Saturday, November 29, 2008

D.W. Griffith

Early this morning I happened to be driving in Oldham County towards LaGrange, KY on Highway 22, and noticed a cemetery I'd never investigated before. It was a fairly sizable place, adjacent to the Mount Tabor Methodist Church in a small spot-in-the-road called Centerfield. I had my camera in the car, so I pulled over and checked it out.

I've always been a fan of coffin-sized above-ground crypts, so I immediately gravitated to a large one nearby and started taking photos of it.

"Hmmm...David Wark Griffith", I thought to myself as I snapped the pics, "and he died in Hollywood ? Huh. That's interesting."

Gradually it sunk in on me that I was standing at the grave of D.W. Griffith, the famous/infamous silent film director. I had no idea he was even buried in Kentucky, and had sort-of assumed in the back of my mind that he was at Forest Lawn or something.

Then I noticed the Kentucky roadside marker alerting me to what I had already stumbled onto completely by dumb luck. So I'm not the most observant mug on the planet sometimes.; I still hadn't finished my morning Starbucks.

Griffith's entire life was marred, ironically, by his greatest success: the film Birth of a Nation, which caused considerable controversy by giving the KKK an almost heroic treatment, and presenting a highly stereotyped view of African-Americans. So glowing was the film's handling of the subject, that the KKK even used the film as a promotional recruiting film for their cause for the majority of the 20th century. Griffith attempted to make up for the negative publicity and to show that he was no racist, by making the epic film Intolerance.

It wasn't enough, and the bad karma from the previous film dogged him to his grave, and well beyond. In 1953, the Directors Guild of America instituted the D.W. Griffith Award as its highest honor, but then rescinded the name in 1999, changing it simply to the "DGA Lifetime Achievement Award".

Griffith's grave can plainly be seen on Google Maps - notice the large squarish plot at nine o'clock in the above image.

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