Romantic Moment #7
It Happened One Night (1934)
This is one of my all-time favorite romantic films. First of all it is by one of my favorite directors, Frank Capra, and fav actors; Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. I just love this trio, especially when they are all in one film.
Ellen “Ellie” Andrews (Colbert) is a spoiled heiress who is tired of living under her father’s restrictions. She married the first guy she could, fortune-hunting “King” Westley. Her father has sequestered Ellie until her can get her an annulment. She only has so long to get to New York and reunite with King before the annulment is finalized. She escapes from the yacht that has been her prison and takes off, boarding a bus.
Peter Warne (Gable) is a journalist and on the outs with his boss. He needs a really great story, an exclusive, in order to make things right. He and Ellie end up sitting next to each other and Peter figures out who she is. He makes a bet with his editor (sound familiar?) that he has a great story, the best ever; and goes on to talk to Ellie. He gives her the option of him 1) going along with her and writing a heartfelt story about the power of love, etc or 2) he will turn her in and collect all the reward money. Needless to say Ellie chooses the first option.
Soon the two are partners in this endeavor. Ellie’s money and luggage are stolen and she has to rely on Peter to help her, since she has no clue what she’s doing. Later, Ellie gives a poor family the rest of Peter’s money, leaving them completely broke until they can get to New York. They soon have to leave the bus as one of the other passengers recognizes her and they have to walk through the forest. Later they have to hitchhike, Colbert doing the famous “leg scene“. They get picked up, but then the guy tries to steal their luggage and Peter has to go after him. He comes back with their stuff and the guys, finding a place to stay. Throughout this adventure the two start to fall in love (the first film to do the “two who hate each other love each other in the end after being stuck with each other”). That night, Ellie tells Peter she loves him, but Peter doesn’t say anything. Instead, he waits until Ellie is asleep and takes off. He gets all the way to his editor in New York and sells him the story; wanting to tell Ellie how he feels but not wanting to do that with nothing to his name. He wants offer Ellie more than himself (although all Ellie wants is him not money or anything more.) Peter and the editor spend the night working on the story of his and Ellie’s adventures and their love. Meanwhile, Ellie wakes up to find Peter and the stuff gone. Thinking he walked out on her she calls her dad, who at this point is so happy to see her that he doesn’t care of she wants to marry the mimbo King, but will even throw her a new wedding, since he is so happy to have her back. Peter and Ellie pass each other, Peter on his way to see Ellie, and Ellie on her way off with King. Peter thinks Ellie didn’t want him and both are mad and hurt at the other. Ellie is about to have her wedding, but her father (who had met Peter) convinces Ellie that Peter loves her. He tells Ellie that he has everything ready for if she wants to take off. Ellie does and is reunited/married to Peter.
Favorite Romantic Moment:
Now this film has quite a few, but this is one of my favs. Ellie’s father is so thankful to have her safe and back in his life he decides that Peter should get the reward money. After all, if Ellie hadn’t had Peter she would have been molested by men on the bus (Peter saved her from them), starved (Peter gets her food, even digging up carrots when they had nothing), etc. Peter comes but instead he refuses. He doesn’t want a single thing, other than what he spent on Ellie.
Now I know that this is a movie cliché we see in lots of films, Pretty Woman, Anastasia, etc. (this was actually the first film to do this); but let’s think about the time this film takes place. 1934. That’s right, smack-dab in the middle of the Great Depression. I mean think about how bad the unemployment is right now. Imagining it? Well it is, at the worst as it depends by state, is 4.8%. In 1934, it was 21.7%. That’s really bad. So here is a guy who has no job as he not only was on the outs and fired in the first place, but then his exclusive story turned out to be naught. So here he is with no job, no money, and no options. But instead of taking the reward, thousands of dollars, he takes nothing. Only $39.60 as reimbursement.
He loves her so much that he can’t have their time and memories tainted. Instead he’d rather be poor. How romantic! He has honor, morals, and principles! ❤
Alexander Andrews: Oh, er, do you mind if I ask you a question, frankly? Do you love my daughter?
Peter Warne: Any guy that’d fall in love with your daughter ought to have his head examined.
Alexander Andrews: Now that’s an evasion!…Do you love her?
Peter Warne: A normal human being couldn’t live under the same roof with her without going nutty! She’s my idea of nothing!
Alexander Andrews: I asked you a simple question! Do you love her?
Peter Warne: YES! But don’t hold that against me, I’m a little screwy myself!
[as he walks Ellie down the aisle, Mr. Andrews talks to her]
Alexander Andrews: You’re a sucker to go through with this. That guy Warne is OK. He didn’t want the reward. All he asked for was $39.60, what he spent on you. Said it was a matter of principle. You took him for a ride. He loves you, Ellie. He told me so. You don’t want to be married to a mug like Westley; I can buy him off for a pot of gold. And you can make an old man happy and you won’t do so bad for yourself. If you change your mind, your car’s waiting at the back gate.
I LOVE this film!
For more on It Happened One Night check out My Favorite Movie Lines
For more on Frank Capra go to Bringing the World to Your Backyard
If you liked this post, check out On the 8th ‘Til of Christmas and the 9th Day ‘Til Christmas