The world of film is heavily marked with the romantic genre. I’d wager we all have our favorites, those classic couples that steal our hearts, give us butterflies in our stomachs, and make us cry. Around this time last year, I shared my top ten list on Dry Ground (click here to read), perhaps you’ve seen them too. It’s not an exhaustive list, for I do enjoy a good love story and many movies fit the bill. For the next few weeks, I’ll share some of my favorites that maybe you haven’t seen.
When you start exploring the archives of entertainment and actually watch some of the earliest films, you understand why we still laud names such as Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, the stars of today’s feature presentation, It Happened One Night, released in 1934. One of the first Best Picture winners (officially #5), this movie serves as the original romantic comedy and is a treat to experience.
As newspaper man Peter Warne, Gable plays his usual charming self with a measure of smugness thrown in, a foreshadowing of the roll we all know him best for, Gone with the Wind’s Rhett Butler, still five years into his future.
Claudette plays socialite Ellen Andrews who, in the first few minutes of the film, jumps off her father’s yacht in Miami because he’s pressuring her to annul her hasty marriage to rich aviator King Westley waiting for her in New York City. Completely on her own for the first time in her life, Ellen has to make it from Florida to New York without getting caught by her father’s search parties. She decides taking a bus will protect her anonymity best.
That’s where she meets Peter Warne, and the laughs begin.
Ellen and Peter strike a deal. He’ll help her get to New York in return for the exclusive story of her quest. Of course, that doesn’t mean their partnership sprouts all roses. Between her superior, naïve stubbornness and his condescending bullying, they butt heads every step of the way. They argue over the proper way to dunk a donut in coffee, the definition of a piggyback ride, and techniques of hitchhiking. He’s always bossing her around and she’s always pouting and resisting.
In the middle of barely tolerating each other, though, they discover that they make a pretty good team, becoming almost friends, almost more. Still, miscommunications crop up that threaten to unravel everything.
This movie has wit, memorable quotes, LOL moments, a stirring love story and classic charm that makes me smile every time I watch it. It’s a valued and foundational piece of film history. It’s the beginning of long and successful career for Gable, winning him a Best Actor Oscar, something he did not win for his role as Rhett Butler. Colbert also won for her performance. It’s feel-good done exceptionally well.
In short, It Happened One Night is well worth the watch.