Alice Guy in America – 3

A Fool and his Money
R: Alice Guy. D: James Russell. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1912

Presumedly the earliest surviving American film with an all black (Afro-American) cast

“The film is a comedy about what happens when a working class black man suddenly comes into a windfall of money. Perhaps the alternate title, ‘Darktown Aristocrats’ best captures the fact that the humor derives from placing black actors in bourgeois settings and clothing.(…) Alisen McMahan argues in an excerpt from her award winning book, ‘Alice Guy Blaché, Lost Visionary of the Cinema’ the film is certainly racist, but it also reflects ‘the dream of assimilation’ associated with both immigrants and the black middle class. For Blaché ‘assimilation meant taking on the stereotypes of the adopted culture.’ Blaché was a French immigrant to the United States which did not prevent her from replicating racist stereotypes of the American culture.”

>>> The Watermelon PatchTwo Knights of VaudevilleA Natural Born Gambler on this site

Matrimony’s Speed Limit
R: Alice Guy. D: Fraunie Fraunholz, Marian Swayne. P: Solax Film Company. USA 1913

“A chase film to the altar, Matrimony’s Speed Limit (Alice GuyBlaché, 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 GuyBlaché (18731968), this film provides a gendered, comic twist on the terrors of modernity: the collapse of separate public and private spheres, and the unprecedented speed of communications and transportation systems. An urgent telegram and hotrod automobile make a mockery of the institution of marriage, as the film’s title heralds. (…)

As the film reveals, the speed limit of matrimony is, in fact, racial miscegenation (in 1913 American culture). This becomes literalized when Fraunie’s supine, suicidal body actually stops traffic — fortunately, the occupant of the oncoming automobile turns out to be Fraunie’s jilted fiancée, Marian, who had devised the whole scheme, and is herself accompanied by a minister. The two wed immediately, and then retreatto their private domestic space whereupon she discloses her ruse and deception. Fraunie is outraged and attempts to storm off, but Marian steals his hat — of course he cannot go out in public without his hat—and then the two finally embrace. Instead of a marriage-contingent inheritance, Fraunie will have to be satisfied with Marian’s substantial dowry. What could go wrong?

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

>>> Alice Guy in America – 1Alice Guy in America – 2  on this site