Monday, September 14, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Fast and Loose (1930) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

As regular readers are aware, this summer Kino Lorber has released quite a few interesting classic film collections, centered around a variety of genres and performers.

One of the company's most recent sets is the Carole Lombard Collection I, consisting of a trio of early Lombard films: FAST AND LOOSE (1930), MAN OF THE WORLD (1931), and NO MAN OF HER OWN (1932).

MAN OF THE WORLD teams Lombard with her first husband, William Powell, to whom she was wed from 1931 to 1933, while NO MAN OF HER OWN pairs her with the man she would marry in 1939, Clark Gable.

I began the set watching the oldest film, FAST AND LOOSE. This is actually really Miriam Hopkins' film rather than Lombard's, with Carole in the second female lead. Either way, I'm glad it was included in the set as I had never seen it before, and I enjoyed it quite well.

Hopkins plays wealthy Marion Lenox, the type of dizzy heiress which Lombard would later play to perfection herself in films such as MY MAN GODFREY (1936).

Marion has just become engaged to stuffy Brit Lord Rockingham (David Hutcheson), but she doesn't love him and ditches her own engagement party.

Marion drives to the beach, where she chances to meet a handsome man (Charles Starrett) she initially knows only by his first name, Henry. Though she pretends to insult him, she's clearly interested and arranges to meet him again the next night, and the two fall madly in love. Marion promptly ends her engagement, determined that her future is with Henry.

Big surprises await when Marion discovers that Henry is her family's newly hired auto mechanic. Henry loves Marion but has pride and doesn't want to marry a rich girl, leaving Marion desperately trying to figure out how to hold on to the man she loves.

Meanwhile Marion's brother Bertie (Henry Wadsworth) is in love with a pretty, proper chorus girl named Alice (Lombard), who won't marry him unless he stops drinking and gets his act together.

The romances collide when everyone, including Marion and Bertie's father Bronson (Frank Morgan), ends up at a roadhouse just before it's raided by the police.

I found this film a nice surprise, a screwball-type romantic comedy which overcomes the awkwardness of early sound filming and proves to be quite amusing.

The camera setups by William Steiner are noticeably static, making the movie feel more like a play at times, especially as the entire thing is pretty much filmed in medium shots. And as a matter of fact, the Preston Sturges script was indeed based on a play, THE BEST PEOPLE, by David Gray and Avery Hopwood.

It boded well to find Sturges' name in the opening credits; this was one of his first films, and there's some nice, crisp dialogue scattered throughout, along with a couple of sexist comments best forgotten. (I didn't take them seriously anyway, this being a comedy.) The movie has a lively script and performances which take the film past the occasional feeling that groups of people are being filmed room by room. At some points there's more creative staging, with a scene where Hopkins joins Starrett under a car being quite delightful, along with a swimming sequence.

Hopkins is always fun in comedies, and this one is no exception; I love her breathless dialogue deliveries as she gets to know Henry. Future cowboy star Starrett is a bit stiff in his first credited role, but it fits his upright character and makes a good contrast with Hopkins' giddiness.

Wadsworth does well as Bertie in the type of role Lew Ayres excelled at (i.e., HOLIDAY). Lombard is unfortunately fairly bland here, as the restrained, noble Alice; there's no hint that not too many years later she'd be capable of pulling off a comedic performance on the same level as Hopkins.

Morgan is good as the rueful father with a twinkle in his eye, who comes to realize that marrying "lower class" people just might be the making of his children. Winifred Harris plays his dramatic wife, with Herbert Yost (aka Barry O'Moore) as her brother George, a Roland Young type character who is stunned to be chased around the roadhouse by Alice's wild roommate Millie (Ilka Chase).

Fred C. Newmeyer directed the film, which runs a well-paced 70 minutes. It's interesting to note that this film was shot in New York, rather than California.

The print is somewhat soft, as might be expected of a film of this vintage, and has a relatively rough soundtrack which shows it age. (The film does have subtitles for anyone who might need a bit of assistance.) That said, the film was still perfectly enjoyable, and it's wonderful that it's now widely available on Blu-ray.

Note: This film has no connection to the MGM film FAST AND LOOSE (1939), which starred Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell.

The Blu-ray disc includes trailers for three additional Carole Lombard films available from Kino Lorber.

I've seen the other two films in this set, but it's been many years, and I look forward to revisiting them soon. I'll also be very interested to see which Lombard films Kino Lorber releases as a follow-up to this initial collection.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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