She dreamed two impossible dreams: to produce, write and direct in the earliest days of cinema, and for fulfillment as a lover, wife and mother. She achieved it all. But could she hold on to what she had won, especially when the two dreams conflicted with each other?
To pursue her dreams Alice Guy Blaché had to overcome the confines of a rigid social structure which barely tolerated the presence of women in leadership roles. And yet she grew and developed from young secretary right out of the convent to the owner and head of a film studio, business partner to her husband, mother of two children, and the creator of storytelling on film as we know it today. She worked with many of the intellectual, scientific and artistic luminaries of her time, such as the brilliant inventor and entrepeneur Léon Gaumont, Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, had a love-hate relationship with her competitor, Ferdinand Zecca, who directed for Pathé, and came into conflict with industrial giants like Thomas Edison. Alice’s directing helped turn stage actresses such as Olga Petrova, Alla Nazimova and Bessie Love into film stars.
She trained almost all the great directors of the next film generation, including Étienne Arnaud, Victorin Jasset, and Louis Feuillade, and set designers Henri Menessier and Ben Carré. She trained her own husband, Herbert Blaché, he of the matinee-idol good looks; Herbert would go on to direct Buster Keaton in his first feature film, The Saphead.
We still remember names like Gaumont, Edison, Nazimova, and Bessie Love, but Alice Guy was completely forgotten, the record of her achievements lost, as she worked in an era when films carried no credits, when sound films made silent films seem obsolete and they were recycled for the silver nitrate they contained. But Alice Guy’s life continues to inspire. She wanted it all and had it all, career, love, partnership, family, film studio, years before women could even vote. This biography brings her back to us, all of her determination, her creativity, her passion, her flaws, and her glory.