One of the most enduring romantic comedies of Hollywood’s golden age, Capra’s It Happened One Night is an unassuming road picture starring Clark Gable as an out-of-work newspaperman and Claudette Colbert as a spoiled heiress who travel together from Miami to New York.
She’s fleeing from her concerned father (Walter Connolly) and returning to the shiftless beau (Jameson Thomas) she married in a civil ceremony to spite her father (who had her whisked away from the service, so it’s not final legally or sacramentally).
Gable discovers her on the road and aids her, ostensibly for her exclusive story — though, as much as they grate on each other, it’s inevitable that they’ll wind up falling in love. The opposites-attract comedy still works, though Gable’s dismissive treatment of pampered Colbert, which played well with Depression-era audiences, seems dated today.
Of the pioneering screwball comedy’s many celebrated comic scenes and conceits, easily the most memorable is the famous "Walls of Jericho" running theme: Gable hangs a sheet between twin beds when necessity compels Colbert to share a room with him. This prop to modesty eventually becomes a metaphor for purity before marriage, culminating in the film’s satisfying, romantic final image.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.