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The Blot (1921) Online

The Blot (1921) Online
Original Title :
The Blot
Genre :
Movie / Drama
Year :
Directror :
Lois Weber
Cast :
Philip Hubbard,Margaret McWade,Claire Windsor
Writer :
Marion Orth,Lois Weber
Type :
Time :
1h 31min
Rating :
The Blot (1921) Online

The Professor dispenses the wisdom of the ages and does not make a living wage. The sons of the rich and powerful are students lacking any motivation. The next door neighbor of the Professor, businessman Olsen, has money and lots of food, while the Griggs have hardly any. Both Peter Olsen and Reverend Gates are taken by the beauty of young Amelia Griggs. When rich son Phil West falls for Amelia Griggs and befriends the poor Reverend Gates, he finally sees the difference in his life and theirs and tries to do something to change that.
Complete credited cast:
Philip Hubbard Philip Hubbard - Andrew Theodore Griggs
Margaret McWade Margaret McWade - Mrs. Theodore Griggs
Claire Windsor Claire Windsor - Amelia Griggs
Louis Calhern Louis Calhern - Phil West
Marie Walcamp Marie Walcamp - Juanita Claredon

College scenes were filmed at the University of California, Los Angeles, which was located at the time on Vermont Avenue in Hollywood, and later relocated to Westwood. The site on Vermont is now (2011) occupied by Los Angeles City College. None of the original buildings which appeared in this film have survived.

This was the first film shown at the Ambassador Theater in West Philadelphia, PA. It had a three-day run.

In a promotional tie-in to the film, the Parker Pen Company, which produced the "Lucky Curve Pen" and advertised it as a pen that would not leak or blot, gave away the pens to the top twelve winners of an essay contest, entitled "What is the greatest blot on our American life of today?"

When the film played in Kansas City, it was given a special showing to 1200 public school teachers.

User reviews



The Blot (1921)

Domestic interactions, women as real women

The first thing about of every writer's mouth about any Lois Weber film is that it is directed by a woman. A silent film. 1921. And it's true.

But taken straight, The Blot, is a sweet, well constructed domestic drama with surprisingly good acting and a faster pace of editing than even some classics from roughly the same time such as Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919). The general plot is curious, clever, and complicated enough I got a little lost for awhile. And the middle of the film, once the situation is "set up" for us, develops slowly, even as it cuts between scenes rapidly. The final resolution is not quite clear until it happens, and the final shot is abrupt and poignant to the point of being brilliant and inspired.

There are countless (literally) silent movies of this general type from this period--that is, all kinds of stories that the hungry movie audience of the 1920s at up. And this one is not exceptional from a formal point of view (for example, it has no moving camera, depending on fast cutting and snappy acting for its pace). What makes it interesting (regardless of Weber's gender for now) is the realism of many of the small scenes--the joking at the beginning, the professor's daughter's ease with the camera. There are silent film stiffnesses (for lack of a better word), like the professor in front of the class (no wonder the students are bored) and the professor's wife, who unfortunately has a large role in her unconvincing sorrows. But there are shining moments, including the lead student, who I thought was rather brilliant and only later learned was one of my favorite less known silent actors, Louis Calhern. He makes it worth it alone.

We should ask, is there a woman's touch here? Does Weber give us a view of her female characters that is any different (or better) than what other (male) directors give us? Maybe yes! I'm no scholar for this period at all, and someone would have to dig up not only von Stroheim and other famous directors, but all the routine filmmakers that form the backdrop for the audience of the time (an audience rapt by spectacles, crime flicks, period pieces, comedies and stars themselves, no matter what the genre, like Rudolph Valentino). What strikes me here is the purely normal, domestic basis of most of the scenes--even a cat and its kittens form a second family as a lovable metaphor

The secondary and more interesting conflict is between two middle class families (one clearly with more money than the other), and the women that are in charge of the day to day life of those families. It makes homemaking (cooking, mostly) important. Women are shown to be smart, complicated (within the limits of the plot), and non-objectified. This last is probably where many feminist critics would begin, and it's worth stressing. Even if the heroine in a Griffith film, or a von Sternberg for that matter (they are hardly comparable in the same sentence) is believable and admirable, it is often from a male point of view. They are interesting as the objective (and object) for some man. This is even true for Chaplin, who treats his women with a whole different kind of reverence. But Weber is just a hair different, or at least we can think about it this way. If the professor's daughter is the young "heroine" or female lead, she is no siren, and she does not just conform to some model of mystery, coy sweetness, or plain old beauty. Not completely.

I think I stretch a point--but it's worth looking at. Beyond that, the main conflict, if you can call it that, the one that leads to the romance, is the reason for the title. The "blot" is the shame on a society that doesn't pay its professors (and pastors) the money they deserve. An odd theme (but a good one from my point of view--guess what I do for a living), and one that really just serves as an excuse for the rest of the entertainment. But it has social significance of its own, especially at the beginning of a greedy and capitalist "roaring" decade that The Blot helps kick off.

Check it out. You might be surprised. It's no Sunrise or Greed for sure, but it has its own inner fire.


This is a film that really must be seen in the proper context. When seen today, the messages in the film might at times seem highly moralistic and preachy, though for its day this film was exceptional and still has much to admire--particularly when you realize that the film was directed, produced and co-written by a lady--no small feat for 1921!

The movie is about a professor and his family--and in particular his lovely daughter. They are dirt poor, as is the family friend, the preacher. They are all good folk but since life usually isn't fair, they barely manage to scrape by--mostly because teachers and preachers are often among the worst paid professions. In contrast, they have neighbors and students who are quite well off but also are shallow. All this reminds me of Mark Twain's hilarious short stories--"The Story of the Good Boy" and "The Story of the Bad Boy"--where he lampoons popular stories of the late 19th and early 20th century that advocated the importance of honesty and in the end, righteousness is always rewarded and evil is always punished. That's because this message is hit home in THE BLOT with a sledgehammer just like these stories kids were forced to read in school--and there isn't much subtlety at all about the object lessons. Too bad they usually weren't true!

However, although lacking subtlety, the film is exceptional in many ways. First, the camera-work is lovely--with a real nice artistic look and feel to it. It sure helped that the accompanying modern sound track was so good and the quality of the print near-perfect. Second, although the story did seem very moralistic, as the film progressed, the characters actually became much more three-dimensional and believable and less like these caricatures. The seemingly bad people had an opportunity to grow and evolve and the good folks weren't always so gosh-darn perfect. In particular, I loved how Louis Calhern's character changed so much for the better--and it wasn't because God punished him or because he "got his comeuppance"--it was because he genuinely grew as a man. He was clearly the standout character in the film, even though the film mainly focused on the girl whose heart he wanted.

For an older silent film, this movie is awfully long--at almost an hour and a half. Many features of the day were quite a bit shorter. Much of this is probably because THE BLOT takes such a leisurely pace. At first, I didn't care for this though as the film progressed I really appreciated it--as it gave the film much more depth and pulled you into the story. It's really a lovely film and one that seems so much better than its current 6.4 score would indicate. Plus, while I would agree with all the negative reviews that the film is highly moralistic, I would also argue that the context for this is understandable AND that the film isn't quite so "black and white"--as many of the supposedly "bad" people turn out to be quite decent--showing that the film actually has some depth.


Blot, The (1921)

*** (out of 4)

There's no question that THE BLOT is a message picture and while it does go overboard at time the thing's heart is in the right place and there's no question that much of it is very touching. The film centers around a poor Professor (Philip Hubbard) and his beautiful daughter Amelia (Claire Windsor) who is wanted by a rich man, Phil (Louis Calhern) who just happens to be her father's student. The family are struggling with very severe poverty, which soon begins to weigh on Phil who wonders why some eat and throw away so much while others are near death because of the lack of nutrition. Director Weber has pretty much been forgotten today but at one point she was a very key figure in the early days of cinema with such films as HYPOCRITES and of course this one. I think a lot of people might roll their eyes to the heavy preaching but at the same time there's quite a bit of good in this film and you really can't blame it too much since its heart is in the right place. I'm really not sure how well this movie went over in 1921 but it's clear that it was a cry or at least plea that those who have plenty should share with those less fortunate. I guess that message rings just as true today considering what's going on in this country as it did in 1921 but you can't help but be impressed with the way the story plays itself out. There's quite a bit going on in this picture with various characters having a connection to this poor family and either wanting to help them or hurt them. This includes a neighbor who doesn't care how poor they are and she gets her chance for revenge when the poor mother finally cracks and steals a chicken from her. The story of the rich student who falls in love with the poor girl is handled perfectly and the way he wants to help but can't simply because the poor family are so proud is handled extremely well too. The performances are a major plus with Windsor doing a very good job as the daughter and Calhern is equally as good. The two of them create a nice spark together and Hubbard is one you can't help but care for. Again, there are some moments that are just way too over the top including the daughter's reaction to the mother stealing the chicken because this reaction is so out there that you'd think she saw her mom shoot some handicapped children. Another problem is the final ten-minutes and how the story plays out. I won't ruin what happens but it just doesn't work. THE BLOT seems to have been forgotten but that's a real shame because there's enough here to make it worth viewing and like many other Weber films it's worthy of being rediscovered.


I tuned into "The Blot" mostly to see what Louis Calhern was like in his younger days. But what I found was an engaging, multi-faceted story.

Like a Robert Altman film, "The Blot" tells its tale with a host of interesting characters who interact at various points. The characters are fleshed-out, not just stereotypes.

Without giving away the plot, let me just say that I loved the use of shoes (and even shoe-polishing) to point out class differences. And the scene with the chicken dinner is poignant on many levels.

Highly recommended!


Lois Weber was one of the few women directing films in the early part of the 20th century, and she tended to focus on socially conscious themes of her time. This film has to do with how society rewards educators versus other better-paid professions, even though those well-paid professionals needed the services of the educator to learn their trade in the first place. In this particular film the contrast is between a professor's family that is living on the professor's near-poverty wage and their prosperous next-door neighbors, the family of a shoe-maker. Made in 1920, it is a more realistic look at "genteel poverty" than you were likely to get at the movies at that time. In 1920 the poor were mainly shown as agrarian folk living in "Tobacco Road" style poverty or those living in crime-ridden tenements. This shows that the poor can live in middle class areas with the veneer of a middle-class lifestyle but just be lacking in funds to finance anything that comes at them that is out of the ordinary.

The film focuses on the professor's daughter and her two suitors. One is an equally poverty-stricken preacher, the other played by a 26 year old Louis Calhern, is a wealthy student of the professor's. The professor's daughter becomes ill, and the doctor says that what she needs is "nourishing food". Her mother decides to do what she has never done before, go into debt. However, the grocer demands cash upfront for all purchases. The desperate mother returns home and notices that the next-door neighbor has a very tempting chicken cooling in the kitchen window. What she does next, the daughter's reaction, and the kindly gestures of Calhern's character lead up to a well-played yet predictable ending.

This film reveals several interesting points about life that was true until the 1960's. One fact is that one of the most expensive commodities in life until that time was food. That is why the professor's family is less worried about calling a doctor for the daughter than they are about how they are going to afford the balanced diet their daughter requires for recovery. Another expensive commodity was furniture, as is pointed out by the professor's worn home furnishings. Today cheap and attractive furniture abounds, and it might leave some scratching their heads when they see families terrified of someone coming and taking their furniture for payment of a debt. Nobody would do that today since used furniture is practically worthless.

This film is worthwhile viewing, and one of its best points is that it doesn't paint anyone in the film as either completely good or bad. The qualities and weaknesses of all of the players are shown realistically, and overall I recommend this film.


Like most of the other reviewers, I found "The Blot" disappointingly slow and preachy, with some flaws in its dramatic structure. However, the film does have value as a study of 1920's social conflicts that people nowadays may not realize even existed. For example, the heroine's mother looks down upon her wealthier next-door neighbors because their money comes from selling shoes (while at the same time she steals from their garbage can to feed the pet cat she can't otherwise afford). How many people today think there is anything "low" about selling shoes? When a group of teenagers boisterously starts an impromptu jazz-piano-and-dance session in a living room, the message is that these kids are vulgar and out of control. But many parents in 2007 would get down on their knees in gratitude if their teenagers engaged in such innocent pastimes. If it wasn't for filmmakers like Lois Weber, such changes in popular opinion would go by unnoticed. In addition, the film does succeed in portraying some of the small heartbreaks of "genteel poverty" and neighborhood rivalry with genuine feeling. And aren't voters everywhere still arguing about whether teachers are fairly compensated for their work?

Wikipedia claims that "The Blot" is unusual for the time in its use of natural light and real locations.

According to film historians, Lois Weber was considered one of the best and most important directors in her day. The fact that modern viewers have trouble relating to the way she tells her stories is in itself evidence that times have changed in ways we might not yet understand. Just one of the many arguments for film preservation.


While watching "The Blot" I found myself pleasantly surprised by so many things about it. Unlike many who have reviewed this film I did not find it the least bit slow. In fact I was very surprised by all the many fast camera cuts and jumping between scenes, that were used and I was very surprised at how well they seemed to make up for the lack of moving cameras that they had at the time. In light of that and many other things, it was quite obvious to me that Lois Weber was extremely talented and ahead of her time. What I enjoyed most about this film was Lois Weber's skill in framing and shooting scenes. The extreme contrast and grainy contrast throughout the film made it seem that nearly every other shot, if put on pause, would make a beautiful, old-fashioned photograph that you might find framed and hung on the wall.

"The Blot", heavy with social issues and purpose that applies to its time, is a very enjoyable and lovely silent film. It does not surprise me that Weber was the highest paid director of her time.


Do not watch this film if you are expecting the same type of story telling that you would get from the same point of view as now. This film definitely shows how the films of today compare story wise but also with camera composition.

Although Weber stated that this movie was about underage teachers and professors of her time, it also focuses on various other key social criticisms that she had. One of these was the difference between the new money and old money. In many of the scenes that are shot back to back, there are comparisons between the idle wealthy that had been born into their money and those that had recently earned their wealth. Weber does well to depict both of these scenarios as in the wrong because there were still people close to them that were suffering from poverty.


When Turner Classic Movies presented "The Blot" recently, I recorded it just in case. Despite my long-time interest in silent film, I had never heard of this one, and knew nothing about it.

It is a film that works on several levels, and works well.

Lois Weber, author and director, deserves much more recognition than she now gets. Her directorial talent just shines.

The writing is not so glowing: The "message" of the film is not at all subtle, plus it is now badly out of date. College professors, and especially university professors, get paid pretty well.

Ministers, on the other hand, are still often underpaid, unless they have become "televangelists" or the equivalent, and then they are often overpaid -- although that is, of course, very subjective.

Still, the best part of this film, other than the look at a slice of the world circa 1921, is that nearly every one of the characters is -- and please pardon the wimpy word -- nice.

Nearly every single person is one we can care about, can actually like.

Other than Louis Calhern, who really stood out, none of the actors is known today, except perhaps to other silent movie scholars, but each of them performed well to exceptionally well.

The TCM version had an excellent score by Jim Parker, about whom I know nothing else, but his score had to change pace constantly, as the scene shifted from happy to sad and back.

Mr. Parker has a good grasp of mood, and a good working knowledge of appropriate jazz. I hope we'll be hearing a lot more from him.

I strongly recommend this film.


For an intellectual analysis, see Jennifer Parchesky's article "Lois Weber's The Blot: Rewriting Melodrama, Reproducing the Middle Class" in Cinema Journal 39.1 (1999) 23-53 [University of Texas Press].

Through an examination of social conditions during the 1920s, Parchesky defines the ethos, pathos & logos that Lois Weber most likely deduced in the writing and directing the film, the Blot.
Deodorant for your language

Deodorant for your language

Pretty librarian Claire Windsor (as Amelia Griggs) begins to attract eligible men; they include the boy next door, their community's poor young minister, and wealthy student Louis Calhern (as Phil West). Since Ms. Windsor's parents are poverty-stricken, mother Margaret McWade (acting up a storm) would like her to marry Mr. Calhern. He is a student of Windsor's poorly-paid professor father Philip Hubbard. When Windsor becomes ill, the doctor orders Ms. McWade to provide her daughter with nourishing food - but the family doesn't even have enough money to make house payments, or feed itself and the family cats. Learning how the other half lives, Windsor's suitors come to her rescue - and teach viewers about humanity...

"Men are only boys grown tall," is our introduction. Guessing writer/director Lois Weber was trumpeting a call for charitable fairness, and higher pay for clergy and college professors; this is accomplished by the end of the narrative, as society's "boys" seem to have a better recognition of their responsibility. Within its narrative, "The Blot" hearkens an uneven distribution of income. Presently, much ado is made of Ms. Weber's gender. All sorts of readings are possible, most unsatisfying...

My enjoyment of the film is in its depiction of class - specifically the conflicts between "old money" (the extravagant West family), "new money" (the neighboring Olsen family), and "no money" (the lowly Griggs family). The real "class warfare" is between the lower classes, of course. Like today, the poor don't really resent the upper class, who live a lifestyle they do not even fully understand; those of middle and lower classes more often resent and envy each other, which is exactly what many (not all) of the super-rich want. Weber may not make her point, but she makes another one. The symbolism, much involving shoes, is strong. The setting is superb; it isn't more than you can see elsewhere, but it is conveyed exceptionally here.

******* The Blot (8/19/21) Lois Weber ~ Claire Windsor, Louis Calhern, Margaret McWade, Philip Hubbard


THE BLOT is a surprisingly well made film for being so little known. Well shot, with fine composition and lighting, it features an excellent cast; and it is interesting to see a YOUNG Louis Calhern. The ending is undecided, and may reflect the director's being a woman. The professor's daughter has two sutors, one rich, the other poor, and both are equally suitable. The final shot shows her saying farewell to both, and sitting quietly on her front porch. Her choice and her fate are both unresolved, and we are left (seemingly) to make the choice ourselves.
Longitude Temporary

Longitude Temporary

Lois Weber's silent The Blot remains a thrilling landmark of cinema, shimmering with empathy and immersed observation. The blot in question is that on a society which chronically underpays its teachers, in this case a kindly aging professor who seems to have no agenda beyond the transmission of knowledge. Meanwhile, his wife and daughter strain to keep up appearances and health and to make ends meet, the wife reduced to raiding the neighbours' garbage to feed her cat. Those neighbours, in contrast, are depicted in rolling in money from high-end shoemaking ($100 a week, we're told!), although their affluence pales in comparison to the true moneyed set. The narrative is driven by the professor's daughter, pursued by the neighbours' son, by a rich heir, and by an equally impoverished young minister, although the pursuit ultimately becomes as much collaboration as competition. The film explores the fine line between materialistic desire (even the minister covets rare books beyond his means) and genuine need; like much silent cinema, it's most riveting when placing us within structures of identification and emotion, for example as we repeatedly observe the wife's anguish and shame, and it has a consistent generosity of spirit, nudging us to favourably revise our impressions of several secondary characters. In the end, of course, things get somewhat better for the family, but one object of desire can't be divided into three, and Weber closes on a final look back at the house, by one of the unsuccessful suitors (and the way this plays out suggests that while different classes can at least relatively come together, some societal advantages will remain absolute). The film may not carry the cinematic innovation or intensity of the greatest silent masters, but it feels intimate and true and committed, still capable of moving viewers (this one anyway) to the verge of tears.


This is a particularly well-made drama about a college professor and his family who live in poverty. Their daughter is beautiful and attracts a particularly obnoxious rich young man. Without going into too many details, this is a moral tale where people are forced to live squalid lives through no choice of their own. It is also a story of reclamation of the soul. It is so easy to judge those who have so little. This is well acted and believable. It's also a story seen from a women's perspective.


A statistic that may be of interest. I have a database of silent films that contains about 2000 directors of all nationalities. It simply contains films I have personally watched and have copies of but is probably reasonably representative. Male directors are certainly far the majority but the list includes over eighty women directors (over forty for the US). Many it is true directed only one or two films but even so women directors were not as thin on the ground at this period as many people suppose and may well not have been any more thin on the ground than they are today.

Although the US heads the list numerically, this is only because the 2000 includes far more US directors than there are for other countries because of the relatively high availability of US films. The actual proportion of women directors was much higher (as one might expect) in a more egalitarian post-Revolutionary Russia....

As for scriptwriters women are, as one would expect, better represented but still hugely under-represented. Out of again 2000 or so in all, 237 are women (about 170 for the US).


I found this an enjoyable film and was surprised to find it was filmed in Boyle Heights--in the early 1920s a very fashionable neighborhood; some of the houses are still there.

At one point in the film an article in Literary Digest for April 30, 1921, "Impoverished College Teaching," is shown. I put this information on Google and found that all of the articles in Literary Digest have been digitized, and I had no trouble downloading and printing this one. I must disagree with the reviewer who said that university professors are paid pretty well today. Maybe some are at the university level, but community college professors, especially adjuncts, are notoriously underpaid--the article has relevance on this issue almost a century later.

I only knew of Louis Calhern from his later films such as The Asphalt Jungle and Athena, so it was interesting to see him early in his career.

It was also interesting that the women in this film have clothing rather different from Weber's film of the same year, Too Wise Wives, where they are very overdressed. Of course, the styles would drastically change when the Flappers showed up a few years later.


Formerly a missionary, Lois Weber made films to lecture the public on social and moral problems within the entertainment of stories and cinematic effects. In at least two of her films that I've seen, "Hypocrites" and "Too Wise Wives", I think she did artful things with the wrapping outside of the presentation of the moral and societal messages, and, overall, Weber was a competent filmmaker. She cared about the craft of her medium—the art and the entertainment that ensured her an audience for her lectures. The good parts of "The Blot" are because of that. The lecture, however, is bland and, upon closer inspection, troublingly classist.

The blot is that professors and preachers, middle-class lecturers much like Weber herself, are underpaid. Most of the characters' genteel poverty is that they can't easily afford luxuries, which is depicted in the film through the courting of the professor's daughter. Her mother neglects to buy the sick daughter nourishing food and is behind on paying for their home, while she instead purchases tea to encourage the romantic interests of Phil West, the rich suitor, and begrudgingly serves tea to the minister, the poor suitor, out of some sense of appropriateness. As Richard Koszarski said ("The Years Have Not Been Kind to Lois Weber", Village Voice), "poverty is dramatized in 'The Blot' by a family's inability to set a proper tea for prospective suitors." Additionally, the minister can't afford shoe polish or nice-looking shoes, which undermine his chances with the daughter.

As Jennifer Parchesky ("Lois Weber's The Blot: Rewriting Melodrama, Reproducing the Middle Class", Cinema Journal) said, "The Blot" advocates the ordering and entitlement of classes, which the proper pay of lecturers is part of. Parchesky says the film depicts "the anxiety about the deterioration of the 'collar line' that had formerly distinguished white-collar workers from blue-collar laborers". She adds, "The distinction between 'hand work' and 'brain work', not income, was the prime definer of the collar line in the early 1920s." Thus, common laborers, represented here by the immigrant shoemaker and his family, the Olsens, are depicted as antagonists to middle-class entitlement. The implication is that the Olsens don't deserve the riches they flaunt, and they don't even have good taste (e.g. poor-fitting shoes, the archaic joke about the model-T Ford). Furthermore, Peter Olsen, another addition to the love triangle, is relegated to admiring the professor's daughter from afar.

Meanwhile, the very rich, represented mostly by their offspring students, Phil West and his set, are envisioned in a rather noblesse oblige fashion. Their considerably greater wealth isn't challenged or, as with the common laborers, compared to the pay of lecturers, and they have good taste, even if they're sometimes extravagant. Presumably, the Griggs family finds the solution to their problems through the generosity of Phil West and his father, as well as the prospective marriage of Phil and Amelia. Furthermore, although it seems almost feckless to mention in regards to a film from 1921, women are gendered as housewives, and the film comes close to being offensively xenophobic with the antagonizing of the success of the immigrant family. The class distinctions made in "The Blot" and its other possible bigotry would be easier to overlook if not for Weber's further espousals on such issues in prior photoplays, such as the pro-eugenics "Where Are My Children?". In these films, Weber exposed her underlying bigotry in defending the position in society of well-bred Caucasians, whether it was the fear of race-suicide or the loss of class distinctions.

Other problems that beset "The Blot" are its melodramatic conventions. Its love triangle excessively becomes a love pentagon: Phil West, Peter Olsen and the minister all love Amelia, and Juanita loves Phil. The character of Juanita seems especially unnecessary and underwritten. For example, no motivation is given for why she tails Phil West to the library. On a technical note, that scene also contains a particularly bad continuity error: where we see a shot of Juanita looking sad and jealous before the romantic leads exit the library.

Characters are constantly watching other characters—admiring them, envying them, or discovering their shame. Much of "The Blot" is a drama of keeping up with the Joneses. The film's opening title card makes the joke, "Men are only boys grown tall," which doesn't seem to have any relevance with the rest of the photoplay. On the contrary, the two housewives are the most petty, covetous and pathetically immature characters, and they and Phil West are the only ones to undergo significant change. A lecture against superficiality and materialism would've seemed more appropriate.

Technically, some of the best shots in "The Blot" are of the characters' material possessions, such as shoes, which focus attention on the characters' anxiety over their shabby footwear, or contrast the wealth of characters through matching cuts of their shoes. Additionally, Weber was good at selecting real locations and houses, decorating them and photographing them for her films.

Yet, the real purpose of the film remains its lecture. This is made most obvious in the film's most awkward sequence: where Phil shows articles describing, in banal generalities, the blot of lecturers' low pay, to his father. (By the way, this scene also contains a continuity error, as the two characters switch sides between shots at one point.) The sequence, however, delivers the message of the film, hopefully, to even those viewers who didn't get it through the main story. It's when the lecture is under the least cover of entertainment, as blunt as possible, a lecture inside a lecture. I wouldn't be so disappointed with the message, either, if there were more of a subtle underlying artistry to "The Blot", as there was with Weber's "Hypocrites" and "Too Wise Wives", or even "Where Are My Children?". Even beyond the classist bigotry of it, a lecture on the vitality of lecturers is inherently self-serving. Moreover, it's just too dry and unenlightening for me not to sympathize with those bored students in Professor Griggs's classroom.


After all the hype I had read about this film I was expecting a whole lot more, but truthfully it was a dud. I was so bored I actually fell asleep during segments and barely made it to the end without looking like Rip Van Winkle. There is no chemistry between the actors, the plot is dry as toast, and we are supposed to be impressed just because a woman directed this tripe? Sorry, count me out.

Don't waste your time. If you want to watch a compelling film about small town life in America watch Way Down East with Lillian Gish or Hail The Woman with Florence Vidor. Both those films have a spiritual aspect to them that increase their poignancy. "The Blot" was just a Blob.


The title of 'The Blot' suggests a comedy, and until the half way mark the film itself resembles a gentle romantic comedy attractively shot on location in 1920s surburbia. But the mood darkens as the genteel poverty weighing down on the Professor's Wife (Margaret McWade) eventually breaks her spirit; and with the help of a few liberally sprinkled misunderstandings things get more and more fraught, until the meaning of the film's title is eventually sprung upon us. And once again a silent film concerns itself with a social ill nearly a hundred years ago that today remains still very much a part of 21st Century reality.

Over thirty years later James Mason in 'Bigger Than Life' was playing a high school teacher forced to moonlight as a taxi driver in order to make ends meet. In many ways things seem to have got even worse in the sixty years that have passed since then; since although behind on the rent, the impecunious family in 'The Blot' somehow live in a house just as big as their prosperous neighbours, and which looks palatial compared with the rabbit hutches so many people in the wealthier countries live in today.


An advertisement taken out by Lois Weber to advertise both "The Blot" and "What Do Men Want" in which she stipulates she did not "work under orders" shows the formidableness of this great director and also showed she knew exactly what she wanted as "The Blot" became her masterpiece. Very reminiscent of the movies of William C. DeMille who focused on ordinary people and the quietness and intimacy of their lives, Weber chose, in this movie about genteel poverty, to film in real houses, using non actors in supporting roles and also extreme closeups. Reading an article entitled "Impoverished College Teaching" and "Boycotting the Ministry" Weber and scenarist Marion Orth constructed a screenplay called "The Blot" to highlight the hidden problem of the impoverishment of teachers and the clergy.

As the Griggs are grinding along, watching every cent, their neighbours, the Olsens are bringing in $100 a week due to their flourishing shoe business. Weber made women the focal point but by making the Olsen women insensitive and unfeeling she is condemning the materialism that she saw in consumerist migrant classes. Louis Calhern is Phil, one of Professor Griggs most disrespectful students - he is smitten with Amelia Griggs (very nicely played by Claire Windsor, a Weber discovery) who is the local librarian. Through her and her family he meets a young clergyman who is also struggling with the minimum wage. They become friends through a love of art and suddenly Phil realises how much more they have to offer him than the shallow friends he hangs around with.

Like most of the other reviewers I just loved it and it would have taken a brave director to address the hidden problem of suburban poverty in the years of "Babbitt" publication and when wealth, materialism and commercialism equated with acceptance and "you've made it"!! Over 90 years on and being a teacher is still under valued!! A Weber regular, Marie Walcamp, played "Juanita", Phil's "other girl" - a society deb who at first jealously follows Phil around but by doing that gets to observe Amelia and realises she is the real thing, whose influence has matured Phil's thinking!!

The climatic ending features a chicken!! Mrs. Griggs, in her desperation over trying to provide nourishing meals for a sickly Amelia, contemplates stealing a chicken from the Olsen's kitchen. Amelia sees her take the chicken but doesn't see her put it back - and becomes so overcome by guilt the she suffers a set back to her illness. Phil, who witnesses a painful scene in the shop with Mrs. Griggs being refused credit, sends food to their house for tea but Amelia, still believing it is the stolen one, refuses to eat. Shoes also seem to have significance in Lois Weber's films - the Olsens are wealthy through tapping into women's vanity to have the latest, most expensive fashions, the poor mother has to constantly witness the Olsen baby wearing beautiful shoes in dress up games and through the mud, Phil takes his friendship further when he sees Amelia's shoes in such disrepair that she will not be able to walk home in the rain. Meanwhile the young clergyman marks the difference in shoe attire between his shabby and dirty ones contrasted to Phil's shiny and buffed.

There is a happy ending as Phil writes to his influential father about "the blot" on America's landscape which is the pay inequality for professions who are needed to teach everyone their trade in the first place!!!

The standout performance for me is Louis Calhern - his character goes through a metamorphosis, arrogant when we first meet him, confident at the library but when Amelia shows her pride his cockiness takes a jolt. It is when he meets her family and friends that he is humbled, his observations of the worn upholstery, the shabby threadbare carpet (his chair leg gets caught in a hole in the carpet). I especially like Phil's scenes with the young parson, he could converse on equal terms about a beloved hobby and not feel uncomfortable in his "fast" set!!

Highly Recommended