Hands Across the Table
The Cinderella story gets the screwball comedy treatment in this irresistible confection about the down-and-out rubbing elbows with the rich in 1930s Paris, with Claudette Colbert as a penniless showgirl and John Barrymore as her “fairy godfather” who uses money instead of magic. The usual sources of humor in the screwball genre – role playing and mistaken identity, protagonists trying to choose between love and money or duty – are given plenty of verve by the comedic timing from the film’s skillful cast and added bite from the screenwriting team of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett at the top of their game.
In classic screwball fashion, a manicurist and a playboy, both on the make, meet and fall in love, but since each is broke and determined to marry for money, romance is out of the question – or so it seems. Such is the scenario created by the gifted Viña Delmar – who would later write the classic screenplay for The Awful Truth – and directed by Mitchell Leisen with his usual understated wit and elegance. Although often overlooked today in favor of Lubitsch, Hawks and Sturges, Leisen turned out a string of polished gems from the early 1930s through the mid-1940s at Paramount, where he began his career as a costume designer in 1919 and where he remained for over forty years.