Fast and Loose


1h 20m 1939
Fast and Loose

Brief Synopsis

Married book-dealers Joel and Garda Sloane investigate the killing of a noted collector.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Mystery
Release Date
Feb 17, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Joel Sloane, a bibliophile and amateur sleuth, is commissioned by befuddled grocery tycoon Christopher Oates to purchase an original Shakespeare manuscript from millionaire Nicholas Torrent. When Joel meets with Torrent's insurer, he learns that the insurance company suspects that Torrent's business affairs are improper, and he agrees to investigate the Torrent estate in exchange for an invitation to the Torrent house. Soon after Joel and his wife Garda take up residence in the Torrent mansion, a Shakespearian manuscript is stolen from Vincent Charlton, a family friend and Torrent's broker, who was examining the document, and Joel suspects Torrent's son Gerald of the theft. Joel questions Gerald, whose pencil was found on the floor near the safe after the robbery. When Gerald finds Joel's questioning too inquisitive, he reaches for his gun, but Joel disarms him. Later, Gerald places a call to Bobby Neville, the flirtatious girl friend of nightclub owner "Lucky" Nolan, and reports that the operation went haywire. Joel eavesdrops on the conversation and decides that a visit to Bobby will provide him with clues to the case. After he enters Bobby's room, however, the police rush in, and he is arrested along with Bobby in connection with the murder of Nicholas Torrent. Other suspects in Torrent's murder include Gerald, who stands to gain millions from his father's death; Phil Sergeant, the librarian, who is in love with Torrent's daughter Christina; and Lucky Nolan, to whom Gerald is in debt. Realizing that the stolen manuscript was actually a forgery, Joel asks police inspector Forbes to keep silent about the fake, hoping to force the manuscript's purchaser to reveal himself. Following his only lead, Joel visits Nolan, but soon realizes that the nightclub owner is innocent, his only interest being in the collection of Gerald's gambling debt. When Joel returns to the Torrent estate, he learns that Phil's only crime was in trying to protect Gerald, who had pawned the manuscript in order to pay his gambling debt. Soon after, Stockton, the owner of the purloined authentic manuscript, demands to meet with Joel and drives to the Torrent estate. Before he can show Joel the manuscript, however, Stockton is murdered and the transcript is found in Gerald's room. Believing that Gerald has been framed, Joel is at a loss for leads until Charlton decides to sell the manuscript for the Torrent family. Joel becomes suspicious after he advises Charlton that the manuscript is a fake and that he should file an insurance claim. When Charlton refuses to let him see the document, Joel realizes that he must have sold the original to Stockton and then murdered Torrent when he discovered the broker's duplicity.

Photo Collections

Fast and Loose - Movie Poster
Here is a window card movie poster from MGM's Fast and Loose (1939), starring Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell. Window Cards were mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate infromation.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Mystery
Release Date
Feb 17, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

Fast and Loose


Rosalind Russell was at the peak of her career in the late 1930s. Films like the suspenseful Night Must Fall (1937) which co-starred Robert Montgomery and the Oscar® nominated The Citadel (1938) with Robert Donat had been highly successful. It seems surprising, in retrospect, that MGM would put its star in a film like Fast and Loose (1939) as a follow-up.

Bernard F. Dick in his biography of Rosalind Russell, Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell wrote, "One of two films she made that year [1938-1939] was Fast and Loose the final pairing of Rosalind and Robert Montgomery. The success of the Thin Man films, coupled with complaints from exhibitors that they appeared too infrequently, prompted MGM to create a spin-off with the same premise, but a different gimmick: a husband and wife team of amateur sleuths, with the husband as a rare books dealer who moves in a world of first editions and priceless manuscripts. The "Fast" series – so called because "Fast" appeared in each title (Fast Company [1938], Fast and Loose, and Fast and Furious [1939]) – lacked the production values of the Thin Man films as well as the star power of William Powell and Myrna Loy; the Fast films were the equivalent of B movies, and not especially memorable ones at that. Unlike the Thin Man series, in which William Powell and Myrna Loy played Nick and Nora Charles in all six films, each of the Fast films had different co-stars: Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice in Fast Company, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Fast and Loose, and Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern in Fast and Furious (1939). What the series needed, and got, was sophistication – never to the degree to which Powell and Loy supplied it, but in a diluted form. Fast and Loose belonged to Robert Montgomery, who triumphed over an intricately plotted script about the theft of a Shakespeare manuscript. Although he solves the case by using Sherlockian deduction, Rosalind ends up accidentally shooting him in the butt while he is fighting it out with the murderer. Although Rosalind played the quick-with-a-quip heroine gamely, she was given little to do, particularly in the film's midsection, during which she virtually disappeared."

The resemblance to the Thin Man films did not go unnoticed by the critics. Time Magazine's review in February 1939, noted: "Fast and Loose (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) might be described as one of The Thin Man's wilder oats...Creator of these bookish detectives is tall, goggled Scenarist Harry Kurnitz, longtime mystery writer for pulp magazines, who writes under the false-whiskery pen name of Marco Page and the influence of Dashiell Hammett. His characters first appeared last spring in a spade-calling mystery novel, Fast Company, in which the main victim was poetically conked with a bust of Dante. ...In Fast and Loose, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell show up as the likeliest pretenders to the places of William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man tradition. For Fast and Loose, author Kurnitz whipped up a few new fits and starts."

The New York Times' review by Frank Nugent observed "the pictures have much in common: a sense of humor, a facile style, genial performances and just enough puzzlement to keep us from suspecting the least suspicious member of the cast." A continuity error did not go unnoticed. In one scene, Joan Marsh is given a black eye but the scene was apparently shot on different days with the makeup man forgetting to reapply it because the black eye disappears and reappears in the same sequence. "We still keep wondering, though, about Miss Marsh's chameleon-like black eye. It was almost more of a puzzle than the Shakespeare folio...The comedy is jauntily paced, and profits as much from its writing as it has from the deft light-comedy playing of Mr. Montgomery and Miss Russell in the nuisance roles, of Reginald Owen, Etienne Girardot, Ian Wolfe, Sidney Blackmer and Ralph Morgan and others in the suspect-victim group."

It's doubtful that Rosalind Russell gave her 'nuisance role' in Fast and Loose a second thought the moment she left the sound stage, because her next assignment that year was The Women (1939).

Producer: Frederick Stephani
Director: Edwin L. Marin
Screenplay: Harry Kurnitz
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Film Editing: Elmo Veron
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Robert Montgomery (Joel Sloane), Rosalind Russell (Garda Sloane), Reginald Owen (Vincent Charlton), Ralph Morgan (Nicholas Torrent), Etienne Girardot (Christopher Oates), Alan Dinehart (David Z. Hilliard).
BW-80m. Closed captioning.

by Lorraine LoBianco

SOURCES:
Time Magazine Feb 27,1939
Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell by Bernard F. Dick
The New York Times: The Screen; Passing Judgments on Criterion's 'Fast and Loose,' the Paramount's 'Never Say Die,' and Others by Frank Nugent, March 9, 1939
Fast And Loose

Fast and Loose

Rosalind Russell was at the peak of her career in the late 1930s. Films like the suspenseful Night Must Fall (1937) which co-starred Robert Montgomery and the Oscar® nominated The Citadel (1938) with Robert Donat had been highly successful. It seems surprising, in retrospect, that MGM would put its star in a film like Fast and Loose (1939) as a follow-up. Bernard F. Dick in his biography of Rosalind Russell, Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell wrote, "One of two films she made that year [1938-1939] was Fast and Loose the final pairing of Rosalind and Robert Montgomery. The success of the Thin Man films, coupled with complaints from exhibitors that they appeared too infrequently, prompted MGM to create a spin-off with the same premise, but a different gimmick: a husband and wife team of amateur sleuths, with the husband as a rare books dealer who moves in a world of first editions and priceless manuscripts. The "Fast" series – so called because "Fast" appeared in each title (Fast Company [1938], Fast and Loose, and Fast and Furious [1939]) – lacked the production values of the Thin Man films as well as the star power of William Powell and Myrna Loy; the Fast films were the equivalent of B movies, and not especially memorable ones at that. Unlike the Thin Man series, in which William Powell and Myrna Loy played Nick and Nora Charles in all six films, each of the Fast films had different co-stars: Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice in Fast Company, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Fast and Loose, and Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern in Fast and Furious (1939). What the series needed, and got, was sophistication – never to the degree to which Powell and Loy supplied it, but in a diluted form. Fast and Loose belonged to Robert Montgomery, who triumphed over an intricately plotted script about the theft of a Shakespeare manuscript. Although he solves the case by using Sherlockian deduction, Rosalind ends up accidentally shooting him in the butt while he is fighting it out with the murderer. Although Rosalind played the quick-with-a-quip heroine gamely, she was given little to do, particularly in the film's midsection, during which she virtually disappeared." The resemblance to the Thin Man films did not go unnoticed by the critics. Time Magazine's review in February 1939, noted: "Fast and Loose (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) might be described as one of The Thin Man's wilder oats...Creator of these bookish detectives is tall, goggled Scenarist Harry Kurnitz, longtime mystery writer for pulp magazines, who writes under the false-whiskery pen name of Marco Page and the influence of Dashiell Hammett. His characters first appeared last spring in a spade-calling mystery novel, Fast Company, in which the main victim was poetically conked with a bust of Dante. ...In Fast and Loose, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell show up as the likeliest pretenders to the places of William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man tradition. For Fast and Loose, author Kurnitz whipped up a few new fits and starts." The New York Times' review by Frank Nugent observed "the pictures have much in common: a sense of humor, a facile style, genial performances and just enough puzzlement to keep us from suspecting the least suspicious member of the cast." A continuity error did not go unnoticed. In one scene, Joan Marsh is given a black eye but the scene was apparently shot on different days with the makeup man forgetting to reapply it because the black eye disappears and reappears in the same sequence. "We still keep wondering, though, about Miss Marsh's chameleon-like black eye. It was almost more of a puzzle than the Shakespeare folio...The comedy is jauntily paced, and profits as much from its writing as it has from the deft light-comedy playing of Mr. Montgomery and Miss Russell in the nuisance roles, of Reginald Owen, Etienne Girardot, Ian Wolfe, Sidney Blackmer and Ralph Morgan and others in the suspect-victim group." It's doubtful that Rosalind Russell gave her 'nuisance role' in Fast and Loose a second thought the moment she left the sound stage, because her next assignment that year was The Women (1939). Producer: Frederick Stephani Director: Edwin L. Marin Screenplay: Harry Kurnitz Cinematography: George J. Folsey Film Editing: Elmo Veron Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Franz Waxman Cast: Robert Montgomery (Joel Sloane), Rosalind Russell (Garda Sloane), Reginald Owen (Vincent Charlton), Ralph Morgan (Nicholas Torrent), Etienne Girardot (Christopher Oates), Alan Dinehart (David Z. Hilliard). BW-80m. Closed captioning. by Lorraine LoBianco SOURCES: Time Magazine Feb 27,1939 Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell by Bernard F. Dick The New York Times: The Screen; Passing Judgments on Criterion's 'Fast and Loose,' the Paramount's 'Never Say Die,' and Others by Frank Nugent, March 9, 1939

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

This film was the second film in M-G-M's Joel and Garda Stone detective trilogy. More information on the series can be found in the entry for Fast Company (see below). Although Hollywood Reporter production charts and pre-release news item list actors Tom Neal, Tom Kennedy, Pierre Watkin and Eddie Dunn in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.