Speed (1936) Offers James Stewart First-Billing For A First Time
Good gracious, James Stewart's first starring
part and he owns it. Even a dimmest Metro onlooker could see this was a star
not of the future, but right now. He's a car designer who doubles at daredevil
testing of fresh-off-line heaps. It looks like he's riding inside an elephant.
Cars were big enough then to sustain rollovers without injury; their size plus
a seatbelt would reassure me, but hold on, there weren't generally safety
straps in '36 (read once where MGM director Clarence Brown had them installed in
vehicles he drove --- smart man). There's near-documentary tour of assembly
lines where behemoths were built; antiquity buffs would dig this mightily.
Speed was off Metro's own B assembly (negative cost: $194K), so it's an economy
model, but names and surplusagewasn't needed, this a 70 minutes behind wheels
we'd not want to last longer. Stewart reads lines in natural, even off-hand,
manner; he'd have been a refresher from chalk walking done by beginning others.
At romance, he seemed diffident, but was really a wolf in sheep's clothing, and
there I'd submit was a secret of his eventual success. Wasn't there an interview
where someone asked Jim about Speed and he couldn't remember making it? Good
thing it wasn't me posing questions, as first out of box would have been, What
was it like working with the great Ted Healy?