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||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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It Happened One Night

By CarrieSpecht

June 6th, 2006

The Oscar winning 1934 comedy directed by Frank Capra is showing at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica Wednesday, June 14 at 7:30pm!

It Happened One Night

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”.

My rating: A