Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fast Life (1932)

Fast Life was, in several ways, the end of an era at MGM. It was the last film for stars William Haines, Conrad Nagel and Cliff Edwards as MGM contract actors. It's hard to believe Haines' films were no longer successful at the box office; Fast Life is indeed funny, exciting and fast.

Funny is in the ear and eye of the beholder. Haines is obnoxious as usual here, but Cliff Edwards as his pal Bumpy has some amusing lines and double-takes and a priceless sight gag with a mind reader. Though he didn't bring his ukelele, Edwards does do a little singing, one a soulful little number and also some scat joking; the guy had so much talent that anything he does is good and it's a shame MGM didn't star him in his own movies. The story of MGM is the story of many vastly wasted talents.

The story here is slight but servicable: Haines has invented a revolutionary new motor (right!) and meets cute with Madge Evans (a thankless role), whose father happens to be in the boat business and eager to win a Catalina speedboat race. The absurdity of early '30s MGM film scenario writers knew no bounds.

Conrad Nagel untypically plays the baddie here, a stiff, humorless jerk so unlikeable that Haines looks appealing in comparison. All ends well.

Fast Life has been released on Warner Archives DVD-R.

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