Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Fast and Furious (1939)

FAST AND FURIOUS is a fun curiosity in the husband-wife detective genre. I term it a "curiosity" for two reasons: Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern were the third team of actors to star as rare book dealers and amateur sleuths Joel and Garda Sloan in a 15-month period, and the movie is a non-musical directed by the great Busby Berkeley.

Tone and Sothern make an appealing team, who constantly banter back and forth and are plainly crazy about one another. The story isn't much, with the Sloans solving a murder which takes place during a seaside beauty pageant, but with a supporting cast including Ruth Hussey, Allyn Joslyn, and Lee Bowman, it's an enjoyable 73 minutes. My most serious complaint about the film is that there are some truly dreadful back projections, which are quite distracting.

When Busby Berkeley left Warner Bros. for MGM, he apparently told MGM he wanted to direct all types of movies, and he made FAST AND FURIOUS his first year at the studio. THE BUSBY BERKELEY BOOK by Tony Thomas quotes Berkeley as saying, "This picture was a joy to direct." Berkeley also made his first Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musical, BABES IN ARMS, in 1939; a DVD set of his Mickey and Judy musicals will be out on September 25th.

The Sloan series has a peculiar history. MGM was apparently on a quest to find the next Nick and Nora Charles. The first film about the Sloans, FAST COMPANY, was released in July 1938 with Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice in the leads. FAST COMPANY was released in the middle of a completely different set of husband-wife detective movies Douglas made for Columbia, THERE'S ALWAYS A WOMAN (reviewed here last month) and THERE'S THAT WOMAN AGAIN. To make things even more confusing, two different actresses, Joan Blondell and Virginia Bruce, played Douglas's wife in the Columbia films; and Douglas and Bruce had, at one time, been considered by MGM to replace William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles!

In February 1939, just a few months after the release of FAST COMPANY, another Sloan film, FAST AND LOOSE, was released, this time with Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell as Joel and Garda Sloan. This entry in the series can be viewed on TCM on August 20, 2007.

Finally, FAST AND FURIOUS was released in October 1939, with Tone and Sothern as the new Joel and Garda, and thus the Sloan series sadly came to an end. Based on seeing this entry, it's really too bad. The husband and wife sharing a book business gave the film a unique twist, and Tone and Sothern were fun to watch together.

You can watch the FAST AND FURIOUS trailer here. You can also watch a trailer for the first film in the series, FAST COMPANY, as well as the trailer for FAST AND LOOSE.

FAST AND FURIOUS can be seen on cable on TCM. It has not been released on DVD or video.

More info about the preceding film in the series, FAST AND LOOSE, is also at TCM. Vote here to indicate interest in FAST AND LOOSE being released on DVD, and here to indicate interest in FAST COMPANY.

An inexpensive DVD set of the three Sloan movies would doubtless be welcomed by many film fans. It would be wonderful if Warners could pull some of the more unusual titles like this out of the vaults for DVD release.

Update: Here are reviews of FAST COMPANY (1938) and FAST AND LOOSE (1939).

April 2013 Update: The three Sloan movies are now available as a triple feature DVD from the Warner Archive.


Blogger jau said...

That triple dvd would be fantastic!! I'd buy it in a heartbeat. They're all wonderful. Thanks for writing about them.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Buzz Stephens said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, there is an exciting, and wildly popular new group on Yahoo called The Judy Garland Experience. The group features lively discussions, great photo's, and the most amazing music files anywhere. This week they are featuring a retrospective of Judy's performances at the London Palladium 1951-1969 with all never before released performances. They also have all of Judy's tracks from The Hollywood Place as well as many other rarities. And if that's not enough they are even featuring a rare concert performance by the exciting Damita Jo.
The membership of the group includes Garland family members, other celebrities, author's, people who have made films about Judy Garland, and fans from all levels and backgrounds. The only thing missing is you!
Come check it out, you may never want to leave!

1:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the other films in the series, Anne!

Best wishes,

11:54 PM  

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