March 20, 2019

First in Their Field: Alice Guy-Blache

Alice Guy-Blache was a pioneer in filmmaking and was the first directors to make a narrative fiction film.

From 1896 to 1906 Guy-Blache was most likely the only female filmmaker in the world. She got her start at age 21 when she took a job as a secretary for a photography company run by Leon Gaumont. After she saw a demonstration of a projected film by Auguste and Louis Lumiere she asked Gaumont if she could borrow a camera in order to make her own film.

In the early years of film movies usually depicted shots of people walking around, at factories, or moving trains. There was no story to accompany the film, just moving images to entertain and astound the viewer. When not working for Gaumont, Guy-Blache wrote a script for her movie and produced and directed the world’s first narrative film. She was 23 years old.

The movie was called, La Fee aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy) and was about a fairy growing in a cabbage patch.

In 1910 Guy-Blache set up her own studio in Flushing, Queens called the Solax Company. She churned out on average 3 films a week while working at the studio. Her films were ahead of its time. She portrayed marriage as an equal partnership between husband and wife and her action films starred female heroes. In 1912, she directed A Fool and His Money, a silent comedy film that is one of thearlist filmes with an African American cast.

Guy-Blache eventually went bankrupt and moved back to France where she lectured on film and wrote novelization of film scripts.

Today, only around 140 of the more than 1000 films she wrote, directed, or produced have survived the test of time.

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