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Lois Weber (June 13, 1881 – November 13, 1939) was an American film actress, as well as a producer and director, being the first woman to direct a feature film, The Merchant of Venice. in 1914.
Weber was born in Allegheny, in present-day Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In her childhood she was apparently an excellent pianist. He left his home hoping to make a career as a singer in New York City. He had to live poorly and work preaching and singing hymns through the streets of that city and Pittsburg. In 1905 she joined the Gaumont Film Company as an actress, and in 1906 she married the director of Gaumont Phillips Smalley.
In 1908 she played a role in a film she had written, Hypocrites, which was directed by Herbert Blaché, husband of the famous filmmaker Alice Guy. Hypocrites was also the title of a 1915 film that Weber wrote, directed, produced and interpreted, and which touched on social issues and morality lessons considered very daring for the time. His films talked about issues such as abortion and birth control (Where Are My Children?), The death penalty (The People vs. John Doe), and alcoholism and drug addiction (Hop, the Devil’s Brew). All these titles, from 1916, given their controversial subject, were almost always a blockbuster.
In 1916 she became the highest paid director of Universal Studios, and in 1917 she formed her own production company, Lois Weber Productions. Lois Weber was the only woman with a guaranteed position at the Motion Picture Directors Association. Director John Ford worked as Weber’s assistant before directing his own productions. One of Weber’s most successful films in this period was The Blot (1921), with Claire Windsor and Louis Calhern, one of the five that Weber premiered with Paramount Pictures.
In the 1920s his luck began to change – he lost his company, he divorced Smalley in 1922, and he had a nervous breakdown. He married Harry Gantz in 1926, but they divorced in 1935. His last silent films were Sensation Seekers and The Angel of Broadway (both 1927). Weber’s last film was White Heat (1934), which was poorly received. From then on I would only find work as a supervising scriptwriter for Universal.
Lois Weber died ruined in 1939 in Hollywood, California, because of a gastric disease. He was 58 years old. He did not leave offspring.
For her contribution to the film industry, Lois Weber has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6518 Hollywood Boulevard.
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