III. “Starting Something: Alice Guy Blaché and Early Cinema, from Sound and Color to Transatlantic Studio Production”
Organizers: Clara Auclair, Aurore Spiers, Kim Tomadjoglou, & Tami Williams
Long celebrated as the first woman filmmaker, and one of the earliest fiction filmmakers, Alice Guy Blaché has recently garnered a great deal of attention from cinema scholars, the public, and the press alike. Drawing on a wide array of approaches, this program explores Guy Blaché’s innovative sound films or phonoscènes (ca. 1906), her trailblazing Franco-American collaborations at Solax Studios in the 1910s, and her forward-looking representations of gender, citizenry, ethnicity, and sexuality. Through candid conversations with archivists, scholars, and critics, and a look at recent film restorations and forthcoming multimedia projects, this rich program of panels and screenings offers fresh perspectives on Guy Blaché's diverse and innovative legacy, as well as new avenues for intermedial research.
Panel # 1: Alice’s French-American Connection: From Paris, France to Fort Lee, New Jersey
Part I. Friday, June 4—12:00pm–1:00pm EST
Moderators: Aurore Spiers and Tami Williams
Respondent: Martin Barnier (U. Lyon 2)
Participants: Céline Ruivo (Post-Doc, UC Louvain/B-Magic), Wafa Ghermani (Cinémathèque Française)
Panel Description: Turn-of-the-century Paris was a time of innovation and invention, particularly of precision instruments that captured motion and sound. Alice Guy began her career supervising talking pictures utilizing Gaumont’s latest invention, the Chronophone synchronized sound system (1902–1906). In this workshop, we explore the transitional soundscape in which Alice Guy began her cinematic directing debut and the role sound-recording technology may have played in Solax studio productions.
Part II. Friday, June 4—1:00pm–2:00pm EST
Moderators: Clara Auclair & Kim Tomadjoglou
Participants: Clara Auclair (PhD Candidate, U. Rochester/U. Paris Diderot), Richard Koszarski (Barrymore Film Center, Fort Lee, New Jersey)
Related Online Screening: Kennington Bioscope YouTube Channel
Panel Description: In 1907, Herbert and Alice Guy Blaché set sail for the United States to develop a branch of Gaumont’s Chronophone in Cleveland, Ohio. While their attempts were unsuccessful, Guy Blaché took advantage of Gaumont’s empty studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, to start her own production company, Solax. Often referred as the “first Hollywood,” Fort Lee was an attractive hub for French studios to set up production branches and to safeguard their place in the US market in a very competitive economy. In this panel, we will explore the Blachés’ trajectory from Paris to New Jersey, and their passage from sound production to Solax. We will also look at their work with the French community of creative personnel at Fort Lee, from 1907 and after, including career collaborators Henri Ménessier (set design, scriptwriter) and Francis Doublier (head of laboratories), and how they each brought the “French Touch” to American filmmaking.
Panel # 2: Out(side) of Time? Alice Guy Blaché, Film Canons, and Media Histories Today
Sunday, June 6—3:00pm–5:00pm EST
Moderators: Clara Auclair and Aurore Spiers
Participants: Jane Gaines (Columbia U.), André Gaudreault (U. Montréal), Marie Kondrat (U. Genève), Kiki Loveday (PhD Candidate, UCSC)
Related Online Screening: Kennington Bioscope YouTube Channel
Panel Description: The cinematic oeuvre of Alice Guy Blaché in France and the United States still holds tremendous power in its ability to challenge our understanding of film and media history. Since the 1970s, important work has been done to rehabilitate Guy Blaché’s work on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet accounts of her career often reiterate the same questions, which have to do less with her aesthetic and stylistic contributions to early cinema and more with her and other women’s absence from historical narratives. Inspired and encouraged by new forms of access-driven preservation of Guy Blaché’s extant films, DVD distribution, documentaries, and festival programming, this roundtable aims to move beyond the “recovery narrative.” It will reflect on Guy Blaché’s place in the history of cinema, as well as explore various new avenues of research through a range of formal, feminist, queer, intermedial, and historiographic approaches to her films.
Online Premiere Screening
Wednesday, June 2—2:30pm EST / 7:30pm GMT
Available to view FREE on the Kennington Bioscope YouTube Channel through June 30, 2021.
Kennington Bioscope: Solax, The House Built by Alice Guy Blaché
Program Curator: Kim Tomadjoglou
Coordinators: Kim Tomadjoglou and Tami Williams
Special thanks to Peter Bagrov (GEM), Bryony Dixon (BFI), Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi (Eye Filmmuseum), Serge Bromberg (Lobster Films), and Heather Linville (LOC)
Description: Nine shorts (1911–13) produced and directed by Alice Guy Blaché: Film Program Notes.
Information on the Kennington Bioscope and the program’s musicians: here.
Online Screening & Discussion
Friday, June 4—3:00pm–4:00pm EST
Lights! Camera! Alice! A Conversation with Manohla Dargis (New York Times) and Ariel Schweitzer (Cahiers du cinéma). With newly released extracts from Alice Guy, Pioneer of the 7th Art, Forgotten by History. Dirs. Nathalie Masduraud and Valérie Urrea (ARTE France/10.7 Productions, France, 2021). Film elements courtesy of Cathy Palumbo and ARTE France.
English translation for ARTE documentary (PLEASE DO NOT CITE OR CIRCULATE – FOR WSS USE ONLY)
Coordinators/Moderators: Kim Tomadjoglou & Tami Williams
Introduction: Tami Williams
Description: Alice Guy Blaché has been the object of a variety of recent independent and commercial creations, both in France and the United States. This transatlantic conversation with renowned French and US critics reflects on contemporary representations of the pioneer cineaste through an exclusive look at the newly released archival documentary Alice Guy, Pioneer of the 7th Art, Forgotten by History (2021), featuring animated drawings by the renowned French illustrator Catel Muller.
Friday, June 4—7:00pm–9:30pm EST
A Comedy of Errors. Dir./prod.: Alice Guy Blaché (Solax, US, 1912). Cast: Blanche Cornwall, Darwin Karr, Billy Quirk, Vinnie Burns. RT: 14 min.
Source: Kino Lorber. Archive: BFI. Music composed and performed by AJ Layague. Special thanks to Bret Wood (KL) and Bryony Dixon (BFI).
Introduction: Kim Tomadjoglou and Tami Williams, with commentary by composer AJ Layague
Film Program Note: Billy lives in the second-story flat directly opposite “Mr. and Mrs. Green Eyes.” While looking out of his window, he mistakenly believes that the kisses “Mrs. Green Eyes” blows to her husband are intended for him. Billy proceeds to visit her with the pretext that he is returning a book she dropped from her window. “Mrs. Green Eyes” is put off by Billy’s advances and suggests his presence would not please her husband, a six-footer with “Big Muscles.” Billy takes the hint and leaves, but accidentally forgets his umbrella. This leads to a series of comic misunderstandings after “Mr. Green Eyes” returns home and discovers Billy’s umbrella, and then a pair of gloves. He suspects his wife is cheating, but clever “Mrs. Green Eyes” uses the excuse that these articles are surprise birthday gifts. When Billy returns once again to claim his possessions, the maid and “Mrs. Green Eyes,” fearing the worst, knock Billy out cold and hide him in a closet. When he comes to, he encounters “Mr. Green Eyes” and a chase ensues whereby “Mr. Green Eyes” stumbles and also loses consciousness. When he comes to, “Mrs. Green Eyes” puts her husband’s jealousy to rest by convincing him that he is suffering from delirium. Spousal infidelity, a recurring theme of Guy’s Solax comedies, is set in motion by the exchange of personal objects that function to motivate narrative action. Character gestures, facial expressions, and bodily movements demonstrate Guy’s tenet that her players “be natural,” while elements of the chase film transform the domestic sphere of the bourgeois home into an inherently female space of pleasure and play.
[This online screening also includes Segodnya / Today (Cannons or Tractors?) and The Curse of Quon Gwon.]
Alice Guy – General Bibliography
Bachy, Victor. Alice Guy-Blaché (1873–1968): La première femme cinéaste du monde. Perpignan, France: Institut Jean Vigo, 1994.
Dall’Asta, Monica. Alice Guy. Memorie di una pioniera del cinema. Bologna, Italy: Edizioni Cineteca di Bologna, 2008.
Förster, Annette. “Alice Guy in Der Filmgeschichtsschreibung.” Frauen und Film, no. 60 (October 1997): 185–194. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24055748. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey. “Performativity and Gender in Alice Guy’s La Vie du Christ.” Film Criticism 23, no. 1 (Fall 1998): 6–17. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44018927. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Gledhill, Christine and Julia Knight, eds. “Introduction.” In Doing Women’s Film History: Reframing Cinemas, Past and Future. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017. 1–9.
Guy, Alice. The Memoirs of Alice Guy Blaché, ed. Anthony Slide. Translated by Roberta and Simone Blaché. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1986.
Hastie, Amelie. “The Historian: Autobiography, Memory, and Film Form.” In Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, Recollection, and Film History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. 72–103.
Hayes, Kevin. “Alice Guy’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1913).” The Edgar Allan Poe Review 2, no. 1 (2001): 37–42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41507819. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Higgins, Steven. “American Eclair, 1911–1915: A filmographic chronology derived from the pages of The Eclair Bulletin and the trade press of the day.” Griffithiana 15, no. 44/45 (1992): 89–129.
Lacassin, Francis. “Out of Oblivion: Alice Guy Blaché.” Sight and Sound (Summer 1971): 151–4.
Lange, Eric. “A Treasure in a Cupboard.” Griffithiana 22, no. 65 (1999): 89–94.
Leteux, Christine. Albert Capellani: Pioneer of the Silent Screen. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016.
McMahan, Alison. Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Silent Cinema. New York: Continuum, 2003.
Murray, Terri. “Female Power Uncensored.” In Studying Feminist Film Theory. Leighton Buzzard: Liverpool University Press, 2019. 69–96. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv13842p4. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Navone, David. “Recovering History: Movie Review: A Fool and His Money (1912)—A Black-Cast Film by Alice Guy Blaché.” Black Camera 16, no. 1 (2001): 10. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27761578. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Peary, Gerald. “Czarina of the Silent Screen.” The Velvet Light Trap (Fall 1972): 3–7.
Schleif, Helma. “Alice Guy.” Frauen und Film, no. 26 (Dec. 1980): 50–51. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24056108. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Schleif, Helma, et al. “Alice Guy—Die Erste Filmemacherin: Auszüge Aus Ihrer Autobiographie.” Frauen und Film, no. 12 (June 1977): 29–37. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24055894. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Slide, Anthony. “Early Women Filmmakers: The Real Numbers.” Film History 24, no. 1 (2012): 114–21. <https://doi.org/10.2979/filmhistory.24.1.114>. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Panel # 1. Alice’s French-American Connection: From Paris, France to Fort Lee, New Jersey
Abel, Richard. “The Perils of Pathé: ‘Americanize or Be Foreignized,’ 1907–1910.” In The Red Rooster Scare: Making Cinema American, 1900–1910. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999. 118–151.
Auclair, Clara. “Canned Harmony?: Americanization and Assimilation of Space through the Frame in Alice Guy’s American Film Production.” Lecture March 28, 2018, Colloque international Archives et devenir des images, Paris, March 28–29, 2018; available here in French.
Auclair, Clara. “Récits de décorateurs: regards croisés de Ben Carré et Henri Ménessier sur leurs trajectoires transatlantiques,” Domitor 2020 conference paper, November 17, 2020; available here in French.
Barnier, Martin and Ben Brewster. “The Controversy over the ‘Invention of the Talking Picture.’” Film History 11, no. 4, Special Domitor Issue: Global Experiments in Early Synchronous Sounds (1999): 477–484.
Barnier, Martin. “Le son féerique de Méliès.” In Méliès, carrefour des attractions. Eds. André Gaudreault and Laurent Le Forestier. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2014. 73–83.
Bastide, Bernard. “Des cabarets de Montmartre aux studios de Fort Lee : Émile Cohl et Étienne Arnaud, une amitié fertile.” (From the cabarets of Montmartre to the Studios of Fort Lee: Émile Cohl and Étienne Arnaud, a Fertile Friendship.) 1895. Mille huit cent quatre-vingt-quinze, no. 53, December 2007: 194–209. <https://doi.org/10.4000/1895.2473>. Accessed 20 May 2021.
Chion, Michel. “When Film Was Deaf (1895–1927).” In Film, a Sound Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
Gianati, Maurice, and Laurent Mannoni, eds. Alice Guy, Léon Gaumont et les débuts du film sonore. New Barnet, UK: John Libbey Publishing Ltd., 2012. (Mannoni, “Gaumont Pionnier du film sonore,” 53–104; Gianati, “Alice Guy et les phonoscènes,” 105–120.) Read the summary by Aurore Spiers.
Koszarski, Richard. Fort Lee: The Film Town (1904–2004). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.
Leteux, Christine. “Back Home.” In Albert Capellani: Pioneer of the Silent Screen. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. 131–136.
McBane, Barbara. “Imagining Sound in the Solax Films of Alice Guy Blaché: Canned Harmony (1912) and Burstop Holmes’ Murder Case (1913).” Film History 18, no. 2 (2006): 185–195.
Tomadjoglou, Kim. Alice Guy, Women’s Work and the Cinema, The Solax Years DVD Booklet (Kino Lorber 2019).
Panel # 2. Out(side) of Time?: Alice Guy Blaché, Film Canons, and Media Histories Today
Gaines, Jane. “More Fictions: Did Alice Guy Blaché Make La Fée aux choux (The Cabbage Fairy)?” In Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries? Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2018. 51–70.
Gaudreault, André. “A Problematic Institutional Space.” In Film and Attraction: From Kinematography to Cinema, translated by Timothy Barnard. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011. 84–97.
Gianati, Maurice. “Alice Guy a-t-elle existé ?” In Alice Guy, Léon Gaumont et les débuts du film sonore, edited by Maurice Gianati and Laurent Mannoni. New Barnet, UK: John Libbey Publishing Ltd, 2012. 1–52.
Kondrat, Marie. “Is There a Time for Alice Guy?” Contemporary Art (December 21, 2018): 227–236.
Koszarski, Richard. “Woman’s Place in Photoplay Production / Alice Guy Blaché.” Hollywood Directors, 1914–1940. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. 7–11.
Loveday, Kiki. “Do You Believe in Fairies? Cabbages, Victorian Memes, and the Birth of Cinema: Seeing Sapphic Sexuality in the Silent Era.” In Women Film Pioneers Project. Eds. Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta. New York: Columbia University Libraries, 2019. <https://doi.org/10.7916/d8-f1sh-k143>
McMahan, Alison. “Introduction: The Search for Alice Guy Blaché.” In Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Silent Cinema. New York: Continuum, 2003. 1–42.
Rockliff, Mara. Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker. Illustrated by Simona Ciraolo. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008.
Simon, Joan, ed., and Whitney Museum of American Art. Alice Guy Blaché: Cinema Pioneer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
Slide, Anthony. “Forgotten Early Women Directors.” Films in Review XXV, no. 3 (1974): 165-9, 192.
Tomadjoglou, Kimberly. “Alice Guy’s Great Cinematic Adventure.” In Doing Women’s Film History: Reframing Cinemas, Past and Future. Ed. Christine Gledhill and Julia Knight. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017. 95–109.
Tomadjoglou, Kimberly. LC Kluge Center blog, The First Woman Filmmaker and the Beginnings of Cinema: https://blogs.loc.gov/kluge/2020/04/the-first-woman-director-and-the-beginning-of-cinema/ & https://blogs.loc.gov/kluge/2020/05/part-2-the-first-woman-director-and-the-beginning-of-cinema/
Williams, Alan L. Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992. 54–57.