Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934)


(director: Frank Capra; screenwriters: Robert Riskin/from the book Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams; cinematographer: Josph Walker; editor: Gene Havlick; music: Louis Silvers; cast: Clark Gable (Peter Warne), Claudette Colbert (Ellie Andrews), Walter Connolly (Alexander Andrews), Roscoe Karns (Oscar Shapeley), Alan Hale (Danker), Jameson Thomas (King Westley), Arthur Hoyt (Zeke), Ward Bond (Bus Driver); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Cohn; Columbia Pictures; 1934)

“A very funny and breezy comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Frank Capra’s keystone romantic comedy, the winner of five Academy Awards (best picture, director, actress, actor and screenplay), stars movie legends Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Capra bought the rights for $5,000 from the”Cosmopolitan” magazine story Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams. Robert Riskin is responsible for the witty screenplay.

The plot is superfluous, but that doesn’t really matter because the stars have a great chemistry together and provide all the fireworks needed. This is just a very funny and breezy comedy that hit the right spot with the Depression era audience. It was a box office smash that put Poverty Row Columbia Pictures in the big league as a real player.

Claudette Colbert is Ellie Andrews the rich, spoiled, and snobbish heiress who has run away from her father’s (Connolly) security blanket by eloping with her fortune-hunting pilot fiance King Westley (James Thomas). Dad keeps her captive in his Miami docked yacht after making it uncertain if her civil ceremony marriage is legal by whisking her away, but she jumps ship to catch the New York bound Greyhound to join her new husband for a more official church wedding. On the bus she is seated next to the glib, cock-sure, ruthless, poor but honest, unemployed reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable). The ambitious reporter is heading back to New York to get back in the business after recently being fired for drinking on the job, when he reads in the front pages about the heiress’ disappearance and makes a deal on her suggestion that he’ll keep his trap shut if she gives him an exclusive. At first they can’t stand each other and go to great lengths to be insulting. But soon things get a bit more tender as he shows her how to dunk donuts and bares his chest. Admittedly they become attracted to each other, as opposites in personality and class sometimes will attract–especially in Hollywood ditsy comedies. The screwball comedy has many classical set pieces — Colbert baring her legs to hitch a ride and Gable hanging a blanket across the room to separate their sleeping quarters. It comes to its climax as Ellie must finally make a decision: whether to go through with the church wedding to her husband or have the marriage annulled and take up with Gable.

In many ways it’s dated, but the comedy still works even if it it’s probably not as madcap humorous as when it was first released.


REVIEWED ON 3/18/2004 GRADE: B +