If you haven’t had the pleasure of previously seeing this exceptional example of the “screwball” comedy then I highly recommend that you take advantage of seeing it on the big screen. Actually, I envy you the unique opportunity of seeing a truly classic film for the first time the way it’s meant to be seen: in a darkened theater, with a bag of popcorn and a cuddly date.
“It Happened One Night” was the first film to win all five major Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. And for good reason. This exceptionally entertaining film stars Clark Gable as a pushy news-hungry reporter chasing runaway rich girl Claudette Colbert from Miami to New York. The story follows what is now the formulaic routine of a mismatched couple fighting and rubbing each other the wrong way as they make a road trip, eventually falling in love in between their snappy dialogue and bickering.
This film marked the beginning of Capra’s reign as the master craftsman of the light comedy, which in his hands would evolve into the comedy/drama with “Mr. Deed’s Goes to Town” and later, “Meet John Doe”. This comedy also cemented Clark Gable as the “King” of Hollywood, a title he would hold for the duration of his career. Gable’s popularity with women and men was such that, when he removed his shirt in the famous motel scene and showed that he was not wearing an undershirt (something every man wore at the time), there was an immediate and lasting negative impact upon undershirt sales. Handled by a lesser personality, this stock reporter would flounder as a two dimensional character. But it’s a testament to Gable’s off screen popularity and bigger than life personae that he is able to give “Peter” the cinematic weight needed to ensure this character an enduring place in film history.
Lovely Claudette Colbert is in her prime, creating the original mold for the obnoxious young woman who whines and complains, moaning about life’s little everyday inconveniences that we humble folk never think twice about. Colbert’s caustic and witty feminine foil precedes Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck, and Katherine Hepburn, all of whom would play similar rolls in later Capra films.
It’s been said that they just don’t make movies like this any more. And they really don’t, nor could they if they tried. So do yourself a favor, and don’t miss this great opportunity for a perfect “date movie”.Rating: A