1934's Best Picture winner, Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, is one of the best movies you haven't seen. For as old as it is, it really doesn't seem like it has aged all that much. It is one of the great romantic comedies, both hilarious and oddly touching, and it captures the thirties like few films I've seen have.
The movie is about a out-of-work reporter (Gable) who meets a runaway daddy's girl (Colbert) on a night bus to New York. She is trying to avoid detectives sent out by her father, and is helpless in the world of common people. He agrees to help her so long as he gets the exclusive story after she meets up with the lover she is determined to marry.
It is the classic story of the mismatched couple that every romantic comedy has tried to tell. The thing is, this one tells it right. Gable and Colbert have uncommon chemistry on the screen, and Capra's everyman touch makes it seem like this might actually happen somewhere, even if it is the idyllic American past. It is filled with all these great Capra moments, like a bus full of strangers all singing "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" together like they do it all the time. It is just as entertaining an escapist flick now as it was for Depression-era Americans 80 years ago.
One might think that, compared with the epics that had won Best Picture before it, It Happened One Night might seem an unlikely choice. The story certainly isn't very "deep", nor is its action particularly seat-riveting. What makes it stick out is its technique. Capra was one of the revolutionaries of pre-war Hollywood, one of the first to be more concerned with the lives of two characters than the events that keep them apart. With that, the actors have so much room to move around in and to explore. Gable's character even went on to influence Bugs Bunny's smart alecky carrot addiction. In that sense it feels quite modern, something quite ahead of its time.
So if you and your girlfriend are looking for something to watch that isn't from the Nicholas Sparks universe or something, try It Happened One Night and get some culture.
The movie features Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and is not rated.
by Chase Harrison