Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chris' #91: It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)

Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Jameson Thomas
Director: Frank Capra
Writers: Robert Riskin (story by Samuel Hopkins Adams)
Release Date: February 22, 1934

Quick Synopsis: A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

First Time
I searched through my old CR5FC blog for mentions of this film, and I didn't see anything about my first viewing. I suppose it was sometime between 2007 and 2010 - another Netflix DVD rental.

Why it's on the List
When I did watch It Happened One Night for the first time, admittedly, I was a little disappointed. It was a case of my expectations not matching up with what I saw the on the screen. In time I've grown to appreciate it more, and when I purchased/watched it recently, it cemented its place among my favorites. There are a few films on this list that I've wrestled with over the years, and it's interesting to track changes in perception.

I've always been drawn to Claudette Colbert, and it's difficult not to be; she was a great actress and had an unforgettable face. For whatever reason, Clark Gable did not seem like the right fit for Peter Warne when I watched this for the first time. This might be the biggest reason why my feelings have changed over the years, because now I couldn't disagree with that opinion more. Gable has the perfect levels of charm and snark, and combined with Colbert's grit and inexperience, they make the perfect pair.

The shining example of this chemistry is on display during hitchhiking scene. It's a refreshing break in the film, which mostly moves at a quick pace. Here Peter and Ellie really start to fall for each other, and it's easy to get lost in it and forget that you're watching a movie. Seeing Clark Gable fail to get cars to stop for him as he uses his three different hitchhiking techniques is one of my all-time favorite moments.

Additional Notes/Stats

  • This is the last time I'll get to talk about Frank Capra. It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Arsenic and Old Lace are all great and probably belong somewhere on my list. I'd like to see Meet John Doe, since I love Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Same for Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The only other Gable movie I've seen is Gone With the Wind, so that should probably change. I also love Colbert in The Palm Beach Story, Midnight, and Torch Singer.
  • It Happened One Night will probably the first instance of a movie moving up my list.


  1. This is also the only Capra on my list. It's much higher up on my list. One great surprise of listing out my Top 100 was realizing just how big a fan I am of Romantic Comedies, a film genre that I would have told you I hated twenty years ago.

    1. You old sap, you. The romantic comedy genre definitely runs the gamut of quality. Committing to the genre as a whole is difficult, but don't mind the ideas behind it.

  2. Most of the screwballs were Romantic comedies. I think this is one of the best.