#15) Matrimony’s Speed Limit (1913)
OR “Love Uses the Carpool Lane”
Directed by Alice Guy
Class of 2003
View the whole thing here, courtesy of a Dailymotion channel that has done its homework.
This is my original write-up for “Matrimony’s Speed Limit”, but trust me, read this revised, expanded version instead. You’ll thank me later.
The Plot: Fraunie (Fraunie Fraunholz) loses his money in the stock market. His wealthy girlfriend Marian (Marian Swayne) wants them to marry and offers to support him financially for a time. He refuses (this being the teens and all), so Marian concocts a plan; she sends him a fake telegram saying he will inherit his late aunt’s fortune if he marries by noon that day. With 12 minutes to go, hilarity has no choice but to ensue.
Why It Matters: The NFR cites the work of pioneering female director Alice Guy and includes an essay by University of Minnesota professor Margaret Hennefeld.
But Does It Really?: Okay, so the answer is yes and no. While female directors weren’t rare back in American film’s infancy, they sure are now and we need to celebrate them when we can. Plus, this is one of a handful of Alice Guy’s over 300 films that has survived. This is what I call a “Belloq film”; not very substantial in its day, but because it has survived it has increased in value. All of that aside, the film has not aged well. It’s very static and, perhaps its greatest sin, not very funny. But I’ll give it a pass because it brought me around to Alice Guy, who is an awesome unsung hero of early film.
Everybody Gets One: But in all seriousness, please take some time to learn more about Alice Guy. She is a badass in the history of film. The Women Film Pioneers Project is a good starting point, and provides a wealth of other great sources of information.
Wow, That’s Dated: There’s the usual stuff; stock ticker tape, telegrams as the fastest communication, etc. And then there’s the Wow. While frantically searching for a woman to marry, Fraunie comes across a woman with a white veil over her face. He proposes, she lifts her veil and…gasp! She’s black! And he runs off in horror. My note for this scene simply read, “WHAT?” Alice Guy gets a lot of credit for being among the first to include interracial casting in her films, but in this case it’s tainted by a cheap joke on racial relations. Definitely cringe-worthy watching it today.
- Boy, I know it’s a movie and everything, but Fraunie’s wearing a LOT of makeup.
- The Justice of the Peace Marian grabs looks like a cross between older Bela Lugosi and Alec Guinness in “Scrooge”.
- How close/far away is Marian’s house to Fraunie’s office? It takes Fraunie five seconds to run over to her, but it takes Marian the whole movie to drive to him. Did M.C. Escher design their town?
- Also, I’m pretty sure they filmed all of Marian’s driving scenes on the same stretch of road.
- Ah, back when drivers were just supposed to comply with a pedestrian’s suicide. Simpler times.
- The NFR’s essay on the film cites “Matrimony’s Speed Limit” as the inspiration for such similarly plotted films as Buster Keaton’s “Seven Chances” and the Chris O’Donnell rom-com “The Bachelor”. Yeah, I forgot about that movie too.