Griffith continued to direct films, though his scale became much more intimate, and many of his later projects continued to star Lillian Gish. The most notable of these include Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1922). However, Griffith was quickly left behind by the growing movie industry. He was unable to reassert the kind of creative control that had marked his best films, and, despite an honorary Oscar awarded in 1935, he drifted into obscurity, resisting the efforts of many of his friends to help him regain his status in the films. He died in Hollywood in 1948, largely forgotten by the industry he had been so instrumental in founding. Brownlow summarizes the director's enormous influence: "The first match was struck by Griffith, and it led to an explosion, the effects of which the industry is still feeling" (30).
Griffith was a true pioneer, and both Birth of a Nation and Intolerance give an indication of his greatness. Griffith did not invent the spectacular cinematic techniques that continue to make his best work seem fresh, but he was the first (and, for a long time, the only) artist to make such effective use of them in telling complex, powerful stories. Richard Schickel writes, "He had the insight to understand that a technological novelty could be converted into an instrument capable of sustaining complex narrative development, an instrument that partook of some of the qualities of several other arts, yet had its own remarkable language and imperatives" (12).
Griffith saw the storytelling possibilities of film, and he was innovative enough to understand what makes the medium unique. He brought his camera in close to show the subtlety of human drama and kept it wide to convey the excitement of huge battles and sweeping events, both of which were radical concepts at the time. He experimented with every convention, from running time to spatial orientation, and broke the estab...
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