Sum of parts lifts 'Griffith'

Best bet

September 06, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach

Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, those master chroniclers of the silent film era, are at it again, this time looking at the man many consider Hollywood's first great director, if not the father of the American film industry.

The three-part "D.W. Griffith: Father of Film" (7 p.m.-10 p.m., repeats 12: 30 a.m.-3: 30 a.m., TCM) traces Griffith's career from his Kentucky boyhood, introduction to films (as an actor first), his success with the ground-shattering (and horribly racist) "Birth of a Nation," his decade or so as Hollywood's foremost director and his sad decline, nearly forgotten by a multibillion-dollar industry he helped get off the ground.

The first hour is the least compelling, perhaps because Brownlow and Gill have a hard time putting their finger on what made their subject so great (he didn't invent the close-up or the tracking shot, as popular legend claims; he simply used such tricks better than just about anyone).

But the documentary picks up in parts 2 and 3, as the full range of Griffith's genius becomes apparent through such spectacular films as "Intolerance," "Orphans of the Storm" and "Way Down East" (which TCM is airing at 10 p.m.).

Pub Date: 9/06/97

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