Alice Guy-Blache (July 1 1873 - March 24 1968)
Today her name is barely known, but Alice Guy-Blache was an astonishingly talented film-maker who influenced the earliest days of the art.
Alice Guy began her life in Paris, the youngest of four daughters born to a Parisian businessman. In adult life she was first employed when hired as a typist and secretary to work for Leon Gaumont who owned a still-photography business. When Gaumont then went on to develop his own film company, Alice's career expanded too, soon becoming heavily involved in directing, acting in, producing and writing films. She was also somewhat innovative, insisting on naturalistic acting, and often employing special effects to make her films more interesting.
Here is a charming early creation - Le Fee aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy) which is thought to have been created before the earliest Melies fiction films -
After l907, when Alice married Herbert Blache - another Gaumont employee - the couple travelled to America where Gaumont had a studio. There they founded their own independent studio, The Solax Company.
Here is a film called Falling Leaves, which was made in 1912 -
However, in 1918, Herbert left his wife and their two children to pursue a new film career in Hollywood. This devastating blow had a terrible affect on Alice's health and business.
In 1922 she returned to France and gave up her profession. However, her talents were recognised when the French government awarded her with the Legion d'Honneur in 1953. She did later return to America where she lived with one of her daughters and hoped to retrieve some of her films - but sadly it seemed that most had been lost. Alice's name and legacy appeared to have been buried by history.
However, many of her films are now coming to light again. It is hoped that very soon, a new documentary will soon be made by Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs. The couple have worked together on such modern films as The Bourne Supremacy, The Illusionist, Twilight and The Cabin in the Woods. Now, they want to focus on the story of Alice Guy-Blache - an important story that should be told to reassert her true place in film history.
For more information on their plans, please watch the Kickstarter film below. And please, do donate - no matter how little - because this is such a worthwhile project: to bring Alice's achievements to the fore as one of the industry's guiding lights. A remarkable Victorian woman.