Photography – Capra’s It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night (1934) dir. Frank Capra

A favorite.

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It Happened One Night

  • Title:  It Happened One Night
  • Director:  Frank Capra
  • Date:  1934
  • Studio:  Columbia Pictures
  • Genre:  Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Alan Hale
  • Format:  Standard, Black and White
  • Format:  R1, NTSC

“Just the spoiled brat of a rich father, the only way you get anything is to buy it, isn’t it?  You’re in a jam and all you can think of is your money.  It never fails, does it?  Ever hear of the word — humility?  No, you wouldn’t.  I guess it never occurred to you to say, ‘Please mister, I’m in trouble, will you help me?’ ” — Peter Warne (Clark Gable)

Claudette Colbert is Ellen Andrews, the socialite daughter of a very rich father, pampered and sheltered all her life, she runs off and marries the first man she meets.  But her father, not liking the young man, threatens to have the marriage annulled, so she jumps ship, literally — jumping overboat from her father’s yacht and swimming to shore.

In Miami, Ellen boards the night bus for New York, having pawned her watch to get some clothes and buy a ticket.  On the bus, she runs into Peter Warne (Clark Gable), a rough, tough, rude, drunk and unbeknownest to her — an unemployed newspaper reporter.  The two have a prickly relationship, but through a series of adventures, end up falling for each other.

Their adventures include — sharing a cabin at an “auto-camp”, where Peter strings a clothline between the two twin beds and hangs a blanket on it, to preserve their privacy and dignity.  Later, at a second cabin, he does the same thing.  They also spent a night in separate haystacks, out in the country.  When hitch-hiking, having lost all their money, and abandoned the bus as someplace Ellen could get caught, Peter utterly fails to stop a car — but Ellen hikes up her skirt and flashes some leg — that stops the car, all right.

Just shy of New York, Peter leaves Ellen asleep in a cabin and rushes to his old editor, with a great story, to get some money so he can propose to Ellen.  However, the woman who owns the auto-camp with her husband hears him drive off and wakes Ellen and kicks her out.  Ellen calls her father, asking for a ride. Meanwhile, her father’s buried the hatchet with her “husband”, Westley.  He offers to allow Ellen to marry her boyfriend.  However, when he meets Peter, he sees he’s a better match for his daughter and tries to convince her to dump Westley and marry Peter.  In the end, Ellen chooses Peter.

The film is filmed beautifully, on silver nitrate film, which practically glows.  Ellen’s silvery-white silk wedding gown is especially gorgeous, but throughout the film the lighting on both Colbert and Gable is breath-takingly gorgeous.  The plot is pretty much standard romantic comedy fare, with a surprising amount of physical comedy.  Gable is both a perfect gentleman — setting up the blanket barrier, offering Ellen his pajamas to use, even making her breakfast — and surprisingly course, insisting Ellen’s a spoiled brat, without really knowing her.

Recommendation:  A classic romantic comedy, See It!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Jaws