It Happened One Night  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

It Happened One Night is an American 1934 screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable). The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams, which provided the shooting title. It Happened One Night was one of the last film romantic comedies created before the MPAA began enforcing the 1930 production code in 1934. Despite of its title the movie takes place over several nights and none is particularly key to the plot.

The film was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat that would not be matched until One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and later by The Silence of the Lambs (1991). In 1993, It Happened One Night was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." It was remade as a 1956 musical comedy, You Can't Run Away from It, starring Jack Lemmon and June Allyson.

Plot

Spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) marries fortune-hunter "King" Westley (Jameson Thomas) against the wishes of her extremely wealthy father (Walter Connolly). He retrieves his daughter before the marriage can be consummated, but then she runs away, literally leaping off the side of the family yacht. Boarding a bus to New York City, she meets fellow passenger Peter Warne (Clark Gable), an out-of-work newspaper reporter. He recognizes her and gives her a choice: if she will give him an exclusive on her story, he will help her reunite with Westley, otherwise he will tell her father where she is and collect the reward. She agrees.

Various adventures follow. When they have to hitchhike, Peter claims to be an expert on the subject. When nothing he tries works, eventually, out of frustration, he ends up thumbing his nose at passing cars. The sheltered Ellie then shows him how it's done. She stops the next car dead in its tracks by lifting up her skirt and showing off a shapely leg (see image below).

One night, when they are nearing the end of their journey, Peter leaves to make some arrangements. The owners of the auto court in which they are staying see that his car is gone and assume he has left without paying. They roust Ellie out of bed and kick her out. Believing Peter has deserted her, Ellie calls her father, who is so relieved to get her back that he agrees to let her have her way. Ellie has fallen in love with Peter, but she thinks he betrayed her for the reward money, so she agrees to have a second, formal wedding with Westley. Meanwhile, Peter believes he's the one who's been double-crossed.

Peter gets in touch with Ellie's father to settle up. Mr. Andrews offers him the large reward promised, but Peter will have none of it. He just wants to be paid $39.60 for the expenses incurred on the trip. Intrigued, the father badgers the reporter until he gets the truth: Peter loves Ellie (though he thinks he's out of his mind to do so). Peter leaves with the check he asked for.

While walking his daughter down the aisle, Andrews tells her what he has found out and encourages her to run off again, telling her there is a car waiting for her out back; at the last moment, she does. Her father pays off Westley, who agrees to have the marriage annulled, enabling Ellie to marry Peter.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "It Happened One Night" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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