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Friday, January 17, 2014

More Sleaze Beneath The Sport


Hard, Fast, and Beautiful (1951) Reveals Tennis Turmoil

An exposé of the tennis racket, or better put, the racket that is amateur tennis (or should I say "Racquet Racket"?). Ida Lupino directed for she and husband Collier Young's Filmakers company, an independent that had lately hung shingle at RKO for a trio that Howard Hughes picked from ten ideas Young laid before the billionaire eccentric, sales campaign for each included. This was a fresh concept that presaged how Jim Nicholson and Sam Arkoff would later do business at American-International, "Exploitable Stories and New Faces" as bywords of the Filmakers team being not unlike credo that would characterize AIP. Young/Lupino's first, Not Wanted, about unwed motherhood, had paid back its bank loan within six weeks of release, according to Variety. The team was for luring an audience that had tired of "formula" pictures, both realizing their real opponent was television and nightly serve of said formula for free.


Filmakers had picked another hot topic for their second, Outrage, which revolved around sex crimes. Hard, Fast, and Beautiful would carry on in "problem drama" mode, if a less exploitable one than had gone before. "The core of the plot is a mother's domination of her daughter's (tennis) career until it amounts to peonage and a denial of the girl's right to romance and marriage," said RKO synopsis. So query: Would folks turn off Milton Berle for a night to pay admission for this? Trade boosters hoped so, for the sake of sub-industry that was indie pic-making. Variety saw "natural exploitation values" and lauded "authority and punch" of Ida Lupino's direction. Tennis match sequences were taut and lent suspense as to outcome. Did Lupino confer with colleague Alfred Hitchcock, who was doing much the same for his Strangers On A Train? "Mom-ism" was burning issue for a decade moving toward parental blame for societal ills, Claire Trevor here being no endorsement for sanctity of motherhood.


Hard, Fast, and Beautiful was completed at bargain rate of $359K, Collier Young having said he'd put all those dollars right on the screen. A charity open in Gotham took place, plus effort at top bookings, the pic clinging hard and fast to companions off RKO assembly like Roadblock and Best Of The Badmen, with which it would play tandem dates. The cast, along with others in RKO employ, would good sport along with personal apps like one above for Variety Club of San Francisco, a luncheon stop while in town for the Golden Gate Theatre's World Premiere (at left). Looks like an RKO thesp reunion, Jane Greer, Bill Bendix, Robert Ryan (who contributed a cameo to Hard, Fast, and Beautiful), plus more joining in. First rule of Hollywood, of course, was that no one said No to Variety Clubs, whenever or from wherever chapters called. Hard, Fast, and Beautiful would lose money for RKO and Filmakers, $675K in worldwide rentals not enough to return profit, but Lupino/Young continued supplying their distributor with interesting product, The Hitch-Hiker a most memorable of Filmakers output that would follow Hard, Fast, and Beautiful. Warner Archive has H,F,&B available on DVD.

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