Birth of a Nation (1915, Aitken Spottiswoode, Erich Von Stroheim, George Siegmann)
This landmark film from silent director D.W. Griffith was the first movie blockbuster. However, it also reveals a horribly racist version of American history. The first part of the film chronicles the Civil War as experienced through the eyes of two families; the Stonemans from the North, and the Camerons of the South. Lifelong friends, they become divided by the Mason-Dixon line, with tragic results. Large-scale battle sequences and meticulous historical details culminate with a staged re-creation of Lincoln's assassination. The second half of the film chronicles the Reconstruction, as Congressman Austin Stoneman (Ralph Lewis) puts evil Silas Lynch (George Siegmann) in charge of the liberated slaves at the Cameron hometown of Piedmont. Armed with the right to vote, the freed slaves cause all sorts of trouble until Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) founds the Ku Klux Klan and restores order and "decency" to the troubled land.