Film: 3557

Feature Drama | 1910 | Silent | B/W


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A drama with racist attitudes in the Deep South in the USA - Birth of a Nation extract

A girl climbs over a log, laughing. A suited man comforts an older woman in the hallway of a house. Suddenly, he looks away, disturbed. The girl, in a gingham dress, looks up as a man in black make up creeps up, tipping his cap to her. He says - "You see, I'm a captain now - and I want to marry -" The girl, looking nervous, rings her hands. The man stares at her intently. He suddenly grabs her hand. She panics and jumps over the log. She runs, throwing her arms in the air. He, having hurt his leg, yells and hobbles after her. She fights through bushes, her arms held aloft. The man rushes after her yelling "Wait, Missie, I won't hurt you" The suited man, hearing cries, runs alongside the forest. "Missie" hides behind a tree. The suited man jumps over logs looking for her. She makes a break for it, but the 'black' man spots her and runs on. The suited man, finding a pot in a clearing, looks around. The girl, in a panic, crouches underneath bushes, looking around, wide eyed. The 'black' man, his eyes bulging, chases after her. The suited man, looking for clues, finds the girls coat on the log she was jumping around. He shouts her name, dropping the coat. He races in amongst the trees, looking for her. The girl staggers over rocks. Her hair a mess, she climbs on her hands and knees. The 'black' man climbs after her. She waves her arms wildly, shouting for help. The suited man, in a panic runs through the trees, shouting the girls name. She balances on a rock, weeping madly.

She shouts to the advancing man "Stay away or I'll jump!" He backs away, talking to her. She gestures wildly. Shot from below of the huge rock she's perched on. The suited man, hearing her cries, calls to her and runs. She yells at the top of her voice and looks down to the ground below. She stands up, the man moves towards her. She throws herself off the rock, falling to her death below. She rolls to the floor in a heap. The man on top of the rock stands, looking down. The suited man, running up, finds the 'black' mans hat on the ground. He looks up to see the man running off and he shouts after him. Reaching the top of the rock, the suited man peers down to see the girl moving slowly in a heap at the bottom. He races down and picks her up, lifeless, in his arms. He strokes her face. Her eyes open and she mumbles something at him. He looks around fearfully. She looks up at him then suddenly dies. He looks down at her body, a wild look in his eyes.

"The South under Lincolns fostering hand goes to work to rebuild itself." A mustached man walks out of a grand building. An old man, leaning on a cane, walks after him. There follows a girl and two older women. The two men wander off, the girl skipping behind them. The two women standing outside the house nail up a sign which reads 'boarding'. "And then, when the terrible days were over and a healing time of peace was at hand…came the fated night of April 14. 1865." In a hall a girl (Lillian Gish) tries on a black and white gown, spinning to show it off to a friend and maid who stand nearby. The girls father sits, pensive at a table. A man in riding gear is shown into the room by a man in black make up.The girl rushes to greet him and show off her new dress. "To the Theatre" The couple walk off "A gala performance to celebrate the surrender of Lee, attended by the president and staff. The young Stonemans present. An Historical Facsimile of Fords Theatre as on that night, exact in size and detail, with the recorded incidents, after Nicolay and Hay in 'Lincoln, a History'" The couple take their seats in the busy theatre. On the stage is a backdrop painted as a country park. The couple sit. The girl looks through her opera glasses at the other theatre-goers.

"The play:'Our American Cousin' starring Laura Keene" The curtain rolls up and the croud applaude. On stage, a maid dusts chairs in a study. A woman dressed in a striped frock flies on stage to much applause. She bows quickly. The couple look on. At the end of the performance, the actress recieves bunches of flowers. "Time 8.30. The arrival of the president, Mrs. Lincoln and party" A group of people wander up a narrow flight of stairs toa box hung with American flags. The audience, seeing Lincoln in his box, stand up and applaude. The party sit down and get ready to watch the play. "Mr. Lincolns personal body guard takes his post outside the presidential box" A bearded man sits down and relaxes in front of a curtain. The audience are all waving their hankerchieves in the direction of the presidents box. On stage, the woman wanders off the set with a man, another stands talking to the audience. "To get a better view of the play, the body guard leaves his post" The seated man shuffles. On stage, a man and woman speak. The body guard picks up his chair and goes through a door, settling at the side of the presidents box. He leans down, watching. "Time 10.13. Act III Scene 2" In the audience, the girl prods her suitor, looking up. She points with her fan - "John Wilkes booth" She coyly looks up at him through the opera glasses. He glares down at the stage where a man and woman fight. Lincoln and his party look down, laughing. Wilkes looks across at Lincoln who pulls a cloak around his shoulders to keep warm. The body guard watches the play. John Wilkes walks through the door of his booth and, bending down, peers through the keyhole of the door to Lincolns box. He pulls a gun from his pocket and takes a step back. He cocks the pistol. He opens the door and stands behind Lincoln who looks down, smiling. On stage, a man shouts a woman out of the house. John Wilkes takes aim and shoots Lincoln through the back of his head. He jumps down onto the stage shouting "Sic semper tyrannis!" He shakes his fist and runs off the stage. Lincolns wife screams, wving her arms. The crowd panic, women faint. Men rush to Lincolns aid.

"While the women and children weep, a great conqueror marches to the sea" A woman sits, holding three ragged children to her. The camera pans across to the right where, below them, hundreds of people walk. The woman, watching down, holds her children to her. Shots are fired among the crowd below. The children weep into their mothers arms. The men march on below. "The torch of war against the breast of Atlanta. The bombardment and fight." Men gallop forward, through clouds of smoke on horses. Others run carrying flares, women and children gather. The town is lit up with bomb fire. Men ride among the crowd in top hats. From above, the crowd of soldiers march. The mother and children look down into the valley. Injured men hobble up the sides. In the town, people run in panic. From the top of the valley men limp up. In the distance, smoke pours. In the burning town, people run around. Buildings flame. Men on horses gallop through the smoke. An old soldier lays his son down in the mud. "The death of the second Cameron son" The man lifts the boys head. The boy struggles to speak. In the town, smoke pours and flares burn. The Cameron soldier helps his son up the side of the valley, others struggle all around. "The last grey days of the confederacy. On the battle lines before Petersburg, parched corn their only rashions." Injured men lie on a sandy bank. One offers around a pan full of corn. A man takes some onto a makeshift plate and picks at it. "A sorely needed food train of the confederates is misled on the wrong road and cut off on the other side of the Union lines." On a beaten track a trail of soldiers on horseback are headed off by three others who gallop up by the side of them. "General Lee orders an attempt to break through and rescue the food train. A bombardment and a flanking movement are started to cover the charge." From a look out point three men on horses stand with the general. "The action before daybreak with artillery duel in the distance." Looking down on a battlefield. "The food train waits. 'The little Colonel' recieves his orders to charge at an appointed moment." The colonel recieves a piece of paper from a soldier. Reading it, he directs his men and waves his sword above his head. "The intrenchments of the opposing armies seperated by only a few hundred feet." View down onto the battlefield. Gunfire and smoke pour down. A row of men lying on their stomachs aim rifles. Behind them, men wave American flags. "The masked batteries" Smoke pours into the air from a point on the ground. The whole battlefield. The row of men fire their rifles.

Battle scenes. "The field artillery" Men race forwards on horses. Men wheel up cannons. More flag waving men run past. Firing, puffs of smoke. "The Mortars" Missiles are thrown and make huge plumes of smoke. Cannons are lined up for firing. Seen from above, a whole scene goes up in smoke. The battlefield, cannons fire. "'The little Colonel' leads the final desperate assault against the Union command of Capt. Phil Stoneman." The Colonel leads his troops, shouting on encouragement. A line of men crouched behind sandbags. Suddenly they all jump up and race forwards, many dying where they stand. The Colonel leads them on. From above, the men advancing an the other line. Led by the Colonel, the men run forwards, screaming. On the enemy line, men fire their rifles and ready cannons. At a table an old man sits, his hands clenched in prayor. Next to him sits a woman with her two daughters at her knee. A huge cloud rises from the battlefield. Back in the house, the father says a prayor aloud. The troops reach the enemy line. They fight the other troops, going at them with bayonettes and pistols. Rifles fire. American flags fly. "Two lines of intrenchments taken, but only a remnant of his regiment remains to continue the advance." The lines of men with rifles grow thicker. "All hope gone 'the little Colonel' pauses before the last charge to succor a fallen foe." On a bank lined with soldiers, a flag flying, the Colonel jumps up to survey the damage. An enemy soldier writhes in pain below him and rips open his shirt. The Colonel takes a water bottle and lifts up the mans head to let him drink. "The Unionists cheer the heroic deed." The men behind the sandbags cheer, waving their hats. Charging forwards, the Colonel in front, the men make a last stand. They all perish on the battlefield, but the Colonel staggers forward and, taking a flag, pushes it down the barrel of the cannon. He lies down on the dirt. Capt. Stoneman lifts him up in his arms. "In the red lane of death others take their places and the battle goes on into the night." The battlefield, guns blaze. "Wars peace" Lines on bodies lie. The battle still rages. Plumes of smoke rise. Piles of bodies. In the darkness, explosions light up the field.

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