Alice Guy-Blaché
Film director, screen writer, producer
Born: July 1, 1873, in Saint Mande, France
Died: March 24, 1968, in Wayne, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2013: Arts & Entertainment

Long a forgotten figure, Alice Guy-Blaché has been rediscovered in recent years and acknowledged as a trailblazer in the early motion-picture industry. Today, she is understood to be history’s first female film director and the first woman to own a film studio.

Born Alice Guy in a town near Paris, she spent her early childhood living with her parents in Chile and her grandmother in Switzerland. After attending boarding school in France, she was hired at age 21 as a stenographer and typist for a still-camera manufacturing and supply company. When her boss, Leon Gaumont, started an early motion-picture company, Alice convinced him to let her try her hand at short films.

Alice’s talent was apparent to Gaumont, who made her head of production in 1896. Over the next 10 years, she pioneered the art of narrative filmmaking, even making hand-colorized films and synchronizing her films to prerecorded sound. Her work was often ambitious; a big-budget 1906 production, “The Life of Christ,” featured 300 actors.

In 1907, Alice married a co-worker, Herbert Blaché, and together they moved to the United States. Three years later, Alice and a partner started the Solax company to produce her own films; by 1912, she had set up a studio in Fort Lee, which was then a center of film production. At Solax, she hired other directors, assembled a stock company of actors, and expanded into more complex, feature-length films.

By 1920, Alice had written, directed, or produced more than 350 films. Throughout this time, she continued to experiment with color tinting and sound synching, and made early use of special effects, such as double exposures. For some films, she took the daring step of using inter-racial casts.

Despite these innovations, the fast-growing movie business left Solax behind. Faced with financial difficulties, the studio and Alice’s marriage both failed. After Solax was auctioned off in 1922, Alice moved back to France with her two children. Living for decades in France, Alice wrote novels and children’s stories and lectured film students. She never made another movie. In 1953, she was awarded France’s Legion of Honor in recognition of her life’s work.

In her later years, Alice moved back to New Jersey, living in Mahwah until her death. After her passing, her daughter Simone translated Alice’s memoirs, which were published in 1996. In 2004, the Fort Lee Film Commission unveiled a historical marker dedicated to Alice Guy-Blaché adjacent to Fort Lee High School at the former location of Solax Studio.

Intro/Acceptance Video