Hard Fast and Beautiful (1951)

Hard Fast and Beautiful (1951)

Directed by Ida Lupino with a screenplay by Martha Wilkerson that was based on a novel by John R. Tunis this B movie sports drama is one of very few films that feature the game of tennis. It stars Claire Trevor as Millie Farley an ambitious woman whose daughter Florence played by Sally Forrest is good enough to beat her peers some men and all-comers in her area on the court. Her talents are noticed by a promoter-coach named Fletcher Locke (Carleton Young) who knows all the angles (e.g. how a great player can profit financially in the days when amateur tennis and its restrictions were commonplace). He’s also perceptive enough to see that the best way to retain Florence is through her greedy mother and he’s got the charm to exploit that avenue to get what he wants though Millie is a more than willing accomplice (especially when Fletcher offers her Europe). The only hitch in these adults’ plans is Gordon McKay (Robert Clarke) the local boy who ‘discovered’ Florence; the two youngsters are in love and plan to get married. Florence’s father Will (Kenneth Patterson) loves his daughter but is too weak physically and compared to her mother/his wife to do much to inhibit Millie’s ambitions and planned exploitation of her daughter. The romance between Florence and Gordon is sabotaged by Millie but a happy ending is later delivered.

Trevor plays Millie like a pushy manipulative (though not completely overbearing) stage mom of a child prodigy. Her character’s husband has provided her with a middle class home but she wants more so she uses her daughter to get it. Forrest is athletic enough to fake it as Florence playing tennis though the editing helped (and several shots which are obviously going out are kept in play by her opponents) and some faraway shots (with real players) are utilized. Radio commentator Arthur Little Jr. appears as himself at Forest Hills the location of the National Championships (now known as the U.S. Open) where Florence wins and later defends her title. Except for the club courts shown at the beginning of the film all the tennis action takes place on grass which was more common in those days. Wimbledon is one of the only grass court tournaments played today; the grass court season now is only a few weeks long (after the French Open in late May effectively ends the clay court season until the beginning of the All England Club tournament in late June). However in the movie Florence’s entire European tour is played on grass. Unlike some films which only show snippets or a few points of tennis action this one includes parts of several matches including extended points beginning with the serve featuring groundstrokes from both sides volleys and overheads (as well as correct scoring). The wood racquets used by the players appear to be of the Jack Kramer variety.

Actor Robert Ryan and director Lupino appear uncredited as spectators in the crowd at one tournament.

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