A Trio of Significant Movies

         Several movies this semester have struck me as very important in the history of the cinema but a few have really stood out: Birth of a Nation, Duck Soup, and Citizen Kane

         D. W. Griffith’s 1915 Birth of a Nation—the story of Phil and Ted Stoneman and the Camerons—represented the very essence of historic film. The movie was, in comparison to today’s films, primitive. Obviously black and white, most of the shots were dead on the actors. There was no real movement of the camera or any kind of special effects except the film itself. However, the fading in and out of Jesus and the end could be considered an early special effect; and I would venture to say that took a lot of work and a stretch of the imagination.

         In Leo McCarey’s 1933 film Duck Soup with the Marx Brothers it was not the technology of it that made it historic but the content. Although it was several years after Birth of a Nation, I have to comment on how far we have come. Still black and white, there is use of camera angles and more sophisticated shots. The film quality is much better and less grainy, and we finally have sound!

         Content wise, the film was pure satire and way ahead of its time. To my understanding, the film was not that well received in its day, but it was making mockery of the government—something that is done on a regular basis today but was not kosher then. When I think of this film “ahead of its time” is all that comes to mind.

         In 1941, Orson Welles made cinematic history with what is known as the greatest film of all time: Citizen Kane. The story of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper tycoon with a heart for sensationalist journalism was, of course, a play on American newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Quite possibly because I am a journalism student, I hold this movie dear; but it was a great film. It was historic because of its advancements (camera through the glass ceiling, anyone?) and because everyone knew who it was about. Hearst was furious. But it has not stopped people from dubbing this film one of the greatest—if not the greatest—of all time.

         Every film we watched showcased some kind of advancement, which to me makes them historical milestones. Its only through seeing where we have been that we can see what advancements we have made and be inspired to do even more in the future.

Jacqueline Jordan

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