It Happened One Night
Zach Davis

Directed by: Frank Capra

Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, and Jameson Thomas

In 1935, It Happened One Night became the first film to win all five major Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Picture.  This film has long been regarded as one of the best romantic comedies of all time, earning the number three spot on the American Film Institute’s top ten list for the genre.

The film begins with Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), a spoiled socialite being held on a yacht by her father (Walter Connolly).  Ellie’s father wants to have her recent marriage to King Westley (Jameson Thomas) annulled and is doing what he has to do to make this a reality.  Angered at this lack of freedom, Ellie makes a break for it and tries to work her way to Westley, who’s in New York.  She takes a bus from Florida to the Big Apple.  Meanwhile, newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable) is making his way back to New York on the same bus after being fired from his job for his drunken demeanor.  While on the bus, he recognizes Ellie whose grand escape was front page news. 

Seeing the prospect of a great story, Peter offers to help Ellie get to New York.  In return, she would give him the exclusive on her story.  Alternatively, he would turn her in and claim the $10,000 reward her father has offered for her safe return.  Not wanting anyone’s help, Ellie initially is reluctant to take the offer.  When she’s out of money and faces the prospect of spending the night outside in a rainstorm however, Ellie accepts Peter’s offer to accompany her along the way.  The two clash early and often, but always come together to avoid detectives and other prying eyes looking out for the hefty reward put out by her father.  As they travel together, sparks begin to fly, and Ellie soon questions everything as she tries to establish control over her own life.

The majority of screen time belonged to Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, whose chemistry was the first of its kind on screen.  Claudette had the spoiled heiress Ellie down to a tee, and Gable showed the acting chops that earned him the nickname “The King”.  There are a few moments when a good slap seems like it would solve most of Ellie’s problems, and Peter delivers such metaphorical blows to her with wit and class lost in movies today.

This movie marks the first truly respected screwball comedy.  Coming only seven years after talkies began, it was made during a time when many were skeptical on the staying power of such films.  Before production began, many doubted the quality of the script.  Even Gable and Colbert shared concerns for how such a film would be received.  Colbert has been quoted as saying to a friend after completing the film, "I just finished making the worst picture I've ever made".  She couldn’t have been more wrong however as It Happened One Night was a hit and paved the way for the comedy of dialogue.

It Happened One Night is a must see for anyone who loves classic romantic films.  Grab the one you love, put on your black and white attire, and you’ll be in the perfect frame of mind to enjoy a true classic.