Anna Lehr in Action: “The Birth of a Race”

Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 78

Ann Dvorak’s mother, Anna Lehr started appearing in motion pictures in 1912. By the time she officially retired in 1927, she had well over 49 credits to her name. As is the case with most titles of the silent era, Anna Lehr’s body of work is largely “lost” with one lone film, The Cradle, existing at the Library of Congress.  Every now and then, an alleged copy of a 1928 version of Jesus of Nazareth pops up on eBay or Amazon. I ordered a copy a number of years ago, and it turned out instead to be a much earlier telling of the life of Christ. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I order this copy of The Target, it would not be Lehr and Hobart Bosworth appearing on my screen.

The only footage I have seen of Anna Lehr in action is two seconds, literally, from The Birth of a Race. This film was originally supposed to have presented a sensitive portrayal of African American history as a sort of answer to D.W. Griffith’s controversial 1915 epic, Birth of a Nation. By the time it came out in 1918 money-politics had turned The Birth of a Race into a more general telling of the history of mankind. Supposedly, the film ran around 10 reels, or close to two hours. As far as I can tell, all that now exists is the above 10 minute summary of the film which showed up as an extra on a Birth of a Nation DVD release.

I usually shy away from YouTube clips, which tend to get taken down. Since this one has been on the site since 2007, I am throwing caution to the wind. You can see Anna Lehr’s two seconds of screen time at the 7:19 mark. She’s the one dressed in white and looking appropriately dramatic.

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