Cast & Crew
Union Newsreel journalist Chris Hunter is known for his dirty tricks. When Shanghai doesn't provide enough hot material on the Sino-Japanese War, he and his assistant Joselito send home bogus footage of a bombing raid that enrages his Atlas Newsreel rival Bill Dennis. In retaliation, Bill decides to stage a "mercy flight" to bring cholera serum to China. The night the plane arrives Chris sneaks onto the field in an ambulance and photographs the incident, which he thinks is genuine, but the ambulance gets in the way of the plane, causing it to crash. After Chris saves flier Alma Harding, she reveals that it is all a gag while the camera is still rolling. Later, to impress Alma, a childhood friend of Bill's, Chris pretends to destroy the film by exposing it to an X-ray. He also tricks her into joining him in New York to work for his boss, Gabby MacArthur. Unknown to him, Bill has clipped out the incriminating footage from Chris's film and sent everything back to his boss, Pearly Todd. Although Chris loses credit for the film stolen by Bill, he and Alma create a sensation in New York by flying to a sinking ship and photographing the disaster at close range. Still angered at Chris, Bill threatens to use some of the Shanghai footage against him unless he shares the new film with him. Chris convinces Gabby to cooperate, but Gabby later cancels the deal with Pearly. At a preview screening of the disaster film, Pearly rolls the uncut Shanghai footage, causing everyone to think Alma is a fraud. Now Alma can't raise money to search for her missing explorer brother Harry, so Chris and Bill secretly finance her expedition to the Amazon and through deception, Joselito gets Gabby to re-hire Chris and send him to South America. When Bill learns where Chris is going, he flies there, arriving before Chris. On the outskirts of the jungle, a native gives Alma Harry's watch and asks her to take him in her plane to Harry. Chris tries to convince Alma not to go because the man is a member of a voodoo tribe, but she and Bill fly off the next morning. While they fly, Chris, Joselito and the native canoe to the village, the native escapes after a scuffle and is shot by Joselito. When Chris and Joselito arrive at the village, they rig a projector to show some test film in the trees, thus tricking the natives into thinking that Chris is a white god. When Alma approaches, they dress as witch doctors and Chris offers Harry as Joselito secretly photographs them. Just then the native wounded by Joselito arrives and exposes him and Chris. They try to escape in Alma's plane, but, thinking that they are hostile natives, Bill forces them off the plane and they have to paddle back. Upon Alma and Bill's arrival in New York, they are greeted by photos of Harry's rescue. Alma then goes to Chris, who is photographing a police shootout. Though she's slightly wounded, she says she might be able to make a man of him.
Hal K. Dawson
Robert Emmett Keane
Edward Peil Sr.
William H. Royle
Chris Pin Martin
Daniel B. Cathcart
Clyde De Vinna
John Lee Mahin
Edwin B. Willis
Too Hot to Handle
Too Hot to Handle was very much a typical studio product for its era. The two leading roles were crafted to exploit the talents of its stars, with Gable doing his patented wisecracking he-man act and Loy offering her special blend of warmth and aloofness. Although the globe-trotting adventure covered action in China and Brazil, the crew never left the back lot, where standing sets stood in for exotic locales and extras from Central Casting played the Amazon Indians (the subject of some unfortunate racist kidding from Gable's character). The film is filled with inaccuracies -- Gable shoots sound footage on a hand-held camera years before such equipment would have been available to him; he mysteriously produces a projector and speakers in the midst of the jungle -- but moves so quickly it really doesn't matter. A lot of this is thanks to director Jack Conway, a specialist in action and comedy who had previously put Loy through her paces in the hit comedy Libeled Lady (1936).
For all the inaccuracies, though, the film also has a touch of authenticity in its depiction of newsreel photographers manufacturing events with which to sell their work. Both Len Hammond, who wrote the film's original story, and Laurence Stallings, who co-wrote the screenplay, had worked for Fox Movietone news and drew on their experiences for scenes in which Gable hires the local children to play war orphans, crashes model planes as though they were real and stages a fake bombing raid. The latter scene allegedly came from comedy great Buster Keaton, who was working as a gag man at the studio he had helped make great.
During filming, Gable's off-screen love, Carole Lombard, was a frequent visitor to the set. Although he was still married to his second wife and MGM executives were doing everything in their power to keep the Gable-Lombard romance out of the papers, she knew that the love of her life had a straying eye and paid frequent visits to him when she wasn't starring in a picture of her own. Of course, she had nothing to fear from Loy, who had recently wed producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr., or the film's other two featured females, child actress Virginia Weidler (already an accomplished scene stealer at the age of 12), or character woman Marjorie Main, but there were plenty of starlets on the lot who could have caught Gable's eye.
Too Hot to Handle would be the final teaming for Gable and Loy. During World War II, she would take an extended leave from MGM and the movies to do her part for the war effort. It actually could have been her last picture ever, at least according to studio publicists. For the scene in which Gable pulls her out of a burning crashed plane, special effects technicians lost control of their fire, but Gable went ahead with the scene, pulling her to safety as scripted. He never said a word to Loy about it. She only found out when the story was picked up in newspapers around the country and was never entirely sure whether she really was in danger or the entire story was manufactured to sell the picture.
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Jack Conway
Screenplay: Laurence Stallings, John Lee Mahin
Based on a Story by Len Hammond
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Clark Gable (Chris Hunter), Myrna Loy (Alma Harding), Walter Pidgeon (Bill Dennis), Walter Connolly (Gabby MacArthur), Leo Carrillo (Joselito), Virginia Weidler (Hulda Harding), Henry Kolker (Pearly Todd), Marjorie Main (Miss Wayne).
BW-106m. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
Too Hot to Handle
The opening sequence of a fake bombing raid was allegedly conceived by Buster Keaton, then a freelance MGM gagman.
A pre-production title of the film was Let 'Em All Talk. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, Ray June took over the "last few days" of shooting on the film when photographer Harold Rosson left to go on vacation, and Harold Weinberger took over as Asst dir when Joseph Newman's illness prevented him from completing his work on the picture. An earlier news item mentioned that Richard Rosson (the film's second unit director and the brother of cameraman Harold Rosson) and Clyde De Vinna had just left for Dutch Guiana to spend three weeks in the jungle shooting footage of the Djuka tribe for the picture. A December 1938 article in AC, written by De Vinna, describes the location trip which he and Richard Rosson took to shoot backgrounds that were later incorporated into the studio footage. Portions of the film were also shot on location in Sherwood Forest, CA.
Hollywood Reporter reported on December 13, 1937 that Spencer Tracy was scheduled to star in the film with Clark Gable. At that time they were working on another aviation picture with Myrna Loy, Test Pilot, which was completed in February 1938. Another news item in HR reported that Margaret Sullivan was in line for the part which first, and then finally, was assigned to Loy. Variety noted in its review that story writer Len Hammond had been an executive with newsweel company Movietone News and that screenwriter Laurence Stallings had also worked for Movietone. According to press releases, Gable spent two days working with an actual newsreel crew to get a feeling for his part. A Hollywood Reporter news item notes that George Peter Lynn, who portrayed Harry Harding in the film, was actually a former stunt pilot. This was the fifth and last film in which Gable and Loy, called in fan magazines of the time the "King" and "Queen" of Hollywood co-starred. Modern sources note that the picture was one of M-G-M's biggest hits of the year.