It Happened One Night

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Journalist Peter Warne recognises runaway heiress Ellie Andrews en route from Miami to New York and agrees to help her make her assignation with gold-digging playboy King Westley in return for the exclusive rights to her story.


Had anyone tried to produce a movie about the making of It Happened One Night, no one would have believed it. Things started off reasonably enough, with Robert Riskin turning Samuel Hopkins Adams's magazine story, Night Bus', into a screenplay. But the fanciful began to set in when MGM's Louis B. Mayer offered Columbia chief, Harry Cohn, Clark Gable in compensation for Robert Montgomery's refusal to play the gruffly genial journalist. However, this was no mere act of inter-mogul philanthropy, as Mayer had grown tired of Gable's pay demands and insistence on selecting his own roles. So, he agreed to loan out his fastest-rising star because he considered hima bad boy and I'd like to spank him'.

Less than amused by his demotion to Poverty Row, Gable reported for his first meeting with director Frank Capra fighting drunk and racially abusive. However, he eventually accepted his punishment and came to recognise the quality of the script in pre-production. Myrna Loy, Miriam Hopkins, Constance Bennett and Margaret Sullivan, however, failed to share his enthusiasm and they all nixed the project before Claudette Colbert signed up because she had four weeks to spare before her Christmas vacation in Sun Valley. That said, she had little faith in Capra, who had directed her debut, For the Love of Mike, and its failure had temporarily harmed her prospects.  

But even though the lure of $50,000 (double her usual salary) assuaged her doubts, she arrived on set intent on playing the  prima donna. She refused point blank to disrobe for the famous `Walls of Jericho' sequence (in which the sight of Gable's bare torso sent vest sales plummeting) and only agreed to reveal her thigh for the hitch-hiking gag when Capra threatened to use a stand-in with better legs. Consequently, she told friends, `I've just finished the worst picture in the world.'  

 Yet, in spite of the frictions, the film became the first to land the Big Five awards at the Oscars. But, more importantly, this fresh, fast and funny farce ushered in the screwball comedy, which remains its lasting legacy. 

An old school classic, and Gable's shirtless antics would send vests out of fashion until Die Hard came along. A must see.