Friday, November 4, 2016

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2014) by Year # 0093 - MATRIMONY'S SPEED LIMIT (Alice Guy, 1913, USA, 14m, BW)



 

MATRIMONY'S SPEED LIMIT 

(Alice Guy, 1913, USA, 14m, BW)




Introduction

Matrimony's Speed Limit

Directed by Alice Guy-Blaché
Produced by Alice Guy-Blaché
Starring Fraunie Fraunholz
Marian Swayne
Production company
Solax Film Company
Release dates 1913
Running time 14 minutes
Country United States

Matrimony's Speed Limit is a 1913 silent comedy short film produced and directed by pioneering female film maker Alice Guy-Blaché. It was produced by Solax Studios when it and many other early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based in Fort Lee, New Jersey at the beginning of the 20th century.

The story concerns a young man (Fraunie Fraunholz) who refuses to accept financial assistance from his wealthy girlfriend (Marian Swayne) in favor of earning his own fortune on the stock market. She concocts a plan to convince him that he will collect an inheritance from a wealthy aunt if he marries before noon. While he desperately proposes to every female he meets, she is trying to reach him before he finds a girl who will say "yes". With only minutes to go before the deadline expires, he gives up his search and intends to commit suicide under the wheels of the next passing car. However, the vehicle contains both his fiancee and a minister, who marries them on the spot.


Review

A ticker-tape spells out a man's doom: he's lost his investments. His girlfriend, who is very well off, offers him her finances, but he won't have it. A telegram is sent that he is due an inheritance if he is married before noon. She rushes out in her car with a priest in tow to meet him, while he tries proposing to every woman in sight. The film is  fun and breezy, even if the plot has been recycled a million times. What makes this version different (at least to me) is that the girl dupes her boyfriend into marriage by sending him a fake telegram, and then ends up giving him all of her own money. The ending is particularly charming, with the new husband realizing the deception and the girl wheedling him into compliance.

A chase film to the altar, “Matrimony’s Speed Limit”
(Alice Guy-Blaché, Solax, 1913) depicts the plight of
a financially ruined bachelor, Fraunie, who learns
that he has exactly twelve minutes to marry a bride
or else he will lose out on a very large inheritance.
Made by one of the most prolific early silent
filmmakers, Alice Guy-Blaché (1873-1968), this film
provides a gendered, comic twist on the terrors of
modernity: the collapse of separate public and pri-
vate spheres, and the unprecedented speed of com-
munications and transportation systems.

An urgent telegram and hotrod automobile make a mockery of
the institution of marriage, as the film’s title heralds.
“Matrimony’s Speed Limit” draws on a long line of
marital chase films, such as Biograph’s
“Personal” (1904) and Lubin’s “Meet Me at the
Fountain” (1904), both of which depict a bachelor
who places a personal ad in the newspaper and is
then chased over fences and through public foun-
tains by a multiplying horde of would-be brides.
Likewise, Guy-Blaché’s film inspired many memora-
ble imitations, such as Buster Keaton’s hilarious
“Seven Chances” (1925) and Pierre Etaix’s “The
Suitor” (France, 1962)—not to exclude “The
Bachelor” (1999) starring Chris O’Donnell and
Renée Zellweger.

Alice Guy-Blaché made over seven hundred films
between 1896 and 1920 in France (at Gaumont
from 1896-1907) and in the United States (at her
own production company, Solax, from 1907-1920).
Although uniquely prolific, her participation in the
silent film industry as a woman director, scenarist
(i.e. scriptwriter), and producer was by no means
unprecedented: hundreds of women such as Lois
Weber, Mabel Normand, Dorothy Davenport,
Frances Marion, Gene Gauntier, and Anita Loos
worked in filmmaking at every level of production,
administration, and performance. Guy-Blaché had
incredible range across her filmmaking work, mak-
ing everything from short slapstick trick comedies
(“Turn-of-the-Century Surgery,” 1900), to religious
passion plays (“The Birth, the Life, and the Death of
Christ,” 1906), to patriotic capers about immigration
(“Making An American Citizen,” 1912), and to longer
dramatic feature films about the contradictory gen-
der politics of American culture (“The Ocean Waif,”
1916).


A chase film to the altar, “Matrimony’s Speed Limit”
(Alice Guy-Blaché, Solax, 1913) depicts the plight of
a financially ruined bachelor, Fraunie, who learns
that he has exactly twelve minutes to marry a bride
or else he will lose out on a very large inheritance.
Made by one of the most prolific early silent
filmmakers, Alice Guy-Blaché (1873-1968), this film
provides a gendered, comic twist on the terrors of
modernity: the collapse of separate public and pri-
vate spheres, and the unprecedented speed of com-
munications and transportation systems. An urgent
telegram and hotrod automobile make a mockery of
the institution of marriage, as the film’s title heralds.
“Matrimony’s Speed Limit” draws on a long line of
marital chase films, such as Biograph’s
“Personal” (1904) and Lubin’s “Meet Me at the
Fountain” (1904), both of which depict a bachelor
who places a personal ad in the newspaper and is
then chased over fences and through public foun-
tains by a multiplying horde of would-be brides.
Likewise, Guy-Blaché’s film inspired many memora-
ble imitations, such as Buster Keaton’s hilarious
“Seven Chances” (1925) and Pierre Etaix’s “The
Suitor” (France, 1962)—not to exclude “The
Bachelor” (1999) starring Chris O’Donnell and
Renée Zellweger.

Alice Guy-Blaché made over seven hundred films
between 1896 and 1920 in France (at Gaumont
from 1896-1907) and in the United States (at her
own production company, Solax, from 1907-1920).
Although uniquely prolific, her participation in the
silent film industry as a woman director, scenarist
(i.e. scriptwriter), and producer was by no means
unprecedented: hundreds of women such as Lois
Weber, Mabel Normand, Dorothy Davenport,
Frances Marion, Gene Gauntier, and Anita Loos
worked in filmmaking at every level of production,
administration, and performance. Guy-Blaché had
incredible range across her filmmaking work, mak-
ing everything from short slapstick trick comedies
(“Turn-of-the-Century Surgery,” 1900), to religious
passion plays (“The Birth, the Life, and the Death of
Christ,” 1906), to patriotic capers about immigration
(“Making An American Citizen,” 1912), and to longer
dramatic feature films about the contradictory gen-
der politics of American culture (“The Ocean Waif,”
1916).

In addition to her incredible productivity, Guy-Blaché
represents an exciting figure for feminist film histori-
ans, as so many of her films uncannily speak to the
frequent exclusion of important women filmmakers
from canonical American film histories. While films
such as “Madame’s Cravings” (1906), “The
Consequences of Feminism” (1906), and
“Matrimony’s Speed Limit” lampoon shifting societal
gender norms, other films—including “The Cabbage
Fairy” (1896), “Tarnished Reputations” (1920), and
“What Will People Say?” (1916)—thematize the slip-
pery relationship between documented history and
personal memory: between knowledge and experi-
ence. They articulate the necessity of drawing on
personal memoir, anecdotal narrative, and other
forms of subjective testimony in order to record his-
tories that are otherwise marked by archival lapses
and missing information. Guy-Blaché, one of the
earliest and most productive filmmakers in the histo-
ry of cinema, had dropped out of public awareness
and historical visibility for so long precisely due to a
lack of official documentation of her career—a strik-
ing paucity compared to the records celebrating the
achievements of male directors such as D.W.
Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Edwin S. Porter.

Fortunately, Guy-Blaché’s personal memoirs (“The
Memoirs of Alice Guy-Blaché,” Scarecrow Press,
1996), and her prolific body of films have helped to
set the record straight. Moreover, these materials
have raised crucial questions about the very form
and practice of documenting and narrating film his-
tory. In the years since her cinematic rediscovery
and historiographic recuperation by feminist film
scholars (such as Jane Gaines, Alison McMahan,
Amelie Hastie, and Joan Simon), Guy-Blaché has
become a very generative figure for feminist docu-
mentary filmmakers: exemplified by “The Lost
Garden: The Life and Cinema of Alice Guy-
Blaché” (Marquise Lepage, 1995) and “Be Natural:
The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché” (Pamela
Green, 2015).

In one of her earliest short films, “The Cabbage
Fairy” (1896), Guy-Blaché depicts the childhood
legend that babies are not born from the female
uterus, but instead harvested from celestial cab-
bage patches. Her films frequently draw on child-
hood myth and folklore to provide comic correctives
that exhibit the instabilities of all forms of knowledge
and of historical documentation. Even modern soci-
eties have their own folksy mythologies. Indeed, the
figure of the cabbage fairy makes a comeback ten
years later in “Madame’s Cravings”: a perverse trick
comedy about a pregnant woman (played by Guy-
Blaché herself) who wanders around a public park
indulging in her absurd maternity cravings, which
include a young child’s lollipop, a wine lover’s ab-
sinthe, a traveling salesman’s smoking pipe, and a
crippled beggar’s pickled herring. Her short films
frequently use comedy to negotiate between the
exciting potentials of women’s newfound opportuni-
ties in the public sphere, and pervasive anxieties
about the destructive effects that this unprecedent-
ed freedom might wreak on democratic society.

More than just a zippy, entertaining film made by a
foundational female filmmaker, “Matrimony’s Speed
Limit” represents a crucial historical text that comi-
cally meditates upon the gendered, class, and racial
fantasies and anxieties of early twentieth century
American culture.

...

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