Richmond’s historic Byrd Theater presents Frank Capra’s classic film It Happened One Night this Wednesday (5/31) at 7:30 PM.
The film tells the story of Ellie Andrews, who has eloped against her wealthy family’s wishes, they think Ellie’s new husband is just after her money. Her father Alexander (Walter Connolly) locks her up on a boat and plans to have her marriage annulled. Ellie has other ideas and jumps off the boat and swims away then catches a bus bound for New York.
On the same bus is newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable). He’s just lost his job after a drunken phone call to his boss. Due to an overcrowded bus, Peter’s forced to share a seat with Ellie. He thinks she’s a spoiled rich kid, she has no use for Peter either. When her belongings are stolen, she’s forced to get help from Peter in order to reach New York. He wants an exclusive story on Ellie, if she doesn’t cooperate, Peter will contact her father. They can’t stand each other, but (and I don’t think this we be a spoil, even for those who haven’t seen the film) that will all change before It Happened One Night comes to an end.
This film served as a template for a whole lot of Romantic Comedies that have followed in the ensuing 73 years. Ellie and Peter “meet cute,” being forced to share a small seat on the bus. At one point, he even falls into her arms. And of course tons of movie couples have hated each other when they first encounter one another.
It Happened One Night is historically important for other reasons.
It was the first film to win Academy Awards for the “top five” Oscar categories: Best Picture, Director (Capra), Actor, Actress and Screenplay (Robert Riskin). This would be Gable’s only Oscar, which is perhaps a surprise, since many seem to think he won for Gone With The Wind.
There’s a scene where Gable takes off his dress shirt, revealing his bare chest. This was somewhat risque for 1934 (the film was released just before Hollywood’s production code was strictly enforced).
Gable’s lack of an undershirt allegedly led to a drastic decline in the sales of undershirts!
It Happened One Night runs May 31 at 7:30 as part of the Byrd’s Cinema For Cinephiles series.
– Jason Morris