Sunday, February 27, 2011
Movie of the Week
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)
Starring- Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns
This is the first film to win in all the 'Big Five' categories at the Oscars. It is ironic, however, because this film almost didn't get made. Director and Oscar winner, the great Frank Capra, wanted to make a travel film based on the short story, Night Bus. The studio balked at his idea, and none of the stars Capra wanted were willing or able to be in the film. Claudette Colbert was brought in only when the studio agreed to double her pay and Gable was loaned to Columbia by MGM for this film- he was being punished by Louis B. Mayer at the time. Even though production went smoothly, Colbert told people after the film wrapped that she had just finished the worst movie ever. How wrong she was.
It Happened One Night follows Colbert as spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews who has become engaged to a wealthy man against her father's wishes, and then flees when her father tries to put a stop to the marriage. While on the run, she encounters newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Gable) on a bus to New York and he agrees to help her reunite with her fiance in exchange for an exclusive on her story. If she refuses, he will take her back to her father and collect the sizable reward for her return. As they make their way to New York, they begin to fall in love. I won't ruin the ending, but there's a chance that these two lovebirds won't get together.
This film has some of the wittiest and most iconic scenes in film history. Frank Capra does a masterful job at keeping the interplay between his two stars lively and fun. Colbert was very unhappy working with Capra, but fortunately she had excellent chemistry with Gable, so much so that the two would work together again after this film. Like all Capra films, the supporting cast here is sterling, and adds a layer of realism and depth to the story that I think is one of his signatures. Particularly notable is Roscoe Karns as a bus passenger who tries to romance Ellie.
Only three films have won Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay- this was the first and arguably the best of the three. (The others were pretty good too- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Silence of the Lambs). On Oscar Sunday it is good to look back and see what great filmmaking is all about and It Happened One Night is a prime example.
Things to watch for-
Ellie hitches a ride
Clark Gable puts an end to the men's undershirt
Blankets make good walls of Jericho
"Now, don't tell me you've fallen in love with a bus driver."