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It Happened One Night directed by Frank Capra was made and released in
by Columbia Pictures as a small budget film that was not expected to do
at the box office. Yet, after its release the film gained many accolades
won the Academy Award for best picture in 1934. Due to the original small
nature of the film, the leading man role was surprisingly filled by Clark
Gable who was on loan from another studio. He stared opposite of
Capra's film was a combination of many ideals, emotions and social
perceptions of the American society of the thirties but it was also a
combination of many new and innovative filming techniques and sound
advancements. The film unfolds the story in such a attention-grabbing and
remarkable way that most of today's cinema use his style and ideals when
producing and creating films. Capra used the idea of a moving camera, one
that was not fixed upon a box, but on a moveable crane instead. This
produced more sweeping shots, more angles for filming and fewer distance
shots. It allowed for more movement of the actors as well as a more
realistic and real life feeling to the movie.
The film also incorporates back projection of images. This is were a
is filmed previously and played in the background while the actors
the scene in front of the projection. Back projection is used for car
to give the impression that the actors are driving but in reality they
in a sound stage. Capra also incorporated the use of a wipe in his film.
technique of moving left to right and fading in or out to change a scene
show elapsed time took the place of the traditional place cards in silent
films and allowed for a more constant stream for the film. The film was
all talk, the new technology of a sound strip on the side of the film was
used. The text cards of silent films were completely discarded.
Another camera trick by Capra is to show a change in feelings within
Gable's character for Claudette Colbert's character by depicting her
character in a different light. This happens two times within the film at
key moments to the development of their relationship. Claudette Colbert
seen in a close up of softer light to emphasize Clark Gable's character
seeing her in a `different light.'
In this romantic comedy Capra not only showed new styles and techniques
also addressed social issues of the time. Through comedy he showed the
outlandish nature of the rich (King arriving for his own wedding in a
helicopter) and the nature of man being the controller in relationships
well as in society. The fighting and struggles between the two main
characters showed the man taking care of the woman, the social norms of
men and woman should act around each other in that era. But the fighting
the banter also show a strong-minded and intelligent woman. The two
strong-willed main characters balanced each other out.
Capra's techniques for showing the social relationship between the rich and working classes as well as a relationship between man and woman in the 1930s captured film makers and film viewers for over 70 years. Films are now compared to his style of camera movement and his style of capturing the American ideals. When movies of today make a similar statement of achieving what one wants they are referred to as Capra-esc. Capra's imagination and style is one that changed the outlook of American films and introduced a new genre to film goers everywhere.
Frank Capra's idealistic outlook on life is evident in his films. From It
Happened One Night to It's a Wonderful Life, Capra has always had a
to let the little guy rise above it all and beat the odds. It is no small
wonder that Capra enjoyed much of his success during the Depression, when
movies were used to truly pull an audience out of the despair of the 1930s
into a world where anything can happen, where being a nice person is all
need to succeed. While the fact that the country was in the middle of the
Depression was not completely ignored, an overly optimistic view on life
taken to counter the despair of everyday life.
There were many points in It Happened One Night where the true state of the country was indicated. Homeless people hitching rides on trains seemed perfectly normal. Rather than regard them with apprehension and pity, you smile and wave at them. Another example is the hostile reaction proprietor Zeke's wife had to the fact that her husband had let Peter and Ellie stay the night with promises of being paid. Upon seeing Peter and Ellie's car missing, they rush to the cottage to see if Peter and Ellie are still there. They cannot afford freeloaders.
In another scene, a child's mother has passed out from hunger, because they have no money to buy food. Peter and Ellie have nearly depleted their funds, but decide that the mother and child need money more than they do and give some to them.
Despite these instances, the movie was altogether cheerful in its depiction of the world. In the throes of the stock market crash, this movie signaled the birth of the screwball comedy. At a time when the country needed release, they could find that release and laughter in movies like It Happened One Night. Audiences were amused by scenes in the film, such as the segment in which Peter teaches Ellie how to dunk a donut. Or, when forced to share a room, Peter puts a blanket between his and Ellie's beds and calls it the `wall of Jericho,' which is revisited when the walls of Jericho come tumbling down after Peter and Ellie's marriage. Probably the most famous scene in the film is the hitchhiking sequence, which features Peter standing by the roadside trying to thumb a ride unsuccessfully, finally giving up after more than a dozen cars speed by without paying any heed to his attempts. After he gives up, beaten, Ellie simply lifts her skirt above her knee. The first car that passes stops, as we see extreme close-ups of a foot slamming down on the brakes and a hand applying the hand brake.
A master in his profession, Capra left his mark on the films he directed. With an almost childlike cheerfulness, he maintains a sense of dignity and class. The viewer is left with a feeling of hope for humankind, even if its only that a person's ideals could be used to make such a film. Capra's films are still regarded as masterpieces. It Happened One Night arguably remains to this day unparalleled in screwball comedies. It was one of many movies made during the Depression, a sometimes sad and even lonely time in our history. It gave its audience a chance to escape and forget their troubles for a few moments in time.
9 out of 10 stars
In his autobiography, The Name's Above the Title, Frank Capra said that
until It Happened One Night drama had four stock characters, the hero,
the heroine, the comedian, and the villain.
What Capra did and you might notice he followed that in a whole lot of his films, the characters of hero and comedian are combined. Not completely though because Claudette Colbert gets a few laughs herself, especially with that system all her own. But in doing what he did for Clark Gable's character, Capra created a whole new type of screen comedy, the classic screwball comedy and It Happened One Night surely set the mold.
Capra's autobiography told the story of the making of It Happened One Night which in itself could be a movie. Capra worked for Columbia Pictures which at that time was a minor studio, along the lines of Republic or Monogram. As Capra tells it he had a vision about this story that Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote and persuaded Harry Cohn to buy it.
Capra also had a stroke of good luck. Adolph Zukor at Paramount and Louis B. Mayer at MGM were looking to punish a couple of recalcitrant stars, Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. The idea was to show these two what it was like to work in a small budget studio without all the perks of Paramount and MGM. In fact the description of Gable arriving to work at Columbia that first day, drunk as a skunk, is priceless. Capra dressed him down good and said that to his credit Gable came to work afterwards and couldn't have been more cooperative.
At some point Harry Cohn at Columbia was convinced that maybe Capra had something. He had in fact delivered for Columbia the previous year with Lady for a Day. So the publicity drums were beat.
The rest as they say is history. It Happened One Night won the first Oscar grand slam, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. It won the first Oscars Columbia Pictures ever got and lifted it right into the ranks of the major studios. And it set the standard for screwball comedy.
The film could never have gotten off the ground were it not for the chemistry of Gable and Colbert. They're together for most of the film so if it doesn't click between the two of them, you have people walking out in droves. Colbert had already played a wide variety of parts at Paramount, ranging from Poppaea and Cleopatra to comedies with Maurice Chevalier like The Big Pond. Gable had played a whole lot of tough guys on both sides of the law at MGM. It Happened One Night showed he had some real comic talent, a flair MGM exploited in his roles from then on in.
Gable and Colbert did only one other film together, Boom Town for MGM. You can't get much more different than those two films. Boom Town had a huge MGM budget, Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr as well, and a lot of special effects involving the oil industry and hazards therein. It's also a great film, but it's not a classic like It Happened One Night.
This is a pleasant, funny classic that shows it age only slightly, and that
has a lot of scenes you can look forward to each time that you see it.
Gable and Colbert each get roles that are nicely suited to them, and are
well-remembered for their performances. The supporting cast also rounds out
the picture with some good character acting.
The cross-country trip on the bus and via other assorted methods is fun to watch, with several nice vignettes that complement the main story line. (The atmosphere on the long bus trip is done especially well.) The plot is of course not meant to be taken too seriously in itself, but it comes in very handy for setting up good characters and comedy.
It all comes across as effortlessly entertaining romantic comedy, with some classic scenes and characters you learn to care for in spite of their mistakes.
IHON rightly earns it's place as one of the greatest romantic comedies
in film history. A pioneer of the screwball comedy genre, it holds up
very well 71 years after it was made.
It's a classic tale of the battle of sexes- something that is still so relevant today. We follow the story of spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), who jumps ship from her father's yacht (literally!) in Florida after an argument with said father (played by Walter Connolly) over her marrying wealthy playboy King Westley (Jameson Thomas) without her father's consent. Ellie is on a mission- to get to New York to King Westley. But how will she do it? That's how Peter Warne (played by a delightfully handsome Clark Gable) comes into the story. Recently fired from his newspaper job, Peter meets Ellie on the Night Bus to New York, and, realizing who she is (Her story is all over the news, after all!), offers to help her get to NY and Westley if she gives him an exclusive story- to win him back his job. And so the fun begins. Colbert and Gable have great chemistry as the mismatched couple thrown together after a series of unusual circumstances. The trip isn't a smooth one- and we are taken on a wild ride with Peter and Ellie, which gives us great scenes such as the doughnut-dunking lesson, Walls Of Jericho and the now-classic hitchhiking scene. The humour is still fresh and fast-paced over 70 years later. Oops, I almost forgot the classic 'no undershirt scene' where Gable sexily gives Colbert a lesson in how a man undresses, to reveal (shock horror!) no undershirt, but a bare chest! This had a bad effect on the sales of men's undershirts, which dropped dramatically after the film's release (One of the first examples of product placement in film). Great supporting characters, particularly the scene-stealing Oscar Shapeley (Roscoe Karns). Of course it has it's faults- all early talkies do. But any faults are outweighed by the great story. Technically, it was well-made for it's time.
IHON won 5 Oscars- Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Actress and Best Actor for Colbert and Gable and Best Adaptation. It deserved all of them. Funnily enough, both Colbert and Gable didn’t want any part in the film at first- I bet they changed their viewpoint after the surprise success and the prestigious Academy Awards they gained for it. It's been said that a number of Disney characters like Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Pepe LePew were inspired by characters in this film. A classic, a must-see, a great movie.
I have seen this movie a few times over the year and have just recently viewed it again twice on the DVD version. This is a highly recommended movie on several levels. First, it has to be seen because it won multiple academy awards during 1934. It has won at least best actor, best actress and best director. So it should be seen just for it's historical significance if you are into movies as an art form. However, if you are just looking for entertainment then it is simply a great classic romantic comedy. The set up is that Ellie (Claudette Colbert) is a rich, spoiled, independent woman who is running away from her father (in Florida) to join her husband (not quite a complete marriage) in New York City. She meets Peter (Clark Gable) on the bus who is a down & out reporter looking for a big story. They join forces in that he will help her to get to New York for an exclusive on her story. In essence it is the bratty socialite vs the hard nosed -know it all reporter - Can they achieve true love? Just watch the movie and figure it out for yourself.. There is the classical scene regarding the battle of the sexes which involves hitchhiking. There is some dated material because the movie was made in the 30's about the 30's. This may be both good and bad as a viewing experience. Gable is a bit too shallow as a desirable character. He lacks the sensitivity of a guy that would be in a modern romantic comedy. However, his portrayal of Peter is likely typical for the ideal man of the era in that he attempted to be competent and in charge at all times (the know it all guy). The character comes across as too simplistic by today's standards. However, when he gets the feedback on his rough edges from Ellie he shows his nice guy side. Claudette Colbert is great in this movie she had opportunities to display her acting craft as she responded to different situations. The scene in which she and Gable pretended to be basically 'white trash' was very funny. Her getting the best actress award is very evident even without having to see the performances of her rivalries for the Oscar in 1934. Overall this movie is rated a 9.0 and is highly recommended. A viewer may avoid older movies because they lack dept; however, hang in for this one. Once the screen chemistry starts between Colbert and Gable (their first scene together) the rest of the picture is just a joyride of entertainment in watching these two work their magic for the camera. Enjoy this movie it should be an awesome experience.
In my college film class we had begun watching "It happened one night". I
was laughing my head off. But of course my professor stops the movie right
when it was getting good. After that, I wanted to see this movie so badly.
My father lucky enough had the movie. I watched it and it is one of the
funniest movies I have ever seen. Clark Gable is histerical. He really does
a great job in the film. I always did prefer the old comedies to today. Do
you blame me? If you watch the flick, you will enjoy it. This is one of the
first romantic comedies. It'll send all the others to the back of the bus. I
would higly recommend this movie. It's a classic.
This sweet comedy never loses its appeal. Claudette Colbert is a spoiled young girl who meets a wordly, attractive newspaper reporter (Clark Gable). In the beginning, she treats him like a servant, but he never knuckles under to this behavior. The interaction between these two is very romantic and humorous. It is the classic portrayal of what may be called "sexual tension." He takes care of her - does not take advantage of her - but makes her realize that her wealthy background cannot carry her through as a human being, she has to earn his respect by treating him with respect. There is a scene in which the two of them are forced to hitchhike, and their "breakfast" is only a handful of carrots plucked from a garden they were lucky to find. As Gable stands at the edge of the road and Colbert is perched atop a wooden fence, his wisecracking posture is said to be the inspiration for the beloved cartoon character Bugs Bunny. This is a must-see for every one who loves old movies, and entertaining for all.
I was inspired to think of other films with completely mystifying titles.
`The Phantom Menace', obviously. Also: `The Shop Around the Corner' (around
the corner from WHERE?), `The Empire Strikes Back' (it doesn't), `The Living
Daylights', `True Lies', `Batman Forever', `Species', `The Life and Death of
Colonel Blimp' ... if anyone has any more suggestions, please send them to
In this case, it happens over several nights, and I'm not sure which particular night is being referred to. Probably one of the candidate nights is less unobvious than the rest; so I guess the title isn't COMPLETELY mystifying. But actually, Capra gives us the feeling that everything is up in the air. Everyone knows that the hero and heroine of romantic comedies are bound to get hitched in the end - in most cases it's simply a question of staying awake. But Capra makes us feel the contingency of it all. I, for one, was convinced that right up until the final moment, it could have gone either way. How did Capra manage this? Was it because he was a complete innocent; or was it because he was remarkably sophisticated? I don't suppose it matters: it's results that count.
I'm glad to see very little mention among the comments about the sexism of it all. The characters have life; their words have life; and if such art as this could only be produced by a sexist society, it's almost worth creating a sexist society (and then dismantling it), in order to get the art. In modern romances I get the feeling that the writers are wearily writing `feisty' lines for the heroine in an attempt to fool feminists, who, by and large, aren't so easily fooled. Claudette Colbert isn't feisty. When she DOES assert her independence, she means it.
(And, of course, when Clark Gable asserts his dominance, HE means it. You don't get sincerity like this these days.)
Anyway, the ideology of a film, if there is one, is always beside the point, except inasmuch as the ideology is AESTHETICALLY attractive or unattractive. This is an attractive film. Two real individuals, a real story, some misunderstanding but no tiresome or pointless misunderstanding, constant wit - and, as I expressed amazement at earlier, constant suspense. And if THAT isn't enough to get you to watch it, note that it was released in 1934. The Hayes code didn't come into effect until 1935. Not a moment too late.
In Miami, the spoiled socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is
trapped in the yacht of her controller father, the Wall Street banker
Andrews (Walter Connolly), who has just annulled her secret marriage
with the snobbish aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas). Out of the
blue, Ellie jumps overboard and swims to the shore. Andrews hires a
detective agency to find her and offers a 10,000 dollars reward for any
information about his daughter. But Ellie pawns her watch, buys some
clothing and a bus ticket to New York to meet her lover. She seats
side- by-side with the cynical reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable).
However, when a thief steals her purse with her money in a bus stop and
Ellie does not report to the police, Peter recognizes and blackmails
Ellie, asking her to travel together with him. He promises to protect
her and in return he would write her adventure to meet King Westley.
Along their journey, Ellie falls in love for Peter; but when he
vanishes from the motel where they are lodged and contacts her father
later, she believes he was only interested in the reward. In the end,
love triumphs and the wall of Jericho falls.
"It Happened One Night" is another delightful and charming romantic comedy of Frank Capra. The romance of a cynical reporter with a spoiled young woman is very funny despite being naive and dated, with witty dialogs, and the chemistry between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable is marvelous. The cinematography in black and white is wonderful with magnificent use of lighting to highlight the lead couple. Last time I saw this classic was on 29 January 2003 and this is the third time that I watch this film, now on DVD from Columbia Distributor, and I highly recommend it as one of the best romantic comedies ever. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Aconteceu Naquela Noite" ("It Happened that Night")
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