Fast and Furious (1939): Busby Berkeley’s Mystery Comedy, Starring Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern

Busby Berkeley, better known for his extravagant musicals, directed Fast and Furious, a mystery comedy starring Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern as Joel and Garda Sloane, an amateurish crime-solving married couple.

It is the last of MGM trilogy, which began with Fast Company (1938), and continued with Fast and Loose (1939), with different actors in each film.

Joel and Garda Sloane, a husband and wife sleuthing duo, sell rare books, but dream of taking a vacation to escape the heat of New York. Joel decides to take Garda to Seaside City, where pal Mike Stevens is managing a beauty pageant.

Joel, who has invested $10,000, plans to supervise the finances of the event and “keep an eye on” the contestants. In the process, he discovers that Eric Bartell, the unscrupulous promoter, is duping Stevens.

Appointed as a judge, he begins to socialize with the contestants. Joel senses trouble when New York racketeer Ed Connors arrives to monitor Bartell’s activities, and when Lily Cole, Bartell’s publicity director, lashes out at contestant Jerry Lawrence for vying with her for Bartell’s attentions.

Joel is convinced that something foul when a detective tells him that Bartell will be arrested on swindling charges. When Bartell is mysteriously murdered, Stevens, the last person to see him, is arrested.

Stevens is suspected of the crime because he went to see Bartell to get the money he had loaned him.  Though Joel and Garda are warned by Chief Miller not to get involved, the duo, assisted by newspaper columnist Ted Bentley, investigate the murder.

An attempt is made on their lives, but Joel does not believe Stevens was the murderer. Instead, he suspects Lily, as she and Bartell were involved in a dispute.

When Joel discovers that Jerry smokes the same brand of cigarettes as the one found at the scene of Bartell’s murder, he interrogates her and she names Connors.  Overhearing her accusation, Connor attacks her.

When Jerry is found murdered, Joel deduces that the murderer must be Bentley, because he is the only person who knew that he had proof. Joel tricks Bentley into confessing his guilt, but Bentley tries to kill him. However, the police arrest him.  It turns out that Bentley killed Bartell because Jerry threw him over for Bartell, and that he killed Jerry because of her knowledge.