Happy Birthday, Lois Weber – America’s 1st Female Filmmaker

Born on this day in 1879, Lois Weber was a child prodigy pianist and silent film pioneer – an actress, screenwriter, producer, and director (the 1st woman as such in the United States) of over 100 known films. As a progressive activist, Weber’s movies often contained her ideals of social justice, which included support for women’s rights and birth control, as well as opposition towards censorship and the death penalty.

Her films are also known for being technically and narratively advanced for the time, groundbreaking in their usage and advancement of existing film language. One such example is the pre-Hitchcockian Suspense, directed in 1913 by Weber, below with a piano score by the lovely and talented Robbie Kaye from Beauty and Wisdom.

That Weber has been largely forgotten with the passage of time is as much a tragedy as the final years in her own life. I hope this changes and she begins to receive a more recognized and deserving place in history.


Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – Filming a ‘Phonoscène’ in the Studio at Buttes-Chaumont, Paris (1905)

Footage of the world’s 1st female filmmaker in action, directing a film on set in Paris. This is one of the first behind-the-scenes movie documentaries.

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – 3 Tinted Dances

Guy continues her Spanish exploration with three hand-tinted films showing the tango, flamenco, and bolero dancing styles:

The Tango [Le Tango]

The Malaguena and the Bullfighter [La malagueña et le torero]

Saharet Performs the Bolero [Madame Saharet, boléro]

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – Spain [Espagne] (1905)

Historic time-capsule notable for numerous reasons:
1. The fascinating people and places captured on film over 100 years ago.
2. The impressive cinematography including a some nice camera movement.
3. Footage with Alice Guy Blaché in front of the camera instead of behind. 

The locations are as follows: 

MADRID – Puerta del Sol, The Prado, The Fountains of Cybele, Palacio Real
GRANADA – Sierra Nevada, The Alhambra
SEVILLE – Guadalquivir River
BARCELONA – Montserrat Monastery

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – Clown, Dog and Balloon [Clown, chien et ballon] (1905)

Cute one-trick doggie show. The backdrop is beautifully detailed, yet the illusion of depth is humorously broken by the balloon bouncing off the set.

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – The Magician’s Alms [La charité du prestidigitateur] (1905)

Excellent use of the Melies-style effects common for the time, and created in multiple outdoor settings instead of the controlled-environment stage typically used. Nice morality tale as well.

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – The Bricklayers [Les maçons] (1905)

Plenty of slapstick action, and with comedic police pre-dating the Keystone Cops by a decade. 

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – Faust and Mephistopheles [Faust et Méphistophélès] (1903)

The story of Faust, popularized in 1604 by Christopher Marlowe’s play, “Doctor Faustus”, reworked by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the 1800s, and then compressed here to 2 minutes. 

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – How Monsieur Takes His Bath [Comment monsieur prend son bain] (1903)

Guy once again pays her respects to Georges Méliès in this homage to (read: remake of) the cinemagician’s, Going To Bed Under Difficulties. The Guy version replaces the bed with a bath tub, thus the title of this fun short film.

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – Miss Dundee and Her Performing Dogs [Les chiens savants] (1902)

Adorable dog and handler performance video where the tricks become more impressive and entertaining as the show progresses. The finale is definitely worth the wait.