Remembering Alice Guy-Blaché, the First Female Director

Alice Guy-Blaché was the first woman to direct a film. She helmed or produced over 1,000 movies, in addition to writing, editing and set decorating many of them. Guy-Blaché also cast interracial actors long before Hollywood ever did. But she’s hardly a household name.

Her first film, “La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy),” a short narrative with a runtime of 60 seconds, was released in 1896.

Ten years later, her 1906 release, “The Life of Christ,” featured over 300 extras. She was one of the first to utilize close-ups, hand-tinted style and synchronized sounds in her films. Most are unaware of her and her professional achievements. Her motto — one she hung on her walls — was “be natural”: perfect instruction to those who she put in front of the camera.

Guy-Blaché had not set out to make films. Born in France, she was a stenographer until her father died. After that, she got a job at the  Gaumont Film Company and made movies there. Guy-Blaché married and moved to the U.S., setting up Solax Studios, where she continued to make movies.

She shot everything from Westerns to dramas to comedies. When she made “A Fool and His Money” in 1912, the pic had an entirely African American cast. While Guy-Blaché continued to make films and produce them, most of her earlier work has been presumed lost.

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