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Ocean Waif (1916) / 49-17 (1917) [Import]

Doris Kenyon , Alice Guy-Blache , Ruth Ann Baldwin    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tantalizing Tidbit From Alice Guy-Blache'. April 22 2008
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Alice Guy-Blache' (1873-1968) was not only the world's first woman film director but quite possibly the first film director period. Her work As Alice Guy for Gaumont predates Georges Melies by several months although her earliest film LA FEE AUX CHOUX/THE CABBAGE FAIRY (1896) no longer survives. After coming to America in 1907 with her husband Herbert Blache', she starts up her own studio in 1910 and opens her major studio called Solax in Fort Lee N.J. in 1912. Among the people who work for her is a young actress/writer named Lois Weber who would also develop into a major director (see HYPOCRITES also in this FIRST LADIES series from Kino).

THE OCEAN WAIF survives as a fragment of the original. It is aproximately 41 minutes long and suffers from nitrate decomposition in many places. However the skill of Alice Guy-Blache' still shines through in the restrained performances from the actors (remember this is 1916) and the strong visual composition of the shots. Sadly this is her only feature film to survive and it's incomplete. There are still several of her short films but for someone so important to film history, it's a sad legacy and a sad comment on how the films of independent producer-directors were treated. As an example of that, the other film on the disc Ruth Ann Baldwin's 49-17 which was made for Universal in 1917, survives in virtually pristine condition. It has the added attraction of an early film appearance from the great Danish born actor and later humanitarian Jean Hersholt.

Thanks are due to producer Jessica Rosner, Kino International, and pianist Jon Mirsalis for putting together and then releasing this FIRST LADIES: EARLY AMERICAN FILMMAKERS series first on VHS in 2000 and now on DVD in 2008. They look as good as they possibly can on DVD and are indispensible to students of film, people interested in women pioneers, and of course silent film afficionados. Rounding out the series is Dorothy Davenport Reid's THE RED KIMONA. To find out more about Alice Guy-Blache' check out Alison McMahan's thorough biography of her, ALICE GUY-BLACHE': LOST VISIONARY OF THE CINEMA
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice `Early Women Filmmakers' Double May 20 2008
By Barbara Underwood - Published on Amazon.com
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This DVD is one of three in a series honoring the first ladies of filmmaking, and showcases two quite different films from the mid 1910s. "The Ocean Waif" has been carefully restored so that we can enjoy a light-hearted romance directed by the world's first female director, Alice Guy-Blaché, who began her distinguished career in France at the very start of moving pictures, namely 1896, before later going to the US where she directed this particular film. Although a few scenes show some deterioration and small sections of film footage are missing here and there, the story is still easy enough to follow. It is a standard `feel good' story of this period, about an unlucky orphan girl running away from her abusive foster father and finding happiness with her true love in the end, but not before some dramas in the plot with a few twists, and a dose of comedy to balance things out. It is sweet and charming, and a lovely representation of this genre from the mid 1910s.

Equally as enjoyable, and in better condition, is the second film on this DVD, "49-17", referring to the date 1849, but set in the year it was filmed, 1917. Another competent lady, Ruth Ann Baldwin, wrote the screenplay and directed this pseudo Wild West action adventure with all the elements of a great story: an unsolved mystery, interesting characters who make up the '49 Wild West troupe to recreate the past and entertain a millionaire, the suspicious gambler - impressively played by Jean Hersholt early in his career - a romance and a few twists at the end to reveal what's behind it all. It is well-balanced and a pleasure to watch, and its unusual story and overall good quality makes it a particularly fine example of silent films from this period. Both films have standard piano accompaniment, and the picture quality for the most part is also good, but above all, it is a nice tribute to the women who contributed to the development of the early film industry.

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