Weber ImageLois Weber began her film career as an actress, often starring alongside her husband, Phillips Smalley. By 1913, Weber was directing films, and by 1916, working at Universal, she was one of the highest-paid directors in the world. In 1917, Weber formed her own production company, and her career flourished until the early 1920s.

Although she made a wide range of films between 1913 and 1926, Weber is perhaps best known as the director of social dramas with moral themes. These films dealt with such serious and controversial issues such as birth control and abortion ("Where are My Children" - 1916), capital punishment ("The People vs. John Doe" - 1916), and generational conflict ("Discontent" - 1916). Her best known feature-length film, The Blot (1921), dealt with the economic challenges facing a young couple surviving in a society that offers great potential for capitalistic skills but meager rewards for intellectual and moral efforts.

Weber's films are rarely seen by contemporary audiences. Few of her casts featured stars whose names are well-known today, and the dramatic genre in which she often worked has not aged gracfully as acting and narrative styles evolved. Weber's films are usually revived in the context of her role as one of the American cinema's first female pioneers. In this regard, Weber is an ideal filmmaker for study. Her films dealt with real-world issues, and she often concentrated on her female characters' identities and points of view. In understanding the relationship between cinema nad the culture in which it was developing, the films of Lois Weber are an invaluable resource.

An image of Lois Weber as Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" (1914). Phillips Smalley, as Shylock, is at left. Rupert Julian (later the director of 1925's The Phantom of the Opera), is at right.

Born June 13, 1881, PA; Died November 13, 1939, Hollywood, CA.

Lois Weber Filmography.

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Copyright 1996 E.H. Larson.