I watched this thinking it was gonna be all about Depression-era dance marathon contests and it was...for like 10 minutes. Ends up James Cagney is a flim flam man who's got his nose into about every racket in town. After his partner stiffs him in the dance marathon business he's off to the set up a fake treasure hunt then onto some bullshit weight loss cream and so on and so on. Throughout it all his ups and downs his faithful dame Mary Brian still loves him. Of course, that's not gonna stop her from running around on him with another guy.
Although HARD TO HANDLE is suppose to be a comedy I didn't find the way Cagney was constantly conning people to be funny in the least and the romance stuff was dead in the water. The only highlight of the film was some of the Pre-Code banter was interesting in the stuff it implied, but even that doesn't make it worth going out of your way to watch it. Okay acting, annoying mother character, unsympathetic main character, unfunny comedy. I can't recommend it. For hardcore classic Hollywood fans only.