The Rose of Kentucky
R: David W. Griffith. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Wilfred Lucas, Marion Sunshine, Charles West, Kate Bruce. P: Biograph Company. USA 1911
“In The Rose of Kentucky – not one of the filmmaker’s better Biographs – the Klan are featured as villains, not the good guys. There are no African Americans present, but the hero, a white plantation owner, must shoot a couple of them to save the day (and the woman). After the gunfight, those Klan members still standing agree with the hero that they’ve done wrong and promise they’ll now go straight. (…) The Rose of Kentucky appeared in 1911, leading us to conjecture that Griffith, having assigned them as rogue villains that year, made an about face and filmed them as avenging saviors of Southern honor a mere three years later, partially (but not only) because he’d found a property with a good clinching climax.
To give an audience a damn good race to the rescue was certainly Griffith’s priority, here and elsewhere in his career, but the director seemed hard-wired to want historical films like Birth [of a Nation] to simultaneously, along with the thrills, operate as agents of enlightenment or of cultivation. To him this was how motion pictures entered the realm of high-toned works of art, those, that is, deemed worth of enduring, unlike those that merely offered coarse entertainment.”
Gordon Thomas: A Film Divided Against Itself: D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915)
His Trust / His Trust Fulfilled
R: David W. Griffith. B: Emmett C. Hall. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Wilfred Lucas, Dell Henderson, Claire McDowell, Edith Haldeman, Dorothy West, Kate Bruce, Gladys Egan. P: American Biograph. USA 1911
“His Trust and His Trust Fulfilled are two one-reel films directed by D.W. Griffith in 1911. They were meant to be played as one story but due to technical limitations of the day were released separately. Here they are joined with music and sound effects added.
It is a somewhat touching story of an old black, an Uncle Tom like character who takes care of the daughter of his dead master. Many of the battle scenes are precursors of what Griffith would do later in Birth of a Nation and his attitudes towards race while not as pronounced as in that later film are quite apparent.”
“Released three days apart in early 1911, these two films constitute Griffith’s first two-reel production, though his wish to have them exhibited as a single film was overruled by his Biograph bosses. (…)
These films provide a compressed version of The Birth of a Nation, narrating both the Civil War and Reconstruction from the point of view of a southern hearth that is irrevocably disrupted by history itself. Military matters are dispatched in a few short minutes, and in any case rendered meaningless without the home front to endure, interpret, and give context and consequence to their events. The crisis of His Trust and His Trust Fulfilled is not black political dominance and sexual predation, which cries out for white vigilant justice in The Birth of a Nation; more simply, but no less urgently, it is the precarious position of a young white girl whose family has been ravaged by the cosmic forces of a war she is too young and innocent to understand. In shepherding the girl through these hardships and delivering her to the wedding altar, George single-handedly reassembles the shattered dream of the Old South for modernity. In his steadfast fealty to his master, George foregoes personhood in favour of continued submission to the familial – and by extension in this context, social and political – vision of his long-deceased owner and to the slave era that expired in law bur not in spirit in 1865.”
Deborah Barker, Kathryn B. McKee: American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary. University of Georgia Press 2011, p. 38-39
>>> The Birth of a Nation on this website: 1914