It Happened One Night

July 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm (Capra, Classics) (, , , , , )


Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert, directed by Frank Capra

What a movie.  It’s one of the beautiful classics I saw eons ago and not since.  Claudette Colbert is Ellie Andrews, who has run off and married King Westley, a world-famous pilot – and her father doesn’t like it.  He has grabbed her up and stuck her on a yacht and is taking her home.

This ties in to “The Popcorn Dialogues”, a podcast which I’ve just discovered, which is two writers looking at romantic comedies and how they convey the story, whether it’s done well, and how, and why.  This was, coincidentally, the first movie they tackled.  At the beginning of the podcast they talk about how someone tweeting during the film said they didn’t like Ellie – but as the ladies and Ellie herself point out, she’s not a spoiled brat.  She’s bursting out because she’s never had her own way, and she has decided that she is going to do this dammit, because after all she loves her pilot – doesn’t she?  I thought the beginning was wonderful: she is refusing to eat, and so the father orders food brought to her cabin and goes to see her.  When the stewards bring the food in Ellie yells at them – she told them not to bring any more food! – and they cower before her.  The father makes them put it down, and as soon as it’s down they scamper.  She’s a terror, she is.

He provokes her, so she jumps off the boat and swims for it – and manages to evade the men Dad sends after her.  A telling detail: right then he’s angry, and frustrated, and kinda proud of her: “She’s too smart for you!”  Nice character development.  Next time we see Ellie, right after a moment with either detectives or reporters (sorry – can’t remember) talking about how she would never travel by bus, she is paying off a little old lady who went to the ticket counter for her for a ticket to New York.  Ellie very sweetly thanks her and tips her.

We are introduced to Peter Warne in that station, on the phone with his editor being thoroughly fired.  Again, nice character development – he is hung up on, and, since he has an audience, creates a new ending to the story.  On the bus – to New York, of course – he can’t resist getting into a battle of wits with an unarmed man – the conductor.  “Oh yeah?” It could be a revelation of an ugliness in him, baiting a poor stupid Neanderthal in front of an audience, but the Neanderthal is so very stupid he hasn’t the least idea that he is being baited.  He is probably certain that “Oh yeah?” is all the witty riposte that is needed.  And Peter isn’t cruel about it – he surrenders, and the conductor never sees the mockery.

He turns to his seat, and finds it has become occupied while he fenced: Ellie.  And she’s tired, and not in any mood to yield.  And so it begins – – and as it begins so it continues, bristly and funny and growing quickly warmer.  Their relationship was genuine – they’re on the same level, intellectually and in terms of understanding, and it looks like a keeper.  They’ll wear well.

Cropped screenshot of Clark Gable and Claudett...

Image via Wikipedia

One apparent bone of contention is that people think she’s extremely bratty because she expects the bus to wait for her – but she simply doesn’t know any better.  It isn’t as if she’s ever been on a bus before; she asked nicely – it wasn’t as though she came back late and expected them to have waited.  She let the driver know she needed to go somewhere (they never did explain why she needed to go to that hotel), let him know about how late she would be, and had no frame of reference to know that that wasn’t the way things work.

Cropped screenshot of Claudette Colbert and Cl...

Image via Wikipedia

I love the tidbits some of the hosts – on Reel 13, and on TCM (On Demand in this case) (I swear, I want a quarter every time I mention On Demand or Reel 13).  This time I learned: Claudette Colbert didn’t want to hoist her skirt and “hitch-hike”; she didn’t think it was funny.  He said that was fine; they would bring in a leg double.  Claudette changed her mind.  And, to her surprise, from that moment on she was mentioned any time gorgeous gams were listed: Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, and Claudette Colbert.  Hee.

I’ve said it before about other movies – it won’t be nearly as long till I see this again.

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