It Happened One Night, Directed by Frank Capra
Columbia Pictures, February 22, 1934 (US)
Screenplay: Robert Riskin, based on the story “Night Bus” by Samuel Hopkins Adams
Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Jameson Thomas, Alan Hale, Arthur Hoyt, and Blanche Friderici
Maybe divas don’t always know best. Sshhh. Don’t tell. It’s just funny how things work out sometimes. Is it fate? Opportunit? Circumstance? All of the above?
An out of work reporter wanders out into the great unknown without the hint of a prospect but wouldn’t you know it, a story juicy enough for any front page tabloid lands smack dab in his lap. All he has to do is seize the opportunity, follow its lead.
A young woman, out on her own for the first time in her oh-so-charmed life is on a bit of quest of her own (even if she doesn’t quite know it yet) and voilà, she falls right into the lap of love’s gentle embrace. When an opportunity like this appears, you grab it.
It Happened One Night doesn’t work because it is the greatest story ever told or because it is the greatest love story ever told. It isn’t even the sharpest comedy in the shed. It is a movie that finds a way to rise above itself, capturing lightning in a bottle that transforms the results into a glitzy, sparkling display of movie magic. It all seems traceable to Frank Capra’s unified vision. In another’s hands, dialing up a pitch-perfect balance of screwball comedy, Hollywood romance, and old world charm might have been a bit much, especially with the distractions the movie was riddled with. The assumption here is that there undoubtedly were a few diva-ruptions from its leading lady, Claudette Colbert. There was a rather mediocre story and screenplay to work with. But in the end, Capra saw something bigger. Like the potential for great chemistry between Colbert and Gable. Capra must have known that this was the foundation to build upon.
Still, you shake your head and wonder how it all came together.
Oscar Shapeley (Roscoe Karns): There’s nothing I like better than meeting a high class mama who can snap back at you. Cause the colder they are, the hotter they get. That’s what I always say. Yes sir, when a cold mama gets hot, boy how she sizzles. You’re just my type, believe me sister. I could go for you in a big way. Fun on the side Shapely they call me, with accent on the fun, believe you me.
Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert): Believe you me? You bore me to distraction.
Despite living a life of luxury as a spoiled rich brat perennially cradled by an overprotective father, Ellie shows early and often that she can certainly hold her own, even against the likes of sleazy Oscar Shapeleys.
She’s overdue. Make no mistake, Miss Ellie Andrews is long overdue for a little dose of reality. In with the breeze of circumstance comes opportunity. Or is it reckoning? Miss Ellie Andrews, I do believe you’ve met your match.
Ellie: I just had the unpleasant sensation of hearing you referred to as my husband.
Peter Warne (Clark Gable): Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about that. I registered as Mr. and Mrs.
Ellie: Oh you did?
Peter: Mmm hmmm.
Ellie: Well what am I expected to do, leap for joy?
Peter: I kind of half-expected you to thank me.
Ellie: Your ego is absolutely colossal.
Peter: Yeah, not bad, how’s yours?
Ellie: You know, compared to you, my friend Shapeley’s an amateur.
And so it goes. The flirting, playful banter of unexpected attraction, two independent spirits finding out that they are simply no match for cupid’s ever sneaky arrows.
Ellie: Have you ever been in love Peter?
Ellie: Yes. Haven’t you ever thought about it at all? Seems to me you …
you could make some girl wonderfully happy.
Peter: Sure I’ve thought about it. Who hasn’t? If I can ever meet the right sort of girl, where you gonna find her? Somebody who’s real, who’s alive. They don’t come that way anymore. Have I ever thought about it? I saw an island in the Pacific once. I’ve never been able to forget it. She’d have to be the sort of girl who’d jump in the surf with me and love it as much as I did. Nights when you and the moon and the water all become one. You feel you’re part of something big and marvelous. That’s the only place to live. The stars are so close over your head you feel you can reach up and stir them around. Certainly I’ve been thinking about it. Boy, if I could ever find a girl who was hungry for those things.
She’s hungry, she’s very hungry.
The magic is undeniable. It continues to cast a spell. Surviving the test of time is never an easy task.
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.