It Happened One Night (US, 1935)

Pull the other one

This classic screwball comedy looks good despite the varnish of 75 years. Claudette Colbert may have dated a little but Gable’s only anachronism is his pipe smoking. He’s great at having his male belligerence undermined, as in the image above where his so-called expertise in hitchhiking is revealed to be bluster.

The film also includes one of the great lines in screwball comedy; when Peter (Gable) is asked several times if he ‘loves her’ he finally shouts ‘Ye-es, but don’t hold that against me, I can be screwy sometimes!’

Although it stands up well to a 21st century viewing, It Happened One Night is inevitably of its time. In her book on romcom Tamar Jeffers McDonald describes it as part of the ‘bus movie’ cycle in the Great Depression and no doubt audiences warmed to see the ‘celebs’ of their day – the rich – being shown to be morally vacuous in comparison with Gable’s nice guy Everyman. It’s difficult to imagine, as we emerge from the almost another Great Depression, that audiences now would warm to seeing ‘characters’ like Jordan being demeaned; that’s a sad commentary on our times.

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