Lois Weber was an important early American film-maker who pushed the boundaries of film-making so she could better tell the stories she wanted to tell. Several of her early silent films are on youtube: Suspense
(1913; ~10 minutes) (she directs herself, experiments with the split-screen view and unusual and effective camera angles including shots from above and using the car's side mirror); Hypocrites
(1915; ~4 minutes) (featuring dual roles, nudity, and a strong use of techniques like multiple exposures and complex editing - as well as a strong moral message); and
Where Are My Children
(1916, ~1 hour, 10 minutes) (a complex and controversial film even then about birth control (pro) and abortion (anti)).
This led her to make the even more controversial The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
(now lost), inspired by Margaret Sanger, which focused passionately only on the need to legalize birth control. The full version of The Blot
, her masterpiece about class differences, is not online, but TCM offers this article on the movie and the director
as part of the History of Film marathon. She also made movies dealing with capital punishment, gender relations, working conditions, and other social interests (many of which were banned, censored, denounced, and very popular), as well as telling stories from Shakespeare to Tarzan.
Lois Weber (1879-1939)
was as important as D. W. Griffith but far less well known. She was an actor, a producer, a writer, and most critically, a director. As a director she pushed the boundaries and techniques of film-making. Her progressive philosophies and faith influenced her work; her skills made her one of the most sought after directors; her content brought her to the attention of censors frequently.
She had a short but highly successful career producing very commercial movies in Hollywood as well as her (for that era) progressive message movies, being a director in demand … and then lost it all in the early 1920s as audience tastes shifted. In Lois Weber in Jazz Age Hollywood
, Shelley Stamp writes about her life after her directing and producing career imploded, including stints as a writer, story fixer, networker, occasional director, and sometimes agitator.