17 April 2021

Marquise Lepage's Le Jardin oublié : La vie et l'œuvre d'Alice Guy-Blaché (1995)

Le Jardin oublié : La vie et l'œuvre d'Alice Guy-Blaché (1995) by Marquise Lepage is a biopic of an almost forgotten woman often known as just Alice Guy, who was most probably the first female film director. It's made with the participation of Adrienne Blaché-Channing, Guy-Blaché's granddaughter, who relates much of the story. It also contains clips of Alice (1873-1968) herself speaking about her past.

Alice Guy was born in St-Mandé to the east of Paris and became associated with Louis Lumière: her first directed film was La Fée aux choux in 1895, which is possibly the first narrative film ever made. In spite of the prejudice against English people, she married one 1907: Herbert Blaché, who was born in London. Their honeymoon was in America, which was to be their home for a number of years.

Guy established her own film company there and continued to direct many films and become rich: the actual number of films she directed herself is unknown because many are lost, although the figure may be as many as a thousand: these were essentially shorts. But by about 1918 her marriage was on the rocks, her film company was in considerable financial difficulty, and she made her way back to France in 1922, latterly making living by writing children's books under pseudonyms. She died in the USA.

Alice Guy's most important message to actors was 'Be natural', which is the title of a recent film made about her: Be Natural: the Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2019), by Pamela B Green.

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