Hands Across the Table

Hands Across the Table

Infobox Film
name = Hands Across the Table

image_size =
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director = Mitchell Leisen
producer = E. Lloyd Sheldon
writer = Norman Krasna
"Based on a story by Viña Delmar
narrator =
starring = Carole Lombard
Fred MacMurray
music =
cinematography =
editing =
distributor = Paramount
released = 1935
runtime =
country = USA
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
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Released by Paramount in 1935, "Hands Across the Table" is a film starring Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray.

A classic screwball comedy, a manicurist looking for a rich husband encounters two prospects - one a wealthy invalid pilot, the other an eccentric playboy. The plot revolves around her choice ... complicated when she discovers that one of the men is already engaged to be married.

Plot Summary

Manicurist Regi Allen desires to marry a rich husband and is called to be the manicurist of wealthy invalid Allen Macklyn (Ralph Bellamy). Upon exiting his apartment, she encounters Theodore Drew III (Fred MacMurray) who is playing a game of hop-scotch in the hallway. He invites her to join him, which she coridally declines. Later she is called to give a manicure for Theodore Drew III and is surprised to see the man whom she had met in the hallway. She waves him hurriedly away, waiting patiently for Theodore Drew III until she is told by the woman at the counter who she waved away. She replaces her friend as his manicurist and pricks his fingers several times with her file, bandaging them as she goes along. They begin to talk rather awkwardly, but nevertheless he invites her to dinner.

Ted becomes drunk and tells her that he is engaged to be married to Vivian Snowden, heiress to a pineapple fortune and that he is leaving on a boat the next day to Bermuda. Regi is unable to wake him from his drunken slumber and permits him to sleep on her sofa, believing that he will leave before she returns from work. However, he is still there when she returns and greets her warmly while ironing his pants. He explains to her that he missed the boat to Bermuda and that his family lost all their money in the Great Depression. Uncertain, Regi is convinced when he frightens away a potential date, of which she did not wish to go on, by pretending to be her abusive husband. The two confess to each other that they intend on marrying for money only and in the course of his stay with her, they fall in love.

Ted calls his fiancee, Vivian (Astrid Allwyn), to remain in her favor with Regi interrupting saying continuously "Bermuda calling," until they hang up. On Ted and Regi's last night together, they admit their mutual love, but Regi ends the relationship stating that he must marry for money or their love will grow sour. Ted leaves that evening for his fiancee's.

Meanwhile, Vivian grew suspicious of Ted after his phone call and, after having private investigators locate his girlfriend, she leaves for the hotel. She asks for Regi Allen as her manicurist and confronts her. Remaining unimpressed by Regi, Vivian refuses to let go of Ted. However, Ted decides that he would much rather remain with Regi and surprisingly get a job rather than live as Vivian's lap dog. He returns and is released from his engagement by Vivian. He goes to the apartment of Allen Macklyn where Regi had gone for comfort. Allen prepares to propose with the new ring he had bought when he realizes that Ted does indeed love Regi and he leaves, permitting them to talk.

Regi and Ted are reunited and decide to put their fate in the hands of a coin to decide between eating lunch or getting married or, if the coin lands on its edge, Ted will get a job. They flip the coin and stop the bus to see that it has landed on its edge.


*Lombard had originally wanted Cary Grant in the role of Theodore Drew III, but scheduling conflicts made him impossible to get. (Courtesy TCM)

*The film was built primarily as a vehicle to promote Lombard's comedic acting abilities.

*Lombard knew MacMurray as he played saxophone at various clubs around Hollywood. (Courtesy TCM)

*MacMurray was unknown for his comedic acting abilities and found it difficult to be humorous enough for the role. Director Mitchell Leisen and Lombard both worked extremely hard to receive the performance they wanted out of MacMurray. Lombard, at one point, sat on MacMurray's chest, pounding on him with her fists and yelling, "Now Uncle Fred, you be funny or I'll pluck your eyebrows out!"

*Lombard and MacMurray were unable to create the chemistry that they had been able to create with various other on-screen partners. Leisen said, "The main problem with Fred in those days was that he didn't project much sex, aside from being very good looking. In the scene where he says ‘Aren't you going to kiss me good-night?' Carole was supposed to walk in and kiss him, then walk out of the frame. Well, she came out past the camera, just looked at me and shrugged her shoulders, as if to say, ‘So what?' Poor Fred!" (Courtesy TCM)

*Lombard and MacMurray did like each other immensely, Lombard going to parties at the MacMurray's house and vice-versa. With Leisen's direction, they were able to place their genial relationship onto the screen. Of the scene in which MacMurray calls his fiancee and Lombard continuously interrupts stating "Bermuda calling," Leisen said, "When they finished the take, Carole and Fred collapsed on the floor in laughter; they laughed until they couldn't laugh any more. It wasn't in the script, but I made sure the cameras kept turning and I used it in the picture. It is so hard to make actors laugh naturally - I wasn't about to throw that bit out." (Courtesy TCM)

*Lombard and MacMurray went on to make 1936's The Princess Comes Across, 1937's Swing High, Swing Low, and 1937's True Confession together.

*The character of Nona, played by Marie Prevost, is an avid numerology expert. Coincidentally or not, Carole Lombard's mother was also a numerology expert. According to legend, Lombard's mother initially predicted Lombard's death by the pattern of recurring threes (Lombard was 33 at the time of her death, the plane was Flight 3) and was adamant about their not flying. Of course, Lombard took the plane anyway and subsequently perished in the plane crash. In Hands Across the Table, when Nona hears the name of Theodore Drew III, she tells Lombard that 3 is a very dangerous number for her.

upporting Cast

*Ralph Bellamy
*Astrid Allwyn
*Ruth Donnelly
*Marie Prevost

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