Clark Gable gave the Oscar he won for his performance in this movie to a child who admired it, telling him it was the winning of the statue that had mattered, not owning it. The child returned the Oscar to the Gable family after Clark's death.
While shooting the scene where he undresses, Clark Gable had trouble removing his undershirt while keeping his humorous flow going and took too long. As a result, the undershirt was abandoned altogether. It then became cool to not wear an undershirt, which resulted in a large drop in undershirt sales around the country. Legend has it that in response, some underwear manufacturers tried to sue Columbia.
It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to perform a "clean sweep" of the top five Academy Award categories, known as the Oscar "grand slam": Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. This feat would later be duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in 1992. However, It Happened One Night is the only one not nominated in any other category.
Friz Freleng's unpublished memoirs mention that this was one of his favorite films, and that it contains at least three things which the character "Bugs Bunny" was based on: the character Oscar Shapely's (Roscoe Karns) personality, the manner in which Peter Warne (Clark Gable) was eating carrots and talking quickly at the same time, and an imaginary character mentioned once to frighten Oscar Shapely named "Bugs Dooley." Other mentions of "Looney Tunes" characters from the film include Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly) and King Westley (Jameson Thomas) being the inspirations for Yosemite Sam and Pepé Le Pew, respectively.
Constance Bennett and Myrna Loy, among others, turned the script down. Claudette Colbert only accepted because Capra promised he would double her salary and she would be done in four weeks. She disliked the film so much, however, that she did not even attend the Oscars; when she won for Best Actress, she was found about to leave on a trip and was rushed to the ceremony, where she made her acceptance speech in a traveling suit.
When director Frank Capra asked Claudette Colbert to expose her leg for the hitchhiking scene, she initially refused. Later, after having seen the leg of her body double, she changed her mind, insisting that "that is not my leg!"
Columbia Pictures was considered a "poverty row" studio at the time of the film's release. Both MGM and Warner Bros. would lend out temperamental actors to Columbia as a punishment for real, or imagined, wrongdoings. Columbia boss 'Harry Cohn' (qv(, who loathed paying for his own roster of contract stars during the early '30s, would invariably assign them to work on Frank Capra's films. Although the studio had received Oscar nominations prior to this picture, its success virtually singlehandedly lifted Columbia out of the ranks of "Poverty Row".
According to Frank Capra in an interview with Richard Schickel for "The Men Who Made the Movies", "We made the picture really quickly--four weeks. We stumbled through it, we laughed our way through it. And this goes to show you how much luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time means in show business; how sometimes no preparation at all is better than all the preparation in the world, and sometimes you need great preparation, but you can never out-guess this thing called creativity. It happens in the strangest places and under the strangest of circumstances. I didn't care much for the picture, ] it turned out to be 'It Happened One Night'."
Claudette Colbert was so convinced that she would lose the Oscar competition in 1935 to write-in nominee Bette Davis that she decided not to attend the awards ceremony. When she won that year, contrary to her belief, for her performance in this film, she was summoned from a train station to pick up her Oscar.
Frank Capra grew concerned when so many stars rejected his script and he turned to playwright Myles Connolly for advice. The writer thought the characters could be made more sympathetic and he made constructive suggestions, which were incorporated into the script within a week.
Along with its clean sweep of the five major Academy Awards, this film has several firsts in Oscar history. It is the first film to win both Best Actor and Best Actress. It is the first Academy Award Best Picture nominee to win both Best Actor and Best Actress. It is the first Best Picture winner to win either Best Actor or Best Actress, and the first to win both. It is the the first film to win Best Director and Best Actor. It is the first film to win Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor or Actress (in this case, both). It is the first film to win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. It is the first film to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor or Actress. It is also the first film to win at least five Academy Awards.
It is widely believed that MGM ensured their contracted star Clark Gable would receive the Best Actor Oscar to promote his career at the studio. Only three actors were nominated that year, and it was widely believed Charles Laughton would have easily won for his highly acclaimed performance as the tyrannical father in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) had he received a nomination.
In 1996 Steven Spielberg anonymously purchased Clark Gable's Oscar to protect it from further commercial exploitation, gave it back to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, commenting that he could think of "no better sanctuary for Gable's only Oscar than the Motion Picture Academy".
Since this movie was filmed near the end of 1933, all of the actors are of course no longer alive. The last surviving credited (and possibly uncredited as well) cast member was the star, Claudette Colbert, who died in 1996 at the age of 92, 62 years after this film's initial release. As the last survivor of this film, she was dumbfounded at its continued popularity and reputation as a classic masterpiece of American cinema decades later for a film that neither she nor Clark Gable wanted to do.
Columbia did not have much faith in the film and released it without much fanfare and little advertising. It was quickly pushed out to secondary theaters where it suddenly became a runaway success, and eventually became Columbia's biggest hit to date.
Instead of the usual static camera set-up, Frank Capra insisted on sticking a camera onto a crane. This enabled him to do more tracking shots, which was entirely in keeping with a film in which the main characters spend most of their time on the move.
Claudette Colbert, under contract to Paramount, had four weeks free, but she was also a hard sell. She'd made her first film, For the Love of Mike (1927), with Frank Capra directing, and it had been a disaster, so she was not excited about repeating the experience. What did excite her, however, was the prospect of making $50,000 for four weeks of work, since her Paramount salary was $25,000 per film. So she willingly agreed to do it, but, at the same time, she gave Capra a hard time.
Several actors in studio records/casting call lists did not appear or were not identifiable in this movie. These were (with their character names): Henry Wadsworth (Drunk Boy), Eddie Kane (Radio Announcer), Charlie Hall (Reporter) and Tom Ricketts (Prissy Old Man).
Although Claudette Colbert and Frank Capra had a slightly cantankerous relationship during the making of the film, she nevertheless appreciated his efforts and thanked him at the Academy Awards when she won the Oscar for Best Actress.
When Peter Warne is being held up by an SP Train, the location was on Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia, CA, just north of Huntington Drive. The tracks where Warne is stopped were part of the SP Day and Night Spur. The tracks and crossing signs seen in the background were the Pacific Electric. Another block north and out of sight were the Santa Fe tracks. Santa Anita was called Double Drive at the time, and the normal southbound lanes are just visible to the left, but the convoy carrying Ellie, Andrews and Westley pass Warne in the northbound lane headed south. The trees in the center median, which was an equestrian path, were cut down in the 1950s.
The locomotive that holds up Peter Warne, supposedly in New Jersey, is a Southern Pacific 2-6-0 Mogul, number 1662, class M-4, built by the Cooke Works of the American Locomotive Co., commonly known as ALCO.