Movies »It Happened One Night

it happened one nightWhile Frank Capra might be best remembered for the feel good?holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life, I myself prefer the early screwball comedy It Happened One Night, a popular film that swept the Oscars but almost didn't happen. The production suffered a myriad of casting mishaps (Myrna Loy, Bette Davis, Carole Lombard, and Robert Montgomery all couldn't do the film, for various reasons), in fact both the porcelain Claudette Colbert and the rugged Clark Gable originally refused to star because they didn't like the script.

I can see why they might have been hesitant. It's a pretty straightforward plot that lacks the intricacies of a comedy like The Golddiggers of 1933 or The Women, but it's full of charm, in part due to the chemistry between the two leads. There's also a guy named called Shapely (which, coincidentally, is how he likes his women) who spouts all the film's best lines, lines like this: “When a cold mama gets hot, boy she sizzles – woo wee!”

Colbert plays the kind of rich brat who'd rather starve than eat raw vegetables trying to clandestinely travel from Miami to New York (by bus) to defy her father and marry an aviator he detests named King. Gable is an out of work, drunken journalist (he's also an expert at hitch hiking, dunking donuts, and giving piggy backs) who spots a headline grabbing story in the girl's journey and agrees to help her out on the condition that he gets an exclusive.

Colbert looks amazing in her few costume changes, both draped in an over-sized trench and elegant in a liquid white wedding gown with a flowered neckline and a long veil that looks great trailing behind her. Gable also caused some sartorial stir, according to a Hollywood anecdote, when he undressed for bed and was not wearing an undershirt — legend has it that undershirt sales plummeted by 75%.

Made over seventy years ago, there are bound to be some dated aspects. For example, her Colbert's father decides Gable is an okay guy and an ideal husband for his daughter after the suitor exclaims that she should be socked once a day, whether she deserves it of not. In another bit of arcane excitement, you'll learn what a aero-gyro is (SPOILER ALERT – it's got the body of an old plane and the propeller of a helicopter).

Still, just because it's of its time, that does not mean it needs to be remade; though I can easily imagine some moronic producer thinking this would be the perfect vehicle for true life rich girl Paris Hilton. And while that may seem like a pretty remote possibility, did you know that they're remaking Bonnie and Clyde with Hilary Duff right? Guess how Faye Dunaway feels about it?

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Posted on February 9, 2009

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