If you ask most people familiar with the history of film to name some of the early trailblazers, you’re bound to hear Georges Méliès and the Lumière Brothers quite a few times. As for Alice Guy-Blaché? Well, even if she is mentioned, her name will reoccur far less than her male contemporaries, despite the fact that she is just as influential, if not more so.
An informative new video essay from Catherine Stratton has been released via Fandor to celebrate Women’s History Month, and it walks viewers through the history of Alice Guy-Blaché’s essential contributions to film. Her 1896 film “The Cabbage Fairy” is largely credited as one of the first narrative features ever made, produced and shot at a time when filmmakers like the Lumière Brothers were simply capturing scenes of every day life.
Between 1896 and 1920, Guy-Blaché wrote, directed and produced over 1,000 movies in France and America, of which only 350 still survive. She pioneered special effects alongside Méliès, using the double exposure and masking techniques that he is praised for. She also experimented with the hand coloring process in 1990’s “Pierette’s Escapades” by soaking black-and-white film in dye and staining the emulsion.
By 1910, Guy-Blaché co-owned her very own movie studio with her husband, Herbert Blaché. To say this female filmmaker deserves to be recognized on the same stature of Georges Méliès and the Lumière Brothers is an understatement. If you’ve never heard of Alice Guy-Blaché, start learning about her in the video below.