Larry Benaquist, KSC film professor emeritus, has been awarded a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) to restore another of the films from the “Nelson Collection,” which are now in the possession of Keene State College. The film, Parson Sue, is the only known copy of a one-reel 1912 comedy by Alice Guy Blaché, who is the world’s first professional woman filmmaker and one of the key figures in the development of narrative film. The discovery of this long-lost film has already excited several film scholars and preservationists, so the film history spotlight will be on KSC when the film is ready to premier.
In developing the NFPF grant application, Dr. Benaquist contacted film scholar Alison McMahan, author of Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Cinematic Visionary, who supported the proposal enthusiastically.
“Parson Sue is a major find for multiple reasons,” Dr. McMahan explained. “It has an important place in the development of the Westerns made in Fort Lee (NJ) – the ‘Eastern Westerns’ — in general and in the Western production of Alice Guy Blaché in particular, as it comes at the peak in popularity of these films. Blaché’s related output includes Outwitted by Horse and Lariat (Solax, 1911); Greater Love Hath No Man (Solax, 1911); Two Little Rangers, sometimes also known as The Little Rangers (Solax, 1912); Algie the Miner (Solax, 1912); and Playing Trumps (1912). Parson Sue is key to understanding the gender discourse of these Westerns. As the only woman directing during this early period, Blaché’s Westerns are of special interest. Parson Sue is right in the middle of a developing argument on gender, on the roles of women in the public sphere, about the perception of the West and its developing role in American mythology. Another film of Alice Guy Blaché’s will help scholars to understand both the development of her artistry, and the development of narrative film. In order to fully understand this picture, we need to see the movie, and for this reason it is critical that Parson Sue be preserved.”
The “Nelson Collection” refers to seven reels of film that Peter Massie, a local contractor, found in a barn he was demolishing in Nelson, NH. He donated the films to the KSC Film Society. A few years ago, Dr. Benaquist secured a NFPF grant to have the first of those films, the only known copy of Francis Ford’s When Lincoln Paid (1913), restored. It’s historical significance brought international attention to Keene State.