Alice Guy-Blaché’s legacy transcends her gender. She is known as the first female director and the first-ever studio director. The French-born Guy-Blaché first got her start as a secretary for Léon Gaumont, who ran a camera manufacturing company. After watching a presentation of the Lumière brother’s film Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, Guy-Blaché realized that film could be used as a vehicle for fictional storytelling. She then embarked on her first film project in 1896, La Fée aux Choux, which is widely considered to be the very first narrative film ever produced. Guy-Blache became the primary director for Gaumont’s company when it began producing films.
In 1907, she moved to the US with her husband, cameraman Herbert Blache, first running Gaumont’s American office and later setting up an independent production company, Solax Studios. During this time, she directed hundreds of short films, including the first-ever all-black film, A Fool and His Money (1912), and Buster Keaton’s feature film debut in 1920. After divorcing in 1922, she returned to France where she taught filmmaking and enjoyed a writing career but never made another movie. Her contributions to cinema were recognized when she was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government in 1953.