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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

It Happened One Night (1934)


  • Frank Capra, Director

  • Robert Riskin, Writer

  • Howard Jackson and Louis Silvers, Music

  • Clark Gable as Peter Warne

  • Claudette Colbert as Ellen "Ellie" Andrews

  • Walter Connolly as Alexander Andrews

  • Roscoe Karns as Oscar Shapeley

  • Jameson Thomas as "King" Westley

  • Alan Hale as Danker

  • Arthur Hoyt as Zeke

  • Blanche Friderici as Zeke's wife

  • Charles C. Wilson as Joe Gordon


  • It Happened One Night was originally released on February 22, 1934 making this its 90th anniversary this year.

  • After filming was done, Colbert complained to her friend, "I just finished the worst picture in the world." Columbia appeared to have low expectations for the film and did not mount much of an advertising campaign for it.

  • Even so, many critics of the time lauded the film particularly for its two star leads.

  • Despite the positive reviews, the film was only moderately successful in its initial run. After it was released to secondary movie houses, ticket sales became brisk, especially in smaller towns where the film's characters and simple romance struck a chord with moviegoers who were not surrounded by luxury, and it turned out to be a major box office smash making $2.5 million worldwide on a budget of $325,000.

  • The film would win all five of the Academy Awards for which it was nominated at the 7th Academy Awards for 1934: Best Picture, Director (Capra), Actor (Gable), Actress (Colbert), and Adapted Screenplay (Riskin).

  • It has since been know to be only one of three films to win the so called Big 5 at the Oscars along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

  • It has since had several remake versions as well as adaptations into other cultures including many Indian film versions.

  • The AFI has recognized the film on the following lists:

    • 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #35

    • 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #8

    • 2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #38

    • 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:

    • Ellie Andrews: "Well, I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb." – Nominated

    • 2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #46

    • 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10: Romantic Comedy – #3

  • In 1993, it was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

  • It Happened One Night currently holds a 98% among critics on RT, an 87 score on Metacritic, and a 4.1/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie about?/Elevator Pitch: Classic meet-cute whereby two people from different circumstances find kinship in each other when they realize they want the same things in life.

Plot Summary: "It Happened One Night" is a classic romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The story follows Ellie Andrews, a wealthy heiress who runs away from her controlling father to elope with her lover. On a bus journey to New York, she meets Peter Warne, a recently fired newspaper reporter. Initially, they clash, but as they travel together, they develop a begrudging respect and eventually fall in love. Along the way, they encounter various obstacles and misadventures, including hitchhiking, sleeping in hay, and masquerading as a married couple to evade capture. Ultimately, Ellie realizes her love for Peter and decides to pursue a life with him instead of her wealthy upbringing. The film is celebrated for its witty dialogue, charming performances, and endearing depiction of love blossoming between two unlikely companions.

Did You Know:

  • In 1935, after her Academy Award nomination, Colbert decided not to attend the ceremony since she felt she would not win and planned to take a cross-country railroad trip. After she was named the winner, studio chief Harry Cohn sent someone to "drag her off" the train, which had not departed, to take her to the ceremony. Colbert arrived wearing a two-piece traveling suit which she had had the Paramount Pictures costume designer, Travis Banton, make for her trip.

  • Clark Gable gave the Oscar he won for his performance in this movie to a child who admired it, telling him it was the winning of the statue that had mattered, not owning it. The child returned the Oscar to the Gable family after Clark's death.

  • On December 15, 1996, Gable's Oscar was auctioned off to Steven Spielberg for $607,500, who donated the statuette to the Motion Picture Academy. In June of 1997, Colbert's Oscar was offered for auction by Christie's but attracted no bids.

  • While shooting the scene where he undresses, Clark Gable had trouble removing his undershirt while keeping his humorous flow going and took too long. As a result, the undershirt was abandoned altogether. An urban legend follows that it then became cool to not wear an undershirt, which supposedly resulted in a large drop in undershirt sales around the country. Legend also has it that in response, some underwear manufacturers tried to sue Columbia.

  • The unpublished memoirs of animator Friz Freleng mention that this was one of his favorite films. It Happened One Night has a few interesting parallels with, and may have even inspired certain characteristics of, the cartoon character Bugs Bunny, who made his first appearance six years later, and who Freleng helped develop. In the film, a minor character, Oscar Shapely, continually calls the Gable character "Doc," an imaginary character named "Bugs Dooley" is mentioned once in order to frighten Shapely, and there is also a scene in which Gable eats carrots while talking quickly with his mouth full, as Bugs does.

  • Clark Gable was loaned to this film by MGM as punishment for his affair with Joan Crawford.

Best Performance: Frank Capra (Director)

Best Secondary Performance: Robert Riskin (Writer)/Clark Gable (Peter)

Most Charismatic Award: Clark Gable (Peter)

Best Scene:

  • Ellie Gets Robbed

  • Missing the Bus

  • The Walls of Jericho

  • Peter Ditches Shapeley

  • Hitchhiking

  • New York

  • The Wedding

Favorite Scene: Missing the Bus/Peter Ditches Shapeley

Most Indelible Moment: Hitchhiking/The Walls of Jericho

In Memorium:

  • Janice Burgess, 72, American television writer, producer and executive (The Backyardigans*, Winx Club, Blue's Clues)

  • Betty Brodel, 104, American actress (Swing Hostess, Too Young to Know, Cinderella Jones).

  • Juli Lynne Charlot, 101, American actress and fashion designer - inventor of the poodle skirt

  • Mark Dodson, 64, American voice actor (Gremlins, Return of the Jedi, Day of the Dead)

  • Charles Dierkop, 87, American actor (Police Woman, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting)

  • Kenneth Mitchell, 49, Canadian actor (Jericho, Star Trek: Discovery, Miracle, Captain Marvel)

  • Buddy Duress, 38, American actor (Good Time, Heaven Knows What, Person to Person)

  • Jackie Loughery, 93, American actress (The D.I., Judge Roy Bean) and beauty pageant titleholder, Miss USA (1952).

  • Chris Gauthier, 48, Canadian actor (Smallville, Eureka, and Once Upon a Time)

  • Chris Mortensen, 72, NFL reporter and journalist (ESPN)

  • Eddie Driscoll, 60, American actor (The Last Ship, Various TV Credits on Sex and the City, Mad Men, Entourage, and This is Us)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Alexander Andrews: I asked you a simple question! Do you love her?

Peter Warne: YES! But don't hold that against me, I'm a little screwy myself!

[Peter makes a couple of "beds" from hay off of a haystack]

Peter Warne: All right, come on. Your bed's all ready.

Ellie Andrews: I'll get my clothes all wrinkled.

Peter Warne: Well, then take 'em off.

Ellie Andrews: What?

Peter Warne: All right, don't take 'em off. Do whatever you please, but shut up about it!

Ellie Andrews: Aren't you going to give me a little credit?

Peter Warne: What for?

Ellie Andrews: I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.

Peter Warne: Why didn't you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.

Ellie Andrews: Well, ooo, I'll remember that when we need forty cars.

Ellie Andrews: You think I'm a fool and a spoiled brat. Well, perhaps I am, although I don't see how I can be. People who are spoiled are accustomed to having their own way. I never have. On the contrary. I've always been told what to do, and how to do it, and when, and with whom. Would you believe it? This is the first time I've ever been alone with a man!

Peter Warne: Yeah?

Ellie Andrews: It's a wonder I'm not panic-stricken.

Peter Warne: You're doing alright.

Ellie Andrews: Thanks. Nurses, governesses, chaperones, even bodyguards. Oh, it's been a lot of fun.

Peter Warne: I want to see what love looks like when it's triumphant. I haven't had a good laugh in a week.

Peter Warne: You know, I had you pegged right from the jump. Just a spoiled brat of a rich father. The only way you get anything is to buy it, isn't it? You're in a jam and all you can think of is your money. It never fails, does it? Ever hear of the word humility? No, you wouldn't. I guess it would never occur to you to just say, 'Please mister, I'm in trouble, will you help me?' No, that would bring you down off your high horse for a minute. Well, let me tell you something, maybe it will take a load off your mind. You don't have to worry about me. I'm not interested in your money or your problem. You, King Westley, your father. You're all a lot of hooey to me!

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5.5

Impact/Significance: 9.75

Novelty: 7.75

Classic-ness: 6.75

Rewatchability: 7

Audience Score: 9.1 (89% Google, 93% RT)

Total: 45.85

Remaining Questions:

  • Do Peter and Ellie stay married?

  • Do they live a simple lifestyle or a luxurious heiress one?

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