It Happened One Night (1934)

it happened one night poster 1934 movie best picture
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Smart romantic comedy that helped set the standards, hitchhiking scene


Movie Info

Movie Name:  It Happened One Night

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Genre(s):  Comedy/Romance

Release Date(s):  February 22, 1934

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Scoot over, lady!

Rich socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is on the run…fleeing from her father (Walter Connolly) and planned wedding to King Westley (Jameson Thomas).  Out of money and on her own for the first time, Ellie meets a struggling writer named Peter Warne (Clark Gable) on a bus.  With Peter’s help, Ellie wants to make it to New York City and out of the eyes of the public.  Peter hopes to turn Ellie into his story, but in the process, Ellie and Peter find themselves falling in love.

Directed by Frank Capra, It Happened One Night was a romantic comedy based on the 1933 short Night Bus.  The movie was a big winner at the Academy Awards and the first movie to win what is known as the “Big Five” (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Colbert), Best Actor (Gable), and Best Screenplay).  The movie regularly makes “Best Of” lists for both romance and comedy, and was inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for preservation.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered edition of the film (Criterion #736).


That will stop a car!

It Happened One Night is a classic comedy.  The film, story, and acting come together in a perfect unison to make a great film.  If you haven’t seen it, despite its age, it is well worth seeking out.

The story and script are very smart.  It is a classic love-hate relationship between a man and a woman in almost a Taming of the Shrew style of story.  The characters and the situations are well timed and a perfect balance.  Gable has to teach Colbert about “regular people” and how to survive in the world while Colbert teaches Gable about thinking about others.  Scenes like the hitchhiking scene are classic and as a result have been parodied and redone many times along with much of the movie.


This scene allegedly led to a decline in undershirt sales

Gable and Colbert work great together.  Gable’s suave demeanor helped create of the culture’s greatest cartoons.  Many of Bugs Bunny’s traits were based off of Gable from this film, and Gable’s power also spread beyond this in that a scene where he didn’t wear an undershirt is credited for a drop in sales of undershirts.  Colbert is able to hold her own with Gable and that is a feat on its own.  The two work great together, and I think a lot of romantic comedies have followed this story’s format since.


The walls of Jericho

The movie does have that old style look.  The movie is mostly sets and this has its advantages and disadvantages.  It allows for some neat set-ups and lighting on scenes like the hay bale camping scenes and great “Walls of Jericho” set-ups in the hotel scenes…which of course pays off in the end.

It Happened One Night is a classic.  The movie is a great example of comedy and romance and how it can be done right.  If you are a fan of romantic comedies and want to see one that has aged well, check out a film that could easily be considered a “chick-flick” today, but which rises above the standard cheap laughs and love.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response