Not rated. It's got a weird view of marriage. I'm kind of amazed that the phrase "annulment" gets thrown around. It's definitely on dicey ground when it comes to the sanctity of marriage. On one hand, Ellie probably wasn't fully aware of the commitments of marriage. On the other hand, she fell in love with a shirtless Clark Gable. Since it's 1934, the movie also plays it fast and loose with spousal abuse jokes. But otherwise, it's pretty harmless.
DIRECTOR: Frank Capra
Why don't I feel the gumption to write these anymore? I love movies. I love writing about movies. Heck, I adore It Happened One Night. So why am I so stodgy about writing these now. Last week, I was close to 2,000 readers. Now I'm under 1,000. That's just sloppiness on my part. I apologize, but I also realize that I'm doing this for my benefit and that it shouldn't feel like a job. I'll write when I want to write and go from there. But at least I get to write about Frank Capra. That's definitely a major win for me.
I keep getting thrown under the bus for not liking romantic comedies. We're in Hallmark Christmas movies. I know I'm actively poking the bear by condemning Hallmark Christmas movies, but I think it's because romantic comedies get the biggest free passes for people liking them. The need for standards is criminally low when it comes to liking these movies. I'm not saying that we shouldn't watch Hallmark Christmas movies. Again, my mantra is that you should like what you like and not to care about what anyone else thinks. But when I watch a movie like It Happened One Night, it makes it really hard to sit through A Cookie Cutter Christmas. You may think that I'm being glib with that title, commenting that all Hallmark Christmas movies are the same. Nope. That's the name of the Hallmark Christmas movie I walked in on. Luckily for me, I only caught the last half of the movie, so I don't really have to write about it. But November and December were once Frank Capra season. I love Frank Capra, probably too much. He's one of those geniuses that I haven't discovered anything too gross about. I know. I'm probably calling the wolf out of the woods writing that, but I love Capra. He's the American Dream personified. Sure, his career ended in a less than ideal situation, but I can still believe, right? Capra gets poverty so well. During my year, I teach Steinbeck. He's my favorite author, so I teach Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. While I love Steinbeck, the guy is remarkably bleak. He talks about the Great Depression like the plague. It's so interesting watching the Great Depression from the point of view of Frank Capra. Capra is the product of the Depression. Film was about escapism for people. They needed two seconds to forget about their terrible lives and It Happened One Night is exactly what is needed. It warmed my soul didn't it?
Usually when I watch Depression era films, I simply enjoy the spectacle. That's what they were about. I get them. They are sheer, thoughtless entertainment. But Capra's strength, regardless of topic, is the importance of the individual. Capra takes two very archetypal characters. I know, it's 1934. The trope is being invented. But Capra imbues the trope before it would get diluted with this movie. I usually have a hard time with the movies that establish the trope because these movies tend to iron out the kinks later in history. But It Happened One Night makes the road movie / the mismatched rom com work because the characters are fully fleshed out. Yeah, there's a little bit of one-dimensionalism going on. It is a comedy, after all. But these characters are charming. There are moments of complete vulnerability that both protagonists face and it is really does make the movie seem like something more than it is. There's nothing necessarily sentimental about the movie. I think I cringe more at movies that try to be sentimental. In isolation, this movie could be confused for being overly-sentimental. But this all ties to Capra again. He gets the balance. He has his archetypal characters. They open up when they need to and not before. It Happened One Night is almost mathematical in that way. So often, when I watch rom-coms, that balance is way off. We're asked to instantly identify with characters we've found superficial for the long haul. But It Happened One Night gets that timing right. We see the baby steps towards humanity. When the major vulnerable moments actually happen, it doesn't feel like a lightswitch. It feels oddly earned. Other directors who watch this movie have to be intimidated. I think almost every rom-com has tried to mimic this formula and just got every element wrong. Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert are part of the reason for that. I heard somewhere that Claudette Colbert thought that she was slumming it when it came to making this movie. It took Clarke Gable to lose his cool with her to put her in line. But I told you that this movie is almost mathematical. Who knows if this would have worked if Colbert didn't go into this movie with the exact attitude she had? I love Claudette Colbert and she's perfect here. The scene inside the traveler's hotel is just absolutely fabulous. The shifts between the mild and the intense is sensational.
Me preaching about Frank Capra is just self-indulgent. I will probably love every Capra film that I'll ever see. Sure, some are better than others and It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington will always be my favorites. But I tend to come back to the well that is It Happened One Night time and again. It's an extremely joyful movie and it is is an example of one of the best rom-coms and one of the best road movies at the same time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.