July 21, 2008
Charles’ first film!
In 1926, Charles and his fellow teammates on the Dartmouth football squad played extras in a silent comedy called “The Quaterback.” That same year, he graduated from college.
For the following years, I have little information. I’ve read that he did some stage work, was part of a touring company on the east coast, and was in Broadway in a play entitled “Claire Adams”.
Somehow he ended up in Hollywood and acting in this 1930 film, “Fast And Loose.” It is based on play called “The Best People.” Preston Sturges provides the dialogue.
A couple of players went on to be very famous, Carole Lomard and Frank Morgan (the Wizard of Oz.)
Story concerns a wealthy brother and sister who both fall in love with suitors below their social standing. The brother wants to marry a chorus girl, and his story involves an angry society type ratting him out to his parents, a charade that his father and uncle pull to discover the chorus’ girls real intentions, and a brawl during a police raid on a club.
The sister (Miriam Hopkins) is engaged to a boring “stiff” named Lord Rockingham. She breaks it off and drives to the beach to think. She happens to park right where Charley is taking a moonlit swim. He’s dressed in a bathing suit and a towel.
Henry Morgan is a real bathing beauty and a strong man — he acts as a human tire jack to lift the car from the sand. He’s manly, uses lower-class grammar, and has a vaguely Southern accent (he’s from Missouri), so naturally she “hates” him. “You’re a mug.”
She hates him so much she comes back the next night. They talk about how much she hates him. They take a swim. They kiss. She threatens to swim away. He threatens to spank her. He does. “Stop it or I’ll give you some mo’.” It’s a sexy scene.
Of course, she’s smitten and breaks off her engagement. The next day, they discover he’s a car mechanic working on her estate. He thinks that their class differences stand in the way of love. She says, “Whatever you are is good enough for me.”
He’s rude. He quits his job. She sabotages her car to get him back. He’s hotheaded but she melts him, “I don’t see why I’m so weak.”
There’s some protracted nonsense in a judge’s chambers bailing out the kids for drunkenness, and Charley agrees to marry her, on the condition that he is the man and she obeys him. (She also has to give up her wealth.) It’s a happy ending.
Before I saw this film, if you had asked me what Charles first film role would be like, I would have thought it would be a lot like his second role, as the rich and well-bred straight arrow Perry in “Royal Family Of Broadway.”
I wouldn’t have thought he’d be playing some mug full of lower-class pride. I figured he’d be more of the gentile hunk, not in a bathing suit or covered in car grease.