Friday, October 14, 2011

"It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert (1934)

During the Great Depression in the 1930's, a new genre of film made its appearance across the country. They were called "screwball" comedies, because the plots were slightly insane, and also, because like a good "screwball" in a baseball game, you were never really quite sure just where it was all going to end up. The other night I watched Frank Capra's "You Can't Take It With You" after quite a few years. I enjoyed it so much that I returned to the library for some more of Frank Capra's magical celluloid elixir. I came home with "It Happened One Night."

Briefly, the film is about a news reporter, Peter Warne, played by Clark Gable, who gets fired for some very good reasons. When he embarks on a bus trip back to New York he meets, and attempts to befriend, Ellie Andrews, played by Claudette Colbert, as she flees from her millionaire father, who is opposed to Ms. Andrews pending marriage to a social celebrity who may just be marrying her for her money.

Naiveté is the order of the day as Ms. Andrews tries to make her way back to New York via bus, exposing her to a level of living which she has never experienced before. And experience is just what she gets; from having her bags stolen, to being hit upon by a traveling salesman. Life on the road is not something she is prepared for.

Peter Warne, with his keen eye as a reporter, as well as a man of the world, discovers Ms. Andrews’ true identity and keeps a careful eye on her as she makes her way from Miami to New York aboard the bus. When her baggage is stolen, she is left penniless, and the two try to make it to New York on $4 dollars. Forced to leave the bus when her true identity is discovered by the philandering salesman "Shapley", played by Roscoe Karns, Warne and Ms. Andrews leave the bus and begin to hitchhike the remaining way.

Her father, a millionaire known simply as "Andrews", played by Walter Connolly, has all the airports, bus terminals and train stations watched by private detectives, but he has neglected the one way in which his daughter is now traveling; by thumb.

As the couple bicker and banter their way towards New York they discover a mutual respect for one another. This respect begrudgingly turns into something more, and though Ms. Andrews' father has finally accepted his daughter's impending marriage to the intended groom, he is only too happy to meet Peter Warne, and would be even happier to have him as a son in law instead. How all of this works out is the icing on the cake in this delightful "screwball" comedy.

Made with the same team of screenwriter Robert Riskin, working from a short story by Samuel Hopkins Adams, and directed by Frank Capra, this movie earned 5 Academy Awards in 1934. The categories were Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay. They really don't make them like this anymore.

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