Watching Lois Weber: A Beginner's Guide

By Kyle Westphal

Still from Weber's Hypocrites (1915)

In celebration of our June 2, 2017, program featuring Lois Weber's The Dumb Girl of Portici, an appreciation of the director on our blog:

The first biography of Lois Weber— Anthony Slide's effort from 1996, published fifty-seven years after her death—was subtitled "The Woman Who Lost Her Way in History." Two decades later, I'm not sure that she's found it again yet. 

One of the key filmmakers of the silent era, with work that is consistently powerful and skillfully crafted, Weber remains criminally neglected outside of academic circles. Much of Weber's eclipse can be attributed to Hollywood sexism, but the industry's self-regard also plays an important role: Weber's multi-faceted talent was an implicit rebuke to the highly regimented, (gendered) hierarchy that emerged as the studio system consolidated itself in 1917 and afterwards. (Not coincidentally, Weber split off and formed her own independent production company concurrent with this industry shift.)...

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