It Happened One Night (1934)
Directed by Frank Capra
Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
Ellie (Colbert) is a spoiled heiress who just bolted after her marriage to King Westley. She’s not interested in being married to him, and she’s hiding out while her privileged family searches for her. When she meets Peter Warne (Gable), Ellie is forced to accept his help and his company to avoid being found by her father. Peter is looking for a story to revitalize his career, and he’s willing to trade the story for helping her keep under the radar. Both of them think they know what they want out of this arrangement, but they may just be surprised.
This was the first time Colbert (Since You Went Away) and Gable (Gone with the Wind) were featured together in a film and they chose wisely. This movie won five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing. Colbert and Gable also took home Oscars for Best Actor and Actress. This critical success was not backed up at the box office when this was first released. Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life) was immediately concerned by the initial reviews, and Claudette Colbert told a friend that she had “just finished the worst picture in the world.” All of this worry was for nothing once the film reached a wide audience. Word of mouth generated huge box office numbers and an improved critical response.
Gable and Colbert are really good in this movie. There is a chemistry between them that really shines throughout. The rest of the cast is also good in their supporting parts. They all had the benefit of a good script with great dialogue to move the story along. They were also fortunate enough to work with a great director. This movie has also become a good template for more recent romantic comedies.
The movie is also visually fun to watch. The camera work often accentuates the awkwardness and the unique situations the two main characters find themselves in. It has the signature Capra style which is a pleasure to see every time.
This became the first film to take the “Big Five” Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Actor, Best Actress). Since then only two other movies have accomplished this. Those films are One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs. This film was also selected to become part of the National Film Registry in 1993. I really enjoy this movie every time I see it. It’s one that has held up quite nicely for almost 80 years. If you haven’t seen this one I would make it a definite addition to your list. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.
Rating: Not Rated (Pre-MPAA)
Running Time: 105 minutes