1 Year, 100 Movies: #46 It Happened One Night (1934)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

I had not even heard of ‘It Happened One Night‘ before starting this list, but I can say now it is one of my favorite romantic comedies. Directed by Frank Capra it stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. It was the first film to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat unmatched until ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, 41 years later. The film begins with our heroine, a rich heiress named Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) who is sequestered by her father on a yacht because he disapproves of her marriage to a famous aviator, King Westley. She escapes the yacht, swims away and buys a bus ticket to travel back to New York and her husband. On the bus she meets an out of work reporter named Peter Warne. He discovers her identity because of a newspaper article on her escape, and offers to help her to her destination in exchange for exclusive rights to her story. He secures her cooperation by threatening to turn her in to her father if she doesn’t agree. Along the trip they share hotel rooms, posing as husband and wife. Ellie puts up a blanket barrier each night, which Peter refers to as the ‘walls of Jericho.’

After a passenger recognizes Ellie and attempts to split the $10,000 award money with Peter, Peter scares him away and the pair decide to hitchhike from then on to avoid any others recognizing them on the bus. After a few nights left to their own devices – and during another blanket-partitioned evening, Ellie throws herself at Peter and proposes they be together. Peter seemingly rejects her and drives to New York after she falls asleep in the middle of the night to sell their love story to his old boss for $1000, so he wouldn’t propose to her while broke.

Thinking that Peter hates her Ellie calls her father and lets him know where she is. He picks her up with a police escort, passing by Peter- who realizes what has happened when he spots Ellie traveling back toward New York with the group. Angry, Peter approaches her father about the reward money. He agrees to go to their home to meet with him just before the real wedding is to take place between Ellie and the aviator. He only comes to collect his expenses from the trip- $39.60, and not the full $10,000 reward money and admits that he loves Ellie. Ellie’s father takes a liking to Peter and manages to convince Ellie that she should leave the aviator for Peter. Ellie’s father pays off the aviator to annul their marriage, and she and Peter get married. At the end of the film the ‘walls of Jericho’ come down.

Clarke and Colbert loathed making the film, and no one expected much of it, so it’s funny that it has turned into such a classic. It’s funny, witty, romantic, and has so many quotable moments. It’s the screwball romantic comedy that so many others have tried to recreate, but can’t come close to replicating. Who can resist a film where the heroine’s father provides his daughter with a getaway car from her own wedding?

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

5star

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