Posts tagged ‘Cecil B. DeMille’
December 1, 2009  |  An Auteurist History of Film
D. W. Griffith’s Competitors: Ince and DeMille

These notes accompany the screening of D. W. Griffith’s Competitors: Ince and DeMille on December 2, 3, and 4 in Theater 3.

By the early 1910s there was a general awareness among film people that D. W. Griffith had brought something new to the medium and broadened the playing field. Rather than be intimidated, many ambitious young men who aspired to be directors followed Griffith’s lead—but also set out on their own path toward success. Thomas Ince (1882–1924) was one of the least intimidated. He shared Griffith’s experience as a not-very-successful stage actor who accidentally stumbled into the medium from which he would make his fortune. Unlike Griffith, however, Ince was highly organized and had a strong business sense. Twice he constructed his own studio, and he gradually fudged the lines between directing and producing, although he seems to have been highly adept at both. The early French film critic Louis Delluc made the distinction succinctly: “Griffith is cinema’s first director. Ince is its first prophet.”

November 3, 2009  |  An Auteurist History of Film
D. W. Griffith Leaves Biograph
Blanche Sweet in <i>Judith of Bethulia.</i> 1914. USA. Directed by D. W. Griffith. Acquired from the artist

Blanche Sweet in Judith of Bethulia. 1914. USA. Directed by D. W. Griffith. Acquired from the artist

These notes accompany the D. W. Griffith Leaves Biograph program, which screens on November 4, 5, and 6 in Theater 3 as part of the two-year </em>An Auteurist History of Film</a> exhibition.</span></p>

1915 marked the publication of poet Vachel Lindsay’s The Art of the Moving Picture, the first serious attempt in English to come to grips with the medium that had outgrown penny arcades and nickelodeons and was now threatening to appear in venues that would rival cathedrals. In the preceding year, as extraordinary European films like Benjamin Christensen’s The Mysterious X (released as Sealed Orders in the U.S.) and Giovanni Pastrone’s Cabiria were arriving on American shores, D. W. Griffith had been tearing at the seams of his constraining Biograph contract. As with so many early commentaries on the movies, Lindsay struggled to find the language that would do justice to his thoughts. (One thinks of a young Eugene O’Neill groping for words, or of Griffith himself, trying to articulate something previously undefined and unrecognized.) In fact, in his enthusiasm for film, indicative of the heady atmosphere of the times, Lindsay waxed positively Biblical, informing filmmakers:

“All of you who are taking the work as a sacred trust, I bid you God-speed…. You will be God’s thoroughbreds…. It has come then, this new weapon of men, and the face of the whole earth changes. In after centuries its beginning will be indeed remembered. It has come, this new weapon of men, and by faith and a study of the signs we proclaim that it will go on and on in immemorial wonder.”