It Happened One Night
Somewhat lesser known than It's a Wonderful Life or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but still among Frank Capra's best, screen legends Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert star in the 1934 It Happened One Night, which has become the ultimate road movie, even after these many years. Colbert is Ellie Andrews, a famous East Coast socialite who has married playboy aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), a union which her father disapproves. But just after the Florida ceremony, Ellie escapes from her father's yacht and finds herself on the road, trying to return to New York with little cash and no help. As (bad) luck would have it, she meets up with unemployed scandal-rag reporter Peter Warne (Gable), who recognizes the heiress and offers his assistance provided that he get the scoop on the runaway bride that all of America is talking about. What follows is a hilarious, episodic journey by foot, bus, and otherwise, as the frosty Ellie and grouchy Peter bicker and fight like an old married couple ("What she needs is a guy that'd take a sock at her once a day, whether it's coming to her or not," Gable declares in those politically incorrect times). And while the conclusion is entirely predictable, It Happened One Night launched a minor movie genre that includes such successors as the '80s comedies The Sure Thing and Midnight Run. However, neither of those titles can lay claim to history, whereas It Happened One Night can in several instances: The film was the first to snag all five major Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay), a feat only since duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Silence of the Lambs; the song "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" was introduced to Americans everywhere when the film was released, on its way to becoming a timeless classic that everybody knows at least some of the words to; Gable reveals in one scene that he isn't wearing an undershirt, which (according to legend) caused undershirt sales to plummet not long thereafter; and in another scene Gable munches on a carrot while talking up a storm (featured on the DVD boxcover). It was remembered by animators at Warner Brothers, who later used it as the inspiration for Bugs Bunny.
Columbia TriStar's excellent DVD features a marvelous digitally remastered print transferred in the original 1.33:1 ratio, and for the most part it looks excellent, with only a few brief moments taken from lesser-quality stock. The audio is clear and easily understood, with ambient noise kept at an absolute minimum, and the extras include a commentary track and a short video retrospective with Frank Capra Jr., the 60-minute Lux Radio production of It Happened One Night (also starring Gable and Colbert), original advertising materials, trailers for It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Lost Horizon, and cast and crew notes.