In 1907 Griffith moved to Hollywood and tried to sell a script to a movie producer, Edwin S. Porter. He rejected the script but gave him a part in a film he was making. After appearing in Rescued from an Eagle's Nest (1907) Griffith managed to find work as a director with the Biograph Company.
Over the next six years Griffith made over 400 films. During this period he discovered Mary Pickford and gave her the leading role in his picture The Little Teacher (1910). This established Pickford in Hollywood and she made a series of highly successful films including The Temptress (1911), A Child's Remorse (1912), The One She Loved (1912), In the Bishop's Carriage (1913), Caprice (1913), A Good Little Devil (1914) and Such a Little Queen (1914).
The film critic, David Thompson, has argued that Griffith therefore launched "the greatest star there has ever been". He added that Pickford "became the industry's chief focus and biggest asset... she played her heroines with idealism and spunk, with subtle suggestions of the nymphet... Mary's expressions were restrained, her gestures small and drawn-out, and therefore all the more expressive." D.W. Griffith said that "she never stopped listening and learning."
Griffith wanted to make feature-length films but when this idea was rejected he left the Biograph Company. He immediately began work on Birth of a Nation (1915). The film created a sensation. Griffith's use of intricate editing and film techniques such as alternating close-ups and long-shots from varying camera angles, were revolutionary and inspired a generation of directors.
The film's portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan and African Americans, resulted in Griffith being accused of racism. Despite attempts by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to have the film banned, it was highly successful at the box office.
Deeply hurt by the accusations of racism, Griffith's next film, Intolerance (1916), was a quartet of stories of man's inhumanity to man. Griffith's attempt to compensate for the politics of the Birth of a Nation was a commercial flop. The film left him heavily in debt and over the next few years desperately attempted to make films that would enable him to pay off his creditors.
In 1919 Griffith joined with Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to form the United Artists, a company that enabled the stars to distribute their films without studio interference. It is also argued that it was in response to a rumour that the film companies intended to put a ceiling on the star salaries. Films made by Griffith during this period included Way Down East (1920), Orphans of the Storm (1921), The White Rose (1923) and Isn't Life Wonderful (1924).
Griffith made two sound films, Abraham Lincoln (1930) and The Struggle (1931), a film about alcoholism. The films were not successful and Griffith retired from the cinema, spending the last ten years of his life living alone in Hollywood's Knickerbocker Hotel.
David Walk Griffith died on 23rd July, 1948.