a film director with the American Biograph Company in 1908, directing upwards of 450 silent films. He produced and directed the first movie ever filmed in Hollywood, "In Old California" (1910). Griffith developed such screen stars as Mary Pickford, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Robert Harron, Arthur Johnson, Max Sennett and a number of other actors. During his years at American Biograph, he was often at odds with company management, and in 1913, he struck out on his own, joining the Reliance Majestic Company, to complete his most ambitious film to date, "The Birth of a Nation" (1915). For its sweeping battle scenes, skillful filming of the cavalry rides, and capture of the emotions, Griffith was hailed as the "Shakespeare of the Screen." In 1919 to 1920, he founded United Artists, with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and William S. Hart. Leaving Hollywood in the early 1920s, he moved to New York to try his hand at his own studio. After several failures, he joined Paramount, making such films as "That Royle Girl" (1926) with W. C. Fields. By 1926, he had picked up the image of a failing director, and his career began to decline, although he continued to make successful movies. In 1930, he directed "Abraham Lincoln" (1930), his first talking movie, a success that showed he could make the transition from silent film to 'talkies'. By 1932, he was virtually out of the movie business, however, successful investments kept him comfortably well off. In 1935, he received a special Oscar for his contributions to the art of filmmaking, and in 1975, the United States Postal Service honored him with a postage stamp.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson