Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Philip Hubbard, Margaret McWade, Claire Windsor, Louis Calhern, Marie Walcamp
Written by: Marion Orth, Lois Weber
Directed by: Lois Weber
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80
Date: 09/04/1921
IMDB

The Blot (1921)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Silent Women

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Milestone Collection has released two new films, both driven by powerful women and including commentary tracks by women. Ironically, from their titles alone (The Blot and It) they both sound like horror films, but one is a delightful romantic comedy and the other is a well-crafted drama.

Though writer/director Lois Weber was one of the most successful filmmakers of the 1920s, her reputation faded quickly as the silent era came to an end, and today she's almost unknown. Fortunately, this superb movie helps restore her reputation. Weber believed in saying a little something extra with her pictures, and it took her until The Blot (1921) to learn how to do it subtly, without preaching. In the film, an underpaid professor lives with his wife and grown daughter (Claire Windsor) in wretched poverty, made worse by the success of the shoemaker and his family next door. A poor preacher falls in love with the daughter, as does a wealthy playboy, as does the son of the shoemaker. Weber paints all three men as compassionate, sympathetic characters, making them all worthy suitors and thereby building the suspense. She occasionally dips into melodramatic moments, such as the scene in which the professor's wife steals a chicken from next door, but she always smoothes them out before they become too lumpy. The movie wonders why professors should be paid less than ordinary laborers, and it's a problem that still stands today. (The title refers to the subsequent "blot" on society.) Yet it doesn't end with a simple solution or a happy ending, just a promise.

Shelley Stamp, a Weber scholar and an associate professor at the University of Santa Cruz, provides a dryish commentary track.

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