For the record, the titles in question on this single-disc set from Warner Archive are Fast Company, Fast and Loose and Fast and Furious. Don’t let that third title make you believe they’re about racing cars; they’re not. They are about finding books. And that may be why neither you nor I have heard of the Sloanes until now.
Joel and Garda Stone are the married sleuths / book dealers at the heart of this forgotten franchise, which may have had better luck had the cast not been a revolving door each time. In 1938’s Fast Company, they’re played by Melvyn Douglas (Being There) and Florence Rice (Double Wedding), who set the bar high by patterning their roles after Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man series, then still in its infancy.
That means good-natured ribbing for the entirety (“Aw, honey, you know an idea always gives you a headache”), demonstrating a bond of deep love and comfort, despite the separate beds demanded by the times. Their inaugural adventure involves solving the murder of a bibliophile, yielding literary-spiced dialogue like Garda’s cry of, “If [he's guilty], I'll eat a set of Charles Dickens raw!”
The duo faces eviction in 1939’s first sequel, Fast and Loose, so lucky they’re called upon to help locate a stolen Shakespeare manuscript. This time, the Stones’ roles are filled nicely by Robert Montgomery (Here Comes Mr. Jordan) and Rosalind Russell (Gypsy); the latter gets jealous when the work forces her hubby to go undercover, so to speak, with a frilly filly.
Jealousy explodes exponentially in 1939’s Fast and Furious, which takes place amid a swimsuit pageant. Franchot Tone (Mutiny on the Bounty) and Ann Sothern (The Whales of August) make pale imitations of the Sloanes in this final film, directed by musical king Busby Berkeley. Making it worse for the wear is that the book angle is jettisoned completely; since that was the series hook, my interest followed. —Rod Lott
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