Midwife to the Upper Class (Sage-femme de première classe)

Featured image

Remake of the 1900 film The Cabbage Fairy (La Fee aux Choux).

Online: Internet Archive

What was up with Guy-Blaché's cabbage fairy fixation anyway? Why did she choose to film this fantasy cloak for the sexual basis of life, not once, but twice [Or thrice - see update below]? Was this some sort of secret nudge-nudge-wink-wink code that got audiences of that era turned on ("Yeah, let's go put that cabbage fairy to work!")? Or was she actually lampooning the idiocy of the sexual fantasy of the upper class twits?

And why can't I find any film theorist addressing this? And not one of the film historians' analyses of this film that I've come across mentions the only notable element of this otherwise bland fare: when the fairy offers a dark-skinned baby, the couple turns away in disgust. This would hardly be noteworthy in a US film, but darky humor appears relatively rarely in French films. Was this just cheap humor - or was this also lampooning the upper class?

Like many other films from this period, without intertitles, and lacking the context shared by audiences of that time and place, this film remains largely a mystery waiting to be cracked by some sleuthing film historian.

Update: A sleuthing film historian cometh?

Seems the patron saint of film buffs may have seen fit to answer my prayer. The 2018 book La Fée Aux Choux: Alice Guy's Garden of Dreams is entirely devoted just to answering one of the questions posed above: what was behind Alice Guy's preoccupation with the cabbage fairy? From this online preview, it can be seen that the book first makes the case that this film is the last of three versions, with the first (1896) now lost. It then provides the justification for its in-depth investigation, before going on to immerse readers in rich detail that provides the deep context needed to make sense of this work from another era, and bring it closer to home:

For Alice, looking at the babies being cared for in isolation, the irony of life and death, love and loss, families separated and reunited, could not have been far from her mind.