B is for Alice Guy-Blaché – Visionary and First Female Film Director #AtoZ Challenge
Alice Guy-Blaché portrait picture, 1913, Apeda Studio New York
Alice Ida Guy was born in France on July 1st, 1873 and died in the US on March 24th, 1968. Amazingly, she was the second person as well as the first woman to be a film director and writer of narrative fiction films.
In 1894, she started working as a secretary, hired by Léon Gaumont at a photography company. When they went bust, Gaumont bought the company’s inventory and started a business that became a major motion-picture company in France.
Alice and Léon went to the Lumière event on March 22, 1895 where the first ever demonstration of film projection took place. It was at this event that Alice had a ‘light bulb’ moment of her own and realised the potential of film for fictional story-telling. She asked permission from Leon to make a film in her own time. This first film, made in 1896, and possibly the world’s first narrative film, was called La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), the humorous story of a woman growing children in a cabbage patch. The first fantasy and comedy film. Her career had started.
Probably the only female film-maker until 1906, Alice became Gaumont’s head of production. She was the first film-maker to consistently develop narrative films, became a pioneer in the use of audio recordings in conjunction with images, and was innovative in her use of some of the first special effects. She was clearly a fount of original ideas and inspiration.
In 1907 she married Herbert Blaché, resigned from her position at Gaumont and emigrated to the USA, and had two daughters while continuing to direct one to three films a week. (Also the original modern woman, then!) She handed control of her new film company, Solax, over to her husband – sadly, in the end, they went bust, possibly due to his mismanagement, but reports are mixed.
She divorced her Herbert (he had an affair) and returned to France, and never made a film again. Never remarrying, she returned to the United States in 1964 to stay with one of her daughters, and died in a nursing home at the age of 94.
By the end of her 25 year long career she had written, produced, directed, and overseen more than 700 films.
An extraordinary woman by any standards!
The Beginning of Film
Inside the projector
bulbs glow hot and bright,
flickering images animate,
snatch moments in the light,
outside the mighty sun shines
on real people in real roles,
living out the stories served
in dark on celluloid rolls,
they can’t see the future that
these first few viewers embrace
will one day hold us all enthralled
glassy-eyed and slack of face!
© Liz Brownlee
If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book, then press again on link to buy it!
- Posted in: A-Z Challenge 2017 ♦ Extraordinary Women ♦ Liz Brownlee ♦ Poems ♦ Poetry news ♦ Reaching the Stars ♦ Reaching the Stars Poems
- Tagged: Alice Guy Blaché, Extraordinary Women, Female director, Film Directors, First film maker, Jan Dean, Liz Brownlee, Michaela Morgan, Poems about extraordinary women and girls, Reaching the Stars