Fast Workers

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Fast Workers
Theatrical trailer
Directed by Tod Browning (uncredited)
Produced by Tod Browning
Written by Karl Brown (continuity)
Ralph Wheelwright (continuity)
Laurence Stallings (dialogue)
Based on Rivets unpublished play
by John W. McDermott
Starring John Gilbert
Robert Armstrong
Mae Clarke
Cinematography Peveral Marley
Edited by Ben Lewis
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • March 10, 1933 (1933-03-10)
Running time
66 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Fast Workers, also known as Rivets, is a 1933 pre-Code drama film starring John Gilbert and Robert Armstrong as construction workers and romantic rivals for the character played by Mae Clarke. The film was based on the unproduced play Rivets by John W. McDermott[1][2] and directed by an uncredited Tod Browning. The supporting cast features Virginia Cherrill and Sterling Holloway.


Fast Workers is set in the early 1930s, in the time period of the film's release. It portrays the freewheeling lives and romantic escapades of two friends who work as riveters on high-rise construction projects. Gunner (John Gilbert) is a rake who loves women but hates the notion of emotionally committing to any of his romantic conquests. His close friend Bucker, however, is just the opposite, often easily losing his heart to the various "dames" he meets and quickly becoming entangled with them. Gunner therefore sees it as his ongoing duty as a pal to save Bucker from rushing headlong to the altar. True to form, Bucker one evening after work meets and becomes enamored with Mary (Mae Clarke), not knowing that she is one of the women whom Gunner dates regularly, although not seriously. He also doesn't know that Mary generally supports herself by fleecing men of their money. Once she learns that Bucker has a nest egg of $5,000 in the bank, she accepts his rather clumsy marriage proposal. Gunner soon learns of his friend's engagement, but he waits too long to scuttle the marriage plans. By the time he reveals to Bucker his own past and current involvement with Mary, Bucker has already married her.

Bucker's anger builds over his perceived betrayal, and the next day while working at their towering construction site, he tries to kill his friend by sabotaging a walkway between two iron girders. As a result, Gunner falls and is seriously injured; he is given little chance to live. Wracked with guilt, Bucker informs Mary what he has done. She is furious. She tells him their brief marriage is over and that if Gunner dies she will make sure he is convicted of murder and "burns in the chair." She then admits her feelings for Gunner, as well as to her wanton past, declaring to her soon-to-be-ex-husband, "I am anybody's girl."

By the time Mary and Bucker arrive at the hospital, they learn that Gunner's condition has stabilized and he will survive. Gunner, now awake and alert, deflects Bucker's attempt to confess his murderous intent and in a roundabout way says he forgives him. Both men now turn their wrath on Mary, with Gunner ordering the bedside nurse to "Throw this dumb dame out of here!" After Mary departs, Bucker immediately begins ogling the same pretty nurse, who smiles warmly at him. Gunner now thwarts his friend's romantic intentions yet again by tossing a coin on the floor behind the nurse as she leaves the room. Disgusted by this insulting act, which insinuated she was promiscuous and that men could "buy" her, the nurse turns and glares at Bucker, thinking he threw the coin. "Please forgive him," Gunner pleads facetiously from his bed, "He was born with a dirty brain." The film ends with the reconciled friends once more squabbling over their differences in how they relate to women.[3][4]


Cast notes[edit]

  • The sound track of Fast Workers belies many past assertions that John Gilbert's film career declined due to the advent of talking pictures and, more specifically, to the movie-going public's negative reaction to his "unsuitable" voice. Contrary to some descriptions of Gilbert's voice being high-pitched and somewhat effeminate, his recorded dialogue in Fast Workers reveals a pleasant, rather rich voice, one that in both its pitch and tone is neither unusual nor somehow incompatible with the man being projected on the movie screen.[5]
  • Mae Clarke as Mary is the same actress who two years before the release of Fast Workers had a grapefruit shoved into her face by James Cagney in the film The Public Enemy. That same year, in 1931, she also appeared in Universal Studios' horror classic Frankenstein, portraying the fiancee of the monster's creator.
  • In this film the character actor Sterling Holloway plays the witty, eccentric fellow '"Pinky," who is a member of the riveting crew constructing the skyscraper. Portrayed as soft-hearted bird lover, Pinky enjoys watching the pigeons that frequently fly around the high-rise construction site and build nests among its lofty steel girders. In one scene early in the story, Pinky proudly announces to his crew the hatching of chicks while showing them the nest and the baby birds cradled in the palms of his hands. His co-workers are not so paternal, for later in the film Pinky is saddened and repulsed to see one of the men slowly grilling two plucked pigeons on a spit turning above a small forge the workers use to heat their rivets.


  1. ^ The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1931-40 by The American Film Institute, c.1993
  2. ^ Fast Workers listing,; accessed July 24, 2015.
  3. ^ Fulghum, R. Neil (2016). The plot review, dialogue quotations, and all accompanying film notes are based on screenings of Fast Workers by R. Neil Fulghum, retired associate librarian, Academic Affairs Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; with dialogue transcriptions derived from the film's presentation by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) through the regional outlet of Time Warner Cable in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on January 25, 2016.
  4. ^ A clip from Fast Workers is currently available for viewing on YouTube.
  5. ^ Golden, Eve (2013). John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press; passim; ISBN 978-0813141626.

External links[edit]