Crafted around the comedic talents of Carole Lombard, Hands Across the Table is a charming romantic comedy that contains a trio of sensitive, fabulous performances from Lombard, Fred MacMurray, and Ralph Bellamy. This film marked the first pairing of Carole and Fred, although she originally wanted Cary Grant (scheduling conflicts made it impossible). Lombard had heard of MacMurray before, but not as an actor -- she knew him from his saxophone playing in nightclubs! The duo would make three more films together: The Princess Comes Across (1936), Swing High, Swing Low (1937), and True Confession (1937). Personally, this is my favorite of their pictures.
Intrigued by the beautiful manicurist, Ted makes an appointment for the salon. (Side note: I love that back then men weren't afraid to get manicures. Nowadays, it's considered too "feminine." Ugh.) Aware of Regi's search for a wealthy husband, her boss informs her that Theodore Drew III is headed down. When she realizes it's the man from the hallway, she isn't thrilled but
here. As the evening progresses, the couple becomes slightly tipsy as they hop from place to place. In my favorite part of this sequence, they try to get into one particular nightclub and are told that their clothes are too informal. Right away, they start unbuttoning and removing their clothes until they are let in.
In Vivian's room, she pounces on Ted much like she did Regi. He states that he has changed and he actually wants to earn a living. Vivian calmly wishes him luck, but I doubt she means it. Back at Allen's, Regi dries her tears and goes to fix her hair while Allen prepares
At this point in his career, MacMurray was not yet the accomplished comedic actor we know he was. Throughout filming, he was unsure of how to play his character and he constantly needed the guidance of director Leisen and Lombard. They obviously did a fantastic job with Fred because his performance is a delight. It's really nice to hear that Lombard put so much effort into helping him. She was a bigger star than him and the film was already all hers, but she made it more successful for everyone involved by giving 110% on and off the screen. Out of all of the performances in the film, hers is the best. I prefer Lombard when she is quieter and less frantic, and Hands Across the Table definitely fits the bill.
This is my contribution to the Carole Lombard: the Profane Angel Blogathon. You can find the other great tributes here.