HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE ( 1935 )
Carole Lombard with her youth, beauty, vitality and wit that she displayed on and off the screen symbolized fashion in every sense of the word. In almost all of her films, she’s sporting the modern contemporary style of the day, or in other cases, she’s dressed to perfection in beautiful dazzling gowns, just like her gold shimmering dress in “My Man Godfrey”.
“Hands Across The Table” is a screwball comedy classic that really exemplifies the latest trend from the 1930’s. The film also features a glamor based theme, delving into the romantic story of a manicurist and her current situation dealing with the wealthy and the proletariats.
Splendidly directed by Mitchell Leisen, who started off working in the art and costume department in the 1920’s, until he ascended his way up the ladder, ranking as one of Hollywood’s most notable directors of melodramas and screwball comedies. During the annals of his career, he became known for his artistic flair in aesthetics by placing his directorial efforts in a plethora of the glossy productions of this genre.
His work in “Hands Across The Table” is one example of his lustrous career. The film was initially intended as a vehicle to showcase Carole’s adeptness at comedy, and Mitchell Leisan, being a prowess in the genre was the best director for her to work with. Fred MacMarray, who would go on to star with Carole in three more vehicles served as her love interest along with Ralph Bellamy.
At the time, Fred MacMurray acquired no expertise in comedy, and found it onerous to be humorous for the role. To get a solid performance out of him, Lombard and Leisan both worked extremely hard, trying all sorts of measures to get him to appear gelastic and amusing.
The plot centres Carole Lombard as Regi Allen, a young hotel manicurist, who was raised in poverty and has her sights set on marrying into opulence. At work she is introduced to her new client, the wealthy wheelchair bound, Allen Macklyn. Allen immediately becomes infatuated and enamored by Regi’s charms and her amicable aura, that he makes it no secret that he wants to marry her. However, despite his prosperous circumstances, Regi does not view him as a potential husband.
To complicate matters, Regi gets involved in a rather difficult love triangle with Ted ( Fred MacMarray ) a capricious loafer, who at first masquerades as Theodore Drew III, a descendent from a socially prominent family, but in truth, he faced bankruptcy during the Great Depression. As time progresses, Regi finds herself in an uneasy alliance and now she must decide between Theodore or Allen.
“Hands Across The Table” is very eloquent in the sense of fashion. Carole Lombard’s wardrobe in the film were designed by Travis Banton, an eminent costume designer for Paramount during the 1930’s when glamour and sophistication had reached it’s pinnacle.
Travis Banton was probably Carole’s most frequent costume designer in the thirties. During his tenor creating gowns for Lombard, he had dressed her in imaginative and daring designs, that made her look very modish. As legend has it, he also relished in dressing Carole, and later said ” You could toss a bolt of fabric at Carole Lombard and however it would land on her she would look smart.”
In the way of 1930’s fashion, Travis Banton really illustrated the latest trend of the day by dressing Carole in exquisite contemporary wear. These were the days that women wore frilly clothing adorned with large bows and plenty of florals. By 1935, the plumed hats and gauntlet gloves were the fad, but at the end of the decade hats were becoming less popular in women.
Evening wear was a different thing. Women enjoyed an international flair, with Greek and Indian-inspired dresses with heavy jewellery and breathtaking prints. It’s also interesting to note that the most popular outfit of 1935 was the Mainbocher’s two-piece navy wool dress with lace cuffs and collar. All of these styles are pretty much depicted in the movie.
Another interesting fact is that in 1935, the Rhumba had become the latest dance craze.
Gary Cooper was the first choice for the role of Theodore Drew III but was unable at the time.
[Ted suggests temporarily becoming Regi’s platonic roommate]
Regi: Well, I’m not *that* unconventional.
Ted Drew: Aw, don’t be old-fashioned. What are conventions anyway? Just a bunch of salesmen sitting around and telling stories.
Regi: It was lovely of you, but taking taxis when you haven’t any money is a little foolish, isn’t it?
Ted Drew: Foolish? Why, I had to take a taxi. I couldn’t go out in this pouring rain and get my only suit all wet, could I?
Regi: Where’s your overcoat?
Ted Drew: Ohhh, spending a little time in the pawnshop…
Regi: Well, why did you pawn your overcoat?
Ted Drew: Why, to pay for the taxi, of course. Dope!
Carole Lombard: Born Jane Alice Peters on October 6th, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Died: January 16th, 1942 on Mount Potosi, Nevada. Age 33. Cause of death: Airplane crash.
Fred MacMurray: Born Fredrick Martin MacMurray on August 30th, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois. Died: November 5th, 1991. Age 83, in Santa Monica, California.