Frank Capra's seminal screwball comedy, which won all five major Academy Awards for 1934, is still as breezy and beguiling today. Claudette Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, a spoiled heiress who has married fortune-hunting aviator King… More Frank Capra's seminal screwball comedy, which won all five major Academy Awards for 1934, is still as breezy and beguiling today. Claudette Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, a spoiled heiress who has married fortune-hunting aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), despite her father (Walter Connolly)'s objections. To keep Ellie from marrying this lothario, her father has been holding her prisoner aboard his yacht. But Ellie bolts from the yacht, swims ashore in her clothes, and eventually slips onto a Greyhound bus bound for New York. Aboard the bus is newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who has recently been fired for drinking on the job. Peter gets the last seat on the bus -- but when he gets up to argue with the bus driver, Ellie takes his seat. Since it is the last seat on the bus, they have to share it. When Ellie has her purse stolen and she refuses to report it, Peter begins to suspect something. The next morning, they both miss the bus after a leisurely breakfast, and Peter reveals that he knows her identity. She makes a deal with him: if he helps her get to New York, he can write a scoop about her for his paper. Peter thinks she is a spoiled brat, however, and refuses a monetary bribe: "I'm not interested in your money or your problem. You, King Westley, your father -- you're all a lot of hooey to me!" But as they travel northward and engage in a series of misadventures, the gruff newspaperman and the spoiled rich girl, thrown together by circumstances, fall in love with each other. This movie set the pace for the "screwball" comedy, the witty and romantic clash of temperaments between a man and a woman mismatched in both personality and social position, a type of movie often associated with Katherine Hepburn in such classics as Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and, with Spencer Tracy, Adam's Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Desk Set (1957), among others. The only other movies to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay) were One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
Consensus: Capturing its stars and director at their finest, It Happened One Night remains unsurpassed by the countless romantic comedies it has inspired.