It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night (1934)
 
 
 

Clark and Claudette Charm with Capra's Comedy

Well, I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb - Ellie Andrews

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night

Over the years there have been many movies that deliver a romantic comedy about a forced antagonistic relationship which slowly melts into romance. But you need to go back to the 1930's and Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" for one of the best takes on this sort of storyline. Featuring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert as the rowing pair "It Happened One Night" is packed full of comical scenes as the forced relationship takes that journey from arguing to amorous.

Having jumped ship when her wealthy father demands she annuls her marriage to the snobbish aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert - Drums Along the Mohawk) tries to make her way across America to New York without her father's detectives finding her. She finds herself stuck on a bus with Peter Warne (Clark Gable - Teacher's Pet) a cynical newspaper hack who when he realises who he is travelling with spies a money making scoop. But it's not easy as they spend most of the trip arguing but slowly the frost between them thaws as they start to fall for each other, but when has love ever been easy.

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night

It's strange to think that "It Happened One Night" nearly didn't get made as no one thought the script was that great and no one wanted to appear in it, till Clark Gable was forced to appear and Claudette Colbert signed on but with what then were extravagant demands. It's a good job that it did get made because it went on to win 5 Oscars including Best Director for Frank Capra, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Clark Gable, Best Actress in a Leading Role for Claudette Colbert as well as Best Picture. Not bad for a movie which suffered adversity before finally getting made.

Being a Capra movie "It Happened One Night" has plenty of those Capra flourishes that he used in many of his movies, but unlike other notable movies such as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" it doesn't have a real social aspect. Instead the storyline purely revolves around the warring couple and how they change with Ellie realising that she does know very little about the real world whilst Peter softening his hardened exterior. It works surprisingly well because it blends nicely with the romantic storyline as the warring couple slowly soften and realise that they are falling for each other. As such there is the will they or wont they build up which now days is easy to guess what the overall outcome will be, but Capra works things nicely so there is always the question there.

But where "It Happened One Night" really works is that all the warring, the arguments and antagonistic comments makes you laugh. When Peter takes Ellie in hand and bosses her about there is something amusing about Clark Gable's forcefulness whilst Claudette Colbert performance as the spoilt brat is a great alternative. It makes for plenty of amusing scenes and the partnership of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert appears to work perfectly, whether that was the case off screen is another matter. Although some of the humour does at times feels overly forced such as the sing a long on the bus, it just doesn't quite fit in to the dynamics of the whole movie despite being reasonably amusing.

Aside from Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert the rest of the cast whilst doing adequate jobs rarely take the limelight away from the stars. Although Walter Connolly is pleasantly frustrated as Ellie's father.

What this all boils down to is that "It Happened One Night" is a joy to watch. The blend of a good storyline, some smart comedy, the direction of Frank Capra and the pairing of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert all work well together to deliver one of the best takes on the antagonistic relationship that melts into romance.

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