Conditions of Female Colorist Workers at the Pathé Plants in Vincennes and Joinville from 1911 to 1929
The film coloring workshop was the department with the largest number of employees at Pathé Frères from 1906 to 1914, until it ceased operations around 1929. Its approach is unique in the film industry. Inspired by American industrial methods, it uses modern tools and involves direct collaboration between workers and their employers. But what do we know about this female workforce that is recruited for its dexterity and skill in stencil cutting and coloring? Can we draw a social portrait, a typical profile of these women? How do they react and adapt to new production methods that combine mechanization and the persistence of a craft form of carrying out some of these tasks? How is the issue of training handled by management, from administrators to forewomen?
Through the analysis and cross-checking of the archives of the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation (photographs, account books, shareholders’ meetings reports, engineering books, advertisements, factory regulations), an inventory of their working conditions will be drawn up, in particular through a methodical and precise examination of the Joinville factory exit book of 1929, which is the only document that makes it possible, first of all, to identify the first and last names of these women workers at the Joinville color workshop created in 1922, and to find out the reasons why they left the factory or were laid off. This source, which is the starting point of the research, will have to be combined with the digitized archives of the censuses of 1911, 1921 and 1926, starting with those of the City of Vincennes where the color workshop was first established, then with birth certificates and marriage registers throughout France. These archival documents will make it possible to retrace the evolution of the colorist’s profession and to deliver some elements of their social condition: living place, place of birth, parents’ social origin, husband’s occupation and the family situation. It will therefore be a question of going back and forth between the archive elements to sketch out individual paths and identify constants or, on the contrary, to give an account of the diversity of the social situations of these female colorist workers at the beginning of the 20th century.
Cécile De Coninck (Institut universitaire de technologie de Lille A)
Cécile De Coninck is a Film Studies PhD Candidate and Professor in Communication at the IUT A of the University of Lille. Her thesis, under the direction of Edouard Arnoldy, deals with the links between cinema and anthropology, particularly in the writings of Balàzs, Eisenstein, Epstein and Edgar Morin, in order to situate the theoretical position of the work of Belgian filmmaker-ethnologist Luc De Heusch in the 1960s. It examines the concept of film-documentary and the relationship between poetry and document by exploring the film and non-film archives bequeathed by Luc De Heusch to the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique.
During her Master’s Degree in Cinema, Documents and Archives at the University of Lille, she was introduced to the challenges of restoring early films thanks to the University’s partnership with the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique. She conducted a documented comparison’s work from the archives of the film script and of the different restorations of Alfred Machin 1914’s masterpiece, Maudite soit la guerre, in which the techniques of tinting, turning and painted stencil manually and by the Pathécolor machine are used. It is in the continuity of this research that the proposal of this communication to the Domitor association on the condition of the female colorist workers of Joinvillle is inscribed.