On This Day … 08 February [2023]


  • 1915 – D.W. Griffith’s controversial film The Birth of a Nation premieres in Los Angeles.

People (Births)

  • 1925 – Jack Lemmon, American actor (d. 2001)
  • 1941 – Nick Nolte, American actor and producer
  • 1949 – Brooke Adams, American actress, producer, and screenwriter

People (Deaths)

  • 2020 – Robert Conrad, American actor (b. 1935)

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation, originally called The Clansman, is a 1915 American silent epic drama film directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. The screenplay is adapted from Thomas Dixon Jr.’s 1905 novel and play The Clansman. Griffith co-wrote the screenplay with Frank E. Woods and produced the film with Harry Aitken.

The Birth of a Nation is a landmark of film history, lauded for its technical virtuosity. It was the first non-serial American 12-reel film ever made. Its plot, part fiction and part history, chronicles the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and the relationship of two families in the Civil War and Reconstruction eras over the course of several years – the pro-Union (Northern) Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy (Southern) Camerons. It was originally shown in two parts separated by an intermission, and it was the first American-made film to have a musical score for an orchestra. It pioneered closeups and fadeouts, and it includes a carefully staged battle sequence with hundreds of extras (another first) made to look like thousands. It came with a 13-page “Souvenir Programme”.] It was the first motion picture to be screened inside the White House, viewed there by President Woodrow Wilson, his family, and members of his cabinet.

The film was controversial even before its release, and it has remained so ever since; it has been called “the most controversial film ever made in the United States”  and “the most reprehensibly racist film in Hollywood history”. Lincoln is nevertheless portrayed positively, albeit a friend of the South, atypical of a narrative that promotes the Lost Cause ideology. The film has been denounced for its racist depiction of African Americans. The film portrays its black characters (many of whom are played by white actors in blackface) as unintelligent and sexually aggressive toward white women. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is portrayed as a heroic force, necessary to preserve American values, protect white women, and maintain white supremacy.

Popular among white audiences nationwide, the film’s success was both a consequence of and a contributor to racial segregation throughout the US. In response to the film’s depictions of black people and Civil War history, African Americans across the US organised and protested. In Boston and other localities, black leaders and the NAACP spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign to have it banned on the basis that it inflamed racial tensions and could incite violence. Griffith’s indignation at efforts to censor or ban the film motivated him to produce Intolerance the following year.

In spite of its divisiveness, The Birth of a Nation was a huge commercial success across the nation – grossing more than any previous motion picture – and it profoundly influenced both the film industry and American culture. The film has been acknowledged as an inspiration for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, which took place only a few months after its release. In 1992, the Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Jack Lemmon

John Uhler Lemmon III (08 February 1925 to 27 June 2001) was an American actor. Considered equally proficient in both dramatic and comic roles, Lemmon was known for his anxious, middle-class everyman screen persona in dramedy pictures, leading The Guardian to coin him “the most successful tragi-comedian of his age.”

A member of the V-12 Navy College Training Programme, Lemmon was commissioned by the US Navy, serving briefly as an ensign on the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain during World War II before returning to Harvard after completing his military service. After graduation with a degree in War Service Sciences in 1947, he studied acting under coach Uta Hagen at HB Studio in New York City.

Lemmon’s appearance as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts (1955), with James Cagney, Henry Fonda, and William Powell for Warner Bros., gained Lemmon the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In the military farce Operation Mad Ball (1957) set in a US Army base in France after World War II, Lemmon played a calculating private.

He gained an Oscar nomination for Missing (1982), as a conservative father whose son has vanished in Chile during the period the country was under the rule of Augusto Pinochet; he won another Cannes award for his performance.

Nick Nolte

Nicholas King Nolte (born 08 February 1941) is an American actor. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1991 film The Prince of Tides. He received Academy Award nominations for Affliction (1998) and Warrior (2011), and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for the 1976 miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man.

His other film appearances include Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), Hotel Rwanda (2004), and Tropic Thunder (2008).

Nolte appeared as recurring character Kuiil in the Disney+ series The Mandalorian in 2019.

Nolte is known for his “bad-boy reputation”. In 1965, he was arrested for selling counterfeit documents and given a 45-year prison sentence and a $75,000 fine, but the sentence was suspended. However, the felony conviction left him ineligible for military service. He had felt obligated to serve in the Vietnam War, and says that he felt incomplete as a young man for not going to Vietnam.

Brooke Adams

Brooke Adams is an American actress. She is best known for her film roles in Days of Heaven (1978), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The Dead Zone (1983).

Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad (born Conrad Robert Falk; 01 March 1935 to 08 February 2020) was an American film and television actor, singer, and stuntman. He is best known for his role in the 1965-1969 television series The Wild Wild West, playing the sophisticated Secret Service agent James T. West. He portrayed World War II ace Pappy Boyington in the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron). In addition to acting, he was a singer and recorded several pop/rock songs in the late 1950s and early 1960s as Bob Conrad. He hosted a weekly two-hour national radio show (The PM Show with Robert Conrad) on CRN Digital Talk Radio beginning in 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.