April 18, 2009
Lois Weber (1881-1939) was a pioneering early U.S. film director, writer, producer and actress, who helped to establish the new medium as a forum for social commentary and as an art form worthy of attention and respect. She also founded her own company, Lois Weber Productions, and was the first woman member of the Motion Picture Director’s Association, forerunner of the Directors Guild of America.
Fortunately, a number of Lois Weber’s films are available today for viewing on DVD:
Suspense (1913), (included in the collections “Saved From the Flames” and “Unseen Cinema”) is an innovative short film in which a mother and child are trapped in their home by a would-be thief.
How Men Propose (1913) (included in the collection “The Origins of Film”) tells the story of a female researcher who studies, appropriately enough, “how men propose”, much to the consternation of her several suitors.
Hypocrites (1915) is a fairly heavy-handed film dealing with political and religious corruption.
Where Are My Children? (1916) (included in the collection “Treasures III”) is a remarkable film dealing with abortion and birth control (in 1913!). Many viewers will be surprised at the generally patriarchal tone given that this film was written and directed by a woman; nevertheless, “Where Are My Children” is well worth seeing.
The Blot (1921) tells the story of two families: one a native-born family, living in relative poverty, led by an academic clergyman; the other an immigrant clan led by a wealthy tradesman. The issues of class pride and jealousy are particularly resonant in this film.
Too Wise Wives (1921) (included in the collection “The Origins of Film”) tells contrasting stories of two couples while illustrating some common attitudes about women in the early 1920s.
While no full biography of Lois Weber is currently in print, we recommend seeking out Anthony Slide’s “Lois Weber: The Director Who Lost Her Way In History”, published by Greenwood Press in 1996.