|TOO HOT TO HANDLE (1938)|
Betty Ross Clarke
|"If it doesn't hurt too much, start thinking."|
|Time: 103 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
The third time is not the charm for leads Gable and Loy. While this romantic comedy adventure is not a total bust, it’s not their best teaming either. Mainly because the action speaks louder than the lovemaking. The film is at its’ most entertaining while it focuses on the competition between Gable and Pidgeon, as dueling newsreel photographers willing to do anything for the next big story. Bill Dennis (Pidgeon) is tired of being on the receiving end of Chris Hunter’s (Gable) trickery. To get back at him, he stages a photo opportunity that will scoop Chris and get his company, Atlas Newsreel, on the front page. Unfortunately, things careen out of control when Chris crashes the party, placing pilot Alma Harding (Loy) in harms way and ruining Bill’s footage. Chris, however, not only saves the girl, but also films the most amazing plane crash sequence ever. To impress Alma, Chris pretends to destroy his footage so her part in this fake landing will never come to light. She only took the job in order to earn money to launch an expedition to find her brother, another pilot whose plane went down in the Amazon.
While both men pretend to be on her side, they are each planning on using the footage of the crash as a means to their own success. Chris tells her he was fired for destroying the footage and pleads with her to return to New York with him to beg his boss Gabby MacArthur (Connolly) for his job back. Gabby is in on the plan, waiting for the footage and the little lady pilot who’s going to put his company at the head of the pack. What neither of them knows is that Bill had the local police confiscate Chris’s footage and it’s now in the hands of Pearly Todd (Kolker), head of Atlas Newsreel, their main competition. Bill also has the soundtrack, which contains a voiceover by Chris that, if it were to become public, would be very bad for all involved. Alma, of course, falls in love with Chris and after getting his job back, signs an exclusive contract with Union, much to the dismay of those at Atlas. The footage soon blows up in everyone’s face, leaving Alma disgraced and placing her brother’s rescue mission in jeopardy. To assuage their guilt over ruining Alma’s career, Bill and Chris secretly sell their equipment to raise the funds for her search.
While their intentions may be honorable, neither is about to let Alma go to South America alone. If she actually finds her brother, whom everyone believes is dead, it will be the biggest story yet. Chris is not about to lose this competition, working all the angles to procure the best footage and win Alma’s heart. Gable is his usual charming self and Pidgeon actually is a worthy adversary in the action and romance department. Though I usually love Loy, she’s out of her element here, completely unbelievable as a fearless flyer. It must have been a wonderful change of pace for the actress, who spent much of her career as the “perfect wife.” Unfortunately, she just doesn’t have the spunk to pull this role off. Her chemistry with Gable is far from fiery, but that’s more due to the script than their talent. While the film focuses on the competition between Gable and Pidgeon, it’s exciting, exotic and occasionally downright silly. The love story seems tacked on to give both men a chance to show their softer side. However, throughout the rest of the film, they’re so ruthless in their efforts to out do each other, one never quite believes their feelings towards Alma are true. It’s clear they’d sell their own grandmothers for the right story, which is why the love angle doesn’t quite grab at the heart like it should. That being said, if you’re a fan of Loy or Gable’s, this is a fun frolic across the continents with enough action and humor to make the experience a worthwhile joyride.