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The Blot
The Blot
Actors: Philip Hubbard, Margaret McWade, Claire Windsor, Louis Calhern, Marie Walcamp
Director: Lois Weber
Genres: Classics, Drama
NR     2004     1hr 20min

The scholarly and underpaid Professor Griggs and his family live in genteel poverty in a small college town. To help out the family, beautiful young Amelia Griggs (Claire Windsor) works in the public library. Next-door to ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Philip Hubbard, Margaret McWade, Claire Windsor, Louis Calhern, Marie Walcamp
Director: Lois Weber
Creators: Gordon Jennings, Philip R. Du Bois, Lois Weber, David Gill, Kevin Brownlow, Marion Orth
Genres: Classics, Drama
Sub-Genres: Silent Films, Classics, Family Life
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 03/02/2004
Original Release Date: 09/04/1921
Theatrical Release Date: 09/04/1921
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 20min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Glimpse Into Weber's World
Polkadotty | Mountains of Western North Carolina | 07/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Lois Weber was a giant in early films, running her own studio and producing hundreds of films with Phillips Smalley, her husband and partner in the business. At one time she was the richest director in cinema, earning more than anyone else in the world ~ and by putting out the movies that she wanted to make, without too many nods to popular public opinion. Her films were not fluff pieces, but brave, intelligent works on weighty, important topics, which earned her great respect with peers and viewers. She created films on subjects that mattered to her, and to the world at large, and was unafraid to center her energies on what might be considered taboo, or not regularly discussed in polite society.

In this film Weber approaches the subject of the unfairly paid, disrespected academic/intellectual who serves the needs of the mind vs those who cater to the materialistic world and whims of the fickle consumer. Who is the more important, she challenges her audience, who performs the greater duty, the one more worthy ~ at the very least worth a living wage?

The intellectual/academics in this film are represented by a college professor who struggles to feed and clothe his family on a pittance salary, and an idealistic minister with a fine, inquiring mind. Crass consumerism arrives in the form of a lively immigrant family with a shoemaker father who makes fancy lady's slippers which cost dearly, more than the professor's family probably ever saw at one time. The two families are neighbours and conflicts arise from the start. The shoemaker's family are proud, they flaunt what they have, deeply wounding the sensitive professor's wife, played to perfection by Margaret McWade. McWade brilliantly embodies the utter despair of one well-raised who, at that point, hasn't enough to meet even the basic needs of her family. McWade's mannerisms and her expressive face beautifully tell the entire story ~ here is a woman who loves her family but has been slowly beaten down by life and is entirely distraught.

Enter into this her frail, lovely daughter (the exquisite Claire Windsor) who works at the library to supplement the meagre family income. Windsor attracts the attention of a rich college fellow (Louis Calhern), who finds himself intrigued. As Calhern gets to know Windsor and begins to understand her home situation, his devil-may-care heart is truly touched. Superficial attraction deepens into something greater, perhaps ultimately life-altering. The sincere minister is also in love with Windsor, with a true and heartbreaking sort of love that the viewer yearns to see reciprocated. To further complicate matters, the young son of the immigrant neighbours also loves Windsor, but never musters enough courage to make even the most preliminary of contacts; this is the proverbial love from afar ~ he adores and worships most touchingly. And therein lies the signature genius of Weber: she creates a complete and entire world of emotion within her films.

To briefly summarize the plot, the professor's daughter falls ill, setting a chain of events into motion that culminates in the professor's family enduring all sorts of trials, and the daughter facing a decision. Which of her suitors shall she choose? The rich Calhern with his fine prospects, or the minister with his fine mind? She's in love with one of them ~ but whom? And thus the memorable ending, one of the most unusual and indelible in all of film, which concludes with a haunting final scene that ~ as stated another reviewer ~ shall remain with you for a very long while.

A satisfactory film with a deep and complex message filmed on actual locations ~ I recommend 'The Blot' to those who wish for a look into a most talented, sadly forgotten director of early cinema. Lois Weber truly is a neglected genius.
Powerful window into a different world
Michael Gebert | Chicago, IL USA | 01/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Lois Weber gets a lot of attention these days as the preeminent American woman director of the silent era, much of which overlooks the fact that most of her films were made in collaboration with her husband Philips Smalley, and we don't really know who wore the jodhpurs in the family. The Blot, however, makes a strong case for having been directed by a woman or at least strongly shaped by the women who wrote it, because the most keenly felt thing in the picture by far is the quiet despair of the housewife trying to keep house with too few resources. At those moments, a simple message picture about why college professors should be paid more than subsistence wages (apparently mainly so they aren't quite so envious of the spoiled young bloods who take their classes) rises to a Stroheimian, even Zolaesque level of intensity in its depiction of the bitter effects of poverty on the spirit. A striking example of the socially-minded silent (which producer Kevin Brownlow documented in his landmark book Behind the Mask of Innocence), very different from the usual image of silent escapism or melodrama-not to mention proof that Louis Calhern really was young enough once to play an undergraduate."
"The Female D.W. Griffith"
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 05/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The story of Lois Weber is one of the saddest in all of early American cinema. One of two prominent women producer-directors to emerge during the silent era (the other Alice Guy Blache' has a very similar story), she was at one time considered to be the equal of D.W. Griffith and by 1916 was actually the highest paid director in the world. She had total control over her films tackling such inflammatory material as religious hypocrisy, drug addiction, birth control and abortion. Along with her husband Phillips Smalley she ran her own studio where THE BLOT was filmed. By 1921 when this film was released her career was in decline (this was her last independent production) and the studio system with its old world patriarchal attitude began to take hold creating the Hollywood of legend where most women could be stars but little else.

Very few of her films survive but this is one of the best (only the social comedy TOO WISE WIVES which anticipates Lubitsch is better in my opinion) as it shows how Weber approached filmmaking. THE BLOT's emphasis is on story and character as opposed to action or spectacle and features solid work from Claire Windsor and Louis Calhern as the young couple with a finely detailed performance from Margaret McWade as the mother. The film is well photographed with sophisticated editing for maximum impact. The bittersweet ending is well handled and stays with you long after the film is over.

By the end of the decade Weber had lost her studio, her husband, and the opportunity to direct. She died in 1939 at the age of 60 and within a few years was completely forgotten along with virtually all of her films. Only in the past few years has a proper reevaluation begun to take place with three of her films coming out on video. THE BLOT remains her best known feature and is given a first class DVD release thanks to the restoration efforts of Photoplay Productions and Milestone Films. It's the least that this pioneer woman director deserves. Give it a try along with anything else you can find by her and discover why Lois Weber was once known to her contemporaries as "the female D. W. Griffith" then ask yourself why you haven't heard of her."
Fine motion picture creatively designed to make people think
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 05/12/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Lois Weber directed and co-wrote this excellent film that sends the clear message that society doesn't always have its priorities straight. For Weber and her co-writer Marion Orth, the "blot" refers to the disparity between the haves and the have-nots and the ridiculous notion that a hardworking professor of higher education isn't worth a decent living wage while a shoemaker who churns out poorly made shoes for women enjoys a huge income and many luxuries as well. The plot moves along very nicely and I wasn't ever bored; the character development is very nicely done. The interior sets were sometimes not the best but other interior scenes (in the library, for instance) seemed much more natural. The casting was brilliant and the acting convincing although Margaret McWade as Mrs. Griggs could have toned it down; I think she overacted just a bit at times but this is a very minor quibble. In addition, the quality of the print is very good.

When the film starts, we quickly meet the main characters. Professor Griggs (Philip Hubbard) works tirelessly as he tries so hard to teach his students so they can enter the real world as educated people. Unfortunately, however, many of his students, including the son of the school's wealthiest trustee, Phil Wade (Louis Calhern), simply ignore Professor Griggs and mock him behind his back. The Professor's wife, Mrs. Griggs, is very upset about the impoverished conditions in which they live--and that's putting it mildly. Because the Griggs family needs money very badly, their daughter Amelia (played wonderfully by Claire Windsor), works at a public library in town.

In addition to the mocking and outright insults the professor gets from his students, the Griggs family must also deal with an immigrant family who lives very comfortably just next door. The father of this well-to-do family makes overpriced and poorly made ladies shoes; he takes home $100 a week which was a very good business profit for 1921! They enjoy flaunting their wealth as well; and this upsets the Griggs family, especially Mrs. Griggs. The immigrants have more food than they know what to do while the impoverished Griggs struggle without money for a single chicken when Amelia gets sick--and the fact that they can't make the payments on the house looms over them, too.

However, there's a truly bright spot in the story line. Amelia isn't exactly lacking for suitors. The minister has his eyes on her as does Phil West; and the eldest son of the rich family next door loves her from afar.

There's so much more to the story but I don't to give it all away. It's fascinating to watch how the plot unfolds when Amelia gets sick and everyone wants to help her, including Phil West and the minister. There's also the complication of just how Juanita Claredon (Marie Walcamp) fits into all this; Juanita has her mind set on snagging Phil West for herself. Juanita certainly doesn't want Amelia to catch Phil! In addition, what happens when Mrs. Griggs begins to weaken--she seriously considers stealing a chicken from the family next door to get the "nourishing food" the doctor ordered for Amelia when she falls sick. And who will Amelia pick as the man for her--the minister, Phil West, or the eldest son of the rich family next door? No spoilers here--watch and find out!

The Blot is a fine motion picture with a message that still has validity today. I highly recommend this film for fans of the actors in it; and people who enjoy meaningful, thoughtful silent films will want to add this to their collections."