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Alice Guy Blaché

Alice Guy (foreground, center) directing a scene from the opera Mignon for a synchronized sound film, Gaumont Chronophone Studio, Paris, 1906.


IN 1894, A YOUNG WOMAN named Alice Guy was hired as a secretary at a company in Paris that manufactured cameras and other optical equipment. Unknowingly, she had just stepped into the vortex from which cinema would be born. Barely twenty-one, schooled in convents, and trained as a secretary, she would go on to shape the greatest art form of the twentieth century. But by the time of her death in 1968, Guy had been all but forgotten, and despite a recent surge of interest in her career, her work remains grossly underrecognized. The retrospective “Alice Guy Blaché: Cinema Pioneer,” which opens this month at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, promises to be a long-overdue corrective.

Less than a year after Guy was hired at Comptoir Général de Photographie, the camera maker was forced to close down. Its second-in-command, young inventor Léon Gaumont, bought the company

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