Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers: The Collection 6 Sets Available

In the Wild West days of early filmmaking—before Hollywood hardened into an assembly-line behemoth and boys’ club—talented women worked regularly as writers, producers, and directors, instrumental in shaping the very language of cinema as we know it. Nevertheless, figures like Alice Guy Blaché and Lois Weber are known today primarily by aficionados, and artists like Nell Shipman, Grace Cunard, and Marion E. Wong remain woefully obscure. Bringing together dozens of essential new restorations, this series spotlights the daring, innovative, and trailblazing work of the first female filmmakers and restores their centrality to the creation of cinema itself.

Purchase Set: $74.99

Pioneers First Women Filmmakers: The Collection - Alice Guy Blaché 17 Films

A French pioneer filmmaker, active from the late 19th century, and one of the very first to make a narrative fiction film. She was the first female to direct a film. From 1896 to 1906, she was probably the only female filmmaker in the world.

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Mixed Pets

The earliest surviving film from Alice Guy-Blaché's American production company Solax, MIXED PETS is a comedy of mistaken identity, where a secret baby hidden in a cupboard by a household staff is swapped with a dog secreted into the household against the husband's wishes.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Tramp Strategy

A young woman defies her father's prohibition against marrying her beau. With the help of her maid, they devise a strategy to outwit the patriarch, plotting to have the young man disguise himself as a "tramp" in order to save the daughter and thus win the father's approval.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Greater Love Hath No Man

Set in a Gold Rush-era mining camp, this film follows the plight of a young man in love with one of the lone female miners. His affections are unrequited, but when "Mexican" miners threaten the mining superintendent, Jake steps in to save him and the woman.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Algie the Miner

In ALGIE THE MINER, a queer character learns how to become a "man" while traveling out west, with hilarious consequences.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Falling Leaves

In this beautifully shot film, a young girl tries to save her sister's life by keeping leaves on the trees outside, since a doctor had told the family that her sister would die after the last leaf fell.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Little Rangers

In this compelling fragment, a young girl and her older sister track down an armed bandit. With guns slung around their waists and lassos at the ready, they are every bit the action-adventure heroines – braver, too, than the man at their western outpost.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Canned Harmony

A young couple orchestrate a ruse to fool the woman's father, a music professor who has forbidden her to marry anyone other than a musician. They fool him – temporarily, of course – when the beau impersonates a violinist "auditioning" for the professor, while his sweetheart carefully synchronizes a phonograph recording behind the scenes.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - A Fool and His Money

One of the earliest surviving all-black-cast films, A FOOL AND HIS MONEY explores a young man unlucky in love, rejected by his sweetheart in favor of a more prosperous beau. After finding a large sum of money on the sidewalk he buys fine clothes and a fancy automobile, hoping to win her back.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The High Cost of Living

Old Joel, an ironworker on trial for murder, tells the story of his attempts to organize for better pay to support his family. Flashbacks show "poverty's gnawings," with Joel explaining "there was little to earn and many to keep."


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - A House Divided

An unhappy husband and wife decide to "live separately together," communicating only through notes after each mistakenly thinks the other is having an affair.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Coming of Sunbeam

A woman disowned by her wealthy father sneaks her young daughter into his life, sending the girl into his household via a Christmas basket. Soon the girl, whom they call Sunbeam, "warms a cold and vacant spot in his heart.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Burstup Homes' Murder Case

Mrs. Jellybone uses all manner of modern technology to spy on her husband, but her surveillance is undercut when she misapprehends a murder and, fearing her husband dead, calls in the bumbling detective Burstup Homes. An interesting rumination on modern communication technologies, marriage and gender norms.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Matrimony's Speed Limit

A woman tricks her reluctant beau into marriage in what film scholar Maggie Hennefeld calls "a chase film to the altar." But her gambit nearly fails.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Ocean Waif

One of the rare surviving feature films directed by Alice Guy-Blaché, THE OCEAN WAIF depicts a young woman's struggle to leave an abusive household, finding refuge in a nearby mansion where a male writer is completing a novel. Their budding romance also marks her not-entirely-successful effort to shift from a "tomboy" persona to a more traditional femininity.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Colleen Bawn

Shot on location in County Kerry, Ireland, THE COLLEEN BAWN was adapted by Gene Gauntier from the 1860 stage play of the same name by Irish-American playwright Dion Boucicault, itself based on the real-life murder of a newlywed by her husband and servant. She was nicknamed "the colleen bawn," or the fair girl.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - On the Brink

In one of the earliest surviving shorts co-directed by Lois Weber and her husband, Phillips Smalley, a young woman caring for her mentally disabled brother falls for a local fisherman who does not return her affections. Beautifully photographed on location with sophisticated staging, in-depth and naturalistic performances, ON THE BRINK reveals why Weber and Smalley's work at Rex was so heavily praised.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Cricket

A short fragment from a beautifully shot film about three Paris bachelors who adopt a young orphan girl, played by child star Zoe Rae, sometimes dubbed "the Child Bernhardt."


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Pioneers First Women Filmmakers: The Collection - Lois Weber 9 Films

Lois Weber was the studio’s top director in the mid-1910s—studio boss Carl Laemmle called her his “best man on the lot."

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Fine Feathers

Exploring the popular idiom "fine feathers make fine birds," then also a popular song, FINE FEATHERS illustrates Weber's interest in both class mobility and the circulation and commodification of images of women.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Rosary

A powerful evocation of loss and longing, THE ROSARY illustrates a popular song of the day against the backdrop of the Civil War, using an innovative matte technique.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Suspense

In SUSPENSE, Weber takes up the familiar "last-minute rescue" formula popularized by her contemporary D.W. Griffith who made countless films about vulnerable young women left alone in remote houses beset by intruders. Historian Charlie Keil calls this "one of the most stylistically outré" films of the period.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Lost by a Hair

In this comedy about female fandom and desire, young women at a summer hotel are transfixed by the arrival of a famous tenor, much to the chagrin of their male companions.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Hypocrites

HYPOCRITES tells the story of a modern-day clergyman who, in a dream, exposes the hypocrisies of his congregation with the help of the "Naked Truth." Hailed in its day as a "new revelation in the artistic possibilities of the photo-play," HYPOCRITES uses superimposition to portray the allegorical figure of Truth.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Sunshine Molly

Weber explores the theme of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, focusing on "Sunshine Molly," one of the few women employed in the La Brea oil fields, whose story is told through an intricate flashback structure that privileges her point of view.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Idle Wives

Lois Weber's most self-conscious exploration of cinema's power to affect social change in the early years of its popularity. Only a fragment of this important work survives but its significance is evident.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Too Wise Wives

Though Lois Weber's punning title echoes many others in this category, TOO WISE WIVES is actually a much more subtle commentary on bourgeois marriage, consumer culture and Jazz Age femininity.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - What Do Men Want?

A visceral critique of masculinity, associated with twin drives for profit and sexual conquest, the film's climactic scene features the public suicide of a young, pregnant unmarried woman abandoned by her lover.


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Pioneers First Women Filmmakers: The Collection - Social Commentary I 7 Films

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Where Are My Children?

The top money-maker for Universal in 1916, WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN? is one of two films Lois Weber wrote and directed on birth control and abortion at the height of Margaret Sanger's famous campaign to legalize contraception. The film remains a fascinating example of how Weber engaged complex contemporary social issues in popular narrative films.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Her Defiance

Madison co-directs and stars as a naive country lass who falls for a man from the city, then finds herself pregnant and alone. Defying her brother's attempt to marry her off to an older man, she travels to the city alone, working as an office cleaner to support herself and her son.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - When Little Lindy Sang

Lindy, the only African-American child in an otherwise all-white classroom, is the target of racial prejudice, but she ends up saving her classmates when she uses her booming voice to warn them of a fire.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Curse of Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles with the West

The first feature film made with an all-Chinese-American cast and company, THE CURSE OF QUON GWON was written and directed by Marion E. Wong at her own Mandarin Film Company, based in Oakland, California. Offering an important counterpoint to racist depictions of Asian characters in other films of the period, the film explores western influence on traditional Chinese society and amongst Chinese-American communities.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Scandal Mongers

Lois Weber and husband Phillips Smalley play co-workers caught in a trumped-up scandal about a supposed affair. Weber's visual acuity is on display here as a superimposed figure of "scandal" haunts the characters, supposedly based on a Winsor McCay drawing.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Dream Lady

In this extraordinary film, a young woman inherits a fortune, then sets herself up as the "dream lady," making the dreams of others come true. One of her first clients is a young woman who dreams of being a man.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Something New

Nell Shipman stars as a "writing woman" who travels to Mexico in search of "atmosphere," but is captured by bandits. Rescued by a handsome mining engineer in his Maxwell automobile, the heroine must herself take the wheel after he is injured, driving the car to safety across rough desert terrain.


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Pioneers First Women Filmmakers: The Collection - The Feature Film 3 Films

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Call of the Cumberlands

The story of an Appalachian son drawn to New York City with dreams of being an artists. Taken under the wing of the sister of a prominent artist, he learns the ways of wealthy society there and achieves notice in the art world, but is ultimately drawn back to Appalachia by a family feud.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Broadway Love

Advertised as a story about "the Heart of the Great White Way in all its nakedness," BROADWAY LOVE chronicles the misfortunes of chorus girl Midge O'Hara, who travels from her rural community to seek fame on the stage.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Song of Love

THE SONG OF LOVE is one of two films Frances Marion directed, in this case sharing credit with Chester Franklin. Norma Talmadge, who also produced the film, stars as a dancing girl in a Hollywood fantasy Arabian desert who falls for a dashing French spy, then must rescue him when he is kidnapped.


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Pioneers First Women Filmmakers: The Collection - Social Commentary II 6 Films

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Risky Road

A brief fragment of Ida May Park's THE RISKY ROAD, the only known elements to survive. The film's protagonist is a young stenographer who agrees to be a "kept woman" for a former employer, inciting the ire of her hometown sweetheart.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Bread

A surviving fragment of Ida May Park's BREAD, starring Mary MacLaren as an actress living alone in the city after leaving her small town behind. She opts to starve rather than succumb to the advances of a lecherous theater magnate.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Motherhood: Life's Greatest Miracle

This story contrasts two women's responses to pregnancy; one, from a modest household, welcomes the news and follows her doctor's instructions; the other, a woman of wealth and privilege, requests an abortion, which is ultimately denied.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Salomé

An adaptation of Oscar Wilde's notorious 1891 stageplay, SALOMÉ is a queer classic. Produced by its star Alla Nazimova and designed by Natacha Rambova, the film re-envisions the biblical story of Salomé, who danced for King Herod with the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Red Kimona

Adapted by Adela Rogers St. John and Dorothy Arzner (later famous as a director in her own right), the film tells the true story of Gabrielle Darley, a woman who leaves her abusive home only to find herself trapped into prostitution in New Orleans, then accused of murder.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Linda

Marketed as "Mrs. Wallace Reid's Great Human Story," LINDA tells the story of a young woman whose father forces her to marry a much older man.


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Pioneers First Women Filmmakers: The Collection - Pioneers of the Genre 12 Films

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Hazards of Helen - The Leap from the Water Tower

Released in 119 different installments, episodes of THE HAZARDS OF HELEN chronicle the adventures of a telegraph operator stationed in a remote post who repeatedly foils the bandits and saves lives in daring adventures.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Hazards of Helen - The Wild Engine

Released in 119 different installments, episodes of THE HAZARDS OF HELEN chronicle the adventures of a telegraph operator stationed in a remote post who repeatedly foils the bandits and saves lives in daring adventures.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Hazards of Helen – The Escape on the Fast Freight

Released in 119 different installments, episodes of THE HAZARDS OF HELEN chronicle the adventures of a telegraph operator stationed in a remote post who repeatedly foils the bandits and saves lives in daring adventures.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Purple Mask – Ep. 12

Written and co-directed by its star, Grace Cunard, THE PURPLE MASK serial chronicles the adventures of a masked female avenger who steals from wealthy and corrupt individuals in order to give to the needy, continually evading and sometimes rescuing, her male nemesis Detective Kelly.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Purple Mask – Ep. 13, Reel 1

Written and co-directed by its star, Grace Cunard, THE PURPLE MASK serial chronicles the adventures of a masked female avenger who steals from wealthy and corrupt individuals in order to give to the needy, continually evading and sometimes rescuing, her male nemesis Detective Kelly.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - The Purple Mask – Ep. 5

Written and co-directed by its star, Grace Cunard, THE PURPLE MASK serial chronicles the adventures of a masked female avenger who steals from wealthy and corrupt individuals in order to give to the needy, continually evading and sometimes rescuing, her male nemesis Detective Kelly.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - A Daughter of "The Law"

Writer, star and director Grace Cunard plays what one reviewer called "a girl revenue officer" who convinces her boss to let her follow the trail of moonshiners.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Eleanor's Catch

Director Cleo Madison plays a "young tenement blossom" nearly trapped into a life of prostitution by a charming beau. But she turns the tables on him (and viewers) in a surprise ending.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Caught in a Cabaret

Mabel Normand wrote and directed Charlie Chaplin in one of his early appearances as the Tramp, here a lowly waiter who pretends to be a foreign dignitary in order to impress Normand's society woman.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Mabel and Fatty's Wash Day

Mabel and Fatty find themselves doing laundry on the same day – she without the assistance of her lay-about husband, he hectored by his wife. Their efforts to aid one another are complicated by jealous spouses.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - Mabel Lost and Won

In a comedy that emphasizes female point-of-view and desire, Mabel's engagement at a high society party goes hilariously awry.


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Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers - That Ice Ticket

Angela Murray Gibson plays a young woman managing multiple male suitors with the "help" of her mischievous kid brother.


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