It is interesting to look at a  Directors work  when they move out of there comfortable  genre hence we  look at Tod Browning  FAST WORKERS  from 1933. Mr Browning was known for his work with Lon Chaney Sr in the silent cinema. He primarily worked  the  best within the  “circus’ or  ‘sideshow” world of  which  he  was from in an early part of his life.   Tod Browning’s made this picture after  doing his misunderstood  masterpiece is FREAKS (1932) which one  could say was  the mixture  of  revulsion and  revenge.       FAST WORKERS  takes  him out of  the  comfort zone  and  into  still  an enclosed world  of the construction worker on a  high rise building yet with still the same theme of   revenge on a lower  scale.


FAST WORKERS  features silent matinee idol John Gilbert as  Gunner Smith  Riveter  and  a  “Man’s man” in  an  tough occupation.  Robert Armstrong of  KING KONG (1933) fame is  his buddy Bucker  Reilly.    The  vastly underrated Mae Clarke plays Mary;  the love interest that comes  between the  two friends which  results  in the  rather  odd  ending. Mae Clarke’s  Mary  supports herself  by taking money from  men  that  she  can play  for yet she  still marries Bucker.   Mary is often bitter  and  cynical yet loves  the money under  that  sweet exterior  that  breaks  during an argument  scene with Bucker.

Tod Browning and  James Whale both share the  trait of  an underlying sense  of  cruelty in their  films.   The James Whale Directed  SHOWBOAT (1933)  has  a image of  a  crying lost child inserted  into  a  song sequence.   Tod  Browning for some reason puts armadillos in  Dracula’s  crypt  in  the  DRACULA (1931).  FAST WORKERS (1933) features  characters  that do  cruel things to  each other like Gunner  Smith  tossing a  dime  on the ground so a  woman  Bucker is interested in will pick it  up. Socially  that action means  you think the  woman is  cheap and will do anything for a   dime.   This  happens  twice in the  film each time making sure Bucker is  never  going to be happy.  What sort of  friend  does  that to another?  This  act  also  sets the  stage  for Bucker  doing what he  does  on the  job site  to Gunner once  again bring the  revenge aspect forward.

John Gilbert talks in this picture contrary to belief  that his  voice was  not  suitable for the  new media.   Gilbert was  also the on screen and off screen lover  of  Greta  Garbo and a  few other along with a  prolific  career  at MGM in a variety of  roles. Various  stories  came out regarding why Gilbert’s career  failed the most prevalent being  that he  upset  Louie B  Mayer  who ran MGM like a  fiefdom with his continued  affairs and  disregard  for  following  rules.  Mayer   in an act of  revenge that he  apparently did before   sped  up  Gilbert’s  voice  recordings and  told  the  press  he  was unfit  for  talking film. John Gilbert died  of  a  heart attack resulting from  alcoholism  in 1936 never  again to be a  star he once  was.  Mirroring the  plot of  FAST WORKER: Mayer’s  revenge  was complete.

Keep in mind Mayer  was  the head of MGM  who was called  first when Paul Bern was  found  dead after  wedding Jean Harlow.  Mayer re arranged the  crime  scene before the police  were called  supposedly planting  the  suicide  note. This  is all conjecture of course  but the  studios  all has  Fixers  and MGM’s  was one  hard nosed  Eddie Mannix.


FAST WORKER (1933) is a   quirky film filled with people all with bitter past  that takes its  toll.  It is  actually  from a play called  “RIVETS” with  Tod Browning  as  the  film’s  producer  and  director.  John Gilbert’s  image has  already been destroyed in the public  eye  as he  was  thought of  as  not  being a  talking tough  guy so  he was  given this rough role  to change  it yet  many say he was miscast in.   I  tend  to agree  with that to an extent since  it  could have  been a  Clark Gable  role  as  he was on same lot.    FAST WORKERS   is  still a  good  watch   for  the character  dynamics  and  the presence of  Mae  Clark  the other   supporting actors  including  young  Sterling Holloway.   FAST WORKERS  perhaps  refers  to people  getting what they want by pulling  a  ‘fast one”.

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