The first film to win the Oscar grand slam (Actor, Actress, Director, Picture, and Screenplay), It Happened One Night is probably one of the more recognizable films that I've chosen to blog about, so if you've never heard of some of my choices, I hope you've heard of this one.
Anyway, if you read my entry on The Bride Came C.O.D. you know that that film is essentially a rip-off of this film, so the plots are very similar. Claudette Colbert plays Ellen "Ellie" Andrews, a pampered socialite who marries a fortune-hunter. But before the two can consummate the marriage, her father whisks her away onto the family yacht to keep her away from her beloved. Well, Ellie will have none of that, so she dives off the boat and swims to shore. Once on land, she decides to take buses to New York, since her father will most likely be able to find her if she tried an airport. On the way, she meets down-on-his-luck reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable). He instantly recognizes her, and they make a deal. He will help her get to New York if she will give him exclusive rights to her story, otherwise he will call her father and collect the reward. She agrees and the two set out on a road trip to New York, bickering along the way, and of course, falling in love.
The story is fairly predictable, it follows the expected trajectory of any other film of its kind, but as you probably expect, it doesn't really matter. The acting is on such a high level and the script is so sharp that you're fully willing to commit to the ride.
Clark Cable is incredibly charming and he plays his frustrations with Ellie to great effect. Throughout the film he is trying to teach her things, how to dunk a donut, or how to hitchhike and is consistently amazed at how sheltered and spoiled she is. But he plays to perfection, never become mean or overbearing. Claudette Colbert is equally as good, playing a character that has to be both tough, vulnerable, and naive, and she makes it entirely believable. Ellie will not put up with crap from anyone, but she's just afraid enough of traveling on her own that she'll accept help from Peter, despite not wanting to.
The romance itself is handled very well, because it doesn't come about as sudden proclamations of love, instead the two become more and more comfortable around each other, working well together and eventually realizing that they do have feelings for each other. But they are both aware of how sudden and unlikely it is, which adds to be naturalness and believability of the situation. In fact, Peter at one point talks about how he's crazy to be in love with her.
This really is a movie that deserves to be seen, because it's such a great film as well as having an place in film history as one of the best romantic comedies of all time and some argue that it invented the "Screwball" comedy genre. So watch it, please.