Spotlight on Clark Gable in Test Pilot and Too Hot To Handle
In 1938 Clark Gable was firmly established as one of Hollywood’s top stars. Four years earlier he won the Oscar for It Happened One Night and in the interim he led such films as Mutiny on the Bounty, San Francisco and Wife Vs. Secretary. I1938 also found Myrna Loy at the top of her game. Already firmly established in the role of Nora Charles in the Thin Man series she had been a leading lady for over a decade and was also one of Hollywood’s top stars. How fitting then that the year should bring the pair together in two very enjoyable MGM hits, Test Pilot and Too Hot To Handle, which I’ve chose to focus on for the Clark Gable Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood.
Clark Gable and Myrna Loy had already appeared together in a number of films but 1938 would mark the final year of their collaboration.
Test Pilot released in April costars Spencer Tracey and Lionel Barrymore. Gable is the eponymous test pilot who one day crash lands into Loy’s backyard. The pair quickly fall in love and are soon married but Gable’s risky career puts a strain on the marriage and he has to choose who he loves more – his wife or his career.
Gable, Loy and Tracey prove to be a delightful trio and have excellent chemistry. The film ably tows the line between drama and melodrama and features several exciting airline stunt scenes. In fact, the filmmakers strove for authenticity and the film features several top planes of the time, real life Army Air Corps fields and an authentic test pilot Sammy Wroath performing the stunts.
Too Hot To Handle released in September is a comedy co-starring Walter Pidgeon and Leo Carrillo. Gable and Pidgeon are competing newsreel reporters trying to outdo each other in their coverage of the Sino-Japanese War. This time Loy is a pilot that come between the pair as they battle it out to win her affection.
While Test Pilot was a dramatic film that managed to snag an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, Too Hot to Handle is an out and out comedy that features Gable staging a mock aerial attack with model planes and, later, impersonating a witch doctor. It’s said that Buster Keaton worked as a comedic advisor on the film and several scenes do reflect his deft touch.
Though at different ends of the film spectrum Test Pilot and Too Hot Too Handle prove that Clark Gable and Myrna Loy made a delightful film couple. Though both would have continued success in the years to come it’s a shame they never paired again.