Musée d'Orsay: The World of Alice Guy

The World of Alice Guy


The Musée d'Orsay and Gaumont Archives invite you to discover the works of Alice Guy (1873-1968), the world's first woman filmmaker.

Alice Guy was a pioneer. The first woman film director and first woman producer with The Cabbage Fairy (1896), she started at Gaumont in 1894 as a secretary, before moving very quickly to be "head of the cinematographic department". She was involved in all aspects of the industry: she directed the films and supervised screenplays, distribution, sets and costumes. She worked closely with inventors and engineers like the Lumière brothers and Léon Gaumont, Jean-Baptiste Marey and Georges Demenÿ, and rubbed shoulders with leading figures in political, cultural and social life.
Between 1896 and 1920, first in France and then in the United States, where she set up her own studios, she produced more than 1,000 films. These ranged from short films of less than a minute's duration to full-length features, and included experiments in colour, synchronised sound and talkies that testify to her interest in every aspect of the evolving film business. She moved to America in 1907 and set up her companies "The Solax" and "The Film Supply Co", had two studios built, ran her own theatre company "The Solax Stock" and employed the girls from the Ziegfeld Follies and soldiers from the American army as extras. She also used close up shots, wild animals, exploding boats and car chases, and filmed inside Sing Sing prison. She produced up to one full length and ten short films per month in a remarkable variety of genres including comedy, adventure, drama, westerns, fairy tales, fantasy, suspense, filmed operas, detective stories, documentaries, war films, historical films, full length and short films, in black and white and in colour, silent films and talkies, from The Life of Christ to Edgar Allan Poe.

Along with some of her American films, the four programmes present a significant number of her French films, recently restored by Gaumont, which she directed, produced and supervised herself.

In order to present these silent films in their original format, the pupils from the improvisation classes of Vincent Lê Quang, Riccardo Del Fra and Hervé Sellin from the Paris National Conservatory for Music and Dance will provide musical accompaniment.
The screenings will be introduced by film critics, archivists and film historians.


27 - 29 May 2011
Musée d'Orsay

auditorium level -2

Programme 1: Women and Children

Film accompanied by live music

Madame a des envies© Collection Musée Gaumont
After La Fée aux choux [The Cabbage Fairy] (1900), one of her earliest films, Alice Guy often dealt with the fate of women and children. Whether through comedy or melodrama, she would turn to subjects as varied as maternity: Sage femme de première classe [Midwife to the Upper Classes], 1902; Madame à des envies [Madam’s Fancies], 1906), ill-treated children: La marâtre [The Cruel Mother], 1906) and feminism: Les résultats du féminisme [The Results of Feminism] 1906).

Fri 27 May 2011 - 20h00
Musée d'Orsay
Auditorium niveau -2

Programme 2: At the Show

Film accompanied by live music

Alice Guy tournant une phonoscène © Collection Musée Gaumont
In the early days of the cinema, it was common to film shows of all genres in order to perpetuate the performance. This screening will present various types of dance, circus acts with clowns and performing animals, magic and sketches. It will finish with a few songs, filmed and synchronised using the Phonoscène process, the ancestor of the video clip, which Alice Guy pioneered.

Sat 28 May 2011 - 16h00
Musée d'Orsay
Auditorium niveau -2

Programme 3: History of Laughter

Film accompanied by live music

Portrait d'Alice Guy © Collection Musée Gaumont
Comedy was the leading genre in early cinematographic fiction. Alice Guy's show many variations on this theme. Through the use of makeup (La vérité sur l'homme singe [The Truth behind the Ape Man], 1906), decoration (Le frotteur [The Cleaning Man], 1907), special effects (Chirurgie fin de siècle [Turn of the Century Surgery], 1900), chases (Les cambrioleurs [The Burglars], 1898; La course à la saucisse [The Glue], 1907), these films prefigure the burlesque films of 1910 to 1920. Le billet de banque [The Bank Note] (1907) was an even more astonishing forerunner of the early Charlie Chaplin films.

Sat 28 May 2011 - 19h00
Musée d'Orsay
Auditorium niveau -2

Programme 4: On Earth as it is in Heaven

Film accompanied by live music

La vie du Christ© Collection Musée Gaumont
This programme brings together documentary, historical and religious films. Among the documentaries, Espagne [Spain] (1905) is without doubt one of Alice Guy's greatest films, particularly notable for its panoramic shots. As for La naissance, la vie et la mort du Christ [The Birth, Life and Death of Christ] (1906), this was her most ambitious and most famous work. This was Gaumont's first major production, for which they hired 300 extras, an exceptional step at the time.

Sun 29 May 2011 - 15h00
Musée d'Orsay
Auditorium niveau -2

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