|Fast and Loose (1939)
Run time: Passed | 80 min | Comedy, Mystery, Crime
Director: Edwin L. Marin
Writers: Harry Kurnitz
Stars: Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Reginald Owen
In this swift-paced comedy-mystery, Montgomery and Russell play a couple (à la The Thin Man) who attend a country house party where a Shakespeare manuscript is stolen. Bright and expertly played.
This is the second installment of a series created by Harry Kurnitz from his book "Fast Company," featuring a husband and wife team, Joel and Garda Sloane, rare book dealers who were amateur detectives. The first outing was "Fast Company" starring Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice. "Fast and Loose" came next. Then the Sloane's misadventures came to a screeching halt with "Fast and Furious" featuring Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern." One reason for the demise was the rapid turnover in the lead roles with different actors playing Joel and Garda in each film. A common thread for all three was the writing of Harry Kurnitz which accounts for the similarities in dialog and story structures.
True, the series may remind viewers of Nick and Nora Charles but in reality there are many husband and wife flicks from the period that were somewhat patterned after the successful and popular "The Thin Man." These three films can stand on their own without such comparisons being necessary. Of the three, the first "Fast Company" is possibly the best with Douglas and Rice making a fine pair of sleuths. But the other two have merits of their own.
Robert Montgomery and the indomitable Rosalind Russell interact well with each other. The story about a forged Shakespeare which leads to murder with a whole gallery of suspects isn't always easy to follow but it's worth the time and effort. Montgomery and Russell share many a witty line and comeback, not quite as fast, nor as cutting, as the repartee between Russell and Cary Grant in "His Girl Friday" which was released the following year but still enough gibes to keep all fast and loose. There is also a running joke that carries on to the end involving a donut cushion from a previous case when Joel Slaone was shot in the tush.
The title is apt for the script and direction which are fast and loose. Not on a par with "The Thin Man," but still an entertaining piece of fluff.
"Fast and Loose" is a pleasant surprise. It is a well written who done it. I like the character portrayed by Robert Montgomery a part time investigator named Sloan. The role of Sloans wife is aptly played by Rosalind Russell who ' helps' her husband in his case solving endeavors. The cast is full of veteran character actors such as the venerable Ian Wolfe who can be seen in some Rathbone / Bruce type Sherlock Holmes films of the '40's. The fact that this mystery movie was written well enough to keep you guessing till the very end adds to it's charm. The setting of social muckity – mucks adds a nice flavor to the film also. In 1939, when this film was released, many landmark films crossed the silver screen. That same year Tyrone Power made an appearance as Zorro. Rathbone and Bruce started the Holmes series. As for classic mystery movies I think "Fast and Loose" was made in the right year. The film is not available on DVD, yet. It may never be. If I see it aired on TV again I WILL copy it for my archives. It is worth seeing again.
It’s a good thing Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell were the stars of "Fast and Loose," otherwise, there would be nothing to recommend it. They are wonderful as a sort of penniless Nick and Nora hot on the trail of a stolen Shakespearian manuscript. I found it a little hard to follow as far as who killed whom and why.
Both actors were excellent at both comedy and drama, and in fact, right before seeing this, I saw them in "Night Must Fall." What a difference! And really, it is a tribute to the talent of both that they could do such different types of films so easily.
I wish they’d had a better script to work with. This film is too long and too confusing. But if you want to see two masters at work, by all means, check it out.
During the 1930s and 40s, MGM produced many successful "Thin Man" movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. They were wonderful little mystery films with a very strong emphasis on humor and the banter between the two leads. Here, MGM tries to make the formula pay off again, but this time with Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in the leads. In so many ways the film was this old formula all over again, but somehow despite their best efforts the two leads just don't make it work as well as Powell and Loy–partly because the Thin Man films are so good it's hard to match them and partly because the script just isn't as good as the Thin Man scripts–it's just too complex and not all that interesting. Still, considering the Russell and Montgomery still are wonderful actors, the film pays off well enough to recommend it. I especially liked Montgomery's easy-going manner, though unfortunately the usually strong characters Russell plays aren't as evident here and she's rather over-shadowed by Montgomery.
So overall, it's not a bad little film–just don't expect the magic of Nick and Nora Charles.