- NAME: Alice Guy-Blaché
- OCCUPATION: Entrepreneur, Director, Producer, Screenwriter
- BIRTH DATE: July 01, 1873
- DEATH DATE: March 24, 1968
- EDUCATION: Sacred Heart Convent
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Mahwah, New Jersey
- AKA: Alice Guy
- AKA: Alice Guy-Blaché
- Maiden Name: Alice Ida Antoinette Guy
Best Known For
An early 20th century filmmaking pioneer and one of the first to make a narrative fiction film, Alice Guy-Blaché made more than 1,000 films and ran her own film studio in New Jersey, experimenting with sound syncing, color tinting, interracial casting and special effects.
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Born on July 1, 1873, in Paris, France, Alice Guy-Blaché was a pioneer in early filmmaking and one of the first to make a narrative fiction film. She made more than 1,000 films by 1907 and ran her own film studio in New Jersey. She experimented with sound syncing, color tinting, interracial casting and special effects long before the recognized giants of early cinema had even begun to, and is finally beginning to get some of the recognition she deserves.
"I put signs all around my studio that said BE NATURAL—that is all I wanted from my actors."
Alice Ida Antoinette Guy was born outside Paris, France, on July 1, 1873, after her mother, Mariette, had sailed back to France expressly to make sure that her fifth child was born on French soil. Alice's father, Emile Guy, remained in Chile, where he ran a successful publishing company. After spending several years with her maternal grandmother, Alice moved to Chile with the rest of the family but was there only briefly before joining her sisters at a convent school on the French border. When her father's business failed and he died soon after, makeshift schooling was arranged, and Alice eventually trained as a typist and stenographer.
At 21, she joined a still-photography company as secretary to Léon Gaumont, but the business was evolving at the end of the 19th century—she was witness to a demonstration of an early 60mm motion-picture camera, to which Gaumont subsequently secured rights. Guy assisted luminaries like Emile Zola, Gustave Eiffel, and aviator Santos Dumont in using the equipment to record their work, notes Guy-Blaché's biographer, Alison McMahan.
When Gaumont and Guy attended a private screening—the screen being a piece of paper—of some footage shot by the Lumière brothers on their new 35mm camera, Guy was inspired to ask Gaumont if she could use their camera to film a story.
In 1896, Guy wrote, produced and directed her first film, The Cabbage Fairy (La Fée aux choux), on the back patio of the Gaumont laboratories, incorporating special-effects techniques she learned from still photographer Frédéric Dillaye. Several of her other films from around this time have been identified, according to McMahon, due to the patio locale.
Guy took to filming like a duck to water, enthusiastically embracing the medium to churn out hundreds of short films while working with Gaumont, who made her head of production. She produced films with color tinting and with Gaumont's Chronophone , an early device for sound syncing. She also kept up with early advances in the field through Louis Lumière, whose work had been her introduction to the technology, as well as Thomas Edison and Pathé.
She hired a male assistant from Pathé, and others, many of whom went on to have recognized careers in early French cinema. There was occasional resistance, with one assistant sabotaging her work so she would be fired and he could take her job, but Gustave Eiffel defended Guy.
Guy was a pioneering force in multiple aspects of the burgeoning film industry, including the concept of going on location, and hired English cameraman Herbert Blaché on her first venture.
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