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King rescues queen...but did he?



It's a chilly evening, so one understands why Carole Lombard and Clark Gable are bundling up. On a hunting trip in the wilderness, one guesses, probably in early spring or sometime in fall.

But no, this was shot in early June, in 1938 to be exact. And according to the caption, the setting was southern California, either on the MGM lot in Culver City or someplace not far away, because Clark is taking a break from work on his latest film, and Carole dropped by to keep him company (and perhaps make sure he doesn't stray to some studio starlet).

The irony? The movie Gable is making is called..."Too Hot To Handle." Clark's co-star is Myrna Loy, whom Lombard correctly regards as a friend, not a threat. Loy, at the time, was happily married to film producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. (whose producing credits include Lombard's "The Princess Comes Across").

A year or two earlier, in a reader poll conducted by New York Daily News columnist Ed Sullivan (many years before he became an unlikely television legend), Gable won honors as "King of Hollywood," and Loy took the title of queen. (Both were aided considerably by MGM's peerless publicity machine.)

They had made a number of films together; "Too Hot To Handle" would be their last. Gable portrays a newsreel photographer, Loy an aviatrix. Early in the film, there's a scene in which the plane Loy is landing catches fire, and Gable's character -- not knowing who the pilot is -- rushes in for a rescue. Only after pulling the pilot from the flames does he discover it's a woman:



There's been some conjecture that not only did Gable's character rescue Loy's character, but Gable actually rescued Loy. Obviously, Myrna didn't pilot the plane (although some years earlier, when she portrayed a pilot in "Night Flight," she was advised on the set by none other than Amelia Earhart), but reportedly some of the special effects used to simulate a fiery crash went awry, and Gable -- without regard for his own safety -- pulled Loy from the "wreckage."

Or at least that's what MGM's publicists said.

Did it actually happen? Gable never said anything about it. And in her autobiography "Being And Becoming," Loy -- admirably honest throughout the book -- said she herself wasn't sure whether or not she had actually been in danger.

So there's a good chance this was so much Metro hyperbole. But it's not overstating things to say that "Too Hot To Handle," directed by the ever-reliable Jack Conway, was one of MGM's biggest hits for 1938, blending comedy, action and adventure. It's still rollicking fun, despite several plot loopholes that render the story unbelievable when you stop and think about them. If you're going to watch this, be warned that while in the Brazilian jungle, Gable utters some lines that might be deemed racist from a 2009 perspective.



(Maybe it's me, but it seems that in every movie ad I see from this era, the second feature invariably stars Lynn Bari.)

A few days ago, we ran a photo of Lombard and Loy, which we learned was probably taken at a benefit broadcast for Greek war relief in January 1941, shortly after Clark and Carole returned from their eastern trip. Well, here's another photo of Carole and Myrna, this time with Gable and several other Hollywood celebrities:

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