The legendary filmmaker D. W. Griffith directed nearly 200 films during 1908 and 1909, his first years with the Biograph Company. While those one-reel films are a testament to Griffith's inspired genius as a director, they also reflect a fundamental shift in film style from "cheap amusements" to movie storytelling complete with characters and narrative impetus.
In this comprehensive historical investigation, drawing on films preserved by the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art, Tom Gunning reveals that the remarkable cinematic changes between 1900 and 1915 were a response to the radical reorganization within the film industry and the evolving role of film in American society. The Motion Picture Patents Company, the newly formed Film Trust, had major economic aspirations. The newly emerging industry's quest for a middle-class audience triggered Griffith's early experiments in film editing and imagery. His unique solutions permanently shaped American narrative film.