Fast Company (1938): Msytery Film, Starring Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice as Amatuer Sleuths

Edward Buzzell directed this amusing mystery film, starring Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice as a married couple of rare-book dealers who serve as amateur sleuths.

The influence of The Thin Man series, which began in 1934, and is far superior, is undeniable.

The tale is based on the novel of the same name by “Marco Page” (pseudonym of Harry Kurnitz).

Joel and Garda Sloane run a rare-book business in New York, and to supplement their meager income, Joel recovers stolen books.

Insurance man Steve Langner drops off a check for his latest success. The couple also tries to help Ned Morgan, recently released from prison, find a job, refusing to believe he was guilty of stealing books from dealer Otto Brockler.

Otto is not pleased to see his business associate, Eli Bannerman, He warns Eli that Joel is snooping around, but reluctantly agrees to take another shipment of fake editions created by Sid Wheeler for $5000.  When Eli tells Sid that Otto only paid $2000, Sid goes to see Otto to complain.

The movie became famous for its illustrious list of suspects, which includes some of Hollywood’s best character actors: Louis Calhern, Shepperd Strudwick, Dwight Frye, Douglass Dumbrille, Thurston Hall, George Zucco and Horace MacMahon.

The film’s success led to two 1939 films with the fictional couple, Fast and Loose and Fast and Furious, though, unlike other series, they were played by different actors in each installment.

The title was changed to Rare Book Murder when shown on TV.

Release date: July 8, 1938

Running time: 74 minutes