As much as I love watching romantic comedies from the ‘90s and early 2000s, classic film romances continue to give me such a thrill. One of these is Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, which came out in 1934. It was the first of only three films to ever sweep the five major categories at the Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay). And this happened for a romantic comedy!
The movie follows Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), a spoiled heiress, who runs away from her father after he disapproves of her elopement with pilot King Westley. She is desperately trying to make her way to New York and meets a journalist, Peter Warne (Clark Gable), on the bus. Though she tries to hide her identity, Peter knows who she is and offers his help to reunite her with Westley in exchange for the story.
What makes this romantic comedy great is how simple it is, but you still can’t wait to see what happens next. There are so many tropes that I enjoy here: road trips, fake marriage, and pretending to not have feelings because of a job. That last one is really prevalent here. Watching characters reluctantly fall in love is just the best. Also, it has one of the most iconic hitchhiking scenes of all time.
Why this movie succeeds is due to the chemistry between Colbert and Gable, as well as the amazing banter. Their exchanges sparkle because of the wit and delivery given by these talented actors. Ellie may be spoiled, but she’s determined to make her own decisions and not be pushed around by her father. Peter comes off as a drunk, but he is surprisingly tender toward her and cares for her well-being even before he learns the truth about her. For people only used to Gable as Rhett Butler or tough guy characters, this showcases his comedic ability.
It Happened One Night is a perfect choice for your next romantic comedy binge. If you haven’t seen any other classic romantic comedy, this is a good starting point as it also introduces elements of screwball comedy.
What are your favorite classic romantic comedies?