It Happened One Night (1934) Poster

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Introducing... the Screwball Comedy
comix-man23 June 2002
Frank Capra's idealistic outlook on life is evident in his films. From It Happened One Night to It's a Wonderful Life, Capra has always had a tendency to let the little guy rise above it all and beat the odds. It is no small wonder that Capra enjoyed much of his success during the Depression, when movies were used to truly pull an audience out of the despair of the 1930s into a world where anything can happen, where being a nice person is all you need to succeed. While the fact that the country was in the middle of the Depression was not completely ignored, an overly optimistic view on life was taken to counter the despair of everyday life.

There were many points in It Happened One Night where the true state of the country was indicated. Homeless people hitching rides on trains seemed perfectly normal. Rather than regard them with apprehension and pity, you smile and wave at them. Another example is the hostile reaction proprietor Zeke's wife had to the fact that her husband had let Peter and Ellie stay the night with promises of being paid. Upon seeing Peter and Ellie's car missing, they rush to the cottage to see if Peter and Ellie are still there. They cannot afford freeloaders.

In another scene, a child's mother has passed out from hunger, because they have no money to buy food. Peter and Ellie have nearly depleted their funds, but decide that the mother and child need money more than they do and give some to them.

Despite these instances, the movie was altogether cheerful in its depiction of the world. In the throes of the stock market crash, this movie signaled the birth of the screwball comedy. At a time when the country needed release, they could find that release and laughter in movies like It Happened One Night. Audiences were amused by scenes in the film, such as the segment in which Peter teaches Ellie how to dunk a donut. Or, when forced to share a room, Peter puts a blanket between his and Ellie's beds and calls it the `wall of Jericho,' which is revisited when the walls of Jericho come tumbling down after Peter and Ellie's marriage. Probably the most famous scene in the film is the hitchhiking sequence, which features Peter standing by the roadside trying to thumb a ride unsuccessfully, finally giving up after more than a dozen cars speed by without paying any heed to his attempts. After he gives up, beaten, Ellie simply lifts her skirt above her knee. The first car that passes stops, as we see extreme close-ups of a foot slamming down on the brakes and a hand applying the hand brake.

A master in his profession, Capra left his mark on the films he directed. With an almost childlike cheerfulness, he maintains a sense of dignity and class. The viewer is left with a feeling of hope for humankind, even if its only that a person's ideals could be used to make such a film. Capra's films are still regarded as masterpieces. It Happened One Night arguably remains to this day unparalleled in screwball comedies. It was one of many movies made during the Depression, a sometimes sad and even lonely time in our history. It gave its audience a chance to escape and forget their troubles for a few moments in time.

9 out of 10 stars
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The Hero As Comedian
bkoganbing24 December 2005
In his autobiography, The Name's Above the Title, Frank Capra said that until It Happened One Night drama had four stock characters, the hero, the heroine, the comedian, and the villain.

What Capra did and you might notice he followed that in a whole lot of his films, the characters of hero and comedian are combined. Not completely though because Claudette Colbert gets a few laughs herself, especially with that system all her own. But in doing what he did for Clark Gable's character, Capra created a whole new type of screen comedy, the classic screwball comedy and It Happened One Night surely set the mold.

Capra's autobiography told the story of the making of It Happened One Night which in itself could be a movie. Capra worked for Columbia Pictures which at that time was a minor studio, along the lines of Republic or Monogram. As Capra tells it he had a vision about this story that Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote and persuaded Harry Cohn to buy it.

Capra also had a stroke of good luck. Adolph Zukor at Paramount and Louis B. Mayer at MGM were looking to punish a couple of recalcitrant stars, Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. The idea was to show these two what it was like to work in a small budget studio without all the perks of Paramount and MGM. In fact the description of Gable arriving to work at Columbia that first day, drunk as a skunk, is priceless. Capra dressed him down good and said that to his credit Gable came to work afterwards and couldn't have been more cooperative.

At some point Harry Cohn at Columbia was convinced that maybe Capra had something. He had in fact delivered for Columbia the previous year with Lady for a Day. So the publicity drums were beat.

The rest as they say is history. It Happened One Night won the first Oscar grand slam, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. It won the first Oscars Columbia Pictures ever got and lifted it right into the ranks of the major studios. And it set the standard for screwball comedy.

The film could never have gotten off the ground were it not for the chemistry of Gable and Colbert. They're together for most of the film so if it doesn't click between the two of them, you have people walking out in droves. Colbert had already played a wide variety of parts at Paramount, ranging from Poppaea and Cleopatra to comedies with Maurice Chevalier like The Big Pond. Gable had played a whole lot of tough guys on both sides of the law at MGM. It Happened One Night showed he had some real comic talent, a flair MGM exploited in his roles from then on in.

Gable and Colbert did only one other film together, Boom Town for MGM. You can't get much more different than those two films. Boom Town had a huge MGM budget, Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr as well, and a lot of special effects involving the oil industry and hazards therein. It's also a great film, but it's not a classic like It Happened One Night.
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A fantastic Capra film.
emma5027 May 2003
It Happened One Night directed by Frank Capra was made and released in 1934 by Columbia Pictures as a small budget film that was not expected to do well at the box office. Yet, after its release the film gained many accolades and won the Academy Award for best picture in 1934. Due to the original small nature of the film, the leading man role was surprisingly filled by Clark Gable who was on loan from another studio. He stared opposite of Claudette Colbert. Capra's film was a combination of many ideals, emotions and social perceptions of the American society of the thirties but it was also a combination of many new and innovative filming techniques and sound advancements. The film unfolds the story in such a attention-grabbing and remarkable way that most of today's cinema use his style and ideals when producing and creating films. Capra used the idea of a moving camera, one that was not fixed upon a box, but on a moveable crane instead. This produced more sweeping shots, more angles for filming and fewer distance shots. It allowed for more movement of the actors as well as a more realistic and real life feeling to the movie. The film also incorporates back projection of images. This is were a scene is filmed previously and played in the background while the actors perform the scene in front of the projection. Back projection is used for car scenes to give the impression that the actors are driving but in reality they are in a sound stage. Capra also incorporated the use of a wipe in his film. The technique of moving left to right and fading in or out to change a scene or show elapsed time took the place of the traditional place cards in silent films and allowed for a more constant stream for the film. The film was also all talk, the new technology of a sound strip on the side of the film was used. The text cards of silent films were completely discarded. Another camera trick by Capra is to show a change in feelings within Clark Gable's character for Claudette Colbert's character by depicting her character in a different light. This happens two times within the film at key moments to the development of their relationship. Claudette Colbert is seen in a close up of softer light to emphasize Clark Gable's character seeing her in a `different light.' In this romantic comedy Capra not only showed new styles and techniques but also addressed social issues of the time. Through comedy he showed the outlandish nature of the rich (King arriving for his own wedding in a helicopter) and the nature of man being the controller in relationships as well as in society. The fighting and struggles between the two main characters showed the man taking care of the woman, the social norms of how men and woman should act around each other in that era. But the fighting and the banter also show a strong-minded and intelligent woman. The two strong-willed main characters balanced each other out.

Capra's techniques for showing the social relationship between the rich and working classes as well as a relationship between man and woman in the 1930s captured film makers and film viewers for over 70 years. Films are now compared to his style of camera movement and his style of capturing the American ideals. When movies of today make a similar statement of achieving what one wants they are referred to as Capra-esc. Capra's imagination and style is one that changed the outlook of American films and introduced a new genre to film goers everywhere.
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It happened one night...I fell in love with this film!
lovable_lil_devil13211 March 2005
IHON rightly earns it's place as one of the greatest romantic comedies in film history. A pioneer of the screwball comedy genre, it holds up very well 71 years after it was made.

It's a classic tale of the battle of sexes- something that is still so relevant today. We follow the story of spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), who jumps ship from her father's yacht (literally!) in Florida after an argument with said father (played by Walter Connolly) over her marrying wealthy playboy King Westley (Jameson Thomas) without her father's consent. Ellie is on a mission- to get to New York to King Westley. But how will she do it? That's how Peter Warne (played by a delightfully handsome Clark Gable) comes into the story. Recently fired from his newspaper job, Peter meets Ellie on the Night Bus to New York, and, realizing who she is (Her story is all over the news, after all!), offers to help her get to NY and Westley if she gives him an exclusive story- to win him back his job. And so the fun begins. Colbert and Gable have great chemistry as the mismatched couple thrown together after a series of unusual circumstances. The trip isn't a smooth one- and we are taken on a wild ride with Peter and Ellie, which gives us great scenes such as the doughnut-dunking lesson, Walls Of Jericho and the now-classic hitchhiking scene. The humour is still fresh and fast-paced over 70 years later. Oops, I almost forgot the classic 'no undershirt scene' where Gable sexily gives Colbert a lesson in how a man undresses, to reveal (shock horror!) no undershirt, but a bare chest! This had a bad effect on the sales of men's undershirts, which dropped dramatically after the film's release (One of the first examples of product placement in film). Great supporting characters, particularly the scene-stealing Oscar Shapeley (Roscoe Karns). Of course it has it's faults- all early talkies do. But any faults are outweighed by the great story. Technically, it was well-made for it's time.

IHON won 5 Oscars- Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Actress and Best Actor for Colbert and Gable and Best Adaptation. It deserved all of them. Funnily enough, both Colbert and Gable didn’t want any part in the film at first- I bet they changed their viewpoint after the surprise success and the prestigious Academy Awards they gained for it. It's been said that a number of Disney characters like Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Pepe LePew were inspired by characters in this film. A classic, a must-see, a great movie.
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A Pleasant, Funny Classic
Snow Leopard13 September 2001
This is a pleasant, funny classic that shows it age only slightly, and that has a lot of scenes you can look forward to each time that you see it. Gable and Colbert each get roles that are nicely suited to them, and are well-remembered for their performances. The supporting cast also rounds out the picture with some good character acting.

The cross-country trip on the bus and via other assorted methods is fun to watch, with several nice vignettes that complement the main story line. (The atmosphere on the long bus trip is done especially well.) The plot is of course not meant to be taken too seriously in itself, but it comes in very handy for setting up good characters and comedy.

It all comes across as effortlessly entertaining romantic comedy, with some classic scenes and characters you learn to care for in spite of their mistakes.
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This classic never loses its magic! Romance, warmth & humor!
gmmax13 May 2001
This sweet comedy never loses its appeal. Claudette Colbert is a spoiled young girl who meets a wordly, attractive newspaper reporter (Clark Gable). In the beginning, she treats him like a servant, but he never knuckles under to this behavior. The interaction between these two is very romantic and humorous. It is the classic portrayal of what may be called "sexual tension." He takes care of her - does not take advantage of her - but makes her realize that her wealthy background cannot carry her through as a human being, she has to earn his respect by treating him with respect. There is a scene in which the two of them are forced to hitchhike, and their "breakfast" is only a handful of carrots plucked from a garden they were lucky to find. As Gable stands at the edge of the road and Colbert is perched atop a wooden fence, his wisecracking posture is said to be the inspiration for the beloved cartoon character Bugs Bunny. This is a must-see for every one who loves old movies, and entertaining for all.
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Clean Sweep
aimless-468 November 2005
Consider this, "It Happened One Night" was made in 1933 which gives it the distinction 70+ years later of being the oldest film still widely viewed by mainstream audiences. And most of the runner-ups for oldest film are 1930's screwball comedies inspired by the success of this seminal film which made a clean sweep of the 1934 Academy Awards. The genre has held up over the years because these are small human stories with themes that are still relevant.

The main reason "It Happened One Night" worked then and still works today is the accidental pairing of Colbert and Gable, who provide an amazing chemistry under Frank Capra's direction. Columbia Pictures was a small player in the early days of talking pictures and studio head Harry Cohn had difficulty rounding up two major stars to play the leads in this modest budget production. Colbert was not interested in doing another Capra film after a negative experience working for him six years earlier in her silent picture debut. Cohn told Capra: "That French broad likes money" and Capra finally got her on board with an offer of $50,000 (double her usual price) and a guarantee that production would only last 28 days. Gable was under contract to MGM but had been making trouble for them so as punishment Louis B. Mayer personally loaned him to Columbia for this film.

The film had a lot else going for it; a motivated Capra, a great script that would play well with small town America, and a good ensemble of supporting talent. The story concerns a spoiled young heiress (Colbert) trying to escape the control of her father (nicely played by Walter Connelly). Dodging her father's private detective she takes a Miami to New York bus where she meets a recently fired reporter (Gable) who agrees to help her in exchange for an exclusive story. Cozy quarters and many adventures lead them to change their initial opinions of each other (brainless brat and obnoxious bully) as an undisclosed affection develops. On the eve of their arrival in New York they try to sort out their feelings for each other.

While the script is not really successful in convincingly illustrating the process of their falling in love (one minute they are just friends and the next they are in love), Capra is able to sell it with a simple connection process between these two characters which is at work throughout the film. As another reviewer has written: "Far from lovey-dovey, the dialogue is witty, sharp and occasionally heartless. We may know the outcome, but the road to get there is paved with arguments, anger and misunderstandings. It's also clever, funny and a bit risqué (for 1934)" . During their three days and nights together Colbert convincingly gives us a character who matures from a spoiled rich girl to a responsible adult, motivated by a desire to improve her companion's opinion of her. Gable shows real star presence, playing a confident, charming, and resourceful gentleman. By the end their sudden love is credible because they have demonstrated that they are both exactly what the other is looking for in a partner.

After the Oscar ceremony Capra threw a party where he downed a magnum of champagne and passed out on his front lawn clutching his Best Director Oscar.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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A cute romantic comedy that was a pioneer of its genre
FilmOtaku11 December 2003
It Happened One Night is one of those films that is so classic, and on so many `must-see' lists that I actually assumed that I had seen it at one time or another. It wasn't until I actually looked into the film when I in fact realized I hadn't.

The first film to sweep the major categories in an Oscar ceremony, It Happened One Night spins the story of a young spoiled heiress (Colbert) who marries a shallow, yet dashing aviator. She is then swept off by her father who takes her on a cruise; convinced that time away from each other will cure her infatuation. Instead, she escapes by jumping out of the boat and swimming to shore where she begins her journey from Miami to New York, where her husband awaits. The film quickly turns into an `on the road' flick at this point when she meets up with Clark Gable, a down on his luck reporter who offers to help her for the exclusive rights to her story. Mayhem inevitably ensues as one thing after another goes wrong during their adventure.

I'm a little hesitant to completely agree with the general assessment that It Happened One Night is a screwball comedy. Of course, there were certain moments that were hilarious and overdone (the scene when Gable and Colbert pose as husband and wife to share a cabin for the night is absolutely rich) but the majority of the remaining film is clever romantic comedy with fairly even performances by the principles. Perhaps there is a sliding scale for screwball comedies, with It Happened One Night being a two and a film that I feel personifies the genre, Bringing up Baby, as a five.

Whatever its classification, It Happened One Night is a charming film that backs up its merit as a multiple Oscar winner. It is one of those films that may not be completely profound or deep, but is important nonetheless if anything, for its place in film history.

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Romantic Comedy that sweeps the first year of the Oscars
llguidry15 March 2003
I have seen this movie a few times over the year and have just recently viewed it again twice on the DVD version. This is a highly recommended movie on several levels. First, it has to be seen because it won multiple academy awards during 1934. It has won at least best actor, best actress and best director. So it should be seen just for it's historical significance if you are into movies as an art form. However, if you are just looking for entertainment then it is simply a great classic romantic comedy. The set up is that Ellie (Claudette Colbert) is a rich, spoiled, independent woman who is running away from her father (in Florida) to join her husband (not quite a complete marriage) in New York City. She meets Peter (Clark Gable) on the bus who is a down & out reporter looking for a big story. They join forces in that he will help her to get to New York for an exclusive on her story. In essence it is the bratty socialite vs the hard nosed -know it all reporter - Can they achieve true love? Just watch the movie and figure it out for yourself.. There is the classical scene regarding the battle of the sexes which involves hitchhiking. There is some dated material because the movie was made in the 30's about the 30's. This may be both good and bad as a viewing experience. Gable is a bit too shallow as a desirable character. He lacks the sensitivity of a guy that would be in a modern romantic comedy. However, his portrayal of Peter is likely typical for the ideal man of the era in that he attempted to be competent and in charge at all times (the know it all guy). The character comes across as too simplistic by today's standards. However, when he gets the feedback on his rough edges from Ellie he shows his nice guy side. Claudette Colbert is great in this movie she had opportunities to display her acting craft as she responded to different situations. The scene in which she and Gable pretended to be basically 'white trash' was very funny. Her getting the best actress award is very evident even without having to see the performances of her rivalries for the Oscar in 1934. Overall this movie is rated a 9.0 and is highly recommended. A viewer may avoid older movies because they lack dept; however, hang in for this one. Once the screen chemistry starts between Colbert and Gable (their first scene together) the rest of the picture is just a joyride of entertainment in watching these two work their magic for the camera. Enjoy this movie it should be an awesome experience.
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"I want to see what love looks like when it's triumphant. I haven't had a good laugh in a week."
ackstasis6 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Released in 1934, Frank Capra's 'It Happened One Night' ushered in a new era of Hollywood film-making – the screwball comedy – and made Academy Award history in the process. It became the first film to be awarded the top five awards on the night (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay), a feat that remained unequaled until 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)' and 'The Silence of the Lambs (1991).' As I watch more of his films, Frank Capra is fast becoming one of my most respected directors, with such classics as 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' and 'It's a Wonderful Life' ranking among my favourites of all time. This screwball comedy, however, posed a certain problem, since I've never been a huge fan of the sub-genre. Whilst I had enjoyed such films as 'My Man Godfrey' and 'His Girl Friday,' they hadn't really offered anything other than comedy. This means that they did a good job of making us laugh, but never really inspired any other emotions – which isn't necessarily a handicap, but doesn't appeal to my tastes.

Happily, I'm able to announce that 'It Happened One Night' did surpass my expectations, and I found it to be a wonderfully-enjoyable, very touching romantic comedy. The first half had left me feeling a bit uncertain, since it reminded me of just about every other 1930s comedy I'd seen, but then Frank Capra did what Frank Capra does best: he put a lot of heart into the film. After building towards a perfect fairytale ending, Capra suddenly snatches it away, slowly but surely stacking the odds against our hero. However, the director has never been one to leave us with a downbeat ending, and, when love finally prevails, it feels twice as triumphant. Of course, crucial to the film's success are the two lead performers: Claudette Colbert and Clarke Gable, playing characters of completely polar characters. As story runs its course, we slowly watch their relationship transform from completely dislike to acceptance to romance, and it never feels forced or artificial (despite a reportedly tense atmosphere onset).

The plot of the film was based on the story, "The Night Bus," by Samuel Hopkins Adams. Ellie Andrews (Colbert) is the arrogant, spoilt heiress of a wealthy father (Walter Connolly). After she marries the rich but unprincipled King Westley (Jameson Thomas) against her father's will, Ellie strikes off to New York to be with the man she loves, and her desperate father launches a state-wide attempt to retrieve her. It is on a night bus that Ellie strikes up a frictional relationship with fired journalist Peter Warne (Gable), whose only initial interest in the stranded girl is a good newspaper story. Probably one of the best "road movies" ever made, 'It Happened One Night' also has a few twists in the usual formula which have guaranteed its enduring stature. For example, Ellie's father is revealed not to be an evil overbearing demon, but is, in fact, shown to be a very kind, reasonable and loving man, who is only trying to guarantee the best for his daughter by ensuring that she marries somebody with principles (King Westley later gives up the girl without a fuss, compensated by a tidy sum of money).

Much to my surprise, I'd never seen a film starring Clarke Gable before, but he really was a revelation. Never taking any situation too seriously, and delivering every line with confidence and a hint of amusement, Gable is the laid-back every-man that the audience can relate to, a stark contrast to Colbert's conceited and ungrateful upper-class rich girl. My favourite scene took place after the night bus accidentally ran off the road, with the shifty passenger Oscar Shapeley (Roscoe Karns) threatening to reveal Ellie's true identity. Fearing that his exclusive story could leak into other hands, Peter Warne declares himself to be the gangster who kidnapped Ellie, threatens to harm Shapeley's family and then chases him into the night. Interestingly, I followed up my viewing of this film with a 1939 Lux Radio Theater broadcast of the story, introduced by Cecille B. DeMille and once again starring Gable and Colbert. This recording can be found, if you're lucky, as a special feature on the 'It Happened One Night' DVD, and it's well worth a listen.
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One of the funniest movies in history
Smells_Like_Cheese12 August 2004
In my college film class we had begun watching "It happened one night". I was laughing my head off. But of course my professor stops the movie right when it was getting good. After that, I wanted to see this movie so badly. My father lucky enough had the movie. I watched it and it is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Clark Gable is histerical. He really does a great job in the film. I always did prefer the old comedies to today. Do you blame me? If you watch the flick, you will enjoy it. This is one of the first romantic comedies. It'll send all the others to the back of the bus. I would higly recommend this movie. It's a classic.

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Travel back in time, to the days when romantic comedies had not yet evolved into chick flicks
Spleen28 November 1999
I was inspired to think of other films with completely mystifying titles. `The Phantom Menace', obviously. Also: `The Shop Around the Corner' (around the corner from WHERE?), `The Empire Strikes Back' (it doesn't), `The Living Daylights', `True Lies', `Batman Forever', `Species', `The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp' ... if anyone has any more suggestions, please send them to me.

In this case, it happens over several nights, and I'm not sure which particular night is being referred to. Probably one of the candidate nights is less unobvious than the rest; so I guess the title isn't COMPLETELY mystifying. But actually, Capra gives us the feeling that everything is up in the air. Everyone knows that the hero and heroine of romantic comedies are bound to get hitched in the end - in most cases it's simply a question of staying awake. But Capra makes us feel the contingency of it all. I, for one, was convinced that right up until the final moment, it could have gone either way. How did Capra manage this? Was it because he was a complete innocent; or was it because he was remarkably sophisticated? I don't suppose it matters: it's results that count.

I'm glad to see very little mention among the comments about the sexism of it all. The characters have life; their words have life; and if such art as this could only be produced by a sexist society, it's almost worth creating a sexist society (and then dismantling it), in order to get the art. In modern romances I get the feeling that the writers are wearily writing `feisty' lines for the heroine in an attempt to fool feminists, who, by and large, aren't so easily fooled. Claudette Colbert isn't feisty. When she DOES assert her independence, she means it.

(And, of course, when Clark Gable asserts his dominance, HE means it. You don't get sincerity like this these days.)

Anyway, the ideology of a film, if there is one, is always beside the point, except inasmuch as the ideology is AESTHETICALLY attractive or unattractive. This is an attractive film. Two real individuals, a real story, some misunderstanding but no tiresome or pointless misunderstanding, constant wit - and, as I expressed amazement at earlier, constant suspense. And if THAT isn't enough to get you to watch it, note that it was released in 1934. The Hayes code didn't come into effect until 1935. Not a moment too late.
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A gem of a film - certainly not your average romantic drama
grantss11 January 2018
Ellie Andrews is the daughter of a Wall Street mogul. Her father is highly protective of her and isn't pleased when she elopes, marrying a man she hardly knows. Ellie runs away from her father sets off across country to get to her husband in New York. On the bus she meets a recently-fired reporter, Peter Warne. The two don't get along but, figuring out who she is, and knowing that her father will have every route into New York covered with private detectives, he offers to help her get to a husband. In exchange he wants an exclusive on her story. The two tag along together, getting through some interesting adventures. Over time they even get to like each other...

A gem of a film from legendary director Frank Capra. I was expecting a rather standard romantic drama but It Happened One Night is so much better than that. Warm, and hilariously funny at times, it's certainly not your average romantic comedy. Dialogue is incredibly fresh and snappy and even the romantic side is not straightforward, keeping the schmaltz to a minimum and taking some unpredictable twists and turns.

The great direction by Capra and the solid script are aided by wonderful performances from Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in the lead roles. The chemistry between them is great and their delivery is spot-on.

Both Gable and Colbert received Oscars for their performances, as did Capra for Best Director. The movie was the well-deserved 1935 Best Picture Oscar winner.
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Love Triumphs (and the Wall of Jericho Falls)
claudio_carvalho6 April 2010
In Miami, the spoiled socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is trapped in the yacht of her controller father, the Wall Street banker Andrews (Walter Connolly), who has just annulled her secret marriage with the snobbish aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas). Out of the blue, Ellie jumps overboard and swims to the shore. Andrews hires a detective agency to find her and offers a 10,000 dollars reward for any information about his daughter. But Ellie pawns her watch, buys some clothing and a bus ticket to New York to meet her lover. She seats side- by-side with the cynical reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable). However, when a thief steals her purse with her money in a bus stop and Ellie does not report to the police, Peter recognizes and blackmails Ellie, asking her to travel together with him. He promises to protect her and in return he would write her adventure to meet King Westley. Along their journey, Ellie falls in love for Peter; but when he vanishes from the motel where they are lodged and contacts her father later, she believes he was only interested in the reward. In the end, love triumphs and the wall of Jericho falls.

"It Happened One Night" is another delightful and charming romantic comedy of Frank Capra. The romance of a cynical reporter with a spoiled young woman is very funny despite being naive and dated, with witty dialogs, and the chemistry between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable is marvelous. The cinematography in black and white is wonderful with magnificent use of lighting to highlight the lead couple. Last time I saw this classic was on 29 January 2003 and this is the third time that I watch this film, now on DVD from Columbia Distributor, and I highly recommend it as one of the best romantic comedies ever. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Aconteceu Naquela Noite" ("It Happened that Night")
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The Runaway Heiress
lugonian22 August 2003
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (Columbia, 1934), directed by Frank Capra, based on a short story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins Adams, ranks one of the best known and popular romantic comedies from the 1930s, thanks to the star chemistry of Clark Gable (on loan from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and Claudette Colbert (on loan from Paramount), with fine direction by Frank Capra, witty screenplay by Robert Risken, and for being the very first motion picture to win all five major Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Gable); Best Actress (Colbert); Best Director (Capra); Best Screenplay and Best Picture. This might have been an "upset" in 1934, considering other top-rated films and performances of the year, but who would have imagined IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT to still be as entertaining today as it was back in 1934?

This now well-known plot that's been remade twice by Columbia as EVE KNEW HER APPLES (1945) with Ann Miller and William Wright; and YOU CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM IT (1956) with June Allyson and Jack Lemmon, opens in a yacht in Miami where Ellen "Ellie" Andrews (Claudette Colbert), spoiled daughter of a millionaire Wall Street banker, Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly), who disapproves of her recent marriage to aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), making arrangements on having it annulled. Following a heated argument with her father, Ellie runs from her state room, jumps overboard and swims to shore. Eluding her father's hired detectives, Ellie, acquiring new clothes, purchases a night bus ticket bound for New York City where she plans to meet Westley. While on board, Ellen encounters Peter Warne (Clark Gable), a hot-headed reporter recently fired by his editor, Joe Gordon (Charles C. Wilson). With both disliking each other immensely, Warne, having discovered the "spoiled brat's" identity, becomes her constant traveling companion in order to get an exclusive story and his job back. Hours before reaching New York and taking a rest stop in an auto camp, misunderstandings occur as Ellen awakens to find both Peter and the car gone.

A simple story playing like an overlong "B" movie, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is a memorable bus trip of so many classic scenes that have been imitated by others but never duplicated. Highlights include the "Walls of Jericho" where Peter and Ellen share a room in auto camps where a blanket is tossed over a rope that separates the couple as they sleep for the night; Peter demonstrating to Ellen on how a man undresses, particularly one in which he removes his shirt to no undershirt underneath; Peter's correct method of dunking a dough-nut into a cup of coffee; and the classic hitchhiking scene where Peter fails to attract cars while Ellen comes up with a method all her own.

Although IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is essentially a Claudette Colbert movie from start to finish (there's no secondary female character, quite rare for its time). Due to the strength of Gable's performance, this has been hailed to be his best comedic role. Gable's character is hot-headed and forceful, living by a moral code. Although he shares a cabin with a married woman, that's all he does. He even tells Colbert's Ellie when she asks if she'll ever see him again, he replies, "I make it a policy not to run around with married women." And when he's hungry, he takes a carrot from a farm rather than going through the method of panhandling. This is Gable, a role model. Director Frank Capra, whose subject matter is usually on people, captures the many extras, especially those on the bus and auto camps, to make them appear as important as leading players. Roscoe Karns is equally memorable, "believe you me!" as the gabby bus passenger, Oscar Shapeley from Orange, New Jersey; Ward Bond as the tough talking bus driver; the meek Arthur Hoyt and the nosy/ domineering Blanche Frederici as the auto camp owners; Georgie Breakston the poor boy traveling on the bus with his mother (Claire McDowell); along with other passengers gathered together and singing "The Man on the Flying Trapeze," to a player of a snoring fat and bald man who rests his head on Colbert's shoulder. During it's entire 106 minutes, there's seldom any underscoring. As for the costumes, with the exception of the final 15 minutes, both Gable and Colbert use the same clothing through most of their trip.

While Gable and Colbert had challenging roles in their careers, plus their reunion in MGM's large-scale BOOM TOWN (1940), it's amazing how this likable little comedy was the only one to honor them Academy Awards. There's a scene where I feel Gable earned his statuette, the one where he tells Ellen the type of girl he would like to someday marry, saying that those kind of women don't exist anymore. Gable says this with frankness and sincerity. Colbert on the other hand earned hers from that same scene as she she listens and looks on lovingly at Gable with tears flowing down her cheek, coming to realize it happened one night.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT not only became a perennial favorite on late night television during the 1960s and 70s, but on cable TV as well, ranging from the Disney Channel (1980s), American Movie Classics (prior to 2001) to Turner Classic Movies, and availability on video cassette and finally DVD. While IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT has aged in appearance, it's still timely screen entertainment. There'll never be another film like this again. (***1/2)
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A Great Romance, Even If Implausible (Aren't They All?)
gavin69422 February 2010
A spoiled heiress (Claudette Colbert), running away from her family, is helped by a man (Clark Gable) who is actually a reporter looking for a story.

In this film "a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter", which, you know, is something that happens when spoiled daughters discover that they want to live like common people and do what common people do (like go to supermarkets).

The film was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat that would not be matched until "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) and later by "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991). And it is not really surprising when you see it... besides, it is Clark Gable and Frank Capra.

So, this might not be as outright funny as other films, and even as far as screwball comedies go, it sort of lags behind "The Awful Truth" with Cary Grant. But Clark Gable has a debonair charm to him... from the very beginning he has that attitude about him that women mysteriously love. I am a little confused about the laid-back approach to marriage and annulment, but this is a romance, and that is not uncommon... if anything, it shows how fickle the socialite is.

Overall, a very enjoyable film. Not my favorite of the era, but well worth a watch or two. And heck, if such a film can inspire the creation of Bugs Bunny and entertain Joseph Stalin... can it be so bad?
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Classic Comedy Starting One Night
Chrysanthepop14 December 2008
Capra's 'It Happened One Night' is a fascinatingly shot romantic comedy. It has the 30's feel but at the same time I am surprised that such skill was used in the making of this movie during the 1930s. The camera-work is brilliant as it brings out both the spatial feel and the crowdiness. the long shots are effective and I liked how the scenes change in a sideways 'flip' mode. There's always something about the driving scenes of old classics that amuse me. Clearly the background was shot separately and then projected on to a screen during the shooting of the film while in the foreground the actors are just seated in a car pretending to drive. While the background scene changes, the viewer keeps tuned to the wonderful dialogue between the actors. Needless to add, the film's got fantastic dialogue.

Capra also brilliantly gives us a glimpse of the 30's American society, especially focusing on gender and class status. The difference between the upper class rich people and the common ordinary man is shown by their use of language and their non-verbal behaviour. Yet, in a way the film is also ahead of its time. Ellie isn't just some clichéd damsel of the 30s. She is strong-minded, stubborn and smart (albeit slightly naive). She is one who fights for what she wants rather than giving in easily. Perhaps this is also one quality of hers that attracts Peter but at the same time their funny quarrels also indicate that there is a an equality in gender status (which was something women were struggling with in those days).

The characters are very well etched. Peter and Ellie were a lot of fun but I also liked how Alexander Andrews (played excellently by Walter Connolly) was written as the rich father who's got all the money but all he wants for his daughter is her happiness. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are great together as they match wits and display warm chemistry.

'It Happened One Night' has become an instant favourite, one that I definitely plan to revisit.
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One of the best comedy ever produced by Hollywood…….!
mianaliilyas7861 May 2007
It's a true call that they don't make the movies as they used to. There are very less movies coming near to the brilliance of "It Happened One Night". This movie is about a rich brat running from her home to get married with her lover, accompanied with struggling free lancer reporter in her journey. And in the journey they fall for each other. The romance building between two of them is nicely depicted and the blend of Peter Warne (Gables) arrogant personality gives it a nice stir. The story of the movie is very interesting and the comic attribute added by both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert is sufficed to make anyone laugh. The perfect direction from the master of his domain Frank Capra takes the movie on highest level; because of this it's the first movie to be honored with all major five Oscars (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Movie, Best Director and Best Screenplay).
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One of my favorite movies
IkuharaKunihiko26 May 2005
Peter, a washed up journalist, accidentally bumps into Ellen Andrews, a spoiled daughter of a rich guy from whom she ran away, on a bus while taking a trip to New York. He offers to help her hide from her dad if she agrees to sell her story only to him. But on their way to New York they fall in love...

There are many old classic film that are excellent but leave you with a "Yeah, great...but I expected something else" feeling. But "It happened one night" is one of those films that leaves you amazed without any reservations. I was neither a Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert or a Frank Capra fan before I saw this road movie, which won 5 Oscars, but after I did I became of fan of them for life! The story here is so damn simple that you may at first think that everyone could be able to pull it of, but when you think about it you will realize that at the same time it's actually very clever, carefully written and touching.


Take this scene for instance. Ellen is looking in front of herself while a burglar steals her luggage behind her back. She doesn't notice anything but Peter sees this and runs after the burglar. Ellen, still not turning around, is wondering where he is running of to. After a while Peter, all tired, returns and says: "He got away...!" And Ellen not knowing what's going on replies: "I don't know what you are talking about!" That's a perfect example how someone is trying to be a gentleman and ends up as a fool. But this is actually a film more touching than funny. After a while the spoiled Ellen shows her gentle side and realizes that she loves Peter. She says this to her father in tears because she thinks that Peter doesn't love her. So incredibly magical and yet so simple. It's incredibly high grade of 9/10 on the site is justified. Too bad almost all TV stations are keeping this jewel of air for decades! No wonder my generation is trapped in a vicious circle of violence, drugs and alcohol. They never got a glimpse of such previous generations with a soul and such raw, honest and touching beauty like "It happened one night" which exceeds the human mind.

Grade: 10/10
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Natural, charming, witty and very entertaining
danjakubik16 February 2010
"It Happened One Night" happens to be my personal most favorite film ever. It was an adapted screenplay (by Robert Riskin), from the short story "Night Bus" and was directed by Frank Capra. With a simple story, plot, modest budget and a very short four week production schedule, this film goes a long way. Director Frank Capra obviously knew the story to tell and how to tell it. Some of the best films are made in a surprisingly short amount of time and on a modest budget. This film followed what Capra hoped would be a critical and box office success. The hopes were low for this film, even after securing stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert for the lead roles. Columbia Studios was not well respected at the time in Hollywood.

"It Happened One Night", 1934, had a relatively small budget for it's time: $325,000, of which Claudette Colbert asked for and received $50,000 for her role. A star receiving this much of the total film budget was unheard of during the 1930's. Released during America's Great Economic Depression, the film had excellent timing and proved to be a big critical and audience hit. All the right elements came together. It had a high quality comedic screenplay with believable characters in believable situations. A film where luck and chemistry came together, producing a film that exceeded the expectations of everyone involved, including its' director Frank Capra.

The film comes across as light hearted and natural and with excellent timing and pacing. For it's time, this style of film was new. It would be one of the first of a new genre: screwball romantic comedy. Winner of five Academy Awards in all the major categories: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor in a Leading Role and Actress in a Leading Role, was a first in Hollywood history. Only two other films have swept the five top Academy Awards: "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", 1975 and "The Silence of the Lambs", 1991.

Claudette Colbert was quoted as saying: "I just finished the worst film ever" on "It Happened One Night". She had no idea how well the film would be edited. The film editing here is subtle and sublime. Colbert and Gable achieved that rare and special screen chemistry in the film. Colbert's demand that the film needed to be produced in four weeks, because of her vacation schedule, actually created the lively pace of the film, working in it's favor. "It Happened One Night" is a fine example of a quality screenplay, some good luck and a lot of chemistry, all coming together, producing an enduring and enjoyable comedy classic.

Clark Gable comes across as completely natural and very entertaining. The fun had while making this film shows partly in Gable's performance. Unfortunately, he would not be cast in a comedic role again, even after the big success of this film. The studio system of the time demanded stars remain type-casted. For Gable, that meant macho romantic leading action man.

To me, "It Happened One Night" is the best ever romantic comedy film, a gold standard for it's genre. It's lost none of it's charm and naturalness since it's release in 1934. The look of the film dates it, but it still delivers it's original naturalness, charm, wittiness, timing, pacing and entertainment value. Just about a perfectly made film.
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Wonderful Escapism
jem13222 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
'It Happened One Night' must have put on a smile on Depression-weary audiences way back in 1934. Over 70 years later the magic still works, due to the terrific combination of Gable, Colbert and director Capra.

But it almost didn't happen at all.

Both Gable and Colbert tried desperately to get out of doing IHON. In fact, it appeared no-one in Hollywood wanted the parts of Peter Warne and Ellie Andrews. The tiny cash-strapped Columbia Studios was making this film with an untried comedy formula, it looked a certain flop. Pfft. How wrong everyone was. IHON swept the Academy Awards, taking home all of the Major Awards, including Best Actor and Actress Awards for Gable and Colbert. It established the screwball comedy genre, and the careers of it's two stars and director Capra.

Why is it so good? Well, it has remained so fresh over the years that the laughs beat out almost every modern romantic comedy. It doesn't have to rely on smut or toilet humour to satisfy the audience, just a classic battle of the sexes we can all relate to. It's witty, the dialogue is snappy and fast-paced and the acting is near perfect. So let's have a closer look at the plot of this gem: Spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews (Colbert) has just defied her father by marrying society aviator King Westley. Her angry father wishes to keep Ellie away from her unsuitable husband and whisks her away on his private yacht. Daddy hasn't counted on Ellie's tenacity and will- fed up with the fact her childish hunger-strike is going nowhere she literally jumps overboard. When back on dry land she tries to make her way back to her husband by bus trip. A series of unfortunate events bring out of work newspaper reporter Peter Warne into her life. Cue the battle of the sexes! She has no money so she must accept his help; he knows who she is and to land the biggest scoop of his career he must deceive her whilst also helping her get back to Westley. But problems arise when the pair inevitably start to fall in love.

This film is just the tonic that Depression audiences would have soaked up. The parodying of the rich is sublime, you can't help rooting for Gable who is a fine representative of the underdog. It also has it's risqué elements that I'm surprised got past the Hayes Code that had just been enforced. In particular, Gable's sexy lesson to a shocked yet interested Colbert on how a man undresses and the final 'breaking down the walls of Jericho' scene. When Gable undressed to reveal a bare chest with NO undershirt, sales dropped off dramatically. This would be one of the earliest examples of product placement in film.

Some of my favourite scenes: the donut-dunking lesson, the piggy-back ride, Gable and Colbert's mock fight and the justifiably classic Hitchhiking scene. Colbert beats the cocky Gable at his own game by proving that SHE doesn't have to use her thumb to pull a ride. Instead she shows a bit of leg and stops a vehicle, much to the horror of Gable. Great stuff!

This film almost single-handedly established the great screwball comedy. Colbert's Ellie is the ultimate screwy dame,paving the way for Lombard and Hepburn in the genre, with Gable's Peter a direct forerunner to the Fredrich March character in the screwball classic 'Nothing Sacred' (1937). This films holds a very important place in motion picture history.

Best of all, it's so enjoyable.

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Could Have Been Super With Different Ending; Still A Top 'Classic'
ccthemovieman-111 October 2006
The first movie to sweep all the major Academy Awards, this film is still popular today. That's probably so because the dialog between the two stars of the picture - Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert - is just great. Those two make this fun to watch. I enjoyed it, however, much more on the first viewing than subsequent ones. It lost some of its zip after I knew what to expect. The ending, too, was very weak. Over the last 20 minutes, the two stars go their separate ways (until the very end) and the story gets very stupid.

The nice romance that had developed between the two seemed to have disintegrated when Gable left one early morning (for good intentions) but didn't tell Colbert. The latter thought Gable ran out on her. Hollywood, in films of the 1930s and 1940s, loved to have romances in which confusion abounded and everything was misinterpreted for the worst....until the happy ending when the truth somehow would surface. That same theme was in here, along with yet another trivialization of marriage, another common theme during the classic era. Colbert says it herself in one line, mentioning she doesn't care for this other guy, but what the heck, might as well get married, what's the difference?


If the scriptwriters here would have just kept the "road" part of this film going longer - with Gable and Colbert trading barbs - it would have been super. Gable has the best lines an is the most fun to watch but Colbert can hold her own. She looks really pixie-ish and cute, although most of her closeups are done with a fuzzy lens, another habit of filmmakers of that era had with female stars.

One of the film world's most famous scenes is in this movie: the hitch-hiking scene in which the cocky Cable explains the different ways of successful thumbing in order to get a ride....and gets nowhere while Colbert, on her first try, gets a car to stop immediately after she lifts up her skirt! That is still one of the great comedic scenes in movie history.

Overall, this is still one of the best comedies of "The Golden Age," even with its faults.
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It sure did...
gazzo-21 February 2001
Of course I like this-it's a classic. You have to love the bit parts of Alan Hale Sr as the singing driver, Roscoe Karnes as the 'Shapely' guy on the bus(his name and....), the 'brawling couple' stuff, and as always, the 'Walls of Jericho'.

I always enjoy the great b & w look, the heart that Capra gives us with the snap, and of course Claudette Colbert, Gable never better.

It won a lot of Oscars, it deserved them.

**** outta ****
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Rivals any of the modern cookie-cutter romantic comedies
cricketbat22 August 2018
A cute love story that rivals any of the cookie-cutter romantic comedies of today. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert play very well off of each other. Sure, it's cheesy in parts, but that's what makes these older movies so much fun.
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Gable and Colbert perfectly lead a timeless and influential romantic romp.
hunter-friesen8 January 2018
It's been over eighty years since It Happened One Night debuted on screens and still, it remains the quintessential romantic comedy to watch. While being the influence of countless films since, It Happened One Night is triumphant and timeless because of its great cast, director, and script.

At the start of the film, we see the beautiful Ellen Andrews (Claudette Colbert) in Florida aboard her wealthy father's luxury boat. Ellen is planning to marry King Westley, but her father disapproves of him and forces her to stay on the boat until he can find someone more suitable to his liking. This leads her to run away and seek out Westly herself while her father puts out a highly publicized bounty for her return. She boards a bus to New York and crosses paths with the charismatic Peter Warne (Clark Gable). He's a gifted newspaper reporter who also has a drinking problem that constantly gets him in trouble. Once Warne figures out who Ellen really is, he proposes a plan to her. He will escort her to New York for the rights to her story, which has become a national headline. While the seemingly mismatched pair goes on an adventure they eventually warm up and become close.

The plot flies at a free-flowing pace that allows for wickedly good one-liners. The script is fantastic and allows for great comedic timing and also a sense of drama. There is a bit of suspense as the will-they won't-they couple explore their feelings for each other. While watching the film you get the sense that they will end up together, but it's never fully guaranteed and leaves room for you to doubt. We meet several supporting characters that mostly never overstay their welcomes, such as the bumbling Shapeley and boisterous Zeke. They are great in the small amount of time they get and don't distract from the main narrative. One minor problem with the story is that the geography is very confusing. The audience is left out of the loop when it comes to knowing where exactly the leads are. This makes it hard to track the importance of each setting.

This is the prime example and maybe founding of the screwball comedy. Screwball comedies tell the story of two leads (often an unmarried man and woman) that come from different social classes and how they interact with each other based on their previous lifestyles. If you like films such as Heaven Can Wait and Raising Arizona, you should thank this film for popularizing the genre.

Frank Capra won the academy award for Best Director for this film and he totally deserved it. He balances his cast well and allows them to have total freedom within the cramped space of the frame. He pushes the camera for claustrophobic scenes that force the actors to work together to make the physical comedy work.

The acting is the definite draw and best part of the film. Both Gable and Colbert took home academy awards for their performances. Gable will go down as one of the best romantic leads ever. He's handsome, quick on his feet, and witty. He also delivers the perfect one-liners with confidence and swagger to make women want him and men to want to be him.

Colbert does an excellent job as the uptight and bratty female that so many leading ladies are still trying to replicate almost eighty years later. She perfectly embodies a rich girl that is out of her element while in the real world. She bounces off Gable's laid back working man character with ease and her one-liners are just as good or even better than his.

Walter Connolly also does a good job as Ellie's wealthy father, Alexander Andrews. He plays the overprotective but also understanding father. At first, he wants Ellen to marry someone rich and famous in order to boost his social status, but after seeing her unhappiness he changes and sees the errors of his ways. He's one of those fathers that every girl wants and every man should strive to be.

It Happened One Night is the biggest influence on the romantic comedy genre. Having the great pair of Gable and Colbert, and Capra as the director lifts this film to the heavens of classic cinema. Even in 2017 the film is still fun and can be used to teach writers how to create good comedy.
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