The basic story starts with a pampered heiress,
Ellie Andrew (Claudette Colbert) being held against her will
on her father's yacht, who disapproves of her newly married
status with her beloved, King Wesley (Jameson Thomas). While
her father, Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly), tries to change
her mind, she escapes by jumping into the water. Ellie takes
a bus, hoping to get to New York, back to who she thinks is
her true love. She encounters a honest speaking reporter, Peter
Warner (Clark Gable), during this bus trip, who befriends her
in a practical sort of way, taking care of her, as she doesn't
have any survival skills at all. He is honorably up front with
her about his motives; to get her exclusive story. Of course,
they had to at some point, get off the bus, and have some adventure
on their own, trying to get to New York. They eventually fall
in love, with numerous humorous complications.
I have three favorite scenes. One is the hitchhiking
scene, where Colbert raises her skirt, flashing some leg to
get a ride from a motorist. Another is the "Walls of Jericho"
scene, where Gable and Colbert share a bedroom, separated only
by a vertical sheet that is strung up between them.
The third favorite series of scenes takes place
near the end of the film, at her fabulous outside wedding ceremony,
planned for her official marriage ceremony to King Wesley. Surrounded
by all the throngs of their society, glorious flowers, huge
wedding party, with background singers, her father traditionally
is escorting her toward the minister and altar. He is busy telling
her about how Peter loves her, how Peter only asked for the
money he had spent on her during their trip together, not the
10,000 dollar reward. He further implores her to not go through
with the wedding, and that there was a cab waiting for her,
if she changes her mind.
The film is still enjoyable after all these
years. The film benefits from decent pacing, even by today's
standards, and the great, on- screen chemistry between Colbert
When this film came out, it affected the clothing
industry. In a scene, when Gable takes off his shirt, he's wearing
no undershirt beneath. Almost immediately, undershirt sales
This is a classic because of the chemistry
between the stars, its good humor, and sharp dialogue. "It
Happened One Night" was the first film to win all five
of the major Oscars: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and
Screenplay (Robert Riskin).
Some have claimed that the 1970's mega hit
"Smokey and the Bandit," with Burt Reynolds and Sally
Field, was just an updated, "It Happened One Night."
I guess anything is possible, especially in Hollywood.