Sunday, August 12, 2018

Too Hot to Handle

Another movie available from the Warner Archive that I recently watched off my DVR is Too Hot to Handle.

Clark Gable plays Chris Hunter, a newsreel photographer for the Union Newsreel Co. currently working in China, where there's a war going on because of the Japanese occupation of parts of the country. Chris hasn't been able to get any good footage of bombings in part because it's tough to be in the right place at the riht time, and in part due to the new anti-aircraft guns; all this is much to the consternation of Chris' boss Gabby (Walter Connolly). Actually it's not just Chris who isn't getting any usable footage; all the other newsreel guys (who are stationed in the same place and follow a herd mentality not unlike today) aren't getting any footage either.

Chris has an idea to create some fake news (again, not unlike today) by staging an attack with model planes and a phony crying child, but Chris' main rival Bill (Walter Pidgeon) knows about Chris' penchant for fake news. So Bill and his colleagues cook up a story about a cholera epidemic and a pilot Harding bringing in a critical supply of serum; the hope is that Chris will fall for the story. Chris shows up at the airport and gets in everybody else's way, not realizing this was their intention. And Chris' interference results in the plane running off the runway and catching fire. At this point, Chris rescues Harding and discovers that Harding is actually a woman, Alma Harding (Myrna Loy).

Chris falls in love with Alma, and through a series of subterfuges gets her to work for Union, but eventually she's going to find out about Chris' deception at which point she's going to be very pissed with him. She was only in on the fake news story back in China because she was trying to raise the money necessary to start an expedition to find her brother. Apparently, her brother was also an exploring aviator, except that he went down somewhere in the Brazilian rain forest. Everybody else thinks he's dead, but she's convinced he's alive.

Chris engages in some more deception to raise the money necessary for Alma to get down to South America, mostly because he still wants her love and if he helps her find her brother he can win her back. Well, to be honest there's also the possibility of getting a great newsreel out of the story, and heaven knows Chris will do anything for a story. Now, there wouldn't be much of a climax to the movie is Alma's brother were dead, so you can assume that he's alive and that Chris is going to help Alma save her.

Too Hot to Handle is one of those MGM movies that's entertaining and competently made, but at the same time looks like it's got something wrong with it because of the studio gloss. Hollywood's portrayal of China doesn't look like China at all, and it gets South America even more wrong. The natives that captured Alma's brother practice "voodoo", and yet they speak the mix of Spanish and Portuguese that Chris' sound man Joselito (Leo Carrillo) speaks. Oh, and I thought those newsreel cameras didn't necessarily pick up sound without a real mike hooked up.

With that said, everybody does a good job with their roles, at least insofar as the script lets them. Probably best of the whole lot is Marjorie Main playing Gabby's executive secretary Miss Wayne. Connolly has to play Gabby as too much the dyspeptic; Gable starts to annoy as the smooth operator, Pidgeon has to struggle with his character being written blandly, and Myrna Loy is probably a bit too glamorous to play anybody stuck in a tiny cockpit for hours on end.

Overall, you should be aware that you're going to have to suspend disbelief to watch Too Hot to Handle. If you can do that, it's quite the entertaining little ride.

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