cover image Alice Guy: First Lady of Film

Alice Guy: First Lady of Film

Catel and Bocquet, trans. from the French by Edward Gauvin. SelfMadeHero, $23.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-914224-03-4

An under-recognized genius of silent film returns to life in this spirited graphic biography from French comics duo Catel & Bocquet (Josephine Baker). Alice Guy (1873–1968) was born to an entrepreneurial couple in Paris, and as a young woman, she worked as a secretary—at that point usually a man’s job—in a photography studio. In addition to handling much of the business for her absent-minded inventor boss, she learned the motion-picture technology he developed and shot some of the earliest scripted films. Guy emerges as a dynamo with a witty temperament and unerring confidence. The nascent film industry is just as engaging: Guy’s firm competes with the Lumière brothers and Thomas Edison, and Guy later moves to the U.S., where she starts her own studio filming westerns, as well as the first movie with an all-Black cast. The ebullient art, subtly tinted in sepia tones, is packed with detail, including full-page spreads of patisseries, Parisian streets, and makeshift movie sets. Though Guy’s life has its disappointments and setbacks, the mood remains light and the narrative never losing sight of her creative passion. At the end of her life, Guy is portrayed as still feisty though disillusioned, saying, “In the eyes of French cinema, I never existed.” Catel and Bocquet correct the error with aplomb. (Aug.)