Looking for Alice

Fri, 09/06/2013 - 08:19
Submitted by Carlin Ross

When you think about the early days of film you think of George Melies and A Trip to the Moon. Not many of us know his contemporary - the first female film director - Alice Guy Blache.

She started her career in film as a secretary in 1894. Within two years, she was behind the camera directing her first film at the age of 23. By 1910 she opened her own production company, Solax Films, in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She produced over 1,000 films and noted for her pioneering use of light, composition, and synchronized sound.

Her story follows the typical "female" path Turn of the Century. She had a bad marriage, her husband ran her company into the ground, and she was pushed out of the industry when everything moved out to Hollywood. To date, only four female directors have ever been nominated for an Oscar - Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to actually win one.

Most of her work is in museums but there are a few films online.  This is some behind-the-scenes footage of Alice directing a film in Paris:

There's a kickstarter campaign to make a documentary on her work. I would love to know more about this woman. What a life.

Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson

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Thanks for posting

Fri, 09/06/2013 - 16:46
Monika (not verified)

Thanks for posting this - I'd never heard of her either and it's an absolutely fascinating story. Great to hear they got the funds for the film (I would have contributed if the kickstarter campaign was still on).
However, I'm pretty sure the dates in this post are wrong. She could not have started her film career in 1894 as the first moving pictures were shown in late December 1895.
Also, AFAIK going bankrupt was a relatively typical path for the pioneer filmmakers regardless of their gender. These were times when very few copyright laws existed and films were silent, so a film could travel the world (no language bariers) and not earn a penny for its creators. George Melies, who you mention, went completely bankrupt in 1912. He narrowly avoided having his house repossessed and could not afford to make more films to the end of his life.
World War I also had a very serious impact on the film industry in Europe. Most of the films in American cinemas came from Europe until World War I. It was the shortage of new films from Europe during the war that made the US start producing their own films en masse.

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