Fast Company (1938)

Joel Sloane (Melvyn Douglas) and his wife Garda (Florence Rice) are dealers of rare books, running their own business in New York City. Their book sales aren’t booming, so to make some extra dough, Joel plays sleuth now and then, recovering stolen books and taking reward checks from the companies that insure the books.

(Image via Movie Poster Database)

(Image via Movie Poster Database)

Joel and Garda are also charitable souls. They’re helping their old friend Ned Morgan (Shepperd Strudwick) find a job. Ned’s recently been released from prison, where he served a sentence after being accused of stealing books from wealthy dealer Otto Brockler (George Zucco).

In reality, Ned stole no books, but he is in love with Brockler’s daugher, Leah (Mary Howard). Brockler framed Ned to keep him away from Leah, and he’s willing to do it again.

When Brockler is killed in his office, Ned becomes a suspect in the murder. Still convinced that their friend is innocent, Joel and Garda vow to help Ned clear his name.

One of many couples from the Nick & Nora Charles school of witty crime-solving, Joel and Gerda Sloane were the focus of three films, starting with 1938’s Fast Company. The sequels, Fast and Loose and Fast and Furious, were both released in 1939. A different pair took on the characters in each film: Douglas and Rice here, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell in Loose, Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern in Furious.

Fast Company was directed by Edward Buzzell. The film was written by Harry Kurnitz and Harold Tarshis, from Kurnitz’s own novel.

I love books and I love Melvyn Douglas, so a film with Melvyn Douglas starring as a rare book-seller is definitely my cup of tea.

I don’t love Douglas and Florence Rice’s supposed-to-be-funny-but-not-at-all impressions of Native Americans, but these impressions only play a big part in one scene. I was peeved, but the whole film – which is, otherwise, a very fun little mystery – was not completely ruined for me.

(Image via The HowdyGram)

(Image via The HowdyGram)

Douglas and Rice make a nice pair. They serve up more cutesy moments than the couples in other films of this type. Most of their bickering is light and has to do with Garda’s love for fancy (read as: expensive) clothing. They don’t throw jabs at each other quite as frequently as the viewer would expect, though they’re still a banter-y and very energetic couple.

In terms of story, Fast Company doesn’t really break any new ground, but it’s as fun to watch as any mystery, with the added bonus (for me) of quite a bit of book talk. I enjoyed it a lot, overall. The score: 3.5/5

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