120 Years of Gaumont Cinema by Jean-Luc Douin, Éditions de la Martinière. Alice Guy, the First Female Filmmaker in History by Emmanuelle Gaume, Plon. Two books published in September, not to be missed by cinema lovers.
In February 1895, the Lumière brothers registered a patent which adapted the mechanism called the crowbar (or jemmy), used in the drive of sewing machines, to enable recording and projecting of photographs in motion. The Cinematograph was born.
In 1895, the very year of Lumiere brothers Cinematograph invention, Léon Gaumont has repurchased the General Photography Counter, of which he was the official representative, and which became L. Gaumont et Cie. He plans to develop and diversify the initial optics and photography activities. Thus, he will build in the 19th arrondissement of Paris an impressive arsenal of 20,000 m², comprising offices, machine shop, design and costume workshop, projector assembly line, film processing labs, studios; it was called Elgé city (initials of Léon Gaumont).
In the Gaumont Palace lobby, one could see the bust of Léon Gaumont, a marble signed by Raymond Ivoire, and so associate it with the title of a series of famous texts by Eric Rohmer, Celluloid and Marble (Cahiers du Cinéma, 1955), in which the cinema is promoted to the rank of sovereign art.
In 1994, Luc Besson pays homage to Léon Gaumont, by naming one of his films after the inventor: Léon is one of the great success of his company with more than three million spectators.
In 1897, Mademoiselle Alice (Alice Guy), secretary of Leon Gaumont, terminates employment as stenographer to perform an assistance task, and take charge of the artistic sector of the company. She directs hundreds of films between The Cabbage Fairy in 1896 and an ambitious Life of Jesus in 1906.
In 1907, she moves to the United States to sell the latest invention of Leon Gaumont: the Chromophone (sound film); but it doesn't meet success. After a break following the birth of her daughter, she sets up her own studio in 1910, the Solax Co., which became in 1912 the largest in the US.
Americans loved this fighter. Her touch? To be natural. She hated to see her actors striking a pose, always telling them be natural. She crossed swords with social subjects: denouncing the trafficking of women, child labor in factories... She was the first to employ African American actors, touching every genre: burlesque, western films, melodrama, with a weakness for happy endings.
At nearly 50 years, in 1922, Alice Guy was no longer on form to yield to the lure of a fledgling Hollywood, and no fan either of the system that was being established: bankers imposing their ideas to producers, producers imposing them to filmmakers.
Ruined, she leaves for France where no one knew her any more. In 1927, she decides to go back to the United States and settles in New Jersey, writing children's stories and giving lectures.
She died at almost 95 years, after unsuccessfully attempting to recover her films. Only 10% would have been saved.