BOOKS WRITTEN BY IRA H. GALLEN

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5 out of 5 stars Book review: “D.W. Griffith – Master of Cinema by James L. Neibaur Racine Film Examiner  May 4, 2016

 

Ira H. Gallen’s exhaustive study of D.W. Griffith’s early career explores the pioneering screen work and provides a fascinating look at early cinema’s development. Having already penned a complete book on Griffith’s epic masterpiece “The Birth of a Nation,” in this book Gallen looks at the early Biograph shorts made from 1908-1913.

In order to put things into perspective and help the reader understand the impact and scope of Griffith’s work, Gallen takes us through the concept of the moving picture, from carnival attraction, to storefront novelty, and, eventually, a filmed narrative using editing to tell the story. Inventors like Edison and Lumiere, early practitioners like Melies and Porter, and the evolution of the cinematic process are discussed clearly and concisely as a lead up to the author’s assessment of Griffith’s contribution.

Griffith’s early short films, made just after the turn of the century, explore a lot of concepts that would become commonplace in filmmaking. Giving cinema its syntax, Griffith enhanced his visuals with close-ups of the menacing actors in “Musketeers of Pig Alley,” the social comedy of “Those Awful Hats,” and the social drama of “A Corner in Wheat.” Gallen studies these films more completely than any previous book, examining camerawork, editing, acting, even appropriate musical accompaniment. Griffith’s creative process, and each film’s impact on the aesthetics of cinema as well as its sociocultural impact are fully explored.

In order to truly appreciate cinema’s form and function, one must have an accurate frame of reference that truly understands the historical importance of the motion picture’s development. Griffith is among the most important filmmakers from this period, thus all of his existing material demands to be seen. Gallen’s book on the master filmmaker’s early films is an absolute must for all libraries, research centers, historians, and scholars.

In this excerpt from the Independent Lens documentary Birth of a Movement, we learn about the childhood of iconic silent filmmaker D.W. Griffith, director of the controversial blockbuster Birth of a Nation, who was born 10 years after the end of the Civil War. He grew up in a South that was romanticized for him through folklore -- reflected in his film -- despite the fact that he grew up in poverty and, as film archivist and Griffith expert Ira Gallen says in the film, was basically considered "white trash."

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THE BIRTH OF A NATION: The Most Controversial Film 100 Years Later

Published April 8, 2014

 

The problem is, as quoted in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance that "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." For almost a hundred years now the true story and effects The Birth of a Nation has had on America's cinema has been lost to the false statements that have been written on this epic film.

 

Like the falling domino theory those comments have been past from one history book and article to another. Seymour Stern might not have finished his book on D.W. Griffith, but he has put together a remarkable story documenting the effects The Birth of a Nation has had at the time of it's release through the 1960's before Stern's death. His friend and colleague Ira Gallen has done a remarkable job trying to finish Sterns book.

 

At the same time many will find Ira Gallen's updated statements on the film as controversial as the epic 1915 movie itself. Over thirteen years ago the highest award a director could win with the Directors Guild of America was The D.W. Griffith Life Time Achievement Award. When the first two African American directors got on the West Coast Board they said the never would except the award with Griffiths name on it, and the white members took it off. I hope this book will help give the father of American film a new chance in history.

5 out of 5 stars Book review: “D.W. Griffith – Master of Cinema" by James L. Neibaur Racine Film Examiner  May 4, 2016

 

Ira H. Gallen’s exhaustive study of D.W. Griffith’s early career explores the pioneering screen work and provides a fascinating look at early cinema’s development. Having already penned a complete book on Griffith’s epic masterpiece “The Birth of a Nation,” in this book Gallen looks at the early Biograph shorts made from 1908-1913.

In order to put things into perspective and help the reader understand the impact and scope of Griffith’s work, Gallen takes us through the concept of the moving picture, from carnival attraction, to storefront novelty, and, eventually, a filmed narrative using editing to tell the story. Inventors like Edison and Lumiere, early practitioners like Melies and Porter, and the evolution of the cinematic process are discussed clearly and concisely as a lead up to the author’s assessment of Griffith’s contribution.

Griffith’s early short films, made just after the turn of the century, explore a lot of concepts that would become commonplace in filmmaking. Giving cinema its syntax, Griffith enhanced his visuals with close-ups of the menacing actors in “Musketeers of Pig Alley,” the social comedy of “Those Awful Hats,” and the social drama of “A Corner in Wheat.” Gallen studies these films more completely than any previous book, examining camerawork, editing, acting, even appropriate musical accompaniment. Griffith’s creative process, and each film’s impact on the aesthetics of cinema as well as its sociocultural impact are fully explored.

In order to truly appreciate cinema’s form and function, one must have an accurate frame of reference that truly understands the historical importance of the motion picture’s development. Griffith is among the most important filmmakers from this period, thus all of his existing material demands to be seen. Gallen’s book on the master filmmaker’s early films is an absolute must for all libraries, research centers, historians, and scholars.