Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Fast Company: Marco Page

Description of the book from the back of my paperback edition:
Joel Glass was a book dealer. When the bottom dropped out of the market, and the big shots stopped buying rare books, he turned his agile mind to sleuthing on the side. It was harmless enough at first -- a book here and a rare print there, missing from a Public Library or a high-toned store. 
But when Abe Selig got his, and the papers began to yell for blood, it became serious. Joel was on the inside and things were getting hot . . . They got hotter and a lot happened that will stand your hair on end before a certain bright idea dawned on Joel Glass. 
Fast Company is a real find -- a mystery that is fast and tough and full of wise-cracks; that reads like lightning; whose characters area as vivid and sharp as its excitement.
Marco Page was the pseudonym of Harry Kurnitz (1908-68), an American author, screenwriter, and playwright. The book was made into a film of the same name, with Kurnitz writing the screenplay. Later two other films based on the same premise were made (also with Kurnitz as screenwriter). When Warner Archives made the three movies available as a set, I was eager to read the book first, then watch the movies.

My thoughts:

The story starts out well, with an interesting premise. Reading about people who know and love books is always a plus. Joel's wife, Garda, is a strong character (but of course, due to the times, she doesn't get to do much). There is sexy repartee between the married couple, which I would not have expected in a book of this vintage.  The last few chapters also kept me involved, tying up the story in an ending that I found surprising.

However, the story slowed down in the middle, and I had a hard time sustaining interest for a portion of the book. At one point, Joel is abducted by one of the bad guys; that part of the book dragged on too long.

I did not like the disparity in the roles of Joel and Garda. Garda is clearly just as capable as Joel, yet she gets left out of most of the action. To her credit, she complains about it. I know it fits the times, yet I don't have to like it.

The films:

First up is Fast Company, released in 1938, starring Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice as Joel and Garda.  In the movies, their last name is Sloane. It doesn't often happen, but in this case I found the movie better than the book. The story is basically the same in book and movie, but the dialog and action were more palatable on the screen than in the book. I also enjoyed seeing Claire Dodd, Louie Calhern, and Nat Pendleton in this movie.

Others like the book as much or better than the movie. See this post at Strange Scribblings from South Texas.

All three films feature the same couple, Joel and Garda Sloane, as bookseller and secretary. However each film has a different pair of stars playing the couple. According to just about every source I read, MGM was looking for other films starring sleuthing couples, due to the popularity of the The Thin Man movies.

We have also watched the 2nd movie, Fast and Loose (1939), starring Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell. This film revolves around the selling of an original piece of a Shakespeare manuscript, and forgeries, and greed and murder. I like both of the stars, but Rosalind Russell was surprisingly demure and in the background in this one. The movie was still fun.

See a review of the film at Apocalypse Later.

We have not yet watched the third movie, Fast and Furious (1939), which stars Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern. I don't know much about Franchot Tone, but from the stills I have seen, he actually seems physically more like how I imagined Joel to look. I have always liked Ann Sothern, so I look forward to this entry in the series. This film was directed by Busby Berkeley, which should be interesting.

Randy Johnson reviewed this at Not the Baseball Pitcher.

Regardless of my problems with the book, I do recommend reading the book and watching the films. The three films are available via Warner Archives.


Publisher:  Pocket Books edition, 1943. Orig. pub. 1938.
Length:     204 pages
Format:     Paperback
Setting:     New York City
Genre:       Bibliomystery
Source:     I purchased this book.


col2910 said...

Probably not something I'm going to seek out for myself, either to read or watch, SORRY!

Anonymous said...

The premise of this one sounds really interesting, Tracy. But I know exactly what you mean about a 'saggy middle.' I'm not crazy about that, either. And I would probably chafe at the gender roles, too. That said, I'm glad you found some things to like.

J F Norris said...

I enjoyed this one but it's been many, many years since I first read it. But I will always remember the snappy dialogue and the inappropriate gangster bits. Gangsters and book thievery? Don't buy it at all. I'm convinced that Kurnitz used this book to parlay his way into writing screenplays. Not long after this he ended up writing a couple of Thin Man movie scripts. Comparisons of Joel and Garda to Nick and Nora (as movie fans know them) would not be off base.

TracyK said...

Oh well, not your thing. I love old movies, so really enjoying this set.

TracyK said...

I did find a lot to like, Margot, and maybe my mood or my load at work affected the reading experience with this one.

TracyK said...

I agree about the gangsters, John. I was scanning the book again and remembered the gangster bits and they seemed out of place. I also wondered about the large amounts of value for the rare books, and the people in these movies lived a pretty good life, even when they were hurting for money. But in the end, I enjoyed both book and films. Kurnitz had a pretty interesting life.

Mathew Paust said...

Whew. I popped in here just now after my near seduction by Yvette to sacrifice my virginity as a devoutly gothic romance non-reader, to be saved from gloom by you with a Nick and Nora clone the likes of which I don't believe I can resist a moment longer! I shall check the Kindle library, and if they're not there I shall stroll swiftly up the street to the Oasis, Gloucester's sole used bookstore, which just might have what I need. What a day!

TracyK said...

Yvette had me convinced that I must try a gothic romance too, Mathew, she is quite convincing. I sympathize with the lack of used bookstores; we have 3 in the Santa Barbara area that I can think of but they seldom have the vintage books or the good deals that I hear of in other areas.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I'm not familiar with the author/book or the three films but I'm glad I'm walking away with their knowledge.

TracyK said...

Thank you, Prashant. I don't remember how I learned about the book and the films, but it was in the last couple of years.

Clothes In Books said...

How interesting - all new to me, and then to find out there were 3 films featuring these tow, also unknown to me. There's a world of books and films out there...

TracyK said...

Moira, the thing that amazes me about the three films is that they feature such well know actors and actresses as the sleuthing couple ... I still haven't gotten to the third film, but I look forward to it.