From September 1938:
Everywhere we turn something real inspires something romantic. Why, even Mussolini’s Ethipian adventure has landed Clark Gable a new thrill-packed adventure role!
“Too Hot to Handle”, our first set invasion at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, really has nothing to do with Il Duce or his Fascisti friends. It’s an adventurous saga of a daredevil newsreel cameraman.
But if Laurence Stallings, the war correspondent, and Leonard Hammond, the ace newsreeler, hadn’t sat idly for weeks sopping up Ethiopian rainfall and waiting for Mussolini to get going, Clark might very well have missed out on a dashing scenario to follow in the wake of “Test Pilot.”
As it was, Stallings and John lee Mahin cooked up a yarn based on Hammond’s adevntures behind a tripod–and, bingo, Clark has just what he needs for his new adventure-personality peg on the screen!
The way “Too Hot to Handle” finally worked out makes Clark a lone-wolf picture-shooting ace and Myrna Loy an Earhart-ish ocean flyer. Walter Pidgeon, Leo Carrillo and Walter Connolly mix up in the excitement which hops from Manilla to Shanghai to the South American jungles and back again. Along the way, Clark films everything spectacular in sight at the risk of life and limb, you can be sure, rescues Myrna’s jungle-lost aviation brother (Paul Redfern idea) and manages some very personal close-ups with Myrna to the disgust of rival Walter Pidgeon. Now, don’t get worried–Clark gets her in the end.
When we intrude on these doings on Stage 29, Clark has just passed from burning lips to burning ships. The film he has taken of a flaming liner makes Walter covet half the profits, so there’s quite a long and scrappy scene. Aviation pictures always seem to require a setful of fake oil-spray fog. We could do without that, because, in this case, it partially hides lovely Myrna Loy. “Minnie”, pert and sassy in a flying suit and goggles, climbs down out of her plane to put her two-cents worth in the argument.
“Action!” says Director Conway. “No–wait a minute. Clark, you’re too neat.”
Clark looks slightly bewildered as a couple of prop men leap to his side, muss his hair and squirt grease all over a snappy sport coat. Then he grins wickedly. “You boys all through?”
“Yep,” replied the grease-squirters. “What’s the joke?”
“Nothing,” says Clark, “except MGM just spent one hundred and ten bucks. That’s what this jacket cost me. It’s mine–not the studio’s!”
The prop men stagger.
We watch the scene, but somebody–maybe us–is a jinx. Clark repeatedly blows his lines like a amateur. What’s the matter? The assistant director tells us.
Clark is overanxious because he’s been invited by Donald Douglas, the plane-builder, to be a guest at the take-off of the DC-4, the mammoth plane that’s being launched this afternoon. Director Conway has promised to get him through in time, but now it looks like they’ll never make it. And is Clark worried! He likes planes.
Then, as we watch, we see something that has never before met our eyes on a Hollywood set. In the middle of a take a roaring noise seeps through the thick walls of the stage. In the middle of his lines, Clark yells, “There she is!” Then Clark, Myrna and the whole company scram madly through the red light and outdoors. So do we.
It’s the DC-4, the biggest land plane in the world. She soars over the studio like a great prehistoric bird, while a guy and a gal stand below and wave like excited kids. Clark and Myrna. And right beside them is–us. The red light still burns, but nobody sees it. Pictures can wait. This is the real thing.