Hard, Fast and Beautiful

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Hard, Fast and Beautiful
Hard, Fast and Beautiful Poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Ida Lupino
James Anderson (assistant)
Produced by Norman A. Cook
Collier Young
Screenplay by Martha Wilkerson
Based on American Girl (novel)
by John R. Tunis
Starring Claire Trevor
Sally Forrest
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Archie Stout
Edited by George C. Shrader
William H. Ziegler
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • May 23, 1951 (1951-05-23) (Premiere-San Francisco)[1]
  • June 9, 1951 (1951-06-09) (US)[1]
Running time
78 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Hard, Fast and Beautiful is a 1951 American drama film directed by Ida Lupino and starring Claire Trevor, loosely based on the 1930 novel American Girl by sports fiction author John R. Tunis, which itself was an unflattering and thinly veiled fictionalization of tennis star Helen Wills Moody.[2][3]


Florence Farley, a girl from Santa Monica, California in her late teens, and a tennis prodigy, is torn between fulfilling the dreams of her ambitious mother Millie, who has planned her tennis career, or her own dreams of being with the man she loves.

Florence has a chance meeting with Gordon McKay, the nephew of a wealthy town figure. Invited to play tennis at the local country club, she defeats him easily. Her prowess at the game causes J.R. Carpenter, the country club's manager, to offer Florence a membership there, plus a trip to Philadelphia to compete for the national junior championship.

Her scheming, social-climbing mother Millie manages to include herself on the trip, leaving her ill husband Will behind. She flirts with Florence's new coach Fletcher Locke and accepts money and gifts, which could endanger her daughter's amateur status. Once Millie realizes that Gordon is not wealthy, she discourages Florence from entertaining the idea of marrying him.

After winning at Forest Hills, an increasingly unhappy Florence wants to retire from tennis and get married. Her father, on his death bed, scolds Millie for looking out for her own interests rather than their girl's. Florence wins the Wimbledon women's singles title, then abruptly quits the game, announcing her impending marriage to Gordon and leaving her mother a forlorn figure on the sideline.



There were two working titles of this film, Mother of a Champion and Loving Cup. It was later decided to be Hard Fast and Beautiful.[4]

The two main characters, Sally Forrest who played Florence and Claire Trevor who played Millie Farley - the mother were the most well-known actors in this film. Sally Forrest was borrowed from M-G-M for the production. Forrest also starred in two previous Lupino films, Not Wanted and Never Fear (1949). According to a Hollywood Reporter news article, Eleanor Tennant, the technical advisor, coached Forrest on her tennis in her tennis-playing scenes. Claire Trevor, an Oscar-winning actress played similar roles to Lupino and was determined to perform this role effectively. It is said that Lupino was lucky to have Trevor be a part of this picture.

Location: Most of the shooting took place at Forest Hills Tennis Club in Queens, New York, and in North Hollywood, CA.

Archival footage of tennis matches at Forest Hills and Wimbledon were included in the film. According to the Hollywood Reporter review, the film, which marked Ida Lupino's third official directing assignment and was co-produced by The Filmakers, which was the company founded by her and her husband producer Collier Young. The film cost less than $300,000 to produce. Ida Lupino and actor Robert Ryan make a few cameos as tennis match spectators.

The world premiere of Hard, Fast and Beautiful took place in San Francisco, California on May 23, 1951.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

A 1951 New York Times article says, “Well, let's be practical about it. The script that Martha Wilkerson prepared from a story by John R. Tunis ("Mother of a Champion") is a trite and foolish thing. It simply recounts the quick parabola that a girl tennis player describes in becoming a tennis champion and then chucking it all for love. And it is played with such lack of authority by everyone in the cast that it doesn't even carry the satisfaction that a well-acted romance might have. Under Miss Lupino's direction, Sally Forrest is a silly, callow child, given to such tedious explosions as "Wouldn't that be WONDERFUL!" and "Gee!"...Robert Clark and Kenneth Patterson, as the good men in Miss Forrest's life, are hardly an inspiration for anything more than yawns.”

The film was given a fair rating in a Film Bulletin (1951) review. It describes, “Hard Fast and Beautiful is a modest, unpretentious endeavor from Filmakers...Like the previous attractions in this outfit’s short history (“Not Wanted” and “Outrage”) this one is designed to get over the hump by means of special exploitation. The names are not strong, but the performances to a man, are degrees above above [sic] the average found in a production costing less than $300,000. The gimmick lies in the story, a clever combination of misguided mother love and an expose of the amateur tennis business. The tennis scenes pack more excitement than one might expect...The finish is rather lame, the girl champion’s belated awakening to the unscrupulous deals put over by her mother being not especially convincing.”[6]

Another review from a 1951 Harrison’s Reports article explains, “This is a tennis picture and, as such, should appeal strongly to the tennis fans, but it is doubtful whether those who are not especially interested in the game will derive much pleasure out of it, particularly since the story pits a mother’s ambition for worldly goods against her daughters’s sic sincerity in the game, as well as her love for a young man. It is not pleasant to see a grasping mother profiteering on her daughter’s fame. The action in the tennis sequences are so realistic that one is made to feel as if he is watching the playing of a real game, not a prearranged one. No fault can be found with the direction and acting. The photography is a treat to the eye.”[7]

Box office[edit]

Hard, Fast and Beautiful estimated $14,000 its first week in San Francisco.

According to Variety’s May 30, 1951 article, “Despite big bally plus personals by Jane Greer, Robert Ryan, William Bendix, Pat O’Brien, Tony Martin and Harry Crocker, among others “Hard Fast and Beautiful” is failing to keep up to opening day pace at Golden Gate. It equaled house record that day, and still will come in with smooth session, if not smash. Nearly all spots hit by heat wave and Shrine Circus.”[8]

Motion Picture Daily of New York stated, “Hard Fast and Beautiful opened satisfactorily over the weekend at the Astor; $25,000 is estimated for the first week.”[9]

The film grossed an estimate of $11,000 in New York, its second week.[10]

“Closing at a slow pace is “Hard, Fast and Beautiful,” which will bow out of the Astor tonight with about $6,000 for the fourth and final week.” - Motion Picture Daily

In Chicago, Motion Picture Herald’s ‘What the Picture did for me’ section states, “HARD FAST AND BEAUTIFUL: Claire Trevor, Robert Clarke - A good picture, but definitely not for a small town. Grosses were way below average”[11]


  1. ^ a b "The Tattooed Stranger: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ Oswald, G. K. (June 30, 1991). "Remembered, Yet Forgotten: The Writers Life of John Tunis". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "New York Times: Hard, Fast and Beautiful". NY Times. Retrieved August 3, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Hard Fast and Beautiful". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 18, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Screenland". Screenland Magazine. 1951. 
  6. ^ "Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin". Film Bulletin Company. New York, Film Bulletin Company. June 4, 1951. 
  7. ^ "Harrison's Reports". New York Harrison's Reports. New York, Harrison's Reports, Inc. June 2, 1951. 
  8. ^ "Lantern". Variety. New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. May 30, 1951. 
  9. ^ "Lantern". Motion Picture Daily. New York: Quigley Publishing Co. July 3, 1951. 
  10. ^ "Motion Picture Daily". Motion Picture Daily. New York: Quigley Publishing Co. July 19, 1951. 
  11. ^ "Motion Picture Herald". Motion Picture Herald. New York, Quigley Publishing Co. 185. December 22, 1951 – via Lantern. 

External links[edit]