(Rex, USA, 1911)
dir.: Phillips Smalley, Lois Weber; script: Lois Weber
cast: Lois Weber (Twins Lucy Norton and Miss Golden), Phillips Smalley (Jack Golden), Joseph Engel (Richard Golden)
DCP, 15’; tinted; intertitles: EN, subtitles: PL; restored 2019; source: Eye Filmmuseum (Desmet Collection)
At the beginning of the 20th century, two identical twin sisters are separated in a New York orphanage: one infant is adopted by a widowed seamstress, the other goes to the wealthy Golden family of industrialists. As the years go by, the two girls grow up without knowing of the other one’s existence. Although they live in completely different worlds, they have the same strong sense of independence which brings them into conflict with the existing social order.
One of the oldest surviving films by Lois Weber, a pioneer of cinema and the first and most important female director of the American silent film era whose filmography includes over 60 feature films as well as countless shorts. This film was made in New York’s Rex studio, where she and her husband, Phillips Smalley, worked for three years as actors (she began her career in the theatre) and directors. Weber also wrote the scripts, edited the material and prepared the intertitles – at the rate of one film a week.
This short story about a pair of twins allows us to fully appreciate Weber’s versatility as she plays the double role and successfully leads the film’s narrative. The story, which highlights the problem of economic inequality, is a foretaste of the later work of the director, who – also because of her religious upbringing and youthful evangelism in the workers’ districts of Philadelphia and New York – treats film as a tool of social change, a dialogue about key problems and the breaking of taboos. Poverty, birth control, racism, abortion, capital punishment, female exploitation and child labour – all these themes would appear in her subsequent films and make Lois Weber not only one of the most famous and highest-paid directors, but also one of the bravest and most controversial, especially from the perspective of the censors. She would symbolically present her attitude in her famous film The Hypocrites (1915) through the character – literally – of The Naked Truth. (KW)
The basis of the restoration work was an incomplete 35 mm tinted negative. The film was considered lost until it was recently discovered as part of the Desmet Collection in the Eye Filmmuseum. Its identification was made more complicated by the missing opening metres of celluloid, including the main title and the credits.
introduction to the movie: Iga Harasimowicz
section: FOUR SIDES OF THE WORLD
music by: Pola Atmańska
WEDNESDAY | October 27
21:00 | screening room: MAŁA CZARNA
presented with: Shoes