The best film in the 3-disc "Carole Lombard Collection II" Blu-ray set from Kino is HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, a 1935 romantic comedy co-starring Fred MacMurray and directed by Mitchell Leisen.
Carole Lombard plays Regi Allen, a manicurist at a ritzy hotel. Regi is unhappy with her life and hopes to snag a rich husband. She encounters Allen Macklyn (Ralph Bellamy), a wealthy man living at the hotel who is paralyzed from the waist down, and Theodore Drew (Fred MacMurray), a gadabout whose family has fallen on hard times. Regi and Theodore are attracted to each other, but he's engaged to marry an heiress. Allen wants to marry Regi, but he realizes that she and Theodore are meant for each other, despite the both of them supposedly wanting money over love.
HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE is usually lumped into the "screwball comedy" category, but I would define it as more thoughtful than screwball. There's very few outlandish moments here--Mitchell Leisen plays things for the most part in a subtle manner, with several intimate close-ups. Regi, Theodore, and Allen are not caricatures, they are real human beings with real emotions and feelings.
Lombard is delightful as Regi--the actress is very natural and unaffected here. She tries to act as if she's a cynical golddigger who wants the easy life, but she isn't (something that Ralph Bellamy's Allen surmises right away). Regi is actually a hard-working responsible person who just yearns for more out of her situation. She's attracted to Theodore, but put off by the fact that he appears more cynical than she does. Ted has never really worked for a living, nor does he want to--a fact that exasperates Regi. This was Lombard and MacMurray's first film together, and they make a great screen couple. This was also very early in Fred MacMurray's acting career, and in later interviews he gave all the credit to Lombard in helping him come off as well as he does.
Ralph Bellamy plays the "other guy" role again, but he almost winds up stealing the film as the kindly Macklyn. (In all honesty I thought Regi would have been better off if she had wound up with him--but there's no way any 1935 movie made in Hollywood would have allowed a star like Lombard to be with a guy in a wheelchair at the end.) Marie Prevost is notable as Regi's best friend.
The transfer of HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE on this Blu-ray is very good, although there are times where it seems too bright. The main extra is a new audio commentary by Allen Arkush and Daniel Kremer, who also did the honors for THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS in this same Kino set. The duo give a lively talk, and they spend a lot of time discussing Mitchell Leisen.
To sum up the "Carole Lombard Collection II" Blu-ray set--it has better films than the first set, with both THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS and HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE being among Carole's top films. It also has what I feel are better audio commentaries.
It is disappointing that all three of the films in this set had been released on home video before--there's still plenty of Lombard movies that have never gotten an official release, especially from her Paramount period. Hopefully if Kino comes out with a third Lombard set, they will pick some of these titles, no matter how obscure they might be.
If one is a major Carole Lombard fan, this certainly is a worthy purchase--and, if enough people buy this set, Kino might actually decide to make more of them.