Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Fast Company

TCM's "Short and Sweet" spotlight is airing a bunch of detective movie series entries tomorrow morning and afternoon. I think they did the previous week too, since that's where I watched Fast Company.

Melvyn Douglas plays Joel Sloane, who has the interesting hook of being a dealer in rare books. His wife Garda (Florence Rice) is his secretary, which is obviously a way to save on money since the rare book business isn't going well. Instead, he makes most of the money he does by recovering stolen books for the reward money from the insurance company.

There have been several cases of stolen books involving another dealer, Otto Brockler (George Zucco). Ned Morgan (Shepperd Strudwick), who is in love with Otto's daughter Leah (Mary Howard), was arrested and convicted for the thefts, even though the books were never found. Ned has gotten out of prison, but nobody will give an ex-con a job. And Leah's dad says he'll put Ned back in jail if he gets too close to her again.

We then learn that the cases of Brockler's stolen books were an inside job. He's working with Eli Bannerman (Louis Calhern), an agent for book forger Sidney Wheeler (Dwight Frye). Eli is planning to sell some more of Wheeler's forgeries to Brockler, but there's some argument among the three of them over how much should be paid.

Otto Brockler winds up dead, hit over the head with a paperweight on his desk. Obviously Ned is the suspect, because he's known to the police while it's only the viewers who know about Eli and Sidney and their being possible subjects. Joel, and even more so Garda is, friends with Leah, so Garda tries to get Joel to help Ned. This results in his getting shot at, but not by Ned. He's also pursuing Brockler's secretary Julia (Claire Dodd) to pump her for information.

There's a lot in Fast Company that blends into all the other married couple detective movies that became a thing in Hollywood after the runaway success of The Thin Man. Indeed, it was only two months ago that I blogged about Douglas in There's Always a Woman. In that vein, however, Fast Company is a very good example of the genre. It's twisty and turny, with a lot of good characterizations from the supporting actors playing the various suspects.

Douglas and Rice do well together, but oddly enough, when MGM turned this one into a series with two more movies, they picked different starts for Joel and Garda each time. The three movies are on a box set together, which can be purchased from the TCM Shop.

No comments: