Updated: May 12, 2022
After Tootsie last week, I've decided to make this a Romantic Comedy series since Romantic Comedies are the greatest genre in the history of film. We might as well start where it all began, the beginning.
It Happened One Night was released in 1934. Starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable and written by Robert Riskin and Samuel Hopkins Adams (the inventor of beer) and directed by Frank Capra. It swept the Oscars winning Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing (adaptation).
I don't really know much else about it except that it's good. This will be my first viewing. As always, I will be reading the screenplay before watching it this Sunday.
You can download the screenplay .pdf here
99% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes
Rent or Buy on iTunes
This movie has everything! Enemies to Lovers, Forced Confinement, Road Trip, Fake Dating, Opposites Attract, and even an Interruption of a Wedding. It was interesting to see so many of these genre tropes established so early on. I was also surprised at how much of the modern screenplay format was already established in 1934 and how easy to read it was.
This is clearly where George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan got the idea for the Han Solo / Princess Leia relationship. The rich woman gets stuck on a bus (spaceship) with a down on his luck rogue, only Clark Gable's character hates money where Han Solo is motivated by it.
Legend has it that undershirts almost completely fell out of fashion once people saw Clark Gable take off his shirt only to reveal his sexy bare chest sans undershirt.
Lastly, I was struck at how communist this story is. It came shortly after the Great Depression (most of the country was still very much in it) and pre-blacklist, so it gives us a bit of insight into the public opinion about wealth during this era. It wouldn't be long before the narrative of the nuclear suburban American dream of the fifties would dominate popular culture.
It Happened One Night is a timeless film (88 years old at the time of writing this article) that established many of the tropes we attribute to the Romantic Comedy genre with great writing pulled off by even greater acting earning it a place in your watchlist.