FAST AND LOOSE (director: Edwin L. Marin; screenwriter: Harry Kurnitz; cinematographer: George J. Folsey; editor: Elmo Veron; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Robert Montgomery (Joel Sloane), Rosalind Russell (Garda Sloane), Reginald Owen (Vincent Charlton), Ralph Morgan (Nicholas Torrent), Etienne Girardot (Christopher Oates), Alan Dinehart (David Z. Hilliard), Joan Marsh (Bobby Neville), Jo Ann Sayers (Christina ‘Chris’ Torrent), Anthony Allan (Phil Sergeant), Tom Collins (Gerald Torrent), Sidney Blackmer (‘Lucky’ Nolan), Donald Douglas (Inspector Forbes), Ian Wolfe (Mr. Wilkes), Mary Forbes (Mrs. Torrent); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frederick Stephani; MGM; 1939)
“Comedy/mystery story directed with style by Edwin L. Marin.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A ‘B-film’ comedy/mystery story directed with style by Edwin L. Marin (“Nocturne”/”Johnny Angel”/”Tall in the Saddle”) to look like a Thin Man episode. It’s based on Harry Kurnitz’ well-written intricately plotted script about the theft of a Shakespeare manuscript that involves the husband-wife team of Joel (Robert Montgomery), a struggling rare-book shop owner and amateur sleuth, and his zany wife, Garda Sloane (Rosalind Russell), who helps him in the store and with his sleuthing. Because of the theft, they find themselves mixed up in a murder investigation when insurance company officer Hilliard (Alan Dinehart) smells something fishy going on in the estate of Nicholas Torrent (Ralph Morgan), his client, over an unclaimed first-edition of Paradise Lost, and asks Joel to do some snooping when he goes to the estate to buy the Shakespeare manuscript, worth $500,000, for his wealthy eccentric absent-minded client Oates (Etienne Girardot). With the original Shakespeare manuscript replaced by a forgery and three murders committed over the manuscript, Joel teams up with the befuddled lead investigator Forbes (Donald Douglas) to get to the bottom of this confusing case.
The cast of characters include the families beleaguered patriarch Nicholas Torrent (Ralph Morgan), who wants to sell the manuscript to pay off his recent debts; his good-for-nothing gambler son Gerald (Tom Collins) who had to steal the manuscript to pay off his gambling debts to racketeer gambling house owner Lucky Nolan (Sidney Blackmer); ‘Chris’ Torrent (Jo Ann Sayers) the protective sister of Gerald; Phil Sergeant (Anthony Allan) the trusted secretary of Nicholas who is secretly involved with Chris and protective of the siblings; sexy party girl Bobby Neville (Joan Marsh) who is dating Gerald and secretly working for Lucky; Nicholas’s passive wife (Mary Forbes); his shady broker Charlton (Reginald Owen), the honest rare-book investor Stockton who bought the real Shakespeare manuscript and shady librarian Wilkes (Ian Wolfe) who served time as a forger under his real name.
It’s cleverly hidden who the guilty party is until the last minute of the third act, as until then many of the characters wind up with shiners and the son of the tycoon gets cut off from his father’s will for being such a jerk.
This enjoyable film is the final pairing of Rosalind and Montgomery, who appeared in several successful films during the 1930s together. It’s a sequel to “Fast Company”(1938).
REVIEWED ON 7/27/2008 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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