Fast Workers

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, which is based on the unproduced play Rivets by John W. McDermott, was directed by an uncredited Tod Browning.[1][2] The supporting cast features Virginia Cherrill and Sterling Holloway.

Fast Workers
Theatrical trailer
Directed byTod Browning (uncredited)
Produced byTod Browning
Written byKarl Brown (continuity)
Ralph Wheelwright (continuity)
Laurence Stallings (dialogue)
Based onRivets unpublished play
by John W. McDermott
StarringJohn Gilbert
Robert Armstrong
Mae Clarke
CinematographyPeveral Marley
Edited byBen Lewis
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • March 10, 1933 (1933-03-10)
Running time
66 minutes
CountryUnited States


Fast Workers is set in the early 1930s, in the time 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 Smith (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 Reilly, however, is just the opposite, often 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 is also unaware 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 involvement with Mary, Bucker has already married her.

Bucker's anger builds over his perceived betrayal, and the next day while working at their construction site, he tries to kill his friend by sabotaging a walkway between two iron girders. As a result, Gunner falls, is seriously injured, and is given little chance to live. Wracked with guilt, Bucker tells 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 is executed. She then openly admits her feelings for Gunner, as well as to her wanton past.

By the time Mary and Bucker arrive at the hospital, they learn that Gunner is now awake and will survive after all. Gunner deflects Bucker's bedside attempt to confess his murderous intent and in a roundabout way says he forgives him. Both men now turn their wrath on Mary, who is ordered out of the hospital room. After she departs, Bucker begins ogling the attending nurse, who smiles at him. Gunner now thwarts his friend's romantic intentions yet again by tossing a coin on the floor behind the nurse as she now leaves the room. Disgusted by the ploy, which intends to get her to bend over to retrieve the coin and insinuates that her affections can be bought, the nurse turns and glares at Bucker, thinking he had done it. "Please forgive him," Gunner pleads facetiously from his bed, "He was born with a dirty brain." The film ends with the reconciled friends squabbling once more over their differences in how they relate to women.


Gilbert's voice

The sound track of Fast Workers belies claims 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.[3] 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.[4] In its review of the film in 1933, the trade publication Variety describes Gilbert as being "miscast in his final appearance for Metro" (actually his last as a contract star for MGM), adding that his "voice [is] okay but the part doesn't suit."[5]


  1. The American Film Institute (1993). The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1931-40. Los Angeles, California, 1993.
  2. Fast Workers listing,; accessed July 24, 2015.
  3. Brownlow, Kevin (1968). The Parade's Gone By, New York: Crown Publishers, 1968.
  4. Golden, Eve (2013). John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press; passim; ISBN 978-0813141626.
  5. "Shan" (1933). Fast Workers, film review, Variety, March 15, 1933, page 16; Internet Archive, San Francisco, California; retrieved October 26, 2017.
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