Key Dates in the Life of Alice Guy Blaché
1873 -- Alice Guy's French parents, Mariette and Emil Guy, live in Santiago, Chile, but Guy's mother travels to Paris to give birth to her fifth child. Guy is raised by her grandmother in Switzerland until she is three or four years old.
1877 (approx.) -- Her mother comes to collect her daughter and take her home to Santiago. In Santiago Guy meets her father for the first time.
1879 (approx.) -- Her father brings her back to France and enrolls her in the boarding school where two of her older sisters are already studying.
1884 (approx.) -- Her father's bookstore chain is bankrupted by a series of violent earthquakes, fires, and thefts. Her parents return to France and her older sisters quickly marry. Guy is transferred to a cheaper boarding school. Her brother dies after a long illness, and her father dies soon after.
1893 -- Guy has trained as a typist and stenographer and gets her first job as a secretary for a company that sells varnishing products.
1894 -- Guy is hired by La Gaumont, the "second-in-command" to work for Felix Richard's still-photography company. Soon after, Richard loses a patent suit and is forced to go out of business. Leon Gaumont buys the inventory and starts his own company, taking Guy with him. Guy is present when Georges Demenÿ demonstrates his phonoscope and offers Gaumont the patent for his biographe, a 60mm motion picture camera.
March 22, 1895 -- Gaumont and Guy are invited by the Lumière brothers to witness a demonstration of their cinématographe, a 35mm motion picture camera, at the Société d'encouragement ˆ l'industrie nationale. Guy persuades La Gaumont to let her use the Gaumont camera to direct a story film.
1896 -- Guy writes, produces and directs La Fée aux choux (The Cabbage Fairy).
1897 --La Gaumont makes Guy head of film production, a post she holds until 1906. By 1906 she will have produced over 400 films.
1902 -- Gaumont demonstrates his chronophone, a synchronized-sound system.
1902-1906 -- Guy directs over 100 phonoscènes, films made for the chronophone.
1906 -- Herbert Blaché, a Gaumont manager, is assigned to serve as Guy's cameraman on Mireille. Later, Guy is sent to Berlin to oversee demonstrations of the chronophone and assist Blaché with sales.
Christmas Day, 1906 -- Blaché and Guy are officially engaged. Guy is 33, Blaché is 24.
Spring, 1907 -- Guy and Blaché marry. Gaumont sends Blaché to the U.S. to promote a chronophone franchise. Guy resigns her position to accompany her husband to the U.S.
1907 -- The Blachés spend nine months in Cleveland working with investors to promote a chronophone franchise. The effort is unsuccessful.
1908 -- Gaumont hires Herbert Blaché to manage his studio in Flushing, New York, for the production of phonoscènes in English. Lois Weber is among the performers hired, and she is later given the opportunity to direct phonoscènes herself.
1908 -- Guy gives birth to her daughter, Simone.
1910 -- Tempted by the Gaumont studio in Flushing, New York, that is underused, Guy creates her own company, Solax, and rents the Gaumont studio space. Her early films are melodramas and westerns.
1911 -- Guy gives birth to her son, Reginald.
1912 -- Solax is so successful that Guy builds a studio in Fort Lee New Jersey, said to cost over $100,000. Solax produces two one-reelers (10-15 minute films) a week and develops a stable of stars. Guy writes and directs at least half of these films and oversees all production. Her rate of production equals that of D.W. Griffith, working at Biograph just a few miles away.
1912 -- Gaumont has a falling out with George Kleine, a member of the Motion Picture Patents Company and his U.S. distributor. Gaumont moves over from the "licensed" side of distribution to join the ranks of the independents. Since Solax's films are distributed through Gaumont in both the U.S. and France, Solax joins the ranks of the independents along with Gaumont.
March 1, 1913 -- Release date of Dick Whittington and His Cat. With a length of three reels (45 minutes), a $35,000 budget and elaborate staging (including burning a boat) and costuming, it is Guy's most ambitious Solax project.
June 1913 -- Blaché's contract with Gaumont expires and Guy makes him president of Solax so that she can concentrate on writing and directing. After three months, Blaché resigns and starts his own film company, Blaché Features. Blaché Features uses Solax's plant, inventory and actors, making the two companies hardly distinguishable for a few months. Blaché Features' production eventually supersedes Solax production, so that by 1914 Solax is virtually defunct.
August 1913-August 1914 -- Blaché and Guy alternate producing and directing longer films (three and four reels) for Blaché features. 1914-1916 -- The market now demands feature-length films (five reels or more). The Blachés join Popular Plays and Players, a production company which produces features for distributors such as Metro, Pathé, and World Film Corporation. These films are shot in the former Solax Studio in Fort Lee, which still belongs to the Blachés.
1916 -- The Blachés are dissatisfied with their distribution arrangement and decide to part ways with Popular Plays and Players. As the U.S. Amusement Corporation, they produce feature films and make their own distribution deals with the same distributors who bought the films from Popular Plays and Players. Guy directs seven features, including The Ocean Waif.
1917 -- The former Solax studio is now rented out to other companies, starting with Apollo Pictures. At age 44, Guy has an excellent reputation as a film director but her last few films have not been commercially successful. Blaché, who is 35, is enjoying the attention of young actresses. In the fall of 1917, Simone, age nine, and Reginald, age five, contract rougeola become seriously ill. Blaché sends his family to the healthier environment of North Carolina, where Guy cares for her children and takes part in the war effort by volunteering for the Red Cross while her husband continues to manage business in Fort Lee.
1918 -- Blaché finds his wife a job directing The Great Adventure for Pathé Players. The film, a comedy, is commercially successful. 1918 -- Blaché moves to Hollywood with Catrine Calvert, an actress who has starred in four films directed by Guy. Guy gives up her house in Fort Lee and moves into an apartment in New York City.
1919 -- Léonce Perret hires Guy to write and direct Tarnished Reputations, offering her $2,000 for six weeks of work. The film takes ten weeks to make and in the process Guy contracts Spanish influenza, which kills four of her colleagues. Blaché, passing through New York, is alarmed by her condition and invites her to join him in California.
1920 -- Guy moves into a small bungalow in Los Angeles with her children. Blaché does not live with them, but hires Guy as his directing assistant on The Brat and Stronger than Death, both starring Alla Nazimova.
A few months later Guy is called back to Fort Lee to oversee the auction of the Solax properties. In the middle of bankruptcy arrangements, a polio epidemic sweeps the Northeast and Guy, imitating her friends the Capellanis, flees with her children to Canada.
Tarnished Reputations opens March 14, 1920. It is Guy's last film.
1922 -- Bankruptcy proceedings are finished and the Blachés are divorced. Guy (now calling herself Alice Guy-Blaché) returns with her children to France.
1922-1927 Guy's efforts to work in the French film industry do not bear fruit. She returns to the U.S. in 1927 to try to find copies of her films to use to find work. She finds none, even at the Library of Congress where some of them were copyrighted. When the silent film era ends in 1929, it becomes clear that she will not make films again. She becomes financially dependent on her children, especially her daughter, Simone.
1930 -- Léon Gaumont publishes a history of the Gaumont company which does not mention any of the film production before 1907. Guy embarks on a deferential letter writing campaign to correct his omissions. Gaumont agrees to add to his document and corrects the manuscript himself, but it remains unpublished at his death in 1946.
1937 -- Guy's son Reginald returns to the U.S. Simone and Guy move to Paris, where Simone's work prospects are better. Guy supplements her daughter's meager income by writing children's stories and novelizations of films for women's magazines.
1940 -- Simone Blaché begins her career working for U.S. embassies in Europe. Guy follows her daughter on various assignments, first in Vichy (1940) then Geneva (1941-1947).
1947 -- Guy makes guest speaker appearances at high schools and women's clubs in Switzerland. The success of these informal appearances leads her to write her Memoirs.
1947-1952 -- Simone and Guy live in Washington D.C. In Georgetown Guy begins to seriously work on her memoirs and filmography, and renews the search for her films. She begins a correspondence with Louis Gaumont, Léon Gaumont's son.
December 8, 1954 -- Louis Gaumont gives a speech in Paris on "Madame Alice Guy Blaché, the First Woman Filmmaker" whom, he says, "has been unjustly forgotten."
Film historians such as: Jean Mitry, Georges Sadoul, René Jeanne and Charles Ford begin to take notice of her.
1955 -- Guy is awarded the Légion d'Honneur, France's highest non-military honor.
March 16 1957 -- Guy is honored in a Cinémathèque Fran�aise ceremony which goes unnoticed by the press.
1958 -- Simone is transferred to the U.S. embassy in Brussels.
1963 -- Victor Bachy, the professor who initiated the academic study of cinema in Belgium, meets Guy by accident and begins researching her work.
1965 -- Guy and her daughter move to New Jersey.
March 24, 1968 -- Guy dies in a nursing home in New Jersey, at the age of 95.
1976 -- Publication of Guy's Memoirs in French, with a filmography by Francis Lasassin.
1986 -- Publication of Guy's Memoirs in English, edited by Anthony Slide, translated by Roberta and Simone Blaché.
1994 -- Publication of Victor Bachy's Alice Guy-Blaché: La Première femme cinéaste du monde.