You might say that “It Happened One Night” set an unmatchable Oscar standard for romantic comedies. People typically don’t associate such films with multiple Oscars. After it won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Director, Best Actor and Actress, as well as Best Screenplay for 1934, it took 40 years before it happened again on Oscar night. (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975 and only once after that, “Silence of the Lambs” in 1991; both far from being romantic comedies).
“It Happened One Night,” the opposite of blustering, special effects filmmaking, deserves to be seen on the big screen. There’s nothing like seeing a film classic in a darkened theater. You’ll have the chance Monday, at 7 p.m. and Tuesday at 1 p.m. It’s the third of four classics in a special series at the Del Oro in Grass Valley.
What happened one night? The walls of Jericho came down. Barely a biblical reference, this symbol of romantic development delivers one of many things that director Frank Capra did so well. He put zing into corny, all-American stories, winning Best Director three times (the other two: “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” 1936; “You Can’t Take It with You,” 1938) from six Oscar nominations.
What happened one night? Claudette Colbert ran away from the straightjacket of her daddy’s big money. Clark Gable, a hard-bitten newspaper reporter hurting for a boost, latches onto Colbert’s runaway helplessness. Screwball circumstances ensue with enjoyable inevitability throughout.
“It Happened One Night” isn’t what you’d call timeless, but its vibrantly tweaked stereotypes carry its good-hearted testiness well. Good-hearted, that’s the foundation for the fun. Colbert plays spoiled but primed for true love. Gable plays tough but built for true love. Dad, even he’s a sentimental ol’ moneybags. The depression-era folks on the bus, they’re good hearted folks, too.
If you’ve never seen this hallmark of romantic comedy or if you’ve seen it but only on some TV movie channel, merge your need to see movies in a theater with the satisfaction of dialing in classic film experiences.
Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmaking. Find his other articles for The Union at www.startlets.com including his devotion to the Oscar tradition.