1917 in Film

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The Immigrant

Oh Doctor!

The Dying Swan

Satan Triumphant

Thaïs

The Cure

Bucking Broadway

A Little Princess

The Torture of Silence (Mater Dolorosa)

The Woman God Forgot

His Wedding Night

Cleopatra

All Aboard

Fear

The Adventurer

Bestia (aka The Polish Dancer)

A Man There Was (Terje Vigen)

The Butcher Boy

Wild and Woolly

Teddy at the Throttle

The Poor Little Rich Girl

A Reckless Romeo

Straight Shooting

Coney Island

Der Magische Gürtel

Tom Sawyer

The Rough House

The Little American

1916 in Film

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Intolerance

The Floorwalker

Sherlock Holmes

Fatty and Mabel Adrift

The Rink

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Cenere

The Mystery of the Leaping Fish

Judex: L’ombre mystérieuse (The Mysterious Shadow), Episode 1

Farmer Alfalfa Sees New York

Joan The Woman

Snow White

Hell’s Hinges

East Is East

The Danger Girl

Behind the Screen

Civilization

One A.M.

The Battle of the Somme

Hoodoo Ann

The Count

The Curse of Quon Gwon

The Pawnshop

Where Are My Children?

The Return of Draw Egan

Police

 

Birth of A Nation

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Not only is there no defending The Birth of A Nation in 2019, it’s wildly offensive even for 1915. A film made to glorify the Klu Klux Klan by claiming that they saved the USA from (appalling racist caricatures of) unruly black people, it was picketed by the NAACP on release, but was enough of a hit to inspire the real KKK to return from semi-retirement to murder thousands of black people. It would be hard to imagine another film doing as much to harm humanity as a whole, and beyond any other considerations, this should clearly mark it as a bad film.

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Inconveniently it’s also a landmark in filmmaking history – not the first feature film, but the one which was big enough to get everyone else making them, and a spectacle so vast and varied that it wouldn’t be matched in scale for decades. Director D.W. Griffith was a leader in the field already, but the release of the film shot him into superstardom, and he took the sleepy Californian community of Hollywood with him.

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So I watched Birth of A Nation, all three hours and thirteen minutes of it, to find out if there is anything to salvage.

In terms of writing, no. The script is a hackneyed bunch of racist cliches muddled with sentimental war stories and bad political fantasy. In terms of acting, also no. Lilian Gish puts in some fairly decent work as ever, but the horrible blackface performers undo everything – the public in crowd scenes are no worse than most of the other actors. But in terms of cinematography, in the first half of the film at least, there are some moments of sublime beauty which this piece of trash does not deserve in any way. These don’t really come across in still images, but I’ll try.

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Part of it is awe at the scale of everything, but I can’t deny there was some real talent wasted in making this film.

If you want to judge this for yourself, the whole thing is available on Youtube.

1914 in Film

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His Musical Career

 

Gertie the Dinosaur

 

Fantômas Contre Fantômas

 

Salomy Jane

 

His Prehistoric Past

 

The Patchwork Girl of Oz

 

The Magic Cloak of Oz

 

His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz

 

Cabiria

 

Judith of Bethulia

 

Absinthe

 

Mabel’s Strange Predicament

 

Bathing Costumes

 

In the Land of the Head Hunters

 

Tillie’s Punctured Romance

 

Engelein

 

Mabel at the Wheel

 

The Avenging Conscience

 

Cinderella

 

The Virginian

1913 in Film

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Suspense

The Last Days of Pompeii

Mabel’s Dramatic Career

Folkestone Beauty Contest

The Speed Kings

L’Enfant de Paris

The Grasshopper and the Ant

The Student of Prague

The Night Before Christmas

The Bangville Police

Ivanhoe

Ingeborg Holm

Atlantis

Mabel’s New Hero

The Battle at Elderbush Gulch

Fantômas

Hamlet

The Mothering Heart

The Adventures of Kathlyn

Die Insel der Seligen

Death’s Marathon

The Pursuit of the Smugglers

The Gusher

Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life

Twilight of a Woman’s Soul

Eighty Million Women Want -?

Scrooge

Raja Harishchandra

The House of Darkness

Evidence of the Film

1912 in Film

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The Cameraman’s Revenge

In Nacht und Eis

The Conquest of the Pole

Richard III

Cleopatra

How a Mosquito Operates

The Passer-By

Onesime, Clock-maker

The Female Of The Species

A Dash Through The Clouds

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Beautiful Leukanida

The Musketeers of Pig Alley

The Water Nymph

Making An American Citizen

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Copper Beeches

The New York Hat

The Girl and Her Trust

Petticoat Camp

Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth

Delhi Durbar

From the Manger to the Cross

The Invaders

An Unseen Enemy

The Independence of Romania

1911 in Film

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A Trip Through New York City

Dante’s Inferno (L’Inferno)

Little Nemo

The Battle

The Diabolical Church Window

First Indy 500

The Lonedale Operator

The Fall of Troy

Enoch Arden

David Copperfield

Les Aventures de baron de Munchhausen

The Coffin Ship

His Trust

Coronation of King George V

The Odyssey (L’Odissea)

Alkali Ike’s Auto

As A Boy Dreams

The Miser’s Heart

The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole

Her Crowning Glory

Defence of Sevastopol

Swords and Hearts

1910 in Film

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Ramona

Le Vitrail Diabolique

New York of Today

Twelth Night

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The House with Closed Shutters

Alices’s Adventures in Wonderland

Thunderbolt

The Abyss (Afgrunden)

Slippery Jim

Making Christmas Crackers

Frankenstein

The Johnson-Jeffries Fight

The Fugitive

The Lad From Old Ireland

Teddy Roosevelt Returns From Africa

A Christmas Carol

As It Is In Life

In the Border States

White Fawn’s Devotion

Aeroplane Flight and Wreck

The Unchanging Sea

1909 in Film

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Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy

Les Joyeux microbes

A Trap For Santa

Le Locataire diabolique

The Sealed Room

The Cowboy Millionaire

Teddy Roosevelt in Africa

Fools of Fate

La Papillon Fantastique

Mr Flip

The Red Man’s View

The Airship Destroyer

The Hessian Renegades

Oliver Twist

The Doctor’s Secret

The Golden Louis

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Entrevista de los Presidentes Díaz-Taft

A Corner in Wheat