It Happened One Night (1934)
Undoubtably one of the most famous movies to be blessed with the Best Picture title, "It Happened One Night" stood for decades as the quintessential piece of award winning cinema. It was the first film to take home the "big five" award at the Oscars and remained the only film to do so until the 70s.
The story itself may come across slight—a woman, controlled by a rich father, runs away and tries to evade her father's detectives so she can be with her husband. Along the way she meets a smart mouthed news reporter who realizes that he's stumbled across one of the biggest stories of his career. Since he's just been fired, he's eager for the opportunity to tag along with the girl.
Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is tired of being under the thumb of her wealthy father. He locks her in her room after taking her away from her new husband. The father sees their secret wedding as the worst decision Ellie could have possibly made and he's working to get it annulled. Ellie is frustrated and tired of being held prisoner on her father's boat, so she jumps into the water and swims to shore.
Picking up a bus ticket to make it to New York to be with her husband, Ellie finds herself sitting next to the recently intoxicated Peter Warne (Clark Gable).
Peter was writing for a newspaper but his caustic manner and laid-back-don't-care attitude doesn't make him the best person to get along with. He gets fired and then hops on the same bus that Ellie is on.
Can you feel the tension?
It doesn't take many conversations between the two before the movie establishes that they hate each other. Peter is a proud and mean man and Ellie is used to getting her way. They both have big egos, but Peter is more forceful and more abusive (and yes, I do think that's the right word to use here).
After Ellie's father places her name and face in all the newspapers, Peter realizes that he's hit the jackpot. He decides that he will accompany Ellie to New York in return for an exclusive story. Not pleased with his demanding attitude, Ellie would rather stick it out by herself; but he says if she leaves he'll let her father know where she is.
She's got no choice.
But still, the days wear on as the two make their way to New York, slowly have more and more intimate opportunities. They have to pose as a couple, a married couple, on more than one occasion. You can see how the average romantic comedy gets a lot of its inspirations from "It Happened One Night".
Anytime you look at a list of best films ever made, you can bet that "It Happened One Night" might make an appearance. From Clark Gable munching a carrot (most believe that this action inspired Bugs Bunny) to Claudette Colbert flashing her thigh to flag down a car, the movie's influence is certainly noticeable. My problem with the film is that Peter is such a jerk and Ellie strives for independence, yet what she realizes she wants is an overbearing man...wow, that's a stretch.
Frank Capra has directed much better movies and you'll find that his dramas are more powerful than his attempts at comedies.
The innuendo-filled dialogue is slight in comparison with some of the film's contemporaries, but it's still fun.
I just don't think this movie is as good as everyone else thinks. It's about romance and by romance we mean sex. The film's final frame implies that everything that love and marriage concerns is just getting in bed together...not quite what I think the movie was shooting for.
It's a light movie and fun to watch; but nothing spectacular.
Posted by Micah Jones