Alice Guy Blache: Lost Visionary of the Cinema

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9780826451583: Alice Guy Blache: Lost Visionary of the Cinema
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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.

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About the Author:

Alison McMahan is a Mellon Fellow in Visual Culture at Vassar College. From 1997 to 2001 she ran the MA program in film and television studies at the University of Amsterdam, where she taught early cinema and new media. She has published widely on early cinema and has carried out research for documentaries such as The Lost Garden: The Life and Work of Alice Guy Blaché (1995, National Film Board of Canada) and for the Emmy-award winning Into the Light ('State of the Arts' series, New Jersey Network, 1995). She was interviewed as an early cinema expert for the documentary Reel Models: The Women of Early Film which first aired on the American Movie Classics Channel in 2000.

Review:

"Alison McMahan's indefatigable ten-year research project to recover the work of Alice Guy Blaché, not only the first woman filmmaker in both France and the USA but the pioneer with the longest career (1896-1920), has produced a fascinating book that will interest scholars and general readers alike. For this multi-faceted story of Guy Blaché's career takes up a broad range of sometimes controversial issues-from early filmmaking practices, the production of phonoscènes or sound films, and the development of film narrative in France to racial and ethnic representations in American films of the early 1910s as well as feminist modes of address in comedies of cross-dressing. To top it off, the book concludes with an unusually reflexive, yet authoritative filmography of the one thousand films attributed to Guy Blaché as a director and/or producer.
—Richard Abel, author of The Red Rooster Scare
"Alison McMahan's study of Alice Guy is an astonishing piece of work, the most wide-ranging and ambitious book on a filmmaker that I can recall. McMahan moves smoothly and logically from problems of film history and historiography, to cultural criticism and thematic analysis, to film theory. Along the way, we get illuminating discussions of cinema genres, representations of minority groups in mass media, film sound, and other important topics. For its comprehensiveness, its spirit of intellectual adventure and its quality of thought, this is a truly remarkable book." —Alan Williams, author of Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking

"Oddly enough, the life and work of the first woman filmmaker has received little attention. McMahan redresses the oversight by critically and comprehensively analyzing the contributions of Alice Guy Blaché. [McMahan is] one of the foremost authorities on the subject of early cinema....Meticulously documented, this book tells not only what this film pioneer did but also why her work is important. Anecdotal nuggets make the study compelling for general readers, too." —Library Journal, March 15, 2002

"McMahan straightens out several misconceptions about Guy and about early film history...The author provides intriguing information about Guy's life, the early days of film production, and Guy's independent film company (Solax). [Recommended for] All academic film collections."
—Choice, November 2002

"McMahan...has done a monumental job of excavation"
—Los Angeles Times, 8/15/02

"McMahan deftly outlines and describes the stages of film history and development..."
—PopMatters, 9/12/02

"McMahan's book is an obsessively detailed history of a true motion-picture pioneer. Perhaps more of Guy Blaché's films will come to light; a book such as this can only strengthen that possibility."
—American Cinematographer, July 2002

"Alison McMahan's indefatigable ten-year research project to recover the work of Alice Guy Blaché, not only the first woman filmmaker in both France and the USA but the pioneer with the longest career (1896-1920), has produced a fascinating book that will interest scholars and general readers alike. For this multi-faceted story of Guy Blaché's career takes up a broad range of sometimes controversial issues-from early filmmaking practices, the production of phonoscènes or sound films, and the development of film narrative in France to racial and ethnic representations in American films of the early 1910s as well as feminist modes of address in comedies of cross-dressing. To top it off, the book concludes with an unusually reflexive, yet authoritative filmography of the one thousand films attributed to Guy Blaché as a director and/or producer.
—Richard Abel, author of The Red Rooster Scare
"Oddly enough, the life and work of the first woman filmmaker has received little attention. McMahan redresses the oversight by critically and comprehensively analyzing the contributions of Alice Guy Blaché. [McMahan is] one of the foremost authorities on the subject of early cinema....Meticulously documented, this book tells not only what this film pioneer did but also why her work is important. Anecdotal nuggets make the study compelling for general readers, too." —Library Journal, March 15, 2002

"McMahan's book is an obsessively detailed history of a true motion-picture pioneer. Perhaps more of Guy Blaché's films will come to light; a book such as this can only strengthen that possibility."
—American Cinematographer, July 2002

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