A 1908 program from the Mason Opera House has been listed on EBay with an ad for an upcoming production of “The Clansman,” a play adapted from Thomas Dixon’s novels “The Leopard’s Spots” and “The Clansman” and turned into D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation.” The program is listed as Buy It Now for $17.95.
The play was controversial – resulting in a stabbing in a fight between two African Americans – but Times columnist Harry Carr dismissed the play and the books, saying that rather than inciting race hatred “The Clansman” was more likely to produce a case of indigestion.
The unidentified Times critic, reviewing the opening night performance, said the audience was small but consisted of enthusiastic Southerners. The critic observed that in Southern California, “The Clansman” was merely a play but in the South “one can imagine it a firebrand to inaugurate a reign of race terror.”
Is the column by Harry Carr available? It sounds like he might be a little less racist than the reporters on the other articles printed here. Even the reporter on the knife-fight manages to mention “hysteria among the colored people.” Given the real-life rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 20’s, partly due to Griffith’s film, they weren’t “hysterical” at all.
Yes I’ll add it when I get a chance. It’s a brief mention.
Going back to the clips, Harry Carr did write disparagingly of “The Clansman,” of Dixon and his books (he says they are “about the worst ever written”), but that comment about causing indigestion was from the Political Watchtower column, which was anonymous, but I have a hunch Carr contributed to it — that’s only a hunch, however. I’ll be doing an update on “The Clansman” later this month.
Thanks for the most interesting post. I’ve added a link to it on my page for the Mason. The D.W. Griffith film played its first run engagement (when still called “The Clansman”) in 1915 not far from the Mason. It was over at the Auditorium, at the time known as Clune’s Auditorium.
Thanks. I have a much, much longer post coming up on “The Clansman” on Oct. 29. I try to work three weeks ahead, in case I need an extra day or two for research on a complicated post.
Here’s a video I did on the Mason back in 2007 for the 1947project.