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It Happened One Night

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert
It Happened One Night
Directed by Frank Capra
1934, Columbia Pictures

Amazon | TCM

It Happened One Night is at the top of my list for favorite road trip movies. It’s a romantic comedy filmed in 1934 that provides a peek into the roadside culture of the time…and I swear, I feel myself with an immense need to be on a road trip in 1934 every time I see it. It’s  terrific.

Clark Gable plays a newly unemployed, grumpy reporter named Peter Warne and Claudette Colbert plays spoiled brat, Ellie Andrews. Ellie and her gazillionaire father, played by Walter Connolly are clashing over her marriage to the worthless gold digger, King Wesley. Her father despises Wesley and tries everything in his power to stop Ellie from marrying him. But no matter what he tries, he’s never able to convince her Wesley is a horrible choice for a husband. In the process, he only makes Ellie more and more angry. She goes on a hunger strike, throws a tantrum, and runs away from home.

Well, in this case, she runs away from the family yacht in Miami.

Ellie is determined to get back to King Wesley and marry him. She boards a Greyhound bus bound for New York City, with little money and even less common sense. It’s on that Greyhound that Ellie meets Peter. He’s unimpressed with her spoiled naivety at first and immediately starts calling her “brat.” But once he realizes who she is (her father has plastered her face on the front of newspapers to help find her), Peter sees a way back into the good graces of the newspaper publisher who just fired him. The plot unrolls from here into a smart, romantic comedy complete with lots of laughter, troubles, tension and romance. And it all takes place during an adventurous road trip.

As much as I love that mid-century era of auto-tourism, I love old movies. When I get to be with both of them like this, I’m in heaven. It Happened One Night is heaven for me. Never mind that it won 5 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Director (for Frank Capra, the director of It’s a Wonderful Life)….


…It’s got an old bus!

…and old auto courts!

…and old roads!

And of course, Clark and Claudette too. Which wraps it all up into a perfect 105 minutes for me.

It Happened One Night is just plain wonderful.

Amazon | TCM


  1. You said it! This film is a perfect 105 minutes. The cast is great, and so are the script & cinematography, but I love the travel scenes. Everything about the riding on the bus, or staying at the auto court, or hitchhiking is so darn interesting, and those things never get old no matter how many times a person has seen the film.

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