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Griffith tried the talkies twice. One had Walter Huston as Abraham Lincoln and was a box-office dud. The other, called The Struggle, was considered too faulty for general distribution. Yet in his lifetime, Griffith made 432 movies. They grossed about $60 million, some $25 million of it clear profit for Griffith and his associates.
When he died last week at 73 of a cerebral hemorrhage, in the Hollywood hotel where he lived alone, his lawyer said that the estate would not exceed $50,000. Of this, $20,000 had been found in a safe some years ago during the audit of an ancient hotel. It was wrapped in brown paper and marked "D. W. GriffithPersonal." D. W., his mind on the remote intangibles of a lifetime, had forgotten all about it.
In Hollywood last week, many people were offering epitaphs for Griffith. But perhaps the most succinct was the one presented years ago by another man who could claim to know about such things, the Frenchman Rene Clair. "Nothing essential," he said, "has been added to the art of the motion picture since Griffith."