Shoes is Weber’s masterpiece and one of the first great landmarks of women’s filmmaking. Mary MacLaren stars as Eva Meyer, a shop girl working at a five-and-dime who is the sole wage earner for three younger sisters, a mother who struggles to hold everything together, and a father who prefers beer and penny dreadfuls to work. Each week, Eva returns to her cold-water flat and dutifully hands over her meager earnings to her mother. But her wages barely cover the grocer’s bill and cannot provide for decent clothing. With only cardboard to patch the holes in the soles of her shoes, Eva’s life becomes harder with each rainy day and every splinter. In constant pain and with no solution in sight, the disheartened girl considers the uninvited advances of Charlie, a cad with dishonorable intentions.
Weber weaves a beautifully simple story with a technique celebrated in post-WWII Italy as neorealism. Filming exteriors around Los Angeles — including a remarkable scene in Pershing Square and the actual front of Woolworths on Broadway — Weber created a timeless feminist masterpiece. The director’s brand-new discovery, sixteen-year-old Mary MacLaren (who resembles a young Jennifer Lawrence) is the embodiment of youthful innocence and too-early world weariness. Shoes is a plea for women’s equality (women’s suffrage was still a hard-fought political goal), and vividly portrays the reality and tragedy of a shop girl in modern society.
The restoration of Shoes by the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam combined a Dutch nitrate print and a 1930s American “comedic” reissue of the film found at the Library of Congress. Thanks to the recent discovery of the film’s original script and intertitles in the files at NBC/Universal, the Milestone edition more closely reflects the original film. Prominent composer Donald Sosin has created a thrilling new chamber score to accompany Shoes.