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Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema by [McMahan, Alison]
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Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema Kindle Edition

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Kindle Edition, 22 Aug 2014
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Length: 406 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled
Language: English
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Product Description

Alice Guy BlachT (1873-1968), the world's first woman filmmaker, was one of the key figures in the development of narrative film. From 1896 to 1920 she directed 400 films (including over 100 synchronized sound films), produced hundreds more, and was the first--and so far the only--woman to own and run her own studio plant (The Solax Studio in Fort Lee, NJ, 1910-1914). However, her role in film history was completely forgotten until her own memoirs were published in 1976. This new book tells her life story and fills in many gaps left by the memoirs. Guy BlachT's life and career mirrored momentous changes in the film industry, and the long time-span and sheer volume of her output makes her films a fertile territory for the application of new theories of cinema history, the development of film narrative, and feminist film theory. The book provides a close analysis of the one hundred Guy BlachT films that survive, and in the process rewrites early cinema history.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 28452 KB
  • Print Length: 406 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0826451578
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 1 edition (22 August 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00M0FQHD2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blache Is Not Blase 30 June 2004
By Polkadotty - Published on
This hugely expansive book receives five stars for content, thoroughness of research, and plumbing of the depths of extant examples of Miss Guy Blache's memoirs and works ~ but not for reader-friendliness. The tone the author takes is most academic, which is understandable once you know that this ten-years-in-the-making, authorative benchmark biography began as a doctoral dissertation. Alison McMahan covers every square inch of Alice Guy Blache's life and her contributions to silent cinema, plus tosses in some fascinating asides regarding the origins of photography, film, and moving pictures. I found the chapter detailing the early mechanical photographic devises most absorbing, losing myself in such obscurities as the phenakitiscope, zoetrope, and praxinoscope. Miss Guy had the great good fortune to be French, living in France, the birthplace of photography, during the era of the embryonic beginnings of film. She got in on the ground floor, starting her career as secretary to Leon Gaumont, founder of the legendary Gaumont Laboratories, which co-liasoned with the also-famed Lumiere brothers, and held association with Melies. Guy, in her position with Gaumont, was allowed permission to dabble with cameras and film, which, very early on, led to the production of her own films, years before the turn of the 20th century. Guy is assumed, with some few facts to dispute this, to have produced the first fiction film and the first close up within a fiction film. Miss Guy was a prodigious director, churning out hundreds of films in all genres, first in France and then in the US at her Fort Lee Solax Studio. Her husband, Herbert Blache, devised a sound system known as the chronophone which could be rigged to synchronise a sound track with a projected film. Together they made productions to fit with this chronophone, a notoriously unreliable instrument, which more than anything else proved the eventual ruin of them. I recommend this book in conjunction with the biography of Lois Weber: The Director Who Lost Her Way in History. Read both of these books for a wonderful introduction to a sadly passed-over aspect of silent cinema, that of the era of the flourishing woman director, studio owner, and visionary. As such, both books succeed exceedingly.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering Woman director in France and the USA 20 October 2005
By Bruce Calvert - Published on
Verified Purchase
Alice Guy Blaché was the first woman who directed a film. She directed hundreds, maybe 2000 films. Of course most were very, very short, since she started about 1896 or 1897. She was also the first woman to run a studio, which she did for Solax in Ft. Lee, New Jersey from 1910-1914.

Blaché also directed many synchronized sound films in 1906 and 1907! They were actually like music videos of today. A singer or dancer would have their performance recorded on a disc (much like the Vitaphone disks twenty years later). Then Guy (pronounced "Giy") would film the performance, while the singer lip-synced their performance, or the dancers tried to keep up with the music. Of course the synchronization was not that great, but these films were screened in France, Germany, and the USA at the time.

After Guy and writer/director Herbert Blaché got married, she temporarily retired from Gaumont (France). But Herbert was not successful making films in the US for Gaumont, so she began working again writing, directing and producing films in New Jersey. By the way, Herbert was much younger than Alice!

After a couple of successful years directing films in Fort Lee, New Jersey, her studio closed. Other authors have always claimed that it was because Herbert Blaché was reckless with money, as well as unfaithful to his wife Alice, but the author can pretty much prove that theory wrong.

Like any book on early cinema, the author has to cover the filmmaker's struggle to figure out film language. It difficult to write about film theory, but luckily the focus of this book is historical. I only saw the word "diegesis" a few times, so don't let that scare you away. The book also explains how the early French filmmakers Méliès, Gaumont, and Pathé, plus the American Edison studio copied each other's films -- either by re-filming them or copying them in the lab -- in the days before copyright laws had any teeth.

Ms. McMahan has done an incredible research job on her subject. The filmography alone is worth the price of the book. It lists all of Ms. Guy's films, and which archive holds the existing films. Unfortunately, many of her films are lost forever.

The book is a little disappointing in that more of her personal life is not covered, especially since Ms. Guy's daughter assisted with the book. However, until her forced retirement, it appears that Ms. Guy's work was her life. This book is highly recommended for the serious silent film fan.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FIRST FICTION FILMMAKER HAPPENED TO BE A WOMAN! 24 January 2006
By F. Sweet - Published on
This book will satisfy anyone wishing to learn two things: 1) How did the motion picture industry get started and its business develop; and 2) How was it possible for a woman to become a leader in pionering narrative film production in a FOR MEN ONLY world?

For starters, my recommendation is to purchase in addition to Ms. McMahan's book "The Memoirs of Alice Guy Blache" (a fairly brief but absolutely fascinating account of Alice Guy's life and adventures in her own words).

McMahan's book is scholarly -- but certainly not dry. This is a labor of love that had come out of the author's doctoral dissertation. During ten years of researech for her book, McMahan first followed the trail of Alice Guy in America, and then back to France (where Guy had been born), Germany and other regions of Europe where the pioneering filmmaker had worked. As a matter of fact, McMahan took a job teaching at a university in Holland for three years to complete her pursuit of Alice Guy life's story. The result is the reconstruction of the adventures of Alice Guy, a courageous young woman who dared to show a male dominated world how to write screen plays, and then use actors, sets and a motion picture camera to create an exciting story for the screen.

Most of what today we take for granted had been first done by Alice Guy Blache: narrative film (three reels long), colored film, sound synchronized film, special effects, animation. But life was never easy for Alice. She had married an Englishman, Herbert Blache (a cameraman), and then three days later the couple was ordered by their employer Lois Gaumont to travel to America for selling his motion picture equipment. At first, Alice didn't speak a word of English -- her new husband had to do all the talking. But soon she learned the language, and several years later she had raised $100,000 (the equivalent today of $25- to $50-million!!) for build the then largest film studio in America in Fort Lee, New Jersey that Alice named Solax.

In 1910, Fort Lee had been the early home of American filmmaking. Several years later, in 1914 Alice's husband, who had begun to have affairs with actresses, sold her out by secretly selling a film "The Lure" (a story about the "White Slave" trade of prostitution) that she had produced for another studio to the studio head for $10,000. But within a month the film had made $300,000. Alice never got over it. This bit of chicanery illustrates how even the most creative and hard driving woman had very little control over her own property in those days. Eventually, Alice divorced the creep. But that made her life even more difficult. Divorced men could pick themsleves up and get back to work for earning a living. What about a woman having to care for her two young children in 1922?

The reason McMahan calls her heroin a "Lost Visionary" is that Alice Guy had been all but forgotten, until relatively recently. Prior to the arrival of this book, Anthony Slide -- the prominent film historian -- had chronicled the films of Alice Guy Blache. And indeed, by 1996 Alice's daughter Simone Blache had translated, and Anthony Slide edited, her mother's memoirs. So then why do we need another book? In fact, McMahan ties it all together and fills in the missing pieces of the Alice Guy puzzle not included in Slide's monograph and Alice's memoir.

This is an excellent read for anyone interested in how a turn of the century woman managed to cope with all kinds of obstacles put in her way by men who either envied and resented her talent, or simply wished to steal what she had created: more than 1,000 story films.

Discover the lost visionary of the cinema in Alison McMahan's well written and fascinating book.

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