Sunday, March 21, 2010

It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night (1934) screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra. Cast: Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

Spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews, runs away from her millionaire father Alexander's yacht, when he takes her against her will after he learns she eloped with King Westley, a playboy pilot whom Andrews believes to be a gold digger.

She jumps on the first bus headed for New York where she meets Peter Warne, a reporter who just lost his job.

Ellie's, suitcase is stolen and Peter tries to catch the thief. Ellie misses the bus after getting off for a minute to freshen up, when she returns, she finds Peter standing there waiting to show her a newspaper article about her missing. They decide to hit the road..

To save money Peter and Ellie spend the night in a run down cabin where they pretend to be married. Peter blackmails her into giving him her story and that if she does not cooperate, he will call her father.

Peter strings a rope between their beds and hangs up a blanket, which he calls "The Walls of Jericho."

The next morning, when they wake up they hear her father's detectives searching the other cabins.

My favorite part of the movie is when they trick the detectives by putting on an hilarious act of a quarreling married couple.

Soon Peter and Ellie are back on the bus. they soon learn, Andrews has offered a $10,000 reward for any information on his daughter. Oscar Shapeley, a shady looking passenger on the bus, also reads about the reward and recognizes Ellie. He then offers to split the reward with Peter, but changes his mind and threatens to go to Ellie's father himself.

Peter comes up with a plan to convince Shapeley that he is a gangster who has kidnapped Ellie, which scares Oscar and he quickly runs off. Worried that Shapeley has gone to the police. Peter and Ellie leave the bus on a hilarious adventure back home.... Will Peter get his job back? Will Ellie reunite with her new husband ?

This film showed the man taking care of the woman, the social norm the era. What made the film fun was the banter back in forth.


Friz Freleng's said that this was one of his favorite films, and that it had at least three things which the "Bugs Bunny" character was based. The way Peter Warne (Clark Gable) was eating carrots and talking quickly.

An imaginary character mentioned to frighten Oscar Shapely named "Bugs Dooley." Other mentions of "Looney Tunes" characters in the film Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly) and King Westley (Jameson Thomas) being the inspirations for Yosemite Sam and Pepe LePew.

At the Miami bus station, friends of Peter Warne (Clark Gable) refer to him as "the King" - Gable's nickname in real life.

Robert Montgomery turned down the male lead, saying the script was the worst thing he had ever read.

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 she didn't 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.

Director Frank Capra came up with the idea about "the walls of Jericho" because Claudette Colbert refused to undress in front of the camera.

This was the first film to win the Oscar "grand slam" (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Screenplay).

When Clark Gable showed up for work on the first day, he reportedly said grimly, "Let's get this over with."

Claudette Colbert only wears four different outfits throughout the course of the film: a flimsy nightgown at the beginning, her traveling suit, Clark Gable's pajamas, and her wedding dress.

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.

When director Frank Capra asked Claudette Colbert to expose her leg for the hitchhiking scene, she at first refused. Later, after having seen the leg of her body double, she changed her mind insisting that "that is not my leg!"

Is often credited as the very first screwball comedy.

Clark Gable gave his Oscar for It Happened One Night 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.

Claudette Colbert complained nearly every day during the making of the film. On the last day of shooting, she told a friend "I just finished making the worst picture I've ever made".

According to William L. Shirer's "Berlin Diary", It Happened One Night was one of Adolf Hitler's favorites movies.


  1. Dawn ,What I like about this film is seeing all the uncredited actors. Like Ward Bond as the Bus Driver, and Alan Hale as the the driver of the car that stops for Claudette

  2. Paul, I loved all banter in this fun film. One of my favorite lines is :

    Ellie Andrews: Aren't you gonna congratulate me?
    Peter Warne: What for?
    Ellie Andrews: Well, I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.

  3. Dawn, I never knew about the connection to Looney Tunes. You have opened my eyes to a whole new world.

  4. Hey Kim, I was surprised to learn that fun fact too. I hope you check out Noir and Chick flicks Western page. I gave you a shout out on the blog you wrote for the Cafe.

  5. Dawn, I've seen this film so many times and I never get tired of it. I'm a big fan of screwball comedies and this one is one of my favorites.


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