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Ellen Strain on "D. W. Griffith and His Actresses"

The Request

We thought that you would be an appropriate person to discuss Griffith's directing style and his relationship to his female actors, as a result of your work in the general area of silent cinema, and more particularly, your study of female stars of the silent period. For instance, your work on the reception of Theda Bara seems to have well prepared you to discuss the nature of the industry as a working environment for women of the 10s and 20s. Additionally, your on-going research on the William Desmond Taylor case also seems to involve many of the same issues concerning the status of actresses in Hollywood's earliest era and their relationships to the director as a primary authority figure.

Griffith, as an actor's director, is most known for his work with female actors. We have some information about the way he directed his female actresses to achieve naturalism, particularly in reference to Mae Marsh in the scene you see in Clip 3. This might also be an appropriate place to address what Griffith contributed in terms of acting style as well as some of the controversy surrounding his relationship to Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, and Miriam Cooper.

See CLIP 3.