It Happened One Night(1934)

It Happened One Night (1934), directed by Frank Capra.


He: (referring to a bus seat) That upon which you sit is mine.

She: (pause) I beg your pardon?

A runaway reporter picks up a runaway heiress and teaches her to get some grit and be less spoiled. Do you think they might fall in love, too?

Much is made of noir photography in later decades, but look at it's precursor in the lovely composition and lighting here. This is the magical Silver Screen. Moonlight on the water, a haystack under the stars, smoking in bed with faint light from outside, rain beating on the window. This was photographed by the great Joseph Walker.

Made right at the end of the pre-Code era, there is nothing really outrageous here, although an unmarried man and woman -- registered as Mr & Mrs -- did not often share a motel room, undress and spend the night together in film, even if separated by a hanging blanket.

Claudette Colbert in her undergarments: I think the censors put an end to that for a few years.

Clark Gable was from Ohio. What accent does he use? It seems to me he sometimes tries to talk "black" as way of demonstrating style and rebelliousness.

He also threatens quite a bit of violence toward her as a means of instruction and discipline. Does he mean it? She accepts it passively and appreciates his manliness.

This is what Depression audiences wanted: a peek at the frivolous but likeable rich, but also reassurance that the stressed common folk had kindness, dignity and fortitude of their own. You want a director sympathetic to the down-and-out, their hopes, humanity and good humor? Frank Capra is your man.

Watch Gable wave at the tramps on the train, and see how they laugh and wave back.

Finally let me note the bouncing bus ride. A lot of films from the period didn't even try to suggest that level of realism.

Criterion Blu-ray. The quality is nothing special by today's standards, but still a great improvement over earlier home video, with some variation between reels. It looks fine for an 80 year old film.