Friday, November 15, 2013

Fast and Furious (1939)



“Come on dear you need to get changed… you don’t want to be buried in that suit would you?”

            I love detective films from the 1930s be them serious or comedic. I love how smart the plots are and how good the characters are written and acted. At least the ones I have seen so far have been smart, well written, and well acted. MGM started the husband and wife sleuthing team with Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man in 1934 and spawned five more films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the couple. Many copies soon followed but none to the success and status of Nick and Nora. MGM tried to capitalize on their own success by creating Joel and Garda Sloan in Fast Company in 1938 (read my review here). Joel and Garda were played by Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice. Then came Fast and Loose with Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell the same year. Lastly there came Fast and Furious in 1939 with Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern.
            Garda (Sothern) gets to work before Joel (Tone). She sets up the office for him. The city is currently in the middle of a heat wave and Garda wants to get out it. To make Joel come up with the idea of leaving she puts a heating pad on his chair to really make him feel the heat. Joel comes in all happy. He gets his behind burned and figures out Garda’s idea. He still does not want to go away. Joel’s friend Mike comes into the office. Mike is a in a fix he needs money to start something up and also pay back someone. He is doing a pageant down in Seaside City. This pageant down in Seaside City gives Joel the idea to go down there with Garda. When they arrive in their room Joel at the shore sees his name listed on a brochure as being one of the judges of the pageant. He tries to get out of it but Mike convinces him to stay on.
            Bartell, the guy running the pageant, is in on a scam with Lily (Ruth Hussey). He had told her they would take the money that was raised for the pageant and run away together. Lily is not happy when she sees Bartell with one of the girls named Jerry Lawrence. Lily wants to take the money from the pageant and just run away that night but Bartell refuses.
            Garda finds out about Joel being a judge. She is furious with him. Before Garda can lay into her husband a whole bunch of people come into their room for a party. After the party Joel receives a telegram from Travers, a police friend of theirs. Travers wants Joel’s help on a case but Joel tells him cannot.
            The next day Travers finds Joel and Garda on the beach. He tells Joel that Bartell has been withdrawing funds every week from the pageant. Joel does not like what he is hearing since he has a stake in the pageant from giving Mike money for it. Bartell plans on leaving with Jerry, not with Lily, that night. Mike goes to get his ten thousand dollars back from Bartell. Bartell was getting the money from his office and all of a sudden Mike hears a gun shot. Mike thinks Bartell has killed himself. Travers and Joel come to the scene. Travers thinks Mike killed Bartell and brings Mike to jail. Joel goes back to the office. He finds a still lit cigarette with lipstick on it on the desk in the reception area. Lily has come back to the office to get money out of the safe. He asks her if she smokes and she replies that she does not.
            Joel finds out that Jerry is mixed up with a gangster named Connors. Bartell had owed Connors money. Travers goes to question Connors. Joel comes up to the apartment a few minutes later and he sees Jerry fleeing the apartment through another door. He stops her and questions her. He finds out that Jerry does not really know too much. When Joel gets back to the hotel Garda is waiting for him she wants to talk to him. As she talks to Joel he says he needs to go talk to Jerry again and he leaves. Garda thinks Joel had been with Jerry the entire time he was out.
            Garda wants to help with the case but Joel keeps telling her stay put. She decides to go snooping for herself. She gets the key to Jerry’s room. She finds Jerry’s passport and luggage set to go away on a cruise. She goes to tell Joel, who is at the club at the hotel, what she found. He does not want people to hear what she has to tell him. He takes her backstage but Lily walks by them so he takes her into a room. All the sudden the ceiling begins to come down on them. They are under the stage. Luckily they manage to stop the stage from crushing them at the last minute.
            Joel eventually manages to get some information out of Jerry. She tells him that Connors took the money from the safe when Bartell was killed. When Joel walks out of her room he hears her scream. He runs into the room to find Connors ready to hit her. Jerry runs out of room. Connors tells Joel that it was really Jerry who took the money and he was upset that Jerry was making it look like he took the money.
            Joel comes up with an idea to get to try to confess to the murder but unfortunately the chief of police has had enough with Travers and Joel working his territory. Jerry told the chief that she thinks Joel stole her passport. Joel goes to Jerry’s dressing room with fingerprints Travers had given him. The chief, who had been hiding, arrests Joel for theft.
            Of course Joel manages to get out of jail. As he and Garda are sitting down to breakfast he takes a look at Jerry’s passport he finds a ticket for a locker. He goes to the locker and finds the money that had been taken from Bartell. When Joel goes to talk to Jerry she is dead.
            The murderer is someone that you literally do not know until the moment they are revealed.
            I loved Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone together. Ann Sothern is just a panic. She is a tough chick to begin with so she was perfect as a determined feisty Garda Sloane. I was dying laughing with the way she was always ready to lay into Joel for being away all day or when he was looking at the other ladies. Franchot Tone I have only seen in dramatic roles before this. I thought he was very good in this role. He was funny and adorable. One scene I was cracking up with them was when Garda sees Joel flirting with one of the girls while they are swimming. Garda takes a dive in the water and swims up to Joel and bites his leg making him think the girl he is holding touched him and then Garda touches the girl making the girl think Joel touched her. Sothern's when she came up was hysterical. I have yet to see Fast and Loose with Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell but I think I can say that I like Tone and Sothern the best as Joel and Garda. Ruth Hussey seems to have played some bad girls. She was in Maisie with Sothern in the same year Fast and Furious was released and she was a cheating no good wife in that film. I am used to seeing Hussey in the Philadelphia Story where her character is sweet and funny. It has been interesting seeing her in Maisie and Fast and Furious where she is a bad girl. Hussey had the look and attitude to be a bad girl. I like Hussey a lot I look forward to seeing more of her films.

            Fast and Furious was so much fun to watch I enjoyed every minute of it. This is one of my favorite comedic detective films from 1930s.I wish the series had been started with Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern as Joel and Garda Slone because then maybe it would have lasted for a few more films. I think that was the downfall of the series that three actors and three actresses had played the same character. There was no continuity to them. All I can say thank god this Fast film was less like The Thin Man than the first one was. I absolutely recommend seeing Fast and Furious especially for Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone’s pairing.