Notes for the Third Lecture.



1 hour 30 minutes

Development of shots and scenes and cutting, Development of the shot rather than the scene A scene may contain many shots. D.W. Griffith; Erich von Stroheim Intolerence Wedding March Studios had been producing films up to a certain point. There had been a development in the business end in which production and distribution had been tied together, Theater owners were upset by having to bundle purchases so in order to get good films they would have to take a number of poor ones.

This led to the development of independent filmmakers which led to some complex developments in motion picture history. One of the first was "United Artists" which was formed in by Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin Actors themselves were virtually unknown. They were billed as the character they played. Sometimes they were billed as the "studio" person "The Biograph girl" actually Florence Lawrence. had become famous, their actual (or stage names) were unknown

The studios were against giving real names. They felt (correctly) that if they were to become known they would want more money and it was better to keep them unknown, The Independents (some of which were run by actors, felt that this was true but having a known "star" would attract a bigger audience and while the picture might cost more it would also make more. And they were correct. With a short time some of the "stars" were demanding million dollar contracts and having studios fight over who would get to pay them

DW Griffith had originally been involved as an actor for Edison appearing the Eagle’s Nest 1907 released 1908 (produced by Porter and directed by J Searle Dowley) Griffith left Edison to go to Biograph where he continues as an actor until demand on Biograph for films was so great they needed another director and Griffith stepped in, His first film as a director is The Adventures of Dollie in which a child in kidnapped and the water cast in which she has been hidden falls into the water and heads down the rapids only to have alast minute rescue by a young lad.

While earlier film makers had used shots with the camera at various distances from the actors, they were done for special effects reasons. Griffith started with a wide shot and moved progressively closer to the actors.

Griffith broke the scene into "shots"

While on stage a scene is constrained by a single set, and the audieince members static position. It does have a tempo or beat to it and these may shift throughout the scene. Griffith fund a way in effect to translate that into camera placements.

For Griffith, the narrative content of the scene - not the location determined camera placement hence he is credited with having worked out a grammar and rhetoric of film. How shots were put together (editing) could add to the narration and give it power and meaning as well as clarity (remember these are films with dialogue being spoken, He also developed the use of pans and tracking shots which had been used earlier but only to show motion from moving vehicles.

Space and time were things that could be altered in the movies in the filming and the editing, He developed a complex use of cross cuts between time periods, between places, ideas in a character’s mind and their relationship to the cause of the idea and to make contrasts between things,

. He recognized the relationship between the images the audiences ability to put the events together.

Much of this was earlier e.g. Porter’s link between the fire alarm and the firemen getting out of bed. Griffith developed these and used then in new ways (COMPARE THIS TO YOUR PAPERS)

Griffith also worked with lights which were coming into use, Most film makers used them to "create" sunlight, but Griffith diffused them and used them foor effect, (AGAIN NOTICE THE IDEAS OF VARIABLES _ LIGHT STARTS AS A REPLACEMENT FOR SUNLIGHT AND GOES THROUGH MANY CHANGES) Griffith uses light to imitate a glowing fire in a room.

Light is used to show morality

Shorts and feature films: The development of longer films

Typically a film had been a "One reel" film. Griffith wanted longer films and tried 2 reelers but these were often shown separately.

Distinction is unclear and not "official" or technical.

Shorts are defined by not being feature films!

Feature films are defined by Screen Actors Guild as 80 minutes or longer.

Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences,

American Film Institute The American Film Institute is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to celebrating excellence in the art form and to creating national education initiatives that inspire artists and audiences alike and British Film Institute (“A cultural charity the UKs leading organzation for film and the moving image”) Any film longer than 40 minutes.

Early full length films included The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight (documentary) which may have run 90 minutes Enoch Rector (director)

Another contender is The History of the Kelly Gang (70 minutes)(Australian) Charles Tait 1906

Yet another is Dante’s Inferno (1911) (71 minutes) probably the first Italian Spectacle

Francesco Bertolini,Adolfo Padovan Giuseppe de Liguoro (directors)

What were the first major features?

The Crusaders (1911) (Italian) (15 minutes)
The Loves of Queen Elizabeth (1912)(Australian)
Quo Vadis? (1913) (Italian) (2 hours)
Film geography: film can create its own spatial relationships

Film time: time may move forward or backward or there may be ellipses - a loss of time which is understood from surrounding images.

Cuts: There are various kinds of cuts that occur that may have meaning attributed to them:

Rising stone lions Potemkin
Montage: juxtaposition of images to cause the audience to make associations, Strike – killing animal and killing strikers Killing bull and killing Kurtz Apocalypse Now,

Griffith's contribution to film "grammar and rhetoric" is considerable. Among the things he is known for developing or extending are those which were invented or discovered by others. Griffith found ways to use them that was new or novel. Among the things he is credited with are: (a) Color tinting
(b) Panning (moving camera)
(c) Close up (for details and emotions - close ups of galloping horses hooves)
(d) Iris effect
(e) Camera angles, panoramic and high angle shots
(f) Long shots (very wide)
(g) Pre montage - parallel editing and cross cutting
(h) Fade out - early examples
(i) Night photography (used magnesium flares for light)
(j) Costumes - made especially for the film
(k) Authenticity (in appearance - clothing, sets reconstructed from photos)
(l) Original score (one of the first)
(m) Length - 10 reels 1544 shots
(n) Cameo profile - shallow focus on character with background blurred.
His pictures are infused with his own philosophy which opposes (according to some) violence with gentleness)

He used superimpositions to place angels etc over the "gentle" parts

Names in films often arbitrary.. why choose those particular names Can they be significant?

Griffith is famous for Birth of a Nation (1915 which runs3 hours 15 minutes) and Intolerance (1916 running time 2 hours and 43 minutes) and Broken Blossoms (1919) among others. The first two are lengthy major films The first two are often said not to hold up well and audiences had a difficult time with them in many levels.

Birth of a Nation was rocked by demonstrations and riots over racial stereotypes that led to real life problems. In some senses, there are parallels with other films which have been seen as either derogatory to some specific group or glorifying some particular ideology Triumph of the Will (1935) Leni Riefenstahl’s monumental Nazi Propaganda film of the the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg; William Friedkin's Crusing dealing with a gay Sado-masochistic killer - picketed by gays and so on. Intolerance seemed confusing with radical cuts between different periods in different time periods interspaced with a woman rocking a cradle.


Although Broken Blossoms is set in China and in London, it is not a particularly "cultural film - that is it is not a film that is about cultural differences in any complicated way. It simply takes a simplistic view of both cultures involved and reduces them to a single characteristic: Griffith's gentleness vs. violence. It is a moral taale, not an anthropological treatise.

Cultural problems. China and the west are very different. Even within Asia. There are serious differences (e.g. Japan and China - even to the languages. Chinese and Japanese are unrelated languages)

Religion: Buddhism; Taoism

Philosophers that seem to develop a similar philosophy:

Laozi (Lao Tse etc) 6th century BC
Confucius (551- 479 BCE) -> Confucianism ethical, moral religion, political system etc. A system of thought and behavior. There is no word in Chinese for "Confucianism"
Mencius (372- 289 BC)
Differences between religions are at the heart of decision to go "west". The Clansman (as Birth of a Nation was originally called) will have a huge cast and is an enormously complicated film Battle scenes will be firing live rounds from cannons No special effects yet. Not even planting explosives near actors to simulate cannon shots hitting. Amazing no one was killed during the production.

Film needed many extras – many played soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and some extras who had family who fought on one side or the other refused to wear the other side’s uniforms! Main actors were told to keep the whole project secret. Griffith was afraid that afraid some other company would try to release a similar picture before he could.

The budget rose quickly to $60,000 and he was able to get the money from his backers. Final budget was $110,000 and he had to raise those funds.

The film was the longest to date – running over 3 hours

May have the highest grossing film _ estimated $50,000,00. (It played in legitimate theaters as $2. per seat

Huge controversy over the films racist material (probably helped box office - getting something banned or censored is the best way to get the pubic interested. Movie companies did not like ratings like M (mature). People preferred R(restricted). X was a bit much

Griffith apparently taken aback that the film was seen as racist.

Gish said that none of the actors believed the film would have been seen as racist. It is hard to know. Shirley MacLean and Audrey Hepburn claim that there was never any idea or discussion that had anything to do with lesbianism, although every plot summary uses the term. People can be and often are inconsistant and/or delusional relative to their own beliefs.

Griffith was not particularly innovative, but someone who could refine and extend an existing idea.

WATCH FOR TECHNIQUES - IF YOU CAN (You probably will have been engrossed in the story to watch for them)

(1) What techniques are used?
(2) What do they imply?


In the film, what is the narrative structure?

The first part of the film is in China, where Cheng Huan is involved in ideas of peace and gentleness he derives from his philosophy
While in China he encounters a group of American sailors who are Skylarking and fighting and he tries unsuccessfully to stop them. This makes him even more determined to go to the West
He travels to England and settles in the Limehouse section. He has been there several years and appears basically known only as the storekeeper. He seems to have made no headway with his plans to spread his message of peace.
Also living in the area is a boxer, Battling Burrows, and his young daughter, Lucy (perhaps 15 or 16 years old). He is the antithesis of Cheng Huan. Burrows is hard drinking, womanizing, violent and aggressive, He physically abuses his daughter by beating her.
As the story comes to its end, Lucy has staggered out after a brutal beating and collapsed on Huang's doorstep.He takes her in and who pervceives in her all the gentleness and beauty of his philosophy, Although he is physically attracted to her, he wants the relationship to remain pure and clean.
Burrows discovers his daughter is at Cheng's apartment and storms the place, dragging his daughter back home where she attempts to escape yet another beating and hides in a closet. Burrows chops through the door with and ax and drags Lucy out an beats her to the point wwhere she is dying.
Cheng returns to his room where he commits suicide.

The film is in one sense split - duality between China (east) and Europe (west) setting the stage for the differences between a Chinese philosophy and a Western one as exemplified perhaps by Cheng and Burrows. These two are representations of Griffiths polar opposites of "gentleness" and "violence" Color - tinting of scenes moral/ emotional


Battling Burrows
Evil Eye
The Spying One
Different approaches between Chinese Culture and Western culture are apparent. Chinese culture like culture in the west has great variability,In addition, even people in a single area sharing many cultural values view the culture differently. Consider for example Italian vs. Scandanavian cultures. Are they the same? A term like "Native American culture would have one believe that Samoan and Hawaiian culture is like Apache culture. Intertitle gives "Asian version" of the golden rule "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want sone to you" as opposed to "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" Buddhism and Taoism are generally percieved as religions whereas Confucianism is unclear. It has religious aspects but is also an ethical and moral system. There is no word in Chinese for Confucianism, Even among Chinese scholars there are differences of opinion about this. Cross culturalproblems are extremely complex. Cultures are seen as intergrated wholes and trying to deal with comparisons can be very difficult.

Confucianism has religious aspects in that it is involved with ancestor worship, but the basic thrust is moral and ethical behavior. Close ups heavy dependence on actors to show emotion. Cheng becoming attracted to the girl; anger between Battling and Cheng; anger (Battling) and terror (Lucy) during the climactic moments.

Flowers as symbols: Lucy's desire to have a flower; Cheng naming her as a flower, etc.

Entrapment images (closet sequence)

Problems of Barthelmess playing a Chinese (Cheng Huan). Interestingly, Barthelmess' great uncle, the Reverend William Boone, was the first Episcopal Bishop of Shanghai, China, and his great grandfather was the first Episcopal Bishop in China.

There are many different questions that can be and have been raised about people playing different minority who are not of that minority.(e.g. Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story) or can play anyone (almost - Broadway now has black actors playing actual white historical figures - but not in "white face". Do you need John Wayne Gacy to Play Hannibal Lechter? What about actors who aren't what they claim. The famous actor Iron Eyes Cody who shed a tear in the commercial about the pollution of the land was in reality Espera Oscar de Corti of Italian descent! Actors of course regularly change their names for a variety of reasons, not just to shift ethinic identities, Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur; Brooklyn born Barbara Stanwyck was named Ruby Catherine Stevens; John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison.

Actors should be able to play any part if they are competent to do so, Historical figures are actual people may be problematic. Could a black actor play Abraham Lincoln? (On Broadway a black actor played Flo Ziegfeld a real major producer (of for example The Ziegfeld Follies; and more recently Benjamin Franklin and all the males who digned the Declaration of Independence were portrayed by women in a production of 1776) If we believe films and plays and they impact our beliefs about the real world - is this a distortion of history? There are many interesting and complex questions about this issue.

If we want people from the same background to portray people of that background then the question is how do you decide who is what?

In the original version of Imitation of Life (1934) one character,Peola Johnson, is a light skinned black woman who is "passing" as white. She is played by Fredi Washington who is accurately described in an IMDB mini-biography as "Fredi Washington was a pioneering African-American actress whose fair skin and green eyes often were impediments to her showing her extraordinary acting African American actress". Twenty five years later, in 1959, Douglas Sirk remade the film with an equally talented Susan Kohner,(whose mother is Catholic Mexican/Irish and whose father who was a Jewish film producer born in Bohemia in Austria-Hungary) got the role. Warner Oland played Charlie Chan (Oland’s grandmother is Mogolian? How Asian does he have to be? Will a person one quarter Asia do? Interestingly enough Charlie Chan is based on a real Hawaiian detective Chang Apana. Earl Derr Biggers,the author, wrote the heroic Chan to offset negative images of Asian in books and films like Fu Manchu. The first film in which Charlie Chan appears is The House Without a Key where Chan is not the main character. The Chinese detective was portrayed in this film by a Japanese born actor, George Kuwa (born Keichii Kuwahara)!

At least 3 Chinese do appear in minor roles in Broken Blossoms. Man-Ching Kwan:Buddhist Monk (uncredited)
Moy Ming:Minor Role (uncredited)
Bessie Wong: Girl in China(uncredited)

Further questions about the problems of depictions of other cultures in films are also interesting as to the representation of then cultures by none members of the culture. These are complex and interesting questions to pursue.