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 It Happened One Night, also starring Claudette Colbert.
Claudette Colbert plays Ellen Andrews, the daughter of wealthy Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly). She has just married aviator King Westley, which angers her father. He tries to have the marriage annulled while keeping her on his yacht, but she escapes. Evading the private detectives he hires to find her, she gets on a bus bound for New York, where her husband is. Getting on that same bus is Clark Gable’s Peter Warne, a newspaperman who has just been fired. Once he realizes who she is, she is stuck with him helping her get there in exchange for the story (otherwise he would turn her in to her father). Of course, as they go on this journey, they both start to fall for each other.
Of course, I like this movie, since it is a screwball comedy (and one of the first, if not THE first, screwball comedies). There are many wonderful moments within this movie, but one of the better-remembered moments is the hitchhiking scene (a sentiment I fully agree with). Gable’s Peter Warne had by this point in the movie been telling off Colbert’s Ellen Andrews for being so spoiled and out-of-touch with common people for quite a while, so he thinks he knows exactly how to hitchhike. She watches as he fails with his different attempts to hail a car, and then on her first attempt, she succeeds (admittedly, she pulls up her skirt to show off her legs to do it). There are other wonderful moments to be found within this movie, but this is probably the most memorable.
It Happened One Night has a long legacy that has followed it. It was made by Columbia Pictures, a relatively small studio at the time, who didn’t really have any movie stars under contract to them. Instead, they relied on the bigger studios loaning them some of their stars (usually done by those studios as punishment, if they were starting to become bigger stars and threatened to demand more money). After this movie was released and became a success, it helped the studio itself to grow. Both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert won Oscars for their roles in this movie, something that neither of them expected (with Claudette having to be brought from a train station as she was leaving to take a trip when it was announced she was the winner). The two would be reunited for the 1940 movie Boom Town, although not quite to the same acclaim that they received for this movie. As I said, this movie was an early screwball comedy, resulting in this being a popular form of comedy (with director Frank Capra returning to it several times, including the 1938 classic You Can’t Take It With You and the 1944 Arsenic And Old Lace with Cary Grant).
If you can’t tell, I REALLY do recommend seeing this movie if you get the chance! The movie itself is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 45 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
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