It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

One of those stories that without a particularly strong plot manages to come through in a big way, due to the acting, dialog, situations and direction. In other words, the story has that intangible quality of charm which arises from a smooth blending of the various ingredients. Difficult to analyze, impossible to designedly reproduce. Just a happy accident.

It starts off to be another long-distance bus story, but they get out of the bus before it palls and it is not handicapped by the restraint that locale always seems to impose.

Plot is a simple one. The headstrong but very charming daughter of a millionaire marries a suitor of whom her father does not approve. She quarrels with her father on the yacht off Miami, and the girl goes over the rail. She seeks to make her way to New York, with the old man raising the hue and cry. Peter Warne, who has just been fired from his Florida correspondent’s job, is on the same bus. The story is thin and frequently illogical, but the action carries it along so fluently and amusingly that there is small chance to take time out to argue the plausibility.

But the author would have been nowhere without the deft direction of Frank Capra and the spirited and good-humored acting of the stars and practically most of their support. Walter Connolly is the only other player to get much of a show, but there are a dozen with bit parts well played.

Miss Colbert makes hers a very delightful assignment and Gable swings along at sustained speed. Both play as though they really liked their characters, and therein lies much of the charm.

“Tonight” proves two things. A clean story can be funnier than a dirty one and the best way to do a bus story is to make them get out and walk.



1934: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Clark Gable), Actress (Claudette Colbert), Adaptation

It Happened One Night

  • Production: Columbia. Director Frank Capra; Producer Frank Capra; Screenplay Robert Riskin; Camera Joseph Walker; Editor Gene Havlick; Music Louis Silvers (dir.); Art Director Stephen Goosson. At Music Hall, N.Y., week Feb. 22.
  • Crew: (B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Original review text from 1934. Running time: 105 MIN.
  • With: Peter - Clark Gable Ellie - Claudette Colbert Alexander Andrews - Walter Connolly Shapeley - Roscoe Karns King Westley - Jameson Thomas Danker - Alan Hale