It Happened One Night
|It Happened One Night|
|Directed by||Frank Capra|
|Produced by||Frank Capra
|Screenplay by||Robert Riskin|
|Story by||Samuel Hopkins Adams|
|Music by||Howard Jackson
|Editing by||Gene Havlick|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||105 minutes|
$2,000,000 (theatrical rentals)
It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable). The plot was based on the August 1933 short story Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams, which provided the shooting title. It Happened One Night was one of the last romantic comedies created before the MPAA began enforcing the 1930 production code in 1934.
The film was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat that would not be matched until One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and later by The Silence of the Lambs (1991). In 1993, It Happened One Night was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Spoiled heiress Ellen "Ellie" Andrews (Claudette Colbert) marries fortune-hunter "King" Westley (Jameson Thomas) against the wishes of her extremely wealthy father (Walter Connolly) who has the marriage annulled. She runs away, boarding a bus to New York City, to reunite with her new spouse, when she meets fellow bus passenger Peter Warne (Clark Gable), an out-of-work newspaper reporter. Warne recognizes her and gives her a choice: if she will give him an exclusive on her story, he will help her reunite with Westley. If not, he will tell her father where she is and collect the reward offered for her return. Ellie agrees to the first choice.
Soon penniless, Ellie has to rely completely on Peter. As they go through several adventures together, Ellie loses her initial disdain for him and begins to fall in love. When they have to hitchhike, Peter claims to be an expert on the subject. As car after car passes them by, he eventually ends up thumbing his nose at them. The sheltered Ellie then shows him how it's done. She stops the next car, driven by Danker (Alan Hale), dead in its tracks by lifting up her skirt and showing off a shapely leg.
When they stop for a break, Danker tries to drive off with their luggage. Peter chases him down and takes his car. One night, nearing the end of their journey together, Ellie confesses her love to Peter. Peter mulls over what she has said, decides he loves her too, and leaves to make arrangements after she has fallen asleep. When the owners of the motel in which they are staying notice that Peter's car is gone, they roust Ellie out of bed and kick her out.
Believing Peter has deserted her, Ellie calls her father, who is so relieved to get her back that he agrees to let her marry Westley. Although Ellie has no desire to be with Westley, she believes Peter has betrayed her for the reward money, so she agrees to have a second, formal wedding. Meanwhile, Peter has obtained money from his editor to marry Ellie, but as he drives back to tell her, they pass each other on the road.
Ellie tries to pretend that nothing has happened, but she is unable to fool her father. She finally reveals the whole story (as she sees it). When Peter comes to Ellie's home, Mr. Andrews offers him the reward money, but Peter insists on being paid only his expenses: a paltry $39.60. When Ellie's father presses him for an explanation of his odd behavior, Peter admits he loves Ellie (although he thinks he is out of his mind to do so), then storms out.
At the wedding ceremony, as Mr. Andrews walks his daughter down the aisle, he reveals to Ellie Peter's refusal of the reward money and quietly encourages her to run off again, telling her that her car is out back for a quick get-away. At the point where she is to say "I do", she makes up her mind. She runs off to find Peter. Her pleased father pays Westley off, enabling Ellie to marry Peter.
Neither Gable nor Colbert were the first choices to play the lead roles. Miriam Hopkins first rejected the part of Ellie. Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy were then offered the roles, but each turned the script down, though Loy later noted that the final story as filmed bore little resemblance to the script that she and Montgomery had been offered for their perusal. Margaret Sullavan also rejected the part. Constance Bennett was willing to play the role if she could produce the film herself; however, Columbia Pictures would not allow this. Then Bette Davis wanted the role, but was under contract with Warner Brothers and Jack Warner refused to loan her. Carole Lombard was unable to accept, because the filming schedule conflicted with that of Bolero. Loretta Young also turned it down.
Harry Cohn suggested Colbert, and she initially turned the role down. Colbert's first film, For the Love of Mike (1927), had been directed by Frank Capra, and it was such a disaster that she vowed to never make another with him. Later on, she agreed to appear in It Happened One Night only if her salary was doubled to $50,000, and also on the condition that the filming of her role be completed in four weeks so that she could take her well-planned vacation.
According to Hollywood legend, Gable was lent to Columbia Pictures, then considered a minor studio, as some kind of "punishment" for refusing a role at his own studio. This tale has been partially refuted by more recent biographies. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer did not have a movie project ready for Gable, and the studio was paying him his contracted salary of $2,000 per week whether he worked or not. Louis B. Mayer lent him to Columbia Pictures for $2,500 per week, hence netting MGM $500 per week while he was gone. Capra, however, insists that Gable was a reluctant participant in the film. 
Filming began in a tense atmosphere as Gable and Colbert were dissatisfied with the quality of the script. However, they established a friendly working relationship and found that the script was no worse than those of many of their earlier films. Capra understood their dissatisfaction and tried to lighten the mood by having Gable play practical jokes on Colbert, who responded with good humor.
Colbert, however, continued to show her displeasure on the set. She also initially balked at pulling up her skirt to entice a passing driver to provide a ride, complaining that it was unladylike. Upon seeing the chorus girl who was brought in as her body double, an outraged Colbert told the director, "Get her out of here. I'll do it. That's not my leg!" Through the filming, Capra claimed, Colbert "had many little tantrums, motivated by her antipathy toward me," however "she was wonderful in the part." After her acceptance speech at the Oscars ceremony, she went back on stage and thanked Capra for making the film.
- Clark Gable as Peter Warne
- Claudette Colbert as Ellie Andrews
- Walter Connolly as Alexander Andrews
- Roscoe Karns as Oscar Shapeley, an annoying bus passenger who tries to pick up Ellie
- Jameson Thomas as "King" Westley
- Alan Hale as Danker
- Arthur Hoyt as Zeke
- Blanche Friderici as Zeke's wife
- Charles C. Wilson as Joe Gordon
- Ward Bond appears early in the film in an uncredited role as a bus driver
After filming was completed, Colbert complained to her friend, "I just finished the worst picture in the world." Capra fretted that the film was released to indifferent reviews and initially only did so-so business. Then, after it was released to the secondary movie houses, word-of-mouth began to spread and ticket sales became brisk. It turned out to be a major hit, easily Columbia's biggest hit to date.
In 1935, after her Academy Award nomination, Colbert decided not to attend the presentation, feeling confident that she would not win the award, and instead, planned to take a cross-country railroad trip. After she was named the winner, studio chief Harry Cohn sent someone to "drag her off" the train, which had not yet left the station, and take her to the ceremony. Colbert arrived wearing a two-piece traveling suit which she had the Paramount Pictures costume designer, Travis Banton, make for her trip.
Academy Awards 
The film won all five of the Academy Awards for which it was nominated:
|Best Picture||Won||Columbia Pictures (Frank Capra and Harry Cohn)|
|Best Director||Won||Frank Capra|
|Best Actor||Won||Clark Gable|
|Best Actress||Won||Claudette Colbert|
|Best Writing, Adaptation||Won||Robert Riskin|
At the 7th Academy Awards for 1934, It Happened One Night became the first film ever to win the "Big Five" Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing). To date, only two more films have achieved this feat: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975 and The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. Also, It Happened One Night was the last film to win both lead acting Academy Awards, until 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest also won both lead acting awards.
On December 15, 1996, Clark Gable's Oscar was auctioned off to Steven Spielberg for $607,500; Spielberg promptly donated the statuette to the Motion Picture Academy. On June 9, the following year, Colbert's Oscar was offered for auction by Christie's. No bids were made for it.
American Film Institute 
- 1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #35
- 2000 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs #8
- 2002 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions #38
- 2007 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #46
- 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 #3 romantic comedy
Radio adaptation 
It Happened One Night was adapted as a radio play on the March 20, 1939 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater, with Colbert and Gable reprising their roles. The movie was also adapted as a radio play for the January 28, 1940 broadcast of The Campbell Playhouse.
In popular culture 
It Happened One Night made an immediate impact on the public. In one scene, Gable undresses for bed, taking off his shirt to reveal that he is bare-chested. An urban legend claims that, as a result, sales of men's undershirts declined noticeably. The movie also prominently features a Greyhound bus in the story, spurring interest in bus travel nationwide.
The unpublished memoirs of animator Friz Freleng mention that this was one of his favorite films. It Happened One Night has a unique connection to the cartoon character Bugs Bunny with a minor character, Oscar Shapely, continually calling the Gable character "Doc", an imaginary character named "Bugs Dooley" mentioned once to frighten Shapely, and a scene in which Gable eats carrots while talking quickly with his mouth full, as Bugs does.
Parodies of the film abound. The 1937 Laurel and Hardy comedy Way Out West parodied the famous hitchhiking scene, with Stan Laurel managing to stop a stage coach using the same technique. Mel Brooks's film Spaceballs (1987) parodies the wedding scene. As she walks down the aisle to wed Prince Valium, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) is told by her father, King Roland, that Lone Starr forsook the reward for the princess's return and only asked to be reimbursed for the cost of the trip.
The film has also sparked a number of remakes including the musicals Eve Knew Her Apples (1945) starring Ann Miller and You Can't Run Away from It (1956) Technicolor and CinemaScope musical comedy starring June Allyson and Jack Lemmon, directed and produced by Dick Powell.
Recent films have also used familiar plot points from It Happened One Night. In Bandits, (2001), Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) erects a blanket partition between motel room beds out of respect for Kate Wheeler's (Cate Blanchett's) privacy. He remarks that he saw them do the same thing in an old movie. In Sex and the City 2, Carrie and Mr. Big watch the film (specifically the hitchhiking scene) in a hotel. Later in the film, in an attempt to get a taxi in Abu Dhabi, Carrie mimics Claudette Colbert by showing some leg to stop a taxi. The wedding scene at the end of "Heartbreaker" is a reprise of the wedding scene in It Happened One Night.
This film was also remade in Bollywood twice as Chori Chori starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis and Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin starring Aamir Khan and Pooja Bhatt. The story was readapted to screen in the 2007 Kannada movie "Hudugaata" starring Golden Star Ganesh and Rekha Vedavyas. All films became successful at the box office.
See also 
- Brown 1995, p. 118.
- Rudy Behlmer, Behind the Scenes, Samuel French, 1990 p 37
- "Box Office Information for 'It Happened One Night'." The Numbers. Retrieved: April 12, 2012.
- "National Film Registry". Library of Congress, accessed October 28, 2011.
- Kotsabilas-Davis and Loy 1987, p. 94. Note: Loy described the first script she saw as "one of the worst [that] she had ever read."
- Wiley and Bona 1987, p. 54.
- Weems, Erik. It Happened One Night - Frank Capra. Updated June 22, 2006.
- Chandler 2006, p. 102.
- McBride 1992, p. 303.
- "Loretta Young 1999." flickr.com. Retrieved: November 14, 2007.
- Karney 1995, p. 252.
- "All about Oscar." britannica.com.
- Harris 2002, pp. 112–114.
- Capra 19171, p. 164.
- Pace, Eric. "Claudette Colbert, Unflappable Heroine of Screwball Comedies, is Dead at 92." The New York Times, July 31, 1996, p. D21.
- McBride 1992, p. 326.
- "It Happened One Night." moviediva.com. Retrieved: December 7, 2009.
- McBride 1992, pp. 308–309.
- Sharon Fink. "Oscars: The Evolution of Fashion." St. Petersburg Times, February 24, 2007.
- "Awards." awardsdatabase.oscars.org. Retrieved: September 4, 2009.
- McKittrick, Rosemary. "Gable's Gold: Auction Cashes In On Hollywood Idol." liveauctiontalk.com. Retrieved: December 7, 2009.
- "The Shirt off his Back." snopes.com. Retrieved: December 7, 2009.
- "Historical Timeline." Greyhound. Retrieved: October 14, 2011.
- Dirks, Tim. " 'It Happened One Night' review." filmsite.org. Retrieved: December 7, 2009.
- "Why Stalin loved Tarzan and wanted John Wayne shot." The Daily Telegraph, April 6, 2004. Retrieved: December 7, 2009.
- Shirer 1985, p. 588.
- "Way Out West (1937)." Filmsite Review. Retrieved: October 14, 2011.
- Crick 2009, p. 158.
- Dirks, Tim. "It Happened One Night (1934) ." Filmsite Movie Reviews. Retrieved: November 17, 2011.
- Granger, Susan. "Bandits." All Reviews, 2001. Retrieved: October 14, 2011.
- Gonzalez, Ed. "Ed Gonzalez on May 24, 2010 Review." Slant magazine, May 24, 2010. Retrieved: October 14, 2011.
- IMDB. "Heartbreaker (2010) (original title: l'Arnacoeur)". IMDb. Retrieved: April 18, 2012.
- Brown, Gene. Movie Time: A Chronology of Hollywood and the Movie Industry from Its Beginnings to the Present. New York: Macmillan, 1995. ISBN 0-02-860429-6.
- Capra, Frank. Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971. ISBN 0-306-80771-8.
- Chandler, Charlotte. The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, A Personal Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. ISBN 0-7432-6208.
- Crick, Robert Alan. The Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-4326-0.
- Harris, Warren G. Clark Gable, A Biography. London: Aurum Press, 2002. ISBN 1-85410-904-9.
- Hirschnor, Joel. Rating the Movie Stars for Home Video, TV and Cable. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Publications International Limited, 1983. ISBN 0-88176-152-4.
- Karney, Robyn. Chronicle of the Cinema, 100 Years of the Movies. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995. ISBN 0-7513-3001-9.
- Kotsabilas-Davis, James and Myrna Loy. Being and Becoming. New York: Primus, Donald I. Fine Inc., 1987. ISBN 1-55611-101-0.
- McBride, Joseph. Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success. New York: Touchstone Books, 1992. ISBN 0-671-79788-3.
- Michael, Paul, ed. The Great Movie Book: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference Guide to the Best-loved Films of the Sound Era. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1980. ISBN 0-13-363663-1.
- Shirer, William L. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Edison, New Jersey: BBS Publishing Corporation, 1985. ISBN 978-0-88365-922-9.
- Wiley, Mason and Damien Bona. Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987. ISBN 0-345-34453-7.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: It Happened One Night|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: It Happened One Night (film)|
- It Happened One Night at the Internet Movie Database
- It Happened One Night at AllRovi
- It Happened One Night at the TCM Movie Database
- It Happened One Night at Rotten Tomatoes
- It Happened One Night at Filmsite.org
- It Happened One Night at Virtual History
- It Happened One Night on Lux Radio Theater: March 20, 1939
- It Happened One Night on The Campbell Playhouse: January 28, 1940