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It Happened One Night (1934)


Is that a carrot in your mouth or are you just happy to eat me?
Is that a carrot in your mouth or are you just happy to eat me?

Genre: Comedy Romance

Starring: Clark Gable (Gone With The Wind • Run Silent Run Deep), Claudette Colbert (The Palm Beach Story • Torch Singer)

Directed By: Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life • Pocketful Of Miracles)

Overview: A famous spoiled rich girl escapes her father to elope. A reporter befriends her in hopes of getting the story of a lifetime. Along the way they find something more.

Lucky for It Happened One Night that it was produced in 1934, because this very cheeky screwball Rom Com was one of the last films to be made before the Hays code kicked in to high gear - Hollywood's censorship rules that lasted till the late 60s. Ironically, It Happened One Night ended up being a smash hit and the first of only three films to ever land all 'big 5' Oscars:

Best Picture

Best Actor in a Leading Role, Clark Gable

Best Actress in a Leading Role, Claudette Colbert

Best Director, Frank Capra

Best Writing, Adaptation, Robert Riskin

That being said, there's a whole lot going for Frank Capra's It Happened One Night. First it's the kind of movie you can watch with your mom. Second, it goes beyond dated and sits in the realm of socio-anthropological study, while still being bold enough to raise an eyebrow or two. Cheeky scenes include hitchhiking by bearing one's 'assets', intimidating a worrisome witness with the threat of a gangland-style massacre and sharing a cabin without being married *GASP!*

Those aformentioned 'assets'
Those aforementioned 'assets'

The story revolves around Ellie, a spoiled rich girl who dives off her father's yacht when he forbids her to marry a famous aviator. The famous Ellie Andrew, known to the press for her flighty ways, embarks on a journey from Miami to New York City with plans to elope with her beloved pilot. Enter Peter, a down-on-his-luck reporter who spots Ellie and, seeing an opportunity for an exclusive, finds, follows and befriends Ellie, recording her jaunt's experiences for a fat paycheque. Of course, being a Romantic Comedy you know what's going to happen next, but I won't spoil the obvious for you.

And yes, it's not usually my kind of movie either, and for as much as it's a romantic comedy from the 30s, It Happened One Night is still on IMDb's Top 250 parked at number 145. Did I mention it's also number 35 on AFI's 100 Favorite Movies Of The Last 100 Years? Add the fact that Clark Gable is famous for incurring MGM a hefty fine for swearing in Gone With the Wind and Claudette Colbert having starred in cheeky pre-code films, such as Torch Singer, all about her illegitimate child, well these are nice little tidbits that add weight to exploring an era of film that was much racier than you might expect.

Can't say I was a big fan of the "You don't know how to dunk?!" scene
Can't say I was a big fan of the "You don't know how to dunk?!" scene

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 78% (Let It Happen!)

The thing I found most strange about this film was the title. Most of the story takes place on a bus trip from Miami to New York City - certainly not a bus trip that can be done in a day, and there's actually no 'one' night that serves as a catalyst point for a budding romance to blossom. Wikipedia's entry nails it, "In spite of its title the movie takes place over several nights and none is particularly key to the plot." In fact, the original story was entitled Night Bus, a far more appropriate title, if perhaps not the flashiest.

Originally reviewed March 15th, 2010

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One of my favorite quotes in film history comes from this movie:

"Do you love her?"
"Yes - but don't hold it against me, I'm a little screwy myself!"

Great review!

I even have that quote as a favourite quote on my facebook page. It truly is great!

I have read in "The Book of Lists 2" in "17 movie stars who turned down great roles" that Myrna Loy refused the role that went to Claudette Colbert as Myrna thought "It Happened One Night" had Buckley's chance as a previous film set on a bus was unsuccessful.

OMG this is one of my favorite movies. i dont understand - this movie is so not fitting into the rest of the kind of movies you review here. And all of a sudden you pick a good'un :)

Whaaaat?! So I'm not into RomCom, sheesh! See you in a couple week, you can see what I said about The Sound of Music.

My favorite Gable performance, by a country mile

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