by Ralph A. Brandt
This month’s column will be about twenty-sixth issue of Instauration magazine. On the front page it says Volume 3, Number 1 and is dated December 1977. Also on the front page is the caption “Majority Film Genius D.W. Griffith.”
As always, Page 2 is titled “The Safety Valve.” This is where the letters to the editor are printed. One letter reads as follows:
“With regard to your article on Marshall, two matters need additional attention: the assertion in the book ‘A Man Called Intrepid’ that Roosevelt ordered Marshall to use Western Union as the slowest method available to reach the Pearl Harbor commanders; and an investigation of the vulnerability of Western Union to tapping by Japanese. If it can be demonstrated that WU was a poor security system, it shoots to pieces a generation of FDR and Marshall fans who swore that Western Union was used because the other communications were vulnerable to tapping by the Japanese and thus would have revealed the breaking of the Purple Code.”
The feature article of this issue is titled “D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation.” Birth of a Nation was a three-hour silent movie that was released in 1915. Griffith wanted this movie to be “the true story of the losing side in the War Between the States.”
When this movie came out, it outraged a lot of people. He was accused of “making a mockery of the Union victory in our Civil War.” The newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People went to court and filed suit against him. In Philadelphia, near the theater where the movie was playing, 3,000 rioters confronted 500 police. They overturned streetcars and smashed store windows.
The film had a long, involved plot. The film’s climax interwove four lines of action. First was the Negro militia rioting in the streets. Second was the White heroine being coerced into marrying a Negro. Third was a band of besieged Whites huddling in a cabin. Fourth was the Ku Klux Klan riding in to engage the enemy on all fronts.
To the end of his life, Griffith expressed no regrets for making Birth of a Nation. He graced the silver screen with its first masterpiece.
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