Comedy Oddities: Fast And Loose (1930)

fast and loose index

Based on a play by David Gray and Avery Hopwood, Preston Sturges got his third ever credit for “dialogue” here, though exactly what his input was is hard to know. It feels like a sub Noel Coward effort alas, as two posh kids Marion (Miriam Hopkins) and Bertie (Henry Wadsworth) are infantile and childish and when they start to date two commoners their family is appalled, especially as one is an auto-mechanic and the other a chorus girl.

This is fairly predictable rom-com territory we’re in then with this early talkie, where Marion is initially planning to get married to Lord Rockingham (David Hutcheson) and give up what is insinuated to be a somewhat scandaous single life, but she’s horrified by the prospect and only marrying to please her mother Carrie (Winifred Harris) and Uncle George (Herbert Yost) as it could lead to a title in the family. Her nearly always drunk brother Bertie teases her about this, but gently supports her as he cheerfully toasts “Here’s to Uncle George, may he slip on a banana peel and break his neck”.

Marion’s father Bronson (Frank Morgan) at least has doubts about Lord Rockingham and believes him to be quite the bore, and fairly early on Marion snaps, confronts Lord Rockingham about her doubts at her own engagement party and leaves, and when she drives to the beach she meets Henry (Charles Starrett), an auto-mechanic going for a swim at a rather odd time. He may be the romantic love interest in the movie but it’s hard to like him as he goes on about men being stronger than women as they were never intended to be their equal, Marion tells him that he makes her sick at least, but though she leaves him with the line “Before I forget, I think you’re a big mug” it’s clear she does fancy him a bit.

Meanwhile Bertie meets and wants to marry chorus girl Alice, but Uncle George is doing his best to annoy everyone and suggests that he and Bronson impersonate theatrical agents and try and pay off Alice (Carole Lombard), but she has the strongest moral code out of all of them and refuses their offer. Every so often the film flits off to Marion and Henry meeting at the beach for another late night swim, and there’s a lot of flirtation going on once again.

There’s some daft farce as the elders try and interfere with their children’s love lives, Bertie gets to be drunk and idiotic to mostly amusing ends, Lord Rockingham turns out to be quite odd and made me wish that he was in it more, and the film has a contrived happy ending that you could see from several miles away. The big speeches given at the end of the film are quite fun too, and the central anti-snobbery message should be applauded at least.

It’s not a sophisticated affair however, there were a lot of great plays produced in this era but this is a very middle of the road comedy, it has occasional bursts of amusing dialogue but a lot of the time it’s a little humdrum. Bertie and Marion are likeable enough and Lord Rockingham entertains, but the rest of the characters are a little nothing-y, bar Henry who is extremely unlikeable, so for me it’s a film where at least one of the couples are ill matched and I only hope for Marion’s sake that Henry was violently killed in an automobile accident seconds after the film ended.

★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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