Best Picture Winners #7 – It Happened One Night (1934)

And so it happened one night this week that….. I saw this movie!

Hey, I had to get that in somewhere, right?

So don’t ask me how, but I had heard of this movie long before we started doing this project. And all I’d heard of it was that it was a classic movie, you must see it, and etc etc etc. And thought I don’t like to admit I’ve seen it (UGH), there was a scene in the second Sex and the City movie of one of the characters lifting up her skirt to get someone’s attention. A review I’d read of that movie mentioned that scene was a nod to It Happened One Night.

So what happens in this movie then, to make it such a classic?

You have a wealthy heiress, Ellen a.k.a. Ellie Andrews who’s eloped against her family’s wishes. She escapes from her father’s yacht in Florida so that she can reunited with her new spouse in New York. While on a bus headed to New York, she encounters a bus passenger named Peter Warne, a now out-of-work newspaper reporter. Warne recognizes her and makes her a deal: if she gives him an exclusive on her story, he’ll help her get to her new spouse. If not, he’ll tell her father, Alexander, where she is.

Though they hate each other at first, Peter and Ellen fall in love over time as they go through several adventures together. Including impersonating a married couple at a KOA/motel lodging one morning when some men, hired by her father, come looking for Ellen. Their impersonation of a bickering, married couple was by far the funniest part of the movie.

And since this is supposed to be a comedy, so you can probably tell what happens at the end. But of course they end up in the end together, Ellen and Peter! 🙂

So did I find it to be the classic everyone says it is?

Well….. If you had asked me that question before the first half of the movie was done, I would’ve said no, to be honest. The script fell flat in a BIG way. Was this supposed to be a comedy or a satire? I wasn’t so sure. The acting wasn’t that great either. But I kept on with it, because I figured there had to be a reason people still talk about this movie on a regular basis.

And I didn’t want to give up on it. But all told, even though the movie wasn’t holding my attention at first, it wasn’t another turkey like Cimarron.

Somewhere around the halfway mark, I felt like the script was finally finding its footing plainly in the role of a comedy. Then came the funniest part of the movie, that aforementioned impersonation scene. I only wished the rest of the movie could’ve gone as well as that second half. When I read that several major actors turned down roles in the movie, I could understand why. The script felt like it needed another pass-through to make the characters more likable.

I will say it was nice to watch a comedy that won Best Picture. So far, we’ve seen only dramas. And to be honest, when I think of Best Picture winners, I usually think of sweeping dramas!

I can see the beginnings of a lot of romantic comedies in this movie. Come on, the “they hate each other at first and then grow to like each other” plot element (too many comedies to count)? A road trip (Bandits)? Oh and that famous scene where Ellen uses her feminine wiles (in this case, lifting her skirt while she and Peter are hitchhiking) to get someone’s attention? Yeah, I’ve seen that before in countless modern movies (perhaps showing off something more explicit than just a little bit of leg?)! So it was cool to see where they all came from. I can even see this movie being remade nowadays and it would totally work.

Overall, ended up being more enjoyable than I thought it would be!

Three stars out of five

Next time: One of MANY adaptations of the famous Bounty story, Mutiny on the Bounty.