Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Fairy of the Cabbages (1896) -- May 5, 2018


This post is part of the Springtime Silent Movie Challenge: In the Beginning..., hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. "Here’s the challenge. Before June 21, 2018, you will:
"Watch 5 movies made between 1906 and 1914
"Watch 5 movies made in 1905 or before
"Share your experience on your blog, on social media or here in the comments (I will set up a special post for the purpose to publish on June 21)"

For my five 1905 or before movies, I thought I would look at some pioneering efforts.

My fourth film is the oldest surviving film made by the first woman to direct movies. In fact, Alice Guy-Blaché was one of the first people to direct a movie.

"La Fée aux Choux" ("The Fairy of the Cabbages" in English) is one minute long, longer than most movies which had been made up to that time.   It is based on a European folk legend that boys are born in cabbages and girls are born in roses.


We see a beautiful woman in a white gown bedecked with flowers.  On the left we see cabbages and on the right we see roses.  The lady mimes a bit with her wand and then picks a baby up from the roses and lays her on the ground.  She mimes hearing a sound from the cabbages and picks up a boy.  She sets him next to the girl on the ground.  She mimes and dances to the back and picks up another boy before the movie ends.

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I picked this film because I learned very little about Alice Guy-Blaché when I was a young film enthusiast. Ten years after she died in 1968, I heard and read her name in an introduction to film class, but there was very little information about her and we didn't see any of her movies. Over the last twenty years or so, scholars and archivists have dug up much more information about her.

Alice Guy was the head of production for the Gaumont company from 1897 to 1907. If she was not the first movie director, she was one of the first.

She directed hundreds of movies, ranging from actualities and one of the many serpentine dances recorded by different companies in 1897, to single-scene comic bits and vaudeville turns, to 1905 sound-on-disc Chronophones to a 1906 33 minute life of Christ, to developed dramatic stories. Alice Guy married Herbert Blaché and moved to America, where she directed for Gaumont, then started her own company, Solax.

Alice Guy-Blaché stopped directing in 1919. She divorced Herbert in 1922 and returned to France.

She returned to the US in 1964 to live with her daughter. She died in New Jersey.


The first disc of the Gaumont Treasures set features the films of Alice Guy-Blaché.

Coming Next Saturday: The first movie logo.

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