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TOO HOT TO HANDLE (director: Jack Conway; screenwriters: John Lee Mahin/Laurence Stallings/story by Len Hammond; cinematographer: Harold Hal Rosson; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Clark Gable (Chris Hunter), Myrna Loy (Alma Harding), Walter Pidgeon (Bill Dennis), Walter Connolly (Gabby MacArthur), Leo Carrillo (Joselito), Johnny Hines (Parson, Dennis’ assistant), Marjorie Main (Miss Wayne), Henry Kolker ( ‘Pearly’ Todd, Atlas Newsreel chief); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence Weingarten; MGM; 1938)
“glittering star entertainment filmed like a serial with continuous cliffhanger scenes.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dated and racially politically incorrect romantic-comedy that teams Clark Gable with Myrna Loy for the third time. It has biting dialogue, edgy black comedy, a snappy pace and a sterling performance by Gable that helps it overcome its many flaws. Director Jack Conway (“A Yank at Oxford”/”Boom Town”) keeps the story action-packed as he tells about the adventures of newsreel cameraman for the Union newspaper Chris Hunter (Clark Gable) and his rival for the Atlas newspaper Bill Dennis (Walter Pidgeon), and the aviatrix Alma Harding (Myrna Loy) in the middle of their love triangle. The cynical story has the opportunistic newsmen willing to do anything to get a story. It even has the unprincipled Hunter stage an air bombing in Shanghai by shooting at Japanese planes to get the bombing pictures ahead of his rivals (thought to be conceived by Buster Keaton). To counter Hunter’s aggressive tactics, Dennis has his childhood friend Alma fly a fake mission to bring in cholera serum to Shanghai. But Hunter interferes while trying to get her landing on film and his assistant Joselito (Leo Carrillo) causes Alma to lose control of the plane as it catches fire. Hunter rescues her and the shutterbug team catch it on film, but Dennis tricks them by stealing the film. The two rivals bid for Alma’s services back in New York, but she agrees to the rascal Hunter’s offer when he falsely tells her his grumpy boss Gabby MacArthur (Walter Connolly) fired him because he burned the film rather than expose her flying on a fake mission. What Alma really wants is an airplane rescue mission to save her long-lost pilot brother who crashed in the jungles of South America’s Amazon to be sponsored by the newspaper. In the jungle Hunter and Joselito dress like witch doctors and use their wile to rescue an unconscious Harry, soothe the voodoo worshiping natives and get it all on camera as Dennis and Alma fly in to take the stricken Harry to a hospital back home. They do not recognize Hunter and Joselito in their disguises of ceremonial chicken heads, as the escaping Gable paddling away in a rowboat is a sight to see and savor.

It can be more than acceptable if viewed as glittering star entertainment filmed like a serial with continuous cliffhanger scenes and not frowned upon for its lack of credibility or taken just at face value without considering how sharp is its relentless critique of the media.

The film is based on the stints of writers Len Hammond and Laurence Stallings with Movietone news, as taken from Mr. Hammond’s story and written by John Lee Mahin and Mr. Stallings.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”