Thursday, May 26, 2011

Too Hot to Handle (1938)


"You’re the best there is and that’s what’s the matter with you!"

            When Too Hot to Handle was made Clark Gable and Myrna Loy had just been crowned King and Queen of Hollywood in a nationwide poll in the fan magazines. Their crowning came just after they starred together and were perfectly paired in Test Pilot. So of course MGM capitalized on two of their most popular (and money making) stars’ new titles and their previous roles by pairing them yet again in another aviation themed film.
            Gable plays Chris Hunter a newsreel cameraman. He is widely known as the best newsreel cameraman in the business. He is not liked by too many other newsreel cameramen not because he is really good and captures all the action but because he often fakes his works. A rival of his Bill Dennis (Walter Pidgeon) decides to play a trick on Chris along with some other cameramen. The trick is there is supposed to be a cholera outbreak and that there was a shipment of serum sent into China (where they all happen to be to film a war between China and Japan). They are going to capture the flight coming in with the serum and Chris will be left out in the dust without the story.
            Chris somehow hears about a plane coming in and he is out on the landing field. He has the best shot from his car. As he follows the plane the driver gets clumsy and crashes into the plane. The plane catches fire, Chris races out to the plane and finds that the pilot is a woman. He saves the life of aviatrix Alma Harding (Myrna Loy). She tells Chris that there is no serum it was all a lie… unfortunately the camera picks this confession up.
            Alma tells Chris not to send the film back for people to see since it would shame her making her look bad and she would never get a job again. Chris likes Alma enough to destroy the film. Dennis has other tricks up his sleeve to get back at Chris… he manages to get his hands on the film Chris thought he destroyed and Dennis gives the real film to his boss.
            Dennis blackmails Chris and things between them with Alma start to go a little crazy. The film finds its way to Dennis’ boss and all three are left out of a job since they have all been disgraced. Alma is mad at both men especially Chris since they started to really fall in love with each other. Chris does get to redeem himself in the end and I am more than sure you know that Alma and Chris get together.

            I found this film to be excellently acted by everyone there was not one performance I felt was over the top or not well done. Gable and Loy together are so fantastic.
            Loy wrote in her autobiography that she knew how to play against Gable she always played to his tough side and you can clearly see her do so. Alma is an edgy fast talking character but you can see where Loy brings in a little bit more to play against Gable. This was Loy’s third time playing an aviatrix with guts and it never gets old she was perfect. One of the many reasons why I adore Loy as an actress comes up in this film: Chris and Alma are talking and to kind of not fall in love with her he tells her the two of them as a newsreel team are pals like the comic strip Mutt and Jeff. Something comes up a few minutes later and Chris says it may be too dangerous for them to do. Alma is not afraid and she perfectly, sarcastically, coldly says to Chris “What’s the matter Mr. Mutt? Lost your nerve?” Just the way she said that line and her expression was acting perfection. When Loy says “nerve” she gives her lip a curl that even if she tried to do it again she probably could not it was like a real genuine reaction.
            I really enjoyed Gable. The last half hour of the film he was so great in. The ending is where the film gets silly but it gets silly in a good way. I will not give away what happens but I was laughing and it was Gable who was making me laugh. Chris is a character who was not the greatest guy ever he used people to get a good story he even used Alma but I liked him. I guess Gable really did have such charm that you could not help but like him even if he was a jerk.      
      Walter Pidgeon I have never seen in a film before but I really did not like Dennis at all which I guess was the point since we are supposed to be cheering for Loy and Gable to get together. I do look forward to viewing more films Pidgeon has been in I have heard he is a fabulous actor. Marjorie Main plays a secretary in Chris’s office. If anyone has seen her in The Women, Meet Me in St. Louis, or any of the Ma and Pa Kettle films you know this woman is hilarious and she does not let up here. Her humor and delivery is quick and sarcastic and perfect.
            Too Hot to Handle is a great film. There are a lot of funny moments along with some heart stopping action moments. The writing is excellent with plenty of bite and humor which the cast acts out to perfection. The back of the cover declares “Action meets adventure. A Golden Era treasure”; this declaration could not be any more true. Too Hot to Handle is one of the many films which defines 1930s comedy as well as action and drama and why so many people look to the Golden Age of cinema. It is a classic film too good not to be viewed.