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Oscars Challenge #68: It Happened One Night (1934) Movie Review

Do you know about those famous hitchhiking scenes in romantic comedy movies today where the female character stretches out her hands and do a thumbs up, hoping for a car to stop? That idea came from this 1934 Best Picture classic; It Happened One Night.

This is the first film to win the Big five categories at the Oscars. My jaw dropped because I wasn't expecting so much from this film, especially since it came out almost 90 years ago. A movie that stood the test of time and rightfully established what a romantic comedy should be.


It Happened One Night follows the story of a spoiled heiress, Elie Andrews, who goes against her father's wishes and decides to jump off their yacht to pursue the love of her life and husband, King Westley. She boards a bus going to New York City. Then she meets a newspaper reporter named Peter Warne, who lost his job. He recognizes and blackmails her by letting her choose to give him an exclusive story; otherwise, he will tell her whereabouts to her father. With no choice, Elie agreed.

Elie and Peter go on several adventures and mishaps along the way. She initially hated him because he did not fall for her bad attitude. Eventually, her feelings toward the reporter change, and she falls in love. As their journey nears the end, Elie is getting more inclined to discontinue her marriage and confess her love to Peter.

This movie is by the legendary director, Frank Capra. It also features the incredible talents of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.


It Happened One Night significantly establishes what a romantic comedy movie should be. It's straightforward, mixed with a couple of screwball moments. The film doesn't drag; you feel part of the character's journey. When Hollywood flicks are still experimenting with new genres to entice the audience to go to the theaters, It Happened One Night is a success.

However, despite being a hit mixed with positive reviews from almost everyone, this movie has its fair share of mad history. The chemistry between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable is in shambles, and they even hated the script. The director also claims that Colbert had so many instances of having tantrums while filming. She did not like the pulling-up-the-skirt moment in the hitchhiking scene because she deemed it unladylike. They initially replaced her with a double, but she eventually agreed to do the scene because the actress they picked looked different than her. When the filming is done, Colbert even mentions that this is her worst film.

Nobody knew that despite this movie's crazy adverse production history would be a widespread success. It's a testament to how it influenced a lot of future romantic comedy films.

Reportedly, interstate traveling through Greyhound busses became a thing after the film premiered.

In the movie, Clark Gable's character, Peter, also mentions something about an imaginary crook named Bugs Dooley. Some minor character also calls him Doc at one point. During Peter and Elie's walking escapade, you can also see his character holding a bunch of carrots while eating and talking quickly. Despite having no factual claims, it's safe to say that this film inspired the creation of Bugs Bunny.

It's pretty outstanding for a film that may soon hit the century mark to be this good. A movie that aged like fine wine. A movie that truly defines what greatness should be. It Happened One Night is a gem among gems.

A perfect 5 out of 5 stars.

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