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Introduction to Motion Pictures: The Miracle of Modern Photography


Creator of "Birth of a Nation," "Hearts of the World," "Broken Blossoms," "Way Down East"

SOON after the release of my first war picture, " Hearts of the World," I received a letter from an eminent historian. I shall always treasure the letter, especially for this paragraph: "History must hereafter be divided into four epochs: The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, the Age of the Printed Page—and the Film Age. In a single picture you have produced a vital human record that embodies the spirit and the soul of the war with deeper reality than all the books combined."

Griffith and Bitzer Shooting a Scene

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution

You remember, during the spring of 1917, the dire reports that came from the battle front. The Premier, summoning the gifted men of Britain, is reported to have consulted with them as to the best and quickest way to stiffen the nation's morale. Barrie, Wells, Shaw, Bennett, Gals- worthy, Chesterton, came to that meeting. How were they to open the eyes of the world to what was actually taking place on that blood-red battle-line? How inspire America with the ardor for a just war? Should they pool their talents in the writing of a book? Or a play of mighty import?

It was the judgment of that conference that the most effective medium for the purpose of England and the allied nations was a drama of humanity, photographed in the battle area. I shall always be glad to remember that the cablegram dispatched to America was addressed to me. Like the Macedonians to Paul, they sent out the message, " Come over and help us."

The wires brought back word that I was in London, at the Savoy Hotel.

On the very day I had expected to sail for America, I went instead to No. 10 Downing Street to meet David Lloyd George, Premier of England. I was proud that I had been elected to record and dramatize the stupendous events that were then making history. Most of all, I was thrilled at this acknowledgment of the power of the moving picture to narrate, to stimulate, and to perpetuate.

Source: THE MENTOR, Volume 9, Number 6, July 1, 1921, Pages 3-4

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