Top positive review
75 people found this helpful
A film which blows its own trumpet
on 5 December 2005
"It Happened One Night" is one of the most enduring of romantic comedies. Released in 1934, its black and white images are iconic - Gable & Goddard hitching is a classic scene, but there are many others from the film which have an unforgettable cachet. Set against the realities of the Depression, Frank Capra delivers a distinct feel-good quality; this was a film which attracted a huge popular audience.
Claudette Colbert plays a beautiful heiress who has married a lounge-lizard society type against the wishes of her father. Father keeps daughter locked up on his yacht while he pursues nullification of the marriage, but Colbert escapes and sets off on a bus ride back to her husband in New York. She has never done anything so independent before, has never travelled on anything as cosmopolitan, never mind proletarian, as a bus. She simply hasn't a clue how to survive without servants.
On the bus she meets down-on-his-luck newspaperman, Clark Gable. The pair team up, eking out the few dollars they have between them, travelling by bus, hitching lifts, coyly sharing motel rooms, a blanket hung by rope to separate twin single beds - a system they famously describe as 'the walls of Jericho'.
"It Happened One Night" won five Oscars - Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adaptation (Robert Riskin's script). Made by Columbia, it was an unlikely hit - Capra struggled to cast it and it was certainly not as well promoted as many of its rivals that year. But the public loved it. The film gently disparages the rich, spoiled background of the heiress - the film starts with Colbert on hunger strike, but on the bus journey she will meet people who are actually starving because they have no money. Capra was always able to capture that love-hate relationship between the popular audience and images of the rich.
Capra seems to have been the only one who believed in the film - Colbert was not his first choice and she was very reluctant to take the role. Gable was loaned to him, and played against character throughout. Shot in four weeks and on a low budget, Capra and Gable wrung a reluctant performance from Colbert - despite her resistance to the part, she delivers an excellent performance. Capra handles the narrative with expertise, giving the audience time to understand the dynamic between the two characters. He blends drama with comedy with romance. Despite its age, the film continues to work as a delightful story, superbly performed and directed, with timeless humour and compassion.
The DVD offers a very acceptable black and white transfer with adequate sound quality, and some interesting extras - not least a radio broadcast of the play of the film, with Colbert and Gable revisiting their roles before a live audience. Highly entertaining and a film you can watch and watch.