7. It Happened One Night (1935)

Title: It Happened One Night

Release Date: February 22, 1934

Oscar Ceremony: February 27, 1935

Director: Frank Capra

Starring: Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert

Finally, a movie that I genuinely enjoyed! I can’t tell if it’s actually that good or if this is just me getting used to black & white movies. Either way, there must be something special about it since this was the first film to win the Oscar “grand slam” (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay).

I think one of the reasons why this movie is so easy to love is because it’s a good old classic rom-com. A woman meets a man, they hate each other and couldn’t be more different, they slowly fall in love, and SURPRISE, they end up together in the end. To be honest, a movie like this wouldn’t have much chances of winning an Oscar for Best Picture these days; the Academy has become a bit too pretentious. For the general public though, it’s great. For the first time since I’ve started this project, I can actually say that I was excited to keep watching and find out how things were going to unfold.

It Happened One Night is the story of Ellen Andrews (Claudette Colbert), a spoiled heiress determined to rebel against her father by marrying a celebrity pilot named King Westley. When her father threatens to annul her marriage, she runs away and buys a bus ticket to New York, where she plans on reuniting with Westley. The plot thickens when we are introduced to the charming, nonchalant, recently-fired reporter, Peter Warne (Clark Gable, what a heartthrob eh?), who happens to be taking the same bus as Ellen. In their first encounter, they fight over a seat and begrudgingly end up sitting together. It’s definitely not love at first sight.

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After eventually seeing the front page of a newspaper, Peter realizes who Ellen really is and that her father has the entire country looking for her. Peter gives her an ultimatum: if she agrees to let him write a story about her so he can get hired again, he will help her reunite with Westley. If she refuses, he will tell her father where she is. Ellen has no choice but to agree. From there, they go through several adventures together and slowly but surely, we witness them falling for each other despite his pride and her prejudice (Pride & Prejudice, get it? It’s quite fitting though). Naturally, a misunderstanding ensues and they almost don’t end up together, but it’s all good, because we KNOW they have to end up together. After all, this IS a rom-com, right?

The two lead actors have such amazing chemistry, it’s ridiculous. It’s even more ridiculous since neither of them wanted to be a part of this movie in the first place. Apparently, the only reason why Clark Gable is in this film is because MGM loaned him to Columbia Pictures (the studio that made the movie) as a punishment for his affair with Joan Crawford. As for Claudette Colbert, she was only the sixth choice for the role; everyone else had turned it down. She eventually accepted when she was offered double her salary. Both actors complained on set and were eager to get filming over with. I think this is proof that they are both amazing actors because I would never have been able to tell.

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There are a lot of scenes that I absolutely loved in the movie, but one of the most notable ones is when Ellen and Peter attempt hitch-hiking. After having walked for a long time, they reach a road:

ELLEN
What’d you say we’re supposed to
be doing?

PETER
Hitch-hiking.

ELLEN
Well, you’ve given me a very good
example of the hiking—(STRONGLY)
where does the hitching come in?

PETER (amused at her)
A little early yet. No cars out
yet.

You can already see they’re clearly warming up to each other. Peter says he’s an expert at hailing cars. He thinks it’s an art, and he’s so good at it that he could write a book about it. Ellen teases him says “there’s no end to your accomplishments.” How hard can it be to hail a car? Well, Peter shows her. Apparently, it’s all in the thumb. He introduces her to a variety of ridiculous hand gestures and then proceeds to try them out – unsuccessfully.

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Ellen eventually decides to put an end to all the madness and asks Peter if she could give it a go. Peter mocks her for it and obviously doesn’t think she can do any better than him. I say, never underestimate the power of women. Ellen knows just what to do: she goes by the road and lifts her skirt up while pretending to be fixing her garter, thus exposing her bare leg. Blashpemy!

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I finally understand why my high school didn’t allow us to wear ankle socks. Clearly women’s legs are way too desirable to men… we wouldn’t want to distract them from their precious education, now would we? Anyways, surprise surprise, Ellen’s little trick manages to get the first car she sees to stop. Mission accomplished. If this were set in 2016, she would probably have to undress completely. Or offer the driver an avocado. People are obsessed with avocado these days.

All in all, It Happened One Night was a lovely movie. I learned that writing reviews for movies I enjoy is much more difficult than writing reviews for movies I despise. Stop listening to what I have to say and just go watch it. You’re in for a fun ride.

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