It Happened One Night (1934) – Frank Capra


Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert spark in this romantic comedy that is one of the recommendations from Great Movies – 100 Years of Film title Bringing Up Baby.

Capra has crafted a delightful film, and though somethings are a little dated and down right wrong, like the insinuation that sometimes a woman just needs a sock in the mouth, it’s a fun, fast-paced film.

Colbert is Ellen Andrews, who after escaping her wealthy father’s yacht off the coast of Florida, is trying to make her way back to New York to be with King Westley (Jameson Thomas), who she has just recently married, against her father’s wishes.

Trying to keep a low profile, and avoid the story-hungry press, the heiress climbs aboard a bus, and finds herself thrown together with Peter Warne (Gable), a freshly fired news reporter, who upon realizing who Ellen is, promises to help her get back to New York, as long as he can get the story.


The two are thrown from happenstance to accident as they miss buses, or they crash, or the bridges are washed out. As the two spend time together, with some rapid-fire dialogue as support, it’s obvious that there is a spark there. It’s one of those classic stories where they hate one another, and fight, fight, fight, until they realize that they love one another, though that takes a long time, and takes some external urging in the form of Ellen’s father, who truly does want his little girl just to be happy.

Gable’s first scene in a phone booth sets up his character perfectly, and he seems to really be enjoying delivering the dialogue he’s given, not quite being a smart aleck but you can tell his mouth has probably gotten him into trouble more than once.

Ellen tries to settle in with the common folk, and not get noticed, and when they do, say like Mr. Shapley (Roscoe Karns), Peter takes care of them the best way possible, and watching him work is hilarious.

I also like when Peter just sits back and watches Ellen languish, like when she first meets Shapley, you can just see the bemused smirk on his face, until he decides to step in and help her out.


Capra keeps the film rolling along with Robert Riskin’s screenplay, adapted from a short story by Samuel Hopkins Adams, and while you can tell that everything seems to be one set after another, it doesn’t make it any more difficult to buy into the sheer entertainment the film provides. There’s a rather joyous sequence on the bus, where everyone is singing along with a small band that has been picked up en route, and the movie is the same way, it’s infectious, it just takes you in. At the beginning of the sequence the driver is doing his job, but by the scene’s end, he’s singing right along with the rest of the group… course there’s an accident after that… but… anyway.

This was my first real exposure to Gable, I know, I know… but Gone With The Wind is coming up as a title to see in this book, so I’m not worried. And he was fantastic in this, he and Colbert are a delight, and it’s easy to see why this one is ranked as one of the most popular and enduring of romantic comedies.

Have you seen it? What did you think?


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