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This film was copyrighted under the complete titles Intolerance, Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages and Intolerance, a Sun-play of the Ages. The working title was The Mother and the Law. The Majestic Motion Picture Co. advanced money for the first production expenses. Before it was completed, D. W. Griffith and Harry E. Aitken, the owners of the film, agreed to incorporate a company, the Wark Producing Corp., to finish the film and exploit it. The film was made at the Fine Arts Studio in Hollywood. According to Variety, the B'nai Brith prevailed upon Griffith to reshoot the crucifixion scene, which as it was originally shot, showed Jews crucifying Christ. The film had a trial showing in Riverside, CA on August 5, 1916, and opened in New York at the Liberty Theatre on September 5, 1916. The film was shown at large theaters in various cities with a prologue and two acts.
Intolerance's narrative contained four stories which were interwoven with each other to develop Griffith's theme in the same manner he used in earlier films of rhythmically intercutting developing scenes within one story with the device he called "the switchback." Although contemporary reviewers called Griffith's method of construction "revolutionary" and praised the film for this, the historical accuracy, and the spectacular sets and effects, the film, according to modern accounts, did not do well at the box office. In 1917, Griffith ordered that all discards from Intolerance be saved for possible use in releases of separate films from the separate stories. In 1919, two separate films were in fact released, The Mother and the Law and The Fall of Babylon ; because parts of the original negative of Intolerance were used in the new films, it became impossible to restore Intolerance to its original form.
According to Photoplay, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and DeWolf Hopper were in the film as extras. Robert Anderson assisted Griffith in make-up and technical direction. R. Ellis Wales, the technologist, contributed to designing, costuming and historical authorization. J. A. Barry was an executive and producing assistant to Griffith. Both Robert Lawler and Lawrence Lawlor were listed in contemporary sources for the role of "Babylonian Judge" but for the release of The Fall of Babylon, George Fawcett was credited with that role. Ethel Terry, listed in the 1920 MPSD as playing an Egyptian slave girl, is probably the actress Ellen Terry (not to be confused with the British stage actress Ellen Terry). She is not the same as Ethel Grey Terry, whom modern sources state played one of the favorites of the harem. Hal Wilson, Francis McDonald, Clarence H. Geldert and Ernest Butterworth are listed as additional cast members in the MPSD. Wilbur Higby, an actor and director, worked on the film in some capacity, according to the MPSD.
Modern sources list the following additional credits: Titles by D. W. Griffith, assisted by Anita Loos and Frank E. Woods; edited by Griffith, with James and Rose Smith; set design by Walter L. Hall and Frank Wortman; property master, Ralph DeLacy; assistant property and special effects man, Hal Sullivan; assistant carpenter, Jim Newman; carpenter, Shorty English; assistant directors, Erich von Stroheim, Edward Dillon, Tod Browning, Joseph Henabery, Allan Dwan, Monte Blue, Elmer Clifton, Mike Siebert, George Hill, Arthur Berthelon, W. Christy Cabanne, Jack Conway, George Nichols and Victor Fleming; research assistants, Joseph Henabery and Lillian Gish; religious advisors, Rabbi Myers and Father Dodd; dances staged by Ruth St. Denis; costumes by Western Costume Co.; score arranged by D. W. Griffith and Joseph Carl Breil; stills by James G. Woodbury.
According to modern sources, the following additional cast members were in the film: in the modern story, J. P. McCarthy (prison guard), Monte Blue (strike leader), Billy Quirk (bartender), Tully Marshall (a friend of the Musketeer); in the Judean story, W. S. Van Dyke (a wedding guest); in the French story, Chandler House (a page); in the Babylonian story, Gino Corrado (the runner), Wallace Reid (a boy killed in the fighting), Ted Duncan (captain of the gate), Felix Modjeska (bodyguard to the princess), Mme. Sul-te-Wan (girl of the marriage market), Carmel Myers, Jewel Carmen, Eve Southern, Natalie Talmadge, Carol Dempster, Daisy Robinson (who is listed as appearing in the film in MPSD), and Anna Mae Walthall (favorites of the harem), Owen Moore, Wilfred Lucas, Douglas Fairbanks, Frank Campeau, Nigel de Brulier, Donald Crisp and Tammany Young (extras), and the Denishawn Dancers, of whom Carol Dempster was a member. Although some modern sources credit Ruth St. Dennis as the solo dancer, she denied this in an interview.
Modern sources state that Constance Talmadge used the name of Georgia Pearce for her role in the French story. Lines used in the scenes of Lillian Gish rocking the cradle, which link the four stories, are taken from the poem "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" by Walt Whitman in the third edition of Leaves of Grass (New York, 1860).