D.W. Griffith’s career (1875-1948) has been and always will be a source of pride and shame for film history. Last week, one of the monuments that commemorated this director in Los Angeles has just disappeared forever.
We are talking about the elephant statues at the Hollywood and Highland Center, imitating those shown by Griffith in scenes from Intolerance (1916) set in ancient Babylon.
According to the Los Angeles Times, these figures, along with other elements from said shopping center reminiscent of the film, have been taken down during the remodeling of the complex, in favor of a reopening under the new name Ovation Hollywood.
The removal of monuments in memory of Griffith is something that Hollywood, and the city of Los Angeles in general, have been calling upon for decades. Although his influence is indisputable, the filmmaker was also blatantly racist, and his magnum opus The Birth of a Nation (1915) has gone down in history as an ode to the Old South and the foundation of the first Ku Klux Klan.
After the controversy started by said picture, Griffith shot Intolerance as his apology to criticisms. Although both movies keep their spots in libraries and history books, public mementos of their creator seem to be headed for extinction.
In addition, the shopping center has decided to remove a sculpture that is part of art installation The Road to Hollywood by Erika Rothenberg. The majority of the installation is made up of mosaics telling stories about Hollywood successes, but culminates with a sculpture of a daybed that some have claimed is reminiscent of a “casting couch.” After 2017’s Weinstein scandal, where the widespread practice of producers offering opportunities to young actors in exchange for sex came to light, it was decided that the sculpture would be moved, though it was later replaced and now will be removed for good.