Well, it’s February 1, so let’s celebrate Clark Gable’s birthday with one of his well-regarded classics (and his only Oscar win for Best Actor), the 1934 film It Happened One Night, also starring Claudette Colbert.
Coming Up Shorts! with… Hearts Are Thumps (1937)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)
(Length: 10 minutes, 38 seconds)
It’s Valentine’s Day, and Spanky (George McFarland), Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) and Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) have decided to swear off women by forming the “He-Man Woman Haters Club.” However, they no sooner get through taking their oath before Darla (Darla Hood) catches Alfalfa’s eye, and Spanky decides to get even with him. This one was a riot from start to finish! Most of the fun is in watching how Spanky tries to get back at Alfalfa by putting soap in the food Darla prepared for him (all without either Alfalfa or Darla knowing about it), plus the inevitable bubbles that come later! I had a lot of fun with this one, and I feel that it’s worth seeing again and again!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Wealthy heiress Ellen “Ellie” Andrews (Claudette Colbert) has just married famous aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), although her father, Wall Street banker Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly), believes him to be a gold digger. As a result, Ellie is kidnapped by some of her father’s men right after the ceremony and taken to Miami (away from King). When her father threatens to have the marriage annulled, Ellie runs away from him. In an attempt to evade her father’s private detectives, she gets on a bus bound for New York (where King is). Getting on that same bus is recently-fired newspaperman Peter Warne (Clark Gable). Once he realizes who she is, he “offers” to help her get to New York in exchange for the story (or else he will turn her in to her father). While her father grows more frantic (even offering a truce with King), Ellie and Peter make their way to New York via bus and, when other passengers start to figure out her identity, on foot. As they travel, they find themselves starting to fall in love with each other. Will Ellie finish her journey to New York (and King Westley), or will she end up staying with Peter Warne?
In the early 1930s, Columbia Pictures was one of the “Poverty Row” studios, making generally cheap B-movies while having almost no stars under contract (generally borrowing them from the bigger studios). In their favor, they had director Frank Capra (who had just received the studio’s first nomination for Best Picture with 1933’s Lady For A Day). With the help of writer Robert Riskin, Capra adapted the Samuel Hopkins Adams short story “Night Bus” (originally published in Cosmopolitan in August 1933) for the big screen. The script was offered to many big stars, most of whom turned it down, for one reason or another. The legend is that MGM star Clark Gable was sent to do this film as “punishment,” either because of an affair or the result of him starting to get too big for his britches. The reality is closer to being that MGM had nothing for him at the moment (but still had to pay him a regular salary), and loaning him out essentially allowed MGM to make a profit. Regardless, Gable was not happy about the assignment, going so far as to show up drunk to his first meeting with the director. Leading lady Claudette Colbert wasn’t thrilled either (back in 1927, Capra had directed her in her first film, For The Love Of Mike, which bombed), but with four weeks free and the offer of her usual Paramount salary being doubled, she consented to making the film. Even so, she caused a lot of trouble for the director and, upon finishing the film, believed that the movie itself was awful. At first, the movie didn’t do big business (even with positive reviews), but, when it moved on to secondary theaters, the movie became a big hit. The film ended up being nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Writing), winning all five (with actress Claudette Colbert, who didn’t think she would win, famously being brought to the ceremony from the train station, since she had been planning to take a trip).
It Happened One Night is a movie that I have had the pleasure of seeing (and enjoying!) multiple times over the years. Being labeled as a screwball comedy was certainly part of the film’s initial appeal to me. Admittedly, that label might throw others as far as what it is like. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely has memorable comedic moments, including Peter (Clark Gable) and Ellie (Claudette Colbert) deceiving the detectives at the auto camp, bus passenger Oscar Shapely (Roscoe Karns) attempting to blackmail Peter into splitting the reward money (only for Peter to turn the tables and scare him off by acting like a gangster) and the famous hitchhiking scene (one of the film’s rarer moments when Peter is humbled instead of Ellie). But the film does achieve a balance of sorts with more dramatic moments as we see the characters genuinely fall for each other. This movie is the full package, with both stars putting in fine performances (in spite of their offscreen issues), with Gable’s performance cited by some as being partial inspiration for Warner Brothers’ famous Looney Tunes character Bugs Bunny. Everything about this film makes it fun to see whenever I get the chance, and, as I consider this to be one of my favorite Clark Gable movies, I certainly would recommend this great film with ease!
The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… It Happened One Night (1934)
On October 25, 2022, Sony Pictures Entertainment released It Happened One Night (1934) on 4K UHD as part of their Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3 (which is the only way that it is available on UHD in the U.S., unless you buy an individual copy via eBay). According to the booklet included as part of the set, the film was given a 4K restoration in 2012 (which was the source of the transfer for the nearly ten-year-old Criterion Collection Blu-ray/DVD). The transfer on the 4K UHD builds on that restoration, taking care of additional flicker and dirt (which was better hidden on the Blu-ray), while adding an HDR color grade. The film’s popularity throughout its ninety years has resulted in sections of the original camera negative being damaged and replaced with duplicate footage (even as early as 1939). As a result, there was only just so much that could be done on those dupe sections even with today’s restoration technology. Some of those sections look a bit rougher (but still pretty good). The vast majority of the film, though, is a thing of beauty, that to me makes this UHD easily worth it. It’s now my preferred method of seeing this great film, and is a very highly recommended release (so get it while it’s still in print, either as part of the set or through eBay, as it may not ever get a solo release via retailers)!
Film Length: 1 hour, 45 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Dancing Lady (1933) – Clark Gable – Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
The Sign Of The Cross (1932) – Claudette Colbert – Cleopatra (1934)
The Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1932) – Walter Connolly – Libeled Lady (1936)
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