Watching 1939: Fast and Loose (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  Fast and Loose (1939)

Release date:  Feb. 17, 1939

Cast:  Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Reginald Owen, Ralph Morgan, Etienne Girardot, Alan Dinehart, Jo Ann Sayers, Joan Marsh, John Hubbard, Tom Collins, Sidney Blackmer, Ian Wolfe, Frank Orth (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Edwin L. Marin

Eccentric Christopher Oates (Girardot) wants to buy a rare William Shakespeare manuscript from rare book collector Nick Torrent (Morgan). Oates seeks the help a pair of married booksellers, Joel (Montgomery) and Garda Sloane (Russell). However, as the Sloanes try to make a sell, murders start to occur and their job switches to sleuthing.

1939 Notes:
• Character actor Etienne Girardot who acted in this film died in Nov. 1939. He was in eight films released this year.
• Robert Montgomery’s only film released in 1939.
• Rosalind Russell was only in two films released in 1939. The other film was “The Women.”
• Jo Ann Sayers was in 11 feature films and shorts in 1939. She acted in a total of 15 credits from 1938 to 1953.
• Tom Collins was in nine shorts and feature films in 1939. He only acted in a total of 14 films from 1939 to 1940.
• Frank Orth was in 18 films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• “Fast and Loose” is part of a trio of films that follows a married couple, Joel and Garda Sloan, solving mysteries. Each film has different leads playing the Sloans: “Fast Company” (1938) stars Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice, and “Fast and Furious” (1939) stars Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern.
• The “Fast” trio was created in response to the popularity of the sophisticated detective films, “The Thin Man” series, and from complaints that “Thin Man” films weren’t being released fast enough, according to Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell by Bernard F. Dick.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
“Fast and Loose” was part of a three-part series to mimic the style, humor and sophistication of the “The Thin Man” mystery films.

And while “Fast and Loose” (and the other “Fast” films) were noted to be a carbon copy, they still stand on their own and enjoyable, humorous, and intriguing mystery films.

Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell are wonderful in their films (individually and together) and while “Fast and Loose” may not be a film either is remembered for, they both still bring their A-game. While they play a married detective team, Montgomery is the main focus here. We see less of Russell in the middle of the film until she reappears at the end.

I can attest for the other two “Fast” series films that they are just as enjoyable as this one. If audiences were upset that the “Thin Man” movies weren’t coming out fast enough, these were a decent substitute. They were funny, had sophistication, and kept the viewer stumped of “who done it.” I honestly didn’t know who the criminal was in this film until the end, similar to how “The Thin Man” movies keep you guessing.

As far as films released in 1939, Montgomery and Russell were in few compared to other actors. “Fast and Loose” was Montgomery’s only film released in 1939 and was one of two for Russell. While Russell’s role was small here, her next film gave her a much juicier role: “The Women.”

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1 thought on “Watching 1939: Fast and Loose (1939)

  1. Of their four films together, this and Night Must Fall are my favorites. Though I read that Russell stated, she and Montgomery were not all that chummy off screen. Apparently he had an attitude towards her.


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