Lights, Camera, Alice: a new children’s book about Alice Guy

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I came across this new children’s book when I was doing a library search for Alice Guy Blaché’s memoirs, which, by the way, are very hard to get a hold of. (More on that in another post, as this blog slowly morphs into a Alice Guy Blaché research site.)

Lights! Camera! Alice! is what my 6-year-old son would call a “true-story book.” It tells Blaché’s biography with a high degree of historical accuracy (with an index of sources) and doesn’t embellish, though it does have to skip over a lot of details as it jumps through times. There are a couple cinematic touches throughout, with title cards to announce different periods in Alice’s life and a newspaper montage to show the outside world events. The illustrations are charming with a color palette that is subtly reminiscent of old movies.  Continue reading “Lights, Camera, Alice: a new children’s book about Alice Guy”

Falling Leaves and O. Henry

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The other day I discovered, quite by accident, that Alice Guy Blaché’s short film, “Falling Leaves” is based on the O. Henry story “The Last Leaf.” I was reading Meg Wolitzer’s editor’s introduction to 2017’s Best American Short Stories, and she mentioned that her favorite O. Henry story was about an artist who convinces a girl suffering from pneumonia that she will survive. The girl believes that she will die when the last leaf falls, so the artists paints an incredibly life-like leaf outside her window. It never falls, and the girl survives through sheer belief. But — and here’s the O. Henry twist — the artist dies from standing out in the cold and taking all the time to paint the leaf.

Initially I thought, hmm, did O. Henry see the Blaché film about the girl who ties leaves to a tree in a vain effort to save her sister, who is dying of tuberculosis? But I checked the dates and O. Henry’s story was published in 1907 while Blaché’s film was released in 1912:

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Then I did some googling and sure enough, Wikipedia already has it covered:

The plot of Falling Leaves owes elements to the O. Henry short story “The Last Leaf” (1907). The child hero is a recurring theme in Guy-Blaché films; the first film produced by Solax, A Child’s Sacrifice (1910), which also starred Magda Foy, is another example.

It’s just a little thing, but I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into Blaché’s creative process. By the way, you can watch the original film, “Falling Leaves” for free on Kanopy as part of the program, “Three Films by Alice Guy Blaché.”

 

Review: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché

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On Sunday I went to the New York Film Festival to catch a screening of Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché. This is a new documentary by Pamela B. Green about the first female film director, a young Parisian woman who began making films in 1897, just as film cameras were being invented and refined. Not only was she the first female director, it’s possible that she was the first narrative director, period. And yet, her contributions have been lost to history, while the achievements of the men she worked with have been lionized.

Co-written by Joan Simon, who curated an exhibition of Blaché’s films at the Whitney Museum, this is a documentary that aims to be accessible to someone who knows nothing or very little about Blaché — so, perfect for me. Although I’ve now seen a few of her films, I discovered her when I was looking for a title for this blog and wanted to find another female film pioneer to go with Thelma — preferably someone with a two-syllable name. Yes, my search was exactly that superficial, but sometimes the best bits of research are happy accidents.  Discovering Blaché has brought me back to the birth of cinema, something I’d never given much thought to — and it’s been a delight to find that someone like Alice was there at the beginning. Continue reading “Review: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché”

A Glimpse of the films of Alice Guy Blaché

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Since starting this blog,  I’ve been meaning to find out more about the life of one its namesakes: Alice Guy Blaché. I got a great jumpstart over the weekend, when I went to a screening of some of Blaché’s early films, included as part of BAM’s series devoted to female directors in the early days of filmmaking: Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.

The screening I attended was introduced by film scholar Shelley Stamp. I’m going to borrow from her intro to give a little background on Blaché, who was not only the first known female director, but possibly the first person to make a narrative film. She directed her first movie in 1896, shortly after film equipment was invented. She also worked with sound films in 1905, long before they were developed for commercial markets. Continue reading “A Glimpse of the films of Alice Guy Blaché”

Alice Guy Blaché at BAM

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I just learned, via Manohla Dargis’s excellent review, that BAM Cinematek will be showing films directed by Alice Guy Blaché, one of the namesakes of this blog. She’s believed to be the first female director, and a person who helped to shape cinema from its earliest days. Her films will be shown on Saturday as part of a series, Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.

Because her movies are so old, dating back to the 1910s, and it didn’t occur to me that I would ever have the chance to see her films outside of a museum. So, I’m thrilled that I’ll have the chance this weekend. They’ll also be available this fall in a boxed set produced by Kino Lorber and the Library of Congress. (The photo above, by the way, is of Alice on her wedding day, borrowed from the website of the author Alison McMahan, who has written a scholarly study of Blaché’s films.)