A forgotten master of the silent era, writer-director Lois Weber was once ranked alongside D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. De Mille, but her dramas were radically different from theirs, intimate in scale and focused on progressive social issues. Shoes (1916), inspired by Jane Addams’s study of urban red-light districts, tells the story of an impoverished shop clerk (Mary MacLaren) so desperate for a new pair of shoes that she sells her body to a customer who’s been pursuing her. The young woman’s drab home life, dominated by her lazy, unemployed father, is authentically staged, and Weber—who, like Griffith, knew how to pull viewers deep inside a character’s emotional vortex—reveals how the chronic envy of these young shopworkers, selling merchandise they can’t afford themselves, sucks them into a rapacious economy.