Alice Guy Blaché, Queen of Solax
Introduced by Richard Koszarski
Live music by Donald Sosin
The first woman to produce and direct her own films, and the only one ever to own her own studio, Alice Guy Blaché had been directing films in Paris since before the turn of the century. Sent to America with her husband, Herbert, to promote Gaumont’s talking film system in 1907, she saw the opportunity to launch her own production company and three years later opened the Solax studio in Flushing. As business took off, she built an impressive new Solax on Lemoine Avenue in Fort Lee, which the company moved into during the summer of 1912. But even when Solax was releasing two or three films every week, this busy studio head still found time to direct most of them herself.
Program runs approximately 85 minutes.
All films from 1912.
A Fool and His Money
Dir. Alice Guy Blaché. 35mm, Library of Congress. With James Russell. The earliest known film with an all-black cast, this farcical romance suggests one of the routines popular on segregated vaudeville circuits at the time. But the focus on class over race reveals an essentially European perspective quite different from later American “race movies.”
Dir. Alice Guy Blaché. 35mm, Library of Congress. With Marian Swayne, Magda Foy. Two little girls try for a miracle, with some help from a passing doctor and a nod to O. Henry’s tale “The Last Leaf.”
Algie, the Miner
Dirs. Edward Warren, Harry Schenck. 35mm, Library of Congress. With Billy Quirk. A “sissy boy” (as the Solax ad put it) is sent out west to become a man. A regeneration drama that gradually reveals itself as a curious and complicated love story.
The Detective’s Dog
Dir. Alice Guy Blaché. 35mm, Library of Congress. With Darwin Karr, Magda Foy. Years before Rin-Tin-Tin, Solax (and cute little Magda Foy) send their trusty Saint Bernard to the rescue when our inquisitive hero finds himself tied to a log in a sawmill.
The Girl in the Armchair
Dir. Alice Guy Blaché. 35mm, Library of Congress. With Blanche Cornwall, Darwin Karr. It’s hard to say which is more important here: the noble young heroine or the carefully arranged armchair that hides her from the other players (but not the audience).
Dir. Alice Guy Blaché. 35mm, Library of Congress. With Billy Quirk, Blanche Cornwall. Fooling Dad with the aid of the phonograph. A decade earlier, Alice Guy Blaché had been directing talking films for Gaumont, shot to playback. Now much of this same technology was available to mischievous middle-class consumers.
Making of an American Citizen
Dir. Alice Guy Blaché. 35mm, Lobster Films. With Lee Beggs, Blanche Cornwall. An “Americanization” film directed by a woman who had arrived in the States only five years earlier and was not herself a citizen. Obsolete traditions brought over from the old country—notably wife beating—must be recast in the great American melting pot.
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