Recommendation: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) – The Surprise Smash of 1934

Welcome to another Film Friday post!

As I mentioned last week, I’m not much for modern cinema; I’ve only seen two new movies in the past year —  THE GREAT GATSBY (a mediocre Luhrmann special) and OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (a film completely lacking in humanity). I suppose I am a bit of a film snob. But I have to be honest with you: my preferences have always been television and theatre. Movies are a definite third. Most of my love for film stems from an appreciation for the wonderful actors and personalities that have shaped American cinema, and on a larger scale, the American culture.


Today’s recommendation is Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934). It stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.


Here’s a spoiler-free summary of the film courtesy of IMDb:

Ellie Andrews has just tied the knot with society aviator King Westley when she is whisked away to her father’s yacht and out of King’s clutches. Ellie jumps ship and eventually winds up on a bus headed back to her husband. Reluctantly she must accept the help of out-of- work reporter Peter Warne. Actually, Warne doesn’t give her any choice: either she sticks with him until he gets her back to her husband, or he’ll blow the whistle on Ellie to her father. Either way, Peter gets what (he thinks!) he wants …. a really juicy newspaper story.


Not only was this the first film to win the Top Five Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Directing, and Best Writing, but nobody but Capra had any faith in the picture. Colbert and Gable were both less than pleased to be appearing in the film. Reportedly, upon completion of the film, Colbert said that it was the worst picture she ever made. Can you imagine how surprised she, and the rest of the Hollywood community was when it SWEPT the Oscars that year?


It’s not difficult to see why. It Happened One Night is a comedic masterpiece. Considered to be the first screwball comedy, I can tell you sincerely: this film is still funny 79 years after release. Now, I know my taste is different from a lot of people’s. I like the classic, the aged, and so I tend to forgive older films of flaws that younger, more modern viewers would not. But I can tell younger viewers honestly, you will enjoy this picture. YOU WILL LAUGH. It’s a touch predictable — after all, it is a romantic comedy — but it’s much fresher than the romcoms of today. Why? The script.

Film is a visual medium, as they say, so instead of telling you, I’ll show you how sharp the writing is by presenting this small clip from the classic hitchhiking scene.

And how great are Gable and Colbert? Highbrow meets lowbrow – a classic combination!

As of this posting, the entire film is available for viewing on YouTube. Just search for the title and you’ll find it! If you do decide to watch It Happened One Night, comment below! I’d love to know your thoughts.



This wraps up my second Film Friday post. Come back Monday for #1 in “The Best Cole Porter Shows That You’ve Never Heard Of.”

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