Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
The blot in question is society’s determining that a prestigious education is a high priority but paying educators a living wage is not. Philip Hubbard is the head of an impoverished family who can barely make their daily nutritional requirements because of his meagre salary at the venerated institution of learning where he prepares the sons of rich men for their futures. His daughter Claire Windsor works as a librarian and catches the eye of one of her father’s students, played by a young Louis Calhern, who comes to realize the dire circumstances that her family is living in while trying to court her. Next door to the family is a humble but not destitute immigrant family whose son also loves Windsor but whose mother is exasperated with his obsession with the girl from so pathetic a household. Director Lois Weber, here making the final production under her own company, lays the poverty angle a bit thick in her need to raise audience consciousness on the issue she is championing, the fact that teachers are underpaid in America is a social problem that has not been solved a century after this film was made, but scenes like Hubbard’s wife (Margaret McWade) stealing a roast chicken from her neighbour’s windowsill feels contrived for the sake of melodrama all the same. That said, silent movies established cliché as a storytelling technique, something of a necessity to transmit information to the audience without having to constantly resort to title cards, and Weber’s direction and the natural performances that result from it relies on very few of them to tell her tale of woe.