The Dumb Girl of Portici

112 minutes 1916

Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova made her only screen appearance in this silent 1916 adaptation of the opera by Daniel Auber, playing a mute Neapolitan peasant who's swept up in a tax revolt against the Spanish empire. The movie's other auteur, however, was director Lois Weber, ranked by critics of the day alongside Griffith and DeMille; that Universal entrusted her with this historical drama, its costliest picture ever, speaks to her extraordinary clout in the industry's early days. Weber's best works are intimate social dramas, but she acquits herself admirably here, demonstrating a sense of dramatic scale comparable to that of her two rivals. Note: The movie was shot here in Chicago, on the grounds of the abandoned Sans Souci amusement park at South Cottage Grove and East 60th.

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