Lois Weber: Framed Memory

The Rosary
R: Loise Weber, Phillips Smalley. B: Loise Weber. D: Loise Weber, Phillips Smalley. P: Rex Motion Picture Company. USA 1913
Print: BFI

“An impressively experimental one-reeler, The Rosary demonstrates as ever how well director, writer and star Lois Weber was at integrating her Catholic proselytizing into art. Here, the film image is framed within a circular matte made of the titular rosary. It reminds me of the circular shape of magic lantern slides, the shows of which often included poetic or song-based narration–this film, too, being said to be based on a popular song and quite poetic in its flowing juxtaposition of fading images and only four lyrical title cards. (…) The semicentennial Civil War melodrama, of a love story torn by war and nunnery, isn’t of much interest, but the novel way it’s presented as a framed memory is appreciated. A lot of writing on Weber’s films is spent on the often-controversial content of their messages, but it’s also remarkable how conceptually and visually intriguing they could be.”
Cineanalyst (IMDb)

“There is, without doubt, a punitive, finger-wagging side to Weber, the child of a Pittsburgh-area missionary and a onetime street-corner evangelist for the Church Army Workers organization, but it is more than made up for by her robust visual imagination. Suspense (1913) innovates split-screen effects for a thriller that’s every bit the equal of contemporary work by D.W. Griffith, while The Rosary (1913) views a picturesque star-crossed Civil War romance through a matte circle, framed by a string of rosary beads. Weber’s moralizing is the driving force of her work and perhaps necessary to her continued pursuit of it – when motion pictures were still struggling for respectability, how much more might women’s pictures have needed to appear unimpeachably upright? Consistent in her films is a fiery, reformer’s spirit, a tender regard for the suffering of common people that feels as though rooted in a real acquaintance with straightened circumstances, and an attention to the attrition of work, particularly women’s labour.”
Nick Pinkerton: Celluloid Pioneers: Who Were the First Women Filmmakers?

Lois Weber on this website:

>>> Where Are My Children 
>>> The Price
>>> How Men Propose 
>>> Hypocrites
>>> Suspense