Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo - CONFERENZE, Women and the Silent Screen Conference

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Exit Flapper, or Lois Weber’s Critique of Jazz Age Hollywood
Shelley Stamp

Last modified: 2010-05-12

Abstract


Like many women once powerful in early Hollywood, Lois Weber found herself, by the early 1920s, out of work and increasingly reliant on men like Carl Laemmle and Cecil B. DeMille who had consolidated power in the new studio-controlled economy.  Her output during these years has been typically overlooked and dismissed in previous histories.  Yet her two central films from this period, The Marriage Clause (1926) and The Angel of Broadway (1927), as well as her work on the film Glamour (1934), show Weber thinking quite self-consciously about changing Hollywood culture, particularly the role of women within an increasingly star-driven, glamour-intoxicated, monopoly-minded, business.  Weber was also quite outspoken about her opposition to Hollywood trends, announcing her interest in creating a feminine “screen type” to counter the flappers and vamps clouding Hollywood’s imagination.  Weber’s persona shifted too, away from that of a ground-breaking filmmaker committed to addressing social problems onscreen towards that of a “star-maker” invested only in making pretty young women famous.  Aware of the historical stakes, Weber took an active interest in crafting her role in film history, writing letters to the editors of LA newspapers and taking out ads in trade papers celebrating her early work in sound film over a decade before the phenomenon swept Hollywood.

Thus, rather than gloss over Weber’s late career as most historians do, this paper investigates what Weber’s latter years might tell us about the changing tenor of Hollywood in the 1920s, the roles fashioned for women in the new industry, and how pioneering figures like Weber began to imagine their place in history.


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