Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 16, 2018


Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone
FAST AND FURIOUS (1939). Director: Busby Berkeley.

When Gerda Sloane (Ann Sothern), the wife of bookseller and amateur sleuth Joel Sloane (Franchot Tone), is told by him that the two are taking a vacation, she doesn't know that he's put money in a bathing beauty contest occurring in the resort town of Seaside City (read: Atlantic City). As Gerda runs interference for the occasionally amorous beauties, Joel investigates the murder of the contest's promoter, Eric Bartell (John Miljan). The suspects include his girlfriend, Lily (Ruth Hussey of The Uninvited); his other girlfriend, Jerry (Mary Beth Hughes of Men On Her Mind); Sloane's old friend, Mike Stevens (Lee Bowman of Up in Mabel's Room); and others. Fast and Furious was the debut and apparently the one and only entry in this bid for an aborted mystery series a la The Thin Man, but it's mediocre enough that there were never any sequels. Sothern and Tone make good leads -- Tone is somewhat better and has more aplomb at this than his co-star does -- but even Tone, good as he is, can't compete with William Powell. The business about a wife getting all hot and bothered because her husband is judging a beauty contest was to be repeated ad nauseum in various movies and TV shows, and had probably been done even before 1939. Harry Kurnitz' script has few laughs aside from a very funny bit involving some lions, and there is at least one very suspenseful scene when our couple are caught underneath a descending stage elevator, nearly crushing them. Otherwise, this is forgettable.

Verdict: Not one of the classics of 1939. **.


Gary R. said...

FAST AND FURIOUS was actually the third and final entry in the "Joel & Garda Sloane" series, though the only one with Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern in the leads. It was preceded in 1938 by FAST COMPANY, which starred Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice as the Sloanes, and 1939's FAST AND LOOSE, with Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell as the couple. The change in casting each time sure makes it seem like MGM wasn't trying very hard to establish a "series" identification with the films.

William said...

Sure sounds like it! I definitely missed the boat on this one, probably because I had assumed Tone and Sothern would be the stars in each entry. Now, of course, like most mad movie fans I'll have to look for the others in the brief series even forearmed with the knowledge that they may not be any better than this one, LOL!

Anyway, many, many thanks for the information on this long-forgotten series.

angelman66 said...

Looks like fun, though, kind of a screwball comedy, would you say? Franchot Tone was certainly a very attractive man--no wonder Joan fell for him.

William said...

Yes, Tone had no trouble getting ladies -- even getting into fist fights over some of them, LOL!