While "Hands Across The Table," released in the fall of 1935, wasn't Carole Lombard's first significant hit -- that honor arguably belongs to "Twentieth Century" the year before -- it was nonetheless crucial for her career. It was her first Paramount film designed as a Lombard vehicle, elevating her alongside Claudette Colbert in the studio's romantic comedy field.
It was also her first film at Paramount since famed director Ernst Lubitsch, long an ally of Carole's, took over as head of production...the first (and, as it turned out, the only) time a director held such duties at a major studio. He had as much a personal stake in this as Lombard did.
So Paramount pulled out all the stops for Lombard (shown above with co-star Fred MacMurray and director Mitchell Leisen). And you can get a sense of how they did it by looking at a pressbook for "Hands Across The Table." It's a representative example of movie publicity at the time.
Inside were items for "publicity," "advertising" and "exploitation" that local theater owners could use to drum up interest in the film:
Let's examine one of the inside pages to get a feel for the kinds of things exhibitors could do:
The page features various display items -- lobby cards, window cards and even a slide (not shown) that exhibitors could employ to promote "Hands Across The Table" as a coming attraction. But theater owners did have to pay nominal fees to Paramount to procure the stuff. For example:
An exhibitor could order a set of 10 11" x 14" stills from "Hands Across The Table" for a whopping...$2. These days, just one of those pictures, in reasonable condition, would probably be worth at least 10 times that amount. A complete set of 10 might run a four-figure sum.
And lest you think all this is merely so much good old American ballyhoo, rest assured such tactics were also employed on the other side of the "pond." Here's a British pressbook for a later Lombard-MacMurray collaboration, "Swing High, Swing Low":