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Birth of a Nation, The
The Birth of a Nation (1915), directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel The Clansman by Thomas F. Dixon, Jr., is considered by most if not all film historians as the first modern, full-length motion picture, in terms of both storytelling and film technique. The movie was Hollywood’s box-office champion for over twenty years, only topped in 1939 by Gone with the Wind . Indisputably a masterpiece, the film and Griffith’s reputations have been diminished among modern audiences because of the movie’s glorification of the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, its depraved depiction of Freedmen, and its use of white actors in blackface. The movie starred Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall (as Henry Walthall), Miriam Cooper, Mary Alden, Ralph Lewis, and George Siegmann (as George Seigmann). After the U.S. Civil War, the Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Austin Stoneman (Lewis), is determined to crush the defeated Southern whites under the jackboot of freed slaves, only to be thwarted by a fearless fraternity of masked, robed vigilantes. (The screenshots below preserve the sepia tints of the original film.)
Like Leni Reifenstahl's Triumph of the Will and Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, filmmakers and historians have struggled for decades to praise the filmmaking aspects of The Birth of a Nation while distancing themselves from its politics. The Director's Guild of America named its Lifetime Achievement Award after Griffith in 1948, but finally bowed to pressure and renamed the award in 1999.
The following firearms were used in the film The Birth of a Nation:
Double Barreled Percussion Cap Pistol
John Wilkes Booth (Raoul Walsh) uses a Double Barreled Percussion Cap Pistol to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln (Joseph Henabery, as Jos. Henabery). This weapon is different from the type used in the actual murder.
Single Action Army
Various characters wield the Single Action Army revolver. This is anachronistic, of course, since the revolver was first manufactured in 1873. Still, the weapon was presumably plentiful and readily available to filmmakers in 1915.
Trapdoor Springfield Rifle
Union and Confederate soldiers are seen with the Trapdoor Springfield Rifle.
M1841 8-inch Siege Mortar
Union forces deploy 8-inch siege mortars against the rebels.
4.5 inch Parrot Rifle
Union forces deploy 4.5 inch siege rifles against the rebels.
100 Pound Parrot Rifle
Union forces deploy 100 pounder Parrot rifles against the rebels.