It Happened One Night ★★★★½

I first heard of this film a few years ago through the Warner Archive Collection Podcast when it was discussed briefly during an episode about Love on the Run. Both sounded fun, but I never got around to seeing either. It Happened One Night played last summer during the classic film series at The Louisville Palace, but I missed that screening. A friend of mine went with his fiancee and they both enjoyed it quite a lot. Having now seen it for myself, I can appreciate why.

Movies like this are always dicey, because they rely not only on contrivances, but also on plot points that are predictable and cliched. The make-or-break element is always in the execution, and the appeal of the cast. Offhand, the only other Clark Gable performance I can name that I've seen is Gone with the Wind, which I didn't care for when I saw it eleven years ago. This was also only my second viewing of a Claudette Colbert performance, having just recently seen her for the first time in Imitation of Life a couple weeks ago.

They're instantly likable, have great chemistry together and were given some terrific dialog by Robert Riskin's screenplay. I can trace a lot of movies I've seen and enjoyed back to this film, from Roman Holiday to Star Wars. Their road trip was tremendous fun, particularly during the scene in which the musicians lead the entire group in a sing-along. Any movie that makes me want to actually be where the characters are has won me over, and by the end of that bit I was completely sold on this one.

I don't necessarily find myself attracted to Claudette Colbert. She's pretty, sure, but there's something about her that just feels so...innocent? Pure? Childlike? Whatever it is I'm trying to describe, the point is that she has an irresistible smile and I just like watching her. There's an aura of joy around her that I find warm and endearing. It's interesting that Gable and Colbert both won Academy Awards for this picture, given how unthinkable it would be for a romcom to net either a Best Actor and Best Actress award - much less both - today.

How It Happened One Night Entered My Flickchart

It Happened One Night > Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man --> #743
Ordinarily, I'd pick a Universal Monsters movie over a romcom, but this isn't "ordinarily". It Happened One Night is very nearly magical, and while Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man is solid fun, it's not as special or captivating as its predecessors.

It Happened One Night > Kill Bill Vol. 2 --> #372
I can see strong arguments either way in this match, but for me it comes down to one very simple thing: I just *felt* better after seeing It Happened One Night.

It Happened One Night > The Bat --> #186
Story-wise, I'm more drawn to the mystery of The Bat, but I was entirely charmed by Gable & Colbert in It Happened One Night.

It Happened One Night < Batman: Mask of the Phantasm --> #186
Were it not for my near-obsession with Batman, the charisma of Gable & Colbert would carry the day here. Mask of the Phantasm remains one of the most satisfying Batman screen adventures to date, though, and it gets the nod.

It Happened One Night < A History of Violence --> #186
Hmm...the endearing charm of Gable & Colbert, or the grit and rawness of Mortenson & Bello? I'm too big a Bello fan to pick against her here, but I'm quickly becoming a Colbert fan so that could change in the future.

It Happened One Night > Star Trek V: The Final Frontier --> #161
This would be laughably easy for most Flickcharters, but I have long held a soft spot for Star Trek V. It's no light endorsement for me to pick It Happened One Night here.

It Happened One Night < The Living Daylights --> #161
I was thoroughly entertained by It Happened One Night and I'm quickly becoming a fan of Claudette Colbert's screen work, but this time at least, I still favor Timothy Dalton's under-appreciated 007 debut.

It Happened One Night < Lady and the Tramp --> #161
What's better than a charming romcom? A charming romcom with dogs eating spaghetti!

It Happened One Night > Office Space --> #158
Office Space is a brilliant satire of the soul-crushing nature of office work and I enjoy and admire it, but the truth is that It Happened One Night appeals to a more magical part of my movie-watching sensibilities and that gets it the win.

It Happened One Night < How the Grinch Stole Christmas! --> #158
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has been dear to me since my youth, and I return to it annually. However, being a TV special and not actually a movie (or even a short film), I have a hard time picking it...

It Happened One Night entered my Flickchart at #158/1486

7th Academy Awards (1934)
(W) ACTOR -- Clark Gable {"Peter Warne"}
(W) ACTRESS -- Claudette Colbert {"Ellie Andrews"}
(W) DIRECTING -- Frank Capra
(W) WRITING (Adaptation) -- Robert Riskin