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Alice Guy

Alice Guy Blaché is the true pioneer of the cinema; born in 1873, she directed more than 300 films before she was forced to retire in 1920.  D.W. Griffith didn’t get behind a camera until 1908’s The Adventures of Dollie; by that time, Alice Guy had directed more than 150 films, and invented most, if not all, of the narrative and editorial techniques Griffith would later take credit for. Her first film was 1896’s La Fée aux Choux, a one minute short; the film was so popular, she wore out the negative making copies, and was obliged to shoot a remake in 1900 to meet public demand. Other films, soon one-reel, then two-reel and longer, quickly followed.

She presented a vision of the world very different from that of her male counterparts — at that time confined to Georges Méliès and Auguste & Louis Lumière — one in which women and children played a major role, along with men, even in such huge historical spectacles as La vie du Christ (1906), a thirty four minute film — nearly four reels — completed at the dawn of cinema.

Here are links to just a few of her many films: these are, for the most part, put up by a fan who loves Alice Guy’s work; they have a logo on the top of Alice Guy looking through a stereoscope, and then smiling for the camera — that’s Alice!

They’re all cheerful, lighthearted, and fun; some are hand colored, frame by frame; and one of them is early sync-sound, using the Chronophone method of recording sound on wax cylinders, with a hand cranked camera.

Here they are:

The Irresistible Piano (1907; with a Ray Charles sound track added later, but it’s got the right spirit; Alice Guy was very much a fan of “pop” music of her era);

Baignade dans un torrent (1897; a very early actuality film);

Danses Gitanes (1905; Gypsy Dance), another actuality, with an extra hand-colored short, Malaguena, tacked on the end;

Au Bal de Flore (1900, hand colored), coupled with Les Fredaines de Pierrette (1900, handcolored), again with a music track added later;

and an early sync sound film, Five O’ Clock Tea, featuring the music hall performer Dranem, made in 1905.

Finally, here’s my own brief tribute to Alice Guy, from my series Frame By Frame, which shows Alice Guy on the set of one of her sync-sound films. See the difference? Women not objectified, children present in the shot, a whole different way of looking at the world.

Alice Guy – the true pioneer of the cinema.


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About the Author

Headshot of Wheeler Winston Dixon Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. All comments by Dixon on this blog are his own opinions.

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