It Happened One NightU
If there has been one benefit from the recent prolonged strikes in Hollywood, it’s that it has given the opportunity for a number of re-releases, celebrating various anniversaries, to be seen on the big screen once again.
It’s fair to say however that none have reached as far back as this one does, originally released as it was in 1934, when the Hollywood studio landscape was a very different beast.
So celebrating its 90th anniversary is this re-release of a true classic, Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, starring screen icon Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
Ellen ”Ellie” Andrews (Colbert) is used to getting her own way, as daddy is quite a wealthy individual. So when she decides to run off with pilot King Wesley (Jameson Thomas) and elope, he’s not best pleased.
She manages to buy a bus ticket from Miami to New York City to be with him, but as she left in a quite a hurry, she doesn’t have much by way of cash on her for this extraordinary long journey.
It doesn’t help that the bus is nearly full too, but manages to grab a seat from disgruntled passenger Peter Warne (Gable). They end up sitting next to each other, and Peter ends up telling her that he’s a journalist, and knows who she is. He also tells her that he’s willing to help her out, for the exclusive that is, or he could tell her dad where she is. Having little choice, Ellen agrees, as they continue on their long haul journey together.
Although we often think of the rom-com as a fairly modern genre, it’s been around some time, with this film being an early example of it. Capra’s film is fairly bold for its time, if you factor in some dubious attitudes towards women for the period, with a strong female lead for the most part. Colbert gives it her best Katherine Hepburn, albeit with softer edges, as she pairs up with the most popular Hollywood actor of his generation.
It’s not difficult to see how Gable got that position, with his dapper good looks that seem to somehow intensify in black and white, and his charming leading man banter.
It was also a good grounding point for the director to work on, as it would lead to a number of great titles including Mr Deed Goes to Town, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Arsenic and Old Lace, and his seminal It’s a Wonderful Life.
It’s impressive to see a film, now ninety years old, that still manages to entertain on such a high level, and deliver a smart and funny story to this day, with the embryo of all rom-coms that followed it. It will be difficult to imagine some of those released recently having the same impact themselves in ninety years – time will tell.
Meanwhile, this is a truly rare opportunity to see a film of this vintage – and quality – back on the big screen, one that doesn’t come along nearly often enough. If you have a love of cinema, this classic, with its 4K restoration, is very much a must-see.