“It Happened One Night” (1934)

Another magical movie, a Frank Capra triumph  –  quite literally: the first movie to grab the ‘Big Five’ Oscars. 1935 (though a 1934 movie) Academy Awards: ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’, ‘Best Actor’, ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best Writing, Adaptation’ for Robert Riskin.

An inauspicious start, legend has it that Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert were NOT the preferred first choices for the lead roles. Moreover, neither of the screen stars particularly wanted the parts! Gable had no choice as he was under contract to Louis B. Mayer at MGM and, not having a film project on the go, LB lent him out to Harry Cohn’s Columbia. Colbert didn’t want to work with Capra after having worked with him a few years previously on what became a disaster. However, money talked (and she heartily thanked him later!!)

(beware: ‘spoilers’!!)

Claudette Colbert is adorable  –  not, I suppose, what one thinks of as a natural beauty but she, nevertheless, manages to be gorgeous and so appealing. I say ‘not a natural beauty’ but the camera work, the lighting, that ‘haze’ that Capra fixes around Colbert in the close-ups, it all conspires to create a stunning, delicious appearance of one of THE Hollywood legends. What she looks like, towards the end of the movie, when her dad walks into her bedroom before the wedding, she, Ellie, draped on the chaise longue, in true Hollywood Starlet fashion, in that beautiful wedding dress, and when she stands up, her incredible figure, the dress hugging her tantalising form, she is outstanding!

Clark Gable: a didn’t know that he could act like that! So natural, so at ease! Louis B. Mayer had the real deal ‘on his books’. Harry Cohn at Columbia was laughing all the way to the bank! Gable delivers the quick-fire script perfectly. Gable and Colbert got on well during the making of the film and the chemistry is palpable.

Other great characters added to the quality of the movie  –  I love Ellie’s dad, Alexander Andrews (played by Walter Connolly) and the nasty Oscar Shapeley (wonderfully played by Roscoe Karns). Peter’s newspaper editor boss, Joe Gordon, played by Charles C. Wilson, he is terrific. There’s a great scene when he thinks he is onto a great story, he’s so excited, and he then thinks it has all collapsed and he goes into a spiral, all in one scene  –  it is technically brilliant!

This movie may also have been the seed which, when implanted into Fritz Freleng’s mind (‘It Happened One Night” was one of his favourite movies), gave us Bugs Bunny a few years later. Oscar Shapeley refers to Peter, a man he didn’t know until they came across each other in a bus, as ‘doc’. Peter refers to an imaginary character, ‘Bugs Dooley’, to scare him off, and we see Peter nibbling away at a carrot, talking quickly with his mouth full. Fascinating to perhaps see the very beginning, the conception, of what was to become Bugs Bunny  –  that blows me away!!

There are, of course, other scenes and great touches that grab the limelight:

Ellie walking to the back of the bus to sit next to the ‘sleeping’ Peter and he puts his hand on the seat next to his….

the hitchhiking scene…

the building of the ‘Walls of Jericho’ (and the toppling at the end!)

Ellie ‘cuddling’ herself when she is wearing Peter’s night shirt (as if cuddling him…makes me think of that great scene in ‘The Artist’)

the wedding…

and, of course, the singing in the bus, ‘Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze’, that is glorious!


I love this movie. If you haven’t see it yet, do!! Enjoy!!

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