Too Hot To Handle (1938)

  • Introductory Acknowledgment:

“We wish to thank Her Majesty’s Governor of Netherlands Guiana for permitting our expedition to enter the jungles of the Tottiekampu country. Our thanks also to Chief Moi of the Matawais Tribe for allowing us to record, for the first time, the sights & sounds of the Diuka Fire-Dance ritual.”


  • So. A couple of news companies are battling for film footage of the war going on in China. Clark Gable & Walter Pidgeon are the guys in the ground in Shanghai…and so far, they are not having very much luck in this endeavor.
  • Myra Loy (somewhat loosely) works for Atlas Newsreels (same as Pidgeon’s character, Bill) – and she crash lands in Shanghai when trying to help Bill in some dumbass plan for news footage he had. Clark Gable (Chris Hunter) is on hand & saves her from the burning plane, like a pro. (If I were her, that’d make me change newsreel loyalties in a heartbeat! A Dumbass Pidgeon or a Hero Gable? Uh…hello.)
  • Oh, man – both of these guys are such tricksters! So much fakery in their words & actions – I can tell this is gonna be a hard film to keep track of, plot-wise. Everyone’s trying to double-cross everyone, literally all the time!
  • Chris gets fake fired, so he & Alma (Loy) fly back to NY so his boss (Walter Connolly) can fake re-hire him, at Alma’s real urging. Gabby (Connolly) agrees to the fake re-hiring of Chris – but only if Alma will ditch Atlas & come work for Union Newsreels, instead. She agrees. (I told you this plot would get screwy in a hurry.)
  • Meanwhile, Alma’s brother Harry is lost in South America somewhere, after crashing his plane down there (or something). Everyone thinks he’s dead, except for Alma, who intends to go on a rescue expedition & find him.
  • Myrna Loy is great at the beginning of this – despite her familiarity with Gable (in 1938, they’d already made 5 movies together – NIGHT FLIGHT (1933), MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934), MEN IN WHITE (1934), WIFE VS. SECRETARY (1936), & PARNELL (1937)), she is 100% believable in the way she gets to know his character, & lets him get to know hers. There is no…sassy familiarity here like there is in several of their other pairings – and I’m very impressed by that.
  • I said Pidgeon was a dumbass…but Chris is a dumbass, too! He has Alma circle around a burning munitions ship like 8 times, when it could explode at any second – and then crawls out on the wing of the plane for a better angle. Jesus, that’s stupid.
  • Everyone’s blackmailing everyone, & trading footage, & stealing footage, & lying about soundtracks…what a twisted mess this is. (The current problem at hand is something negative Chris said about Alma back in Shanghai that was recorded on Union’s sound reel – but Atlas stole it & Bill is using it against Chris every chance he gets. Brutal.)
  • Here’s what Chris says on the tape (and why Alma is justifiably livid & wounded when Atlas eventually releases it):

“Listen, I’m coming home, see? And when I do, I’m bringing Alma herself. She’s a common little dame who thinks she’s a man, flying around the world with grease on her face and her hands and her pockets. Maybe I can show her how it feels to be a woman.”

Yep, that’s rough.

  • (Myrna Loy’s reaction to it, as it’s playing, is phenomenal – she just wordlessly stares, & develops a very subtle look of sadness & confusion.)
  • Turns out the bosses got tired of all the blackmailing & hoaxing & thievery – so they released the Shanghai footage in its entirety, to be done with the whole mess…and fired Bill & Chris, while they were at it.
  • So anyway…now Alma wants no part of Bill or Chris.
  • But little does she know, the two of them have banded together to sell every last piece of their high-dollar camera equipment…to give to her, so she can go look for her brother.
  • Chris’s cohort Joselito (Leo Carrillo) gives Alma the check, posing as a representative of some phony corporation – which…well, it sucks that they (Bill & Chris)’re still deceiving her – but also, I feel like there’s no way in hell she’d’ve accepted money from them, if they’d tried to give it to her straight.
  • Long story short, both Chris & Bill make it down to South America (independently)…to continue their annoying fight for Alma.

(I just wanna be like, ‘Give it a goddamn rest, Pidgeon – we all know Gable is gonna win – that’s just what the man does, when it comes to women!’)

  • Well, we found the native fire-dance Chief Moi was thanked for providing access to, at the beginning.

…Unfortunately, they portray Chief Moi’s tribe as a crazed group of cannibalistic savages. Sigh.

  • However!!! The Cannibalistic Savages turn out to be in possession of Alma’s brother! He lives! Hooray!
  • It’s great how the VooDoo natives speak Spanish so that Leo Carrillo can communicate with them. (Groan.) What are the odds?!
  • Chris wows the natives with his medicine…& becomes important in the tribe (?).
  • Then Bill & Alma arrive at the camp and for some reason, Chris is still trying to get newsreel footage. What the hell! Drop the goddamn cameras and get you (& everyone else, including Dying Harry) out of the goddamn forest! Jesus! Learn your priorities, you dumbass!
  • Great news! Somehow, they have all made it back to America safely, & Alma is for some reason very proud of Chris for impersonating a costumed native to get his footage – “He did it all!” she exclaims gratefully, when she finds out the part he played in the rescue of Harry.
  • The newsreel – er – I mean – movie – ends with Alma speaking into the sound recorder at the scene of a new News Scoop:

“How’s this for pretty pictures? He’s a comic little guy running around the world with grease on his face and a camera for a heart – but maybe I can show him how it feels to be a man.”

  • THE END.
  • Ps: I told you, Pidgeon – Gable always wins the girl – it’s a goddamn rule of film, or something.
  • This movie was okay – it had some really strong characters & Myrna Loy was great in it – but the “South American Natives” sequences seemed a bit over-the-top & unnecessary. It also probably could’ve used some cuts in a couple other parts.
  • If I had to give it a grade, it’d be a solid B. Good in some parts, but silly in others.

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