David Llewelyn Wark "D. W." Griffith (January 22 1875 – July 23, 1948) was a premier pioneering Academy Award-winning American film director. He is best known as the director of the controversial and groundbreaking 1915 film The Birth of a Nation and the subsequent film Intolerance (1916).
Griffith was born in La Grange, Kentucky to Jacob "Roaring Jake" Griffith and Mary Perkins Oglesby. His father was a Confederate Army colonel, a Civil War hero, and a Kentucky legislator. D.W. was educated by his older sister, Mattie, in a one-room country school. His father died when he was 7, upon which the family experienced serious financial hardships. At age 14, D.W.'s mother abandoned the farm and moved the family to Louisville where she opened a boarding house, which failed shortly. D.W. left high school to help with the finances, taking a job first in a dry goods store, and, later, in a bookstore.
Griffith began his career as a hopeful playwright but met with little success; only one of his plays was accepted for a performance. Griffith decided to instead become an actor, and appeared in many plays as an extra.