Thursday, August 5, 2010

"It Happened One Night": Still Entertaining Us Almost 80 Years After Its Initial Release

The second week of my class on Claudette Colbert (Down to Earth Sophisticaion: Claudette Colbert in Hollywood) was fun. Last night we screened Frank Capra's 1934 classic It Happened One Night. It's amazing how well this film holds up in the twenty-first century.

Still Fresh
The performances are natural, the chemistry between stars Colbert and Clark Gable is undeniable. The cinematography by Joseph Walker is nearly perfect. The set-ups, the lighting, all contrbute not only to the look of the movie, but to the narrative as well. Almost 80 years later, we still care about Ellie Andrews (Colbert) and Peter Warne (Clark Gable).

The Not So Simple Things
There are many wonderful things to point out in It Happened One Night that have been highlighted by better writers and film historians. But as someone who loves this movie, I can't help but admire the simple things (that technically aren't that simple).

A Walk to Remember
When Colbert leaves the cabin in the auto court and walks to the outdoor showers, it's a thing of beauty. She weaves in and out of adults, children, and auto court workers on her way. It's timed perfectly and it's all done in one beautiful tracking shot. The fact that this movie was shot in four weeks, makes one appreciate the genius of artists like Capra and Walker all the more.

If you've never seen this film, you're missing out not only on a real piece of film history, but also a great feel-good movie that will stay with you forever.

Every Cinderella Has Her Midnight
Midnight (Universal Cinema Classics)Next week it's the Colbert classic Midnight (1939). This great romantic comedy was directed by Michell Leisen and penned by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.

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