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"Part of resilience is finding joy, finding beauty, finding love."

— George Takei, Actor, Author, Director, Activist

"Part of resilience is finding joy, finding beauty, finding love."

— George Takei, Actor, Author, Director, Activist

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ONLINE—UNLADYLIKE2020: Lois Weber—The First Woman to Direct Feature Length Film

April 28, 2020April 29, 2020


Lois Weber, the first woman to direct a feature-length film. Original artwork by Amelie Chabannes. Releasing weekly on the American Masters and UNLADYLIKE2020 websites starting in March, Unladylike2020 is a multimedia series consisting of a one-hour special for broadcast and 26 digital short films featuring courageous, little-known and diverse female trailblazers from the turn of the 20th century. These women achieved many firsts, including earning an international pilot’s license, becoming a bank president, founding a hospital, fighting for the desegregation of public spaces, exploring the Arctic, opening a film studio, and singing opera at Carnegie Hall. Presenting history in a bold new way, American Masters — Unladylike2020, produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, brings these incredible stories back to life through original artwork and animation, rare historical archival footage, and interviews with descendants, historians and accomplished modern women who reflect upon the influence of these pioneers. On April 29, watch the story of Lois Weber (1879–1939), born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, who began her career in entertainment touring the US as a signer and concert pianist. In 1908, she was hired by American Gaumont, where she first acted in, and later directed early films at a studio in Flushing, New York. Weber wrote scripts and subtitles, designed sets and costumes, edited films, and developed negatives. In collaboration with her first husband, actor Phillips Smalley, Weber was one of the first film directors to experiment with sound and was the first American woman to direct a full-length feature film, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE in 1913. In 1917, she became one of the first women to own her own film studio, and the only female member of the Motion Pictures Directors Association. Infused with the conviction that film could change culture, she directed over 135 films about controversial subject matters such as capital punishment, police violence, birth control, and poverty. Interviewee: biographer Shelley Stamp, Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California-Santa Cruz and author of Lois Weber in Early Hollywood. Additional interview to be confirmed with a modern-day actor-turned-director. A vast interactive website features the stories of over 100 diverse and extraordinary women from the turn of the 20th century who broke barriers and achieved tremendous professional heights. Read on for more about this project, and PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers here. UNLADYLIKE 2020 is supported by California Humanities through a California Documentary Project grant.


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