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A Director Speaks Out Against Renaming Award

December 27, 1999|CURTIS HARRINGTON

I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Directors Guild of America's board of directors to rename the prestigious D.W. Griffith Award.

This is an insult to the memory of the man who virtually created the American cinema. He is a figure of unparalleled historical importance in the development of American film, and no other director is more deserving of the award's name.

I speak as both a film director and a film historian. I would like to know what justification there is for reaching 85 years into the past to apply a purely contemporary idea of "political correctness" to besmirch the memory of a great man.

Griffith was a Southern gentleman who told a story about the Civil War as he understood it ("The Birth of a Nation"). If his portrait of the black carpetbaggers during Reconstruction was exaggerated, he more than made up for it by subsequently making "Intolerance." And a short while after that he made "Broken Blossoms," a film that sympathetically portrayed an interracial romance.

To do what the board of directors of the guild has done is neither intelligent nor just. I am both appalled and embarrassed by their decision. They are behaving like a left-wing version of the House Committee on Un-American Activities of the 1950s.


I would be interested to know just who started this pernicious effort. It is clearly not something that arose spontaneously with a clamor of voices. It also has the feel of something that occurred behind closed doors. Perhaps it would have been advisable to allow the entire membership to vote on such an important decision.

I have always been deeply proud to be a member of the guild. This is the first time I have been ashamed by its actions. I entreat the members of the board to reconsider what they have done.

Curtis Harrington's feature film credits include "Night Tide," "Games" and "What's the Matter With Helen?"

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