For Reel

Hands Across the Table (1935)
June 2, 2015, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mitchell Leisen
4 Stars
Hands Across the TableIn the opening moments of Hands Across the Table, an exasperated Carole Lombard steps off of a train on a crowded platform. Shortly thereafter, her eye catches a diamond ring in a jewelry store window–an unambiguous desire if there ever was one! Lombard’s star persona brought the cynicism and sexiness that one might expect of a gold digger, but she brings an unexpected insecurity to the part that many actresses of the period wouldn’t be able to convey. In her first meeting with Fred MacMurray (whom she has selected as bait), she awkwardly stabs his cuticles several times during a manicure and can’t seem to spit out a well-thought sentence. She’s nervous because the stakes are clear–he’s her ticket out of a lifestyle that she’s grown tired of. Director Mitchell Leisen and cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff contribute a wonderful tone that balances the playfulness of a screwball comedy with subtler, more melancholic notes. This is a romance between two characters who refer to themselves as heels, and as such neither of them feels as though they really deserve the happy ending. Ralph Bellamy has a small but hugely sympathetic performance. He’s the typical “other man”, but his chemistry is so believable with Lombard that one roots for him almost immediately, even after MacMurray has been introduced.

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