In a Nutshell: It Happened One Night (1934)
Directed by: Frank Capra
Co-stars: Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
Synopsis: Gable is Peter Warne, a cocky newspaperman who has just been fired. On a bus to New York, he meets Ellie Andrews (Colbert), a runaway heiress, on her way to be reunited with her new husband whom her father detests. Peter soon realizes her identity and befriends her so he can get the exclusive story. Along the way, after masquerading as man and wife at an auto camp, sleeping in a field, hitch hiking and stealing a car, they fall in love. When Peter leaves Ellie at a motel in the middle of the night to try and get some money from his old boss to marry her, she mistakenly thinks he has left her for good and calls her father (Connolly) and husband to pick her up. Peter is heartbroken and so is Ellie. She agrees to her father’s wishes that she re-marry her husband, since they were not married by a priest. On her re-wedding day, Peter shows up to collect money from her father for what he spent on her during the trip. He admits to her father that he loves her.
Best Gable Quote: “Perhaps you’re interested in how a man undresses. You know, it’s a funny thing about that. Quite a study in psychology, no two men do it alike. You know, I once knew a man who kept his hat on until he was completely undressed. Yeah, now he made a picture. Years later his secret came out—he wore a toupee. Yeah. No, I have a method all my own. If you notice the coat came first then the tie then the shirt. Now, uh, according to hoyle, after that the pants should be next. Here’s where I’m different. I go for the shoes next. First the right then the left. After that it’s every man for himself.” (Ok, it is nearly impossible to pick one great quote, there are so many, but I had to pick the undressing scene)
Fun Fact: Gable won his only Academy Award for this film; his first nomination. It Happened One Night was the first film to sweep the main categories of the awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Only two films have accomplished the feat since: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs.
My Verdict: Do I really need to go into why this one is a Gable Essential? It is comedy perfection in every element. Romantic, silly, sweet, and dramatic all in one. The script is absolutely wonderful, the direction excellent and Clark and Claudette are perfect. It is a simple little film, with the characters making nary a costume change and the settings far from glamorous, but it is that great script and the superb acting that makes it great. It is so romantic that at the end it surprises you when you realize that Clark and Claudette don’t kiss even once. I completely love this film.