The Dumb Girl of Portici
dir. Lois Weber, US, 1916, DCP, 116 min.
One of the most important figures in early American cinema is a name few may recognize. Lois Weber was the first woman to direct a feature film in Hollywood; a pioneer and early political activist.
The Dumb Girl of Portici, (1916), featuring renowned ballet dancer Anna Pavlova in her only film role, is a silent masterpiece long overdue for recognition as one of Weber’s finest creations and a landmark in women’s cinema. The production was one of Universal’s most expensive to date and featured an enormous cast, many large-scale sets, and an ambitious story. It was the first blockbuster ever directed by a woman — and arguably the only epic shot by a woman in the 20th century.
Weber’s film are just now being rediscovered thanks in part to the efforts of Milestone Films, which has restored two of Weber’s early feature films, The Dumb Girl of Portici and Shoes.