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After famously (and quite controversially) covering The American Civil War in The Birth of a Nation, it was perhaps inevitable that D. W. Griffith would eventually follow it up with a historical epic about The American Revolution.
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America: Or Love and Sacrifice is a 1924 silent film starring Carol Dempster, Neil Hamilton, and Lionel Barrymore. Based on the 1905 novel The Reckoning by Robert W. Chambers, the story follows Nathan Holden, a young Patriot, as he fights for American independence and woos Nancy Montague, who is very pretty for a Loyalist. Meanwhile, the evil Walter Butler, with a reprobate army of renegades and Indians, is out to destroy America and claim Nancy for himself.

Despite heavy promotion, the movie was a Box Office Bomb. Its failure is considered to mark the point at which Griffith was no longer considered Hollywood's preeminent director.


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This film has the examples of:

  • Bridal Carry: Walter Butler carries Nancy up the stairs like this, obviously planning to have his way with her, but he's interrupted by Joseph Brant before he can have his fun.
  • Duel to the Death: Nathan and Charles almost have a pistol duel over Nancy's honor, but this is in Lexington on the morning of April 19, 1775, so they get interrupted by the more important conflict.
  • Either/Or Title: The full title is America: Or Love and Sacrifice.
  • The Empire: Specifically, The British Empire. An intertitle makes it clear that the movie does not consider the present-day 1920s British Empire to be quite so nefarious, but that wasn't enough to save the film from being banned in the U.K. upon its original release.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Apparently, the Montague estate often hosts "gay parties."
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  • Heel–Face Turn: As an intertitle explains, "Charles could no longer be true to England without being disloyal to America, his birthplace."
  • Hero's Muse: Nathan regards Nancy this way, despite fighting against the side that she supports.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Walter Butler is a real historical figure. He has long been blamed for the Cherry Valley massacre, which some argue was due to poor leadership on his part rather than malice. In this film, he's an outright Blood Knight who is actually not loyal to the King at all, but instead wants to destroy America in order to build his own empire. Of course, he also has his eyes on Nancy. In fact, the film's Butler comes off suspiciously like an Expy of Silas Lynch, who was the villain in Birth of a Nation.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Paul Revere's "midnight" ride seems to have taken place in the daytime with a blue filter.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: At the end, Butler has Nancy in his lascivious claws.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: "Joseph Brant, who, though a Mohawk Indian Chief, was well educated and had been received at Court. When he returned to the warpath, however, he became a terrible foe."
  • Renegade Russian: Well, Renegade Brit. According to the film, the British regulars are honorable enemies, but this is not the case with Walter Butler, who has his own agenda.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Needless to say, the film sides wholeheartedly with the Revolution. The most sympathetic Tory character is Nancy, who only supports the British out of loyalty to her Loyalist father. Eventually, Butler's cruelty drives both of them into the arms of the rebellion.
  • Sadistic Choice: At the end, Nathan has to choose between saving Nancy and saving thousands of innocent people. Of course, it all works out in the end.
  • The Savage Indian: The British make an alliance with the Indians, and let's just say the film does not regard this as a point in Britain's favor. Although for what it's worth, Butler is portrayed as being primarily responsible for the atrocities that ensue.
  • The Siege: The movie climaxes with Butler's forces besieging Fort Sacrifice.
  • Uptown Girl: The romance between Nathan Holden, a working-class Son of Liberty, and Nancy Montague, an upper-class lady from a Loyalist family. An intertitle notes that, "It was an act of great daring for Holden even to speak to one so far above him in station as Nancy Montague."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Butler's excuse to kill children "little wolves grow to big ones" is based off John Chivington's statement that "nits make lice" before slaughtering Native Americans.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Walter Butler tells his followers, "Men, women, and children - this whole pack of American wolves - little wolves grow to big ones - leave none to grow."

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