In the mid-1930's, as the major studios in Hollywood tightened their grip on the world's English-speaking cinema screens, the British film industry found itself facing a growing financial crisis. Audience and exhibitor demand for British features was steadily falling across the UK as American production and marketing power continued to increase exponentially. To complicate matters, British features were not being widely distributed in the US; most American theatre chains were owned by the Hollywood studios which preferred to maximize their profits by exhibiting only their own productions. English producers were therefore losing money at home to American imports, money they were not being allowed to recoup through their own exports. It is a wonder some of the British film companies did not declare bankruptcy or go out of business during that time.
Finally the British government stepped in and established a "quota" system for England's national theatres. All cinemas were required to exhibit a minimum percentage of British-made productions. Furthermore, restrictions were put into place regarding the maximum percentage of time a British cinema could devote to exhibiting American films. Any remaining play dates could be devoted to non-American foreign features.
Faced with the prospect of losing ground they had won in the lucrative British market, the American studios quickly came up with ways around the British Quota Laws. Several, including M-G-M, Warner Brothers, Fox and Columbia began to produce films on English soil that would qualify as British-made features. Other companies simply established production facilities outside US borders where they could shoot inexpensive films that would not only count as non-American foreign imports in England, but that could also fill the bottom half of a double bill in the US. Columbia Pictures, who sent crews into various locations throughout Canada, including the aptly named province of British Columbia, employed the latter strategy.
Lucky Fugitives, starring David Manners, was one of the handful of films Columbia financed in British Columbia during 1935 and 1936. Other titles included Tugboat Princess starring Valerie Hobson, Secret Patrol and Stampede, both featuring popular cowboy star Charles Starrett, Woman Against The World with Ralph Forbes, and Convicted, which prominently showcased upcoming Columbia starlet Rita Hayworth. Of these productions, only Lucky Fugitives was never released in the United States. After opening in British theatres during the end of July 1936 to generally scathing reviews, the studio scuttled plans to release it stateside under the alternate title Stop, Look, and Love. Apparently, official studio records regarding the existence of the film were eventually either lost or destroyed. No mention of it is made in any of the standard trade references of its day; nor is it listed among the various comprehensive studies of Columbia Studios.
According to Film Pictorial, "By cutting, this film could have been greatly improved, for in its present form it is too slow and has no new twist. The story is very involved and unconvincing; that of a successful young author who has a gangster double, and the subsequent complications that arise out of them being mistaken for one another." Film Weekly wasn't much kinder, "Would-be snappy romantic comedy made in Canada. The characterizations are weak and so is the direction, very poor entertainment. This film is based on an idea similar to the one used by Alfred Hitchcock in The Thirty-Nine Steps. David Manners is a young author who is mistaken for a gangster and handcuffed to a pretty young woman (Maxine Doyle.) He leads the police on a wild chase across the countryside, refusing to divulge his real identity until Maxine promises to marry him."
Lucky Fugitives information courtesy of J. Michael Click