How to Make an American Citizen

Making An American Citizen
R: Alice Guy. D: Lee Beggs, Blanche Cornwall. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1912

Making an American Citizen was produced and released by Solax. The film was aimed at the immigrant working class audiences who were going to the movies at the time. Very few middle class people went to the movies on a regular basis. Being part of the progressive era, Guy-Blaché was interested in changing the attitude toward women, which is very evident in the film. (…)
Upon his arrival in America, Ivan’s wife grows tired from carrying all the luggage, and collapses on the dock. With the Statue of Liberty looming in the distance, Ivan is delivered his first of many rude awakenings when a well-dressed American boldly approaches him. The American informs Ivan that, in America, the men don’t treat their women like slaves, and he must change his behavior if he’d like to truly assimilate into the American way of life. The American man is depicted as a refined representative of the time-honored genteel tradition the United States holds so dear. (…)
Despite the film’s shortcomings, it is a masterpiece of American cinema and storytelling, largely due to Alice Guy-Blaché. Despite the fact that she is often overshadowed by such male peers as Thomas Edison, Edwin S. Porter, the Lumiere Brothers, and D.W. Griffith, Guy-Blaché was an incredible pioneer in the film industry.”
Ian Bostick

“The film exemplifies and instructs the viewer in the making and performing of whiteness. Because of his ethnicity, Ivan Orloff (Lee Beggs), the ethnic type, is viewed as a bearer of social illness, improper behavior, and an offense to proper white American behavior. Interesting enough, Blaché (i.e. Alice Guy. KK) codes proper white behavior through a feminist lens. But her feminism is decidedly problematic in terms of race. In America becoming a good white husband entails relearning every day peformance and performing American whiteness. Performing whiteness properly is the main lesson learned by the immigrant couple.”
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster: Performimg Whiteness: Postmodern Re/constructions in the Cinema. New York 2003, p. 54