Guest Author - Amber Grey
Director Lois Weber was born on June 13, 1881 in Allegeheny, Pennsylvania. After failing to make a successful singing career, Weber decided to become an actor and joined the Gaumont Film Company located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, Weber met the French female director Alice Guy-Blanche through acting in one of Alice's husband's films. Weber became Alice's directing protege. Through Alice’s guidance, Weber started making her own films. In a few years Weber would be the first female director to have made a feature-length motion picture with her silent film, “The Merchant of Venice” (1914).
Social and moral issues were at the center of many of Weber’s films. “Where Are My Children?” (1915) is one of her most notable films because of its stance on birth control and abortion. At the time of the film’s release, the National Board of Review made it clear that the film was for “adults only.” The film’s unofficial sequel titled, “Hand That Rocks The Cradle” (1917), starred both Lois Weber and her husband Philips Smally in the title roles of “The Broomes.” Her other films included “People .vs. John Doe” (1916) about capital punishment, “Hop The Devil’s Brew” (1916) about alcoholism and “The Blot” (1921) which showed the difference in lifestyles between a poor and well-to-do family.
With the task of directing these films, Weber preferred on-set locations to the soundstage in order to provide realism to the issues her films were addressing. Weber once concluded what a director’s job should be by saying, “A real director should be absolute. He alone knows the effects he wants to produce, and he alone should have authority in the arrangement, cutting, titling, or anything else. We ought to realize that the work of a picture director, worthy of its name, is creative.”
In 1934, Weber made her last picture – “White Heat.” Not to be confused with James Cagney’s prison thriller, Weber’s “White Heat” indirectly dealt with an inter-racial marriage inside a triangular love affair with a plantation owner. Due to her declining health of a gastric ulcer and other contributing factors of her personal life, Weber stepped down from the director’s chair. On November 13, 1939, Weber passed away at the age of fifty-eight.