It Happened One Night Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable
  • Director: Frank Capra
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: November 18, 2014
  • Run Time: 105 minutes


            This was the film which catapulted the success of the screwball comedy genre in the 1930s, not to mention its impact on the sales of undershirts in America. Made just prior to the days of Production Code censorship and restriction, It Happened One Night has a sequence which doesn’t seem anything but mild by today’s standards, but might have been cut had the film been made a year later. The scene featured Clark Gable’s character undressing, and this dashing star’s missing undershirt in this sequence suddenly gave men all over the country to skimp on this article, either for fashion or frugality.


            But this was not the only impact of Frank Capra’s 1934 classic, as it would inspire a whole slew of clever romantic comedies with a battle between sexes and classes. This quintessential screwball comedy follows the exploits of heiress Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), who flees her plush lifestyle in order to marry a man her father doesn’t approve of. On her journey, she ends up falling for an out-of-work reporter Peter Worne (Clark Gable) who helps her get across the country. Peter is merely helping Ellie in order to get the inside scoop, but the longer this oddly-matched couple spend together, the less likely either of them will want what they initially set out to get.


            It Happened One Night is just as much a road trip catalogue of 1930s America as it is a romantic comedy of errors, with detours along the nooks and crannies of the country. They come across hardships that Ellie is unfamiliar with, shown through her spoiled entitled attitude in early sequences, more than one thief, and just as many quick-witted and kind characters along the way. In one of the most famous sequences, the pair is forced to rent a room to be shared on the remote country road, causing sexual tension which would likely have been abolished during days of the Production Code enforcement.


            Because of the impact that this film had on the establishment of the screwball comedy sub-genre, there is a new bonus conversation about the film between film critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate in the extras. First and foremost, however, this is remembered as Capra’s first monumental success, becoming the first film to sweep the five major Oscar awards. For that reason, much of the special features seem dedicated to Capra’s prolific career. There is a feature-length documentary from 1997 about the filmmaker, as well as a 1999 interview with Frank Capra Jr., and a new digital transfer of Capra’s first film, the 1921 silent short, Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House. It Happened One Night is also presented with a new 4K digital restoration, and the package also comes with a foldout insert with an essay from film critic Farran Smith Nehme.



    Entertainment Value: 9/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 10/10

    Historical Significance:  10/10

    Special Features: 9/10



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