Saturday, June 01, 2013

Tonight's Movie: It Happened One Night (1934) at the TCM Classic Film Festival

Time now to take a quick visit back in time to Day Four of the TCM Classic Film Festival, and the wonderful screening I enjoyed of Frank Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934).

The movie was introduced by historian Cari Beauchamp. She has admirers but I'll be honest and say I felt her flip presentation was lacking in insight. I felt every other introduction I saw at the festival put the film in historical context, added to my general knowledge of the film, and/or gave me a deeper appreciation of one of the filmmakers. A jokey list of so-called "bloopers" in the movie just didn't work for me, but I suspect I have a minority opinion in this regard.

That said, I couldn't have enjoyed the screening more! IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT was shown in a really lovely digital print, and the audience was deeply appreciative. You know you're watching a movie with the right crowd when there's spontaneous applause at the appearance of Ward Bond as the first bus driver in the movie.

As I mentioned in my overview of the festival's final day, I initially approached the film with a somewhat blase attitude, having seen it numerous times over the years, including at the late, lamented Vagabond Theater.

I think I perhaps took the film a little for granted, because seeing the film again for the first time in a number of years was a revelation. The movie felt completely fresh, and I marveled anew at the movie's construction and all the delightful moments it contains. I also really appreciated the performances of Gable and Colbert.

For anyone who may not have caught the film yet, Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is a runaway heiress who's argued with her father (Walter Connolly) over her plans to marry oily King Westley (Jameson Thomas). Newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable) realizes who Ellie is and tags along on her bus ride, planning a great scoop of a story -- but instead he falls in love.

Gable and Colbert are, quite simply, perfection, the best in the business. The movie has countless well-remembered scenes, from dunking donuts to Gable's lack of an undershirt to hitchhiking to the "Walls of Jericho," and Gable and Colbert are at the forefront of every one. I left the film with fresh admiration for the talent of both actors.

This time around I especially appreciated Joseph Walker's cinematography. The motor court sequence with the rain pouring down outside the windows, and then the bright sunshine early the next morning, was moving and memorable. For me the visual and emotional beauty of these scenes was what made this particular screening really special. I'm so glad I gave the film a fresh look, as it provided a great afternoon at the movies.

The movie runs 106 minutes, and I think my only quibble with the film is it does go on a bit too long at the end before Peter and Ellie get together.

The film's supporting cast includes Roscoe Karns and Alan Hale.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT swept the major Oscars, winning Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay (Robert Riskin). It was an Oscar record that stood for a few decades.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is available on DVD as part of the Frank Capra Premiere Collection or as a single title. It's available for rental from Netflix or ClassicFlix.

It can be rented from Amazon Instant Video, and it had a release on VHS.

Highly recommended, whether it's a first viewing or the 12th!

November 2014 Update: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.

March 2019 Update: I loved watching this film all over again at a UCLA screening. Pure movie joy!


Blogger Waves of Gray said...

It Happened One Night is also a great film to introduce to people who are unfamiliar with or skeptical about classic cinema because, as you stated, it still plays so well. I have several friends that thought B&W films were too old and boring but changed their minds after seeing this movie. It's been a few years since I last viewed it, so I'm overdue for a refresher too!

9:26 PM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

It's a great movie. The only Frank Capra movie I've ever enjoyed.

2:15 AM  
Blogger Ken Zimmerman Jr. said...

The movie is based on a short story called "Night Bus", which was written in the early 1930s. We read the story and screened the movie, when I was a student at Wash. U. in St. Louis. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and try to catch it, whenever it is on. All three of my kids liked it too.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Stephen Reginald said...

I absolutely love this movie. It has everything: great writing, direction, performances, and what a cast. Gable has never been better. If he didn't play Rhett Butler, Peter Warnes is the role he'd be most identified with. Both stars have wonderful chemistry and play off each other extraordinarily well. And I agree with you about the cinematography. It's wonderful. I love the shot of Colbert walking through the motor park on her way to the showers. Simply brilliant.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Once, laid up with the flu I kept the movie on while lying on the couch with my eyes closed. While I missed out on Walker's lovely cinematography I gained a greater appreciation of the performances, especially from Gable.

Spontaneous applause for Ward Bond? Lovely.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

My favorite movie bus trip.

12:23 PM  

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