17/08/2013

ALICE GUY-BLACHE: SILENT CINEMA'S FIRST FEMALE DIRECTOR...

Alice Guy-Blache (July 1 1873 - March 24 1968)

Today her name is barely known, but Alice Guy-Blache was an astonishingly talented film-maker who influenced the earliest days of the art.

Her life began in Paris, the youngest of four daughters born to a Parisian businessman. As an adult she was first employed when hired as a typist and secretary to work for Leon Gaumont, who owned a still-photography business. When Gaumont then went on to develop his own film company, Alice's career expanded too, becoming heavily involved in the writing, direction, acting, and production of films. She was also somewhat innovative, insisting on natural poses and often employing special effects to make her films more interesting.

Here is a charming early creation - Le Fee aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy) which is thought to have been created before the earliest Melies fiction films -




After l907, when Alice married Herbert Blache - another Gaumont employee - the couple travelled to America where Gaumont had a studio. There they founded their own studio, which was called The Solax Company.  Here is one of the films they made -and remember this was in 1912. It is called Falling Leaves -





However, by 1918, Herbert left his wife and their children to pursue a career in Hollywood. This devastating blow had a terrible affect on Alice's health and business concerns and by 1922 she had return to live in France, giving up her professional life. Even so, her talents were recognised when  the French government awarded Alice with the Legion d'Honneur in 1953. And she did return to America where she lived with one of her daughters, during which time she had high hopes of retrieving some of her films. 

Sadly, most of those films were lost. But, today, some are coming to light, and it is hoped that very soon a new documentary will be made by Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs who have previously worked on such modern creations as The Bourne Supremacy, The Illusionist, Twilight, and The Cabin in the Woods. Now, they want to focus on the story of Alice Guy-Blache - to reassert her rightful place in the realms of the history of film.

For more information on their plans please watch the Kickstarter film below. The project is now fully funded and hopefully it won't be long until Alice's achievements as one of the film industry's guiding lights will be forever caught on film. The VV can't wait to see it.

02/08/2013

A VISIT TO MUSEE DES ARTS-FORAINS...




Whilst on her travels this summer, the VV has had the pleasure of visiting the Musee Des Arts-Forains which is situated in the Bercy District of Paris.

The museum (which is built on the site of some Eiffel-era wine warehouses) is the most amazing place - full of antique wonders related to the history of funfairs and carnivals. The tours are relaxed and also interactive, which makes it a wonderful venue to take any inquisitive child ~ or simply the child within yourself.



Once you enter the doors it's not at all hard to imagine why Woody Allen used the museum in his film Midnight in Paris, as the setting for a riotous Roaring 20's party held by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. But to show just how flamboyant and magical it is, below are a selection of photographs ~


































And finally, the VV would like to thank Jean Paul Flavand ~ Founder of the Musee Des Arts Forains.




01/08/2013

'HARROGATE IS THE QUEEREST PLACE' ...




Harrogate is a beautiful and historic town situated in the West Riding of Yorkshire which owes much of its prosperity to the existence of a drinking well discovered in the 16th century by a certain William Slingsby.




Mr Slingsby spread the word that the well water (which contains iron, sulphur and common salt) had significant healing properties. Over the next few centuries more and more visitors arrived to take advantage of that claim  - to cure anything from lumbago to gout.

However, it was in the Victorian era that the town reached great prosperity, becoming as well known as Bath for the fashionable society sets. By the end of the 1830’s over 10,000 people were visiting a year. After 1842, when a Royal Pump Room was built by Isaac Shutt (at a cost of £3000) to stand upon the original and somewhat less salubrious site of the sulphur well, those numbers continued to rise. It was to this central venue that waters from many sulphurous springs situated around the area was then literally pumped so as to provide sufficiently for those who wished to imbibe them.




By 1860 the visitor numbers had trebled to 30,000 a year. By 1887, the tourists could also promenade in the newly created Valley Gardens which commemorated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – not to mention enjoying the various options now offered at the Pump Rooms. These included massages and Turkish baths, Vichy douches (whatever they were) and Electric shock therapies. And then, in 1900, the patients could follow up such exertions up with a visit to the newly built Opera House – now the site of the Harrogate Theatre.




When Charles Dickens paid a visit, he wrote: ‘Harrogate is the queerest place with the strangest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading and dining.’

Perhaps he had been subjected to the sort of prescribed daily routine that came to be common in later years for visitors attending the spa - when a ‘cure’ period of three weeks was advised for the maximum benefit to be gained!And according to these humorous cards, quite a transformation could be achieved -





But, for the best results, these instructions were offered -

7am – 8am – Rise and visit the Pump Room for first tumbler of water

7 am – 8.15am -­‐ Walk about, listening to the band

8.15am -­‐ Take second tumbler of water

8.15am – 9.00am – Listen to the band, and if prescribed take third glass of water

9.00am – Breakfast

For some people it is advisable that they drive; either by omnibus, carriage, or bath chair but the walk home can be advantageous if it can be accomplished without undue fatigue. Care should be taken to avoid exertion.

10.00-­‐11.00 am – Morning paper or letter writing 11.am – Shopping/Walk/Listen to the band/or Bath

11.30am – Second visit to the Pump Room1.00pm – Rest for half an hour

1.30pm – Lunch to be followed by one hour of rest

Afternoon Driving, Walking, Cycling, Golfing or third visit to Pump Room. Afternoon tea in Gardens listening to the band

7.00pm – Dinner Concert room

10.00pm -­‐ Bed




After a recent visit to Harrogate for the annual Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, the VV suspects that not that much has changed; except that bedtime is a great deal later and although many liquids are imbibed they may not be as beneficial to health as those found at the spa. But the Pump Room can still be visited – and although it is now used as museum with no massages or douches of any kind, you can still taste the waters – should you be so inclined.