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It Happened One Night Poster
Your February 2009 Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: Two great lovers of the screen in the grandest of romantic comedies !

MoMo: While hitching with Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert hikes her dress to show her leg.

Preshow Entertainment: FREAKAZOID!


First of all, it happened in four nights, not one. But bad arithmetic aside, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT surely deserves to be hailed as the holy grail of screwball comedies.

IHON was made in Depression-era 1934, when America needed a laugh. It was a time when people smoked cigars, cigarettes and pipes...on buses. Ellen Andrews (Claudette Colbert), daughter of a gazillionaire, is engaged to marry aviator King Westley. Well, Dad would have none of this, so he traps Ellen on his yacht with nowhere to run. Ellen is so feisty even the servants cower as she walks by; but come on, it's a screwball comedy, the spoiled daughter is supposed to be sharp-tongued and stubborn. If only she would meet her match, like maybe a freshly fired, carping reporter whose "ego is absolutely colossal."

So Ellen jumps overboard and Dad has to send word that his "daughter has escaped again."

On a bus trying to get out of town (Daddy has people everywhere), Ellen meets Paul Warne (no relation to George Raft's Joe Warne in last month's RMC - NOCTURNE), a freshly fired, carping reporter whose ego is absolutely colossal, and it's hate at first sight. No, I really mean that. I don't think it was love pretending to be hate. I think they really hated each other at first. "Holy jumping catfish, you drive a guy crazy!"

And herein lies the true genius of director Frank Capra, who was able to make these two rascals so damn lovable. Peter calls Ellen an ungrateful brat, and he's right. "Ever hear of the word 'humility'?" he asks her. Maybe she hasn't, but she will before the movie is over. Before long, these two haters form a marriage of convenience (they actually conveniently pretend to be married in some scenes), for she wants a clean escape from Dad and he wants the story of the century...which will get his job back. And they'll do it all with a loquaciousness that enrages each other and makes us grin. Like when he watches her dunk her donut and quips, "All those millions and you don't know how to dunk."

Paul (Clark Gable) watches Ellen (Claudette Colbert) sleep
How much they like (or love) each other and won't admit it to themselves becomes more obvious to us as the picture unspools, it's simply not obvious to them. But we get to see the private moments, like the way he watches her sleep in the nearby bed and the way she holds onto his lapel as she sleeps on the bus. It's how he tells his newspaper editor he loves her before he tells her. And as their relationship loses its contentiousness and begins to warm, they become a team. Yet they still insist it's all for their own selfish reasons.

One of the many witty back-and-forths occurs as Peter hangs a sheet up (he calls it the Walls of Jericho) to separate their beds in a hotel room (auto-court, actually). Ellen, thinking it's to provide him with amusement, says to him, "I suppose that makes everything quite alright?"

Ellen (Colbert) eyes a shirtless Clark Gable
But it is Peter who takes her down with "Well I like privacy when I retire. Yes, I'm very delicate in that respect. Prying eyes annoy me." Another great scene has Peter testing the boundaries as he undresses in front of her until he's actually bare chested. By the way, a man not wearing an undershirt in those days was unheard of, and following the success of the movie, it's said that undershirt sales dipped way down. Hollywood folklore?

And then there's the famous hitch-hiking scene, when Peter is unable to hook a ride with his thumb. All it takes is Ellen to hitch and hike her skirt and show some leg for the first passing car to screech on his brakes. It's funny that Colbert didn't want to do this scene at first (she later retracted her request for a body double) because it became not just a highlight in the film but her most iconic film moment.

Along the way, Ellen finds herself in men's pajamas waiting on line for a community shower. So you see, IHON is a lot like
TAMING OF THE SHREW. They both even have the same psychological wordplay. Yup - it's a Shrewball Comedy. Or maybe it's WHEN WISEASS MET BRATTY. Or THE SURE THING.

IHON moves swiftly from one golden moment to the next, be it a line of dialogue (one-third into the movie Ellen asks Peter, "By the way...what's your name?") to an entire scene (66 years before the ALMOST FAMOUS crew sang TINY DANCER on the bus, IHON's passengers joined together for THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE) to the human side of life (Peter gives his last money to a malnourished boy and his faint mom who are on their way to New York for one last chance at Depression life).

Trying to hitchhike
This was the first movie to sweep all five major Academy Awards. We'd have to wait over 40 years for the next sweep (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST) and nearly 60 years for the third (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). It was the first, and only, Academy Award win for leads Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, so it's funny to learn that neither star wanted anything to do with this film when they signed on. In fact, Colbert didn't even go to the Academy Awards ceremony. I suppose it wasn't the first time prospectors had gold in their hands and mistook it for pyrite.IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT was based on a magazine story and brought to life by screenwriter/Fay Wray hubby Robert Riskin, who also teamed with Capra for LOST HORIZON. Do we even have to talk about Capra? Perhaps his body of work can do the talking: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, MEET JOHN DOE and of course IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Say it with me..."Wow!"

IHON was remade as a musical in 1954, directed by Dick Powell and featuring Jim Backus AND Stubby Kaye (was Buddy Hackett out of town?).

For trivia lovers: It's said that Bugs Bunny's carrot chewing was taken from the way Clark Gable chewed carrots in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.

So I guess the lesson here is that even the brattiest and wiseassiest people are human. They just need to take off the damn masks. It took nearly the whole movie for Peter and Ellen to see past each other's masks and make the Walls of Jericho come down, but it only took me minutes to fall in love with this movie. And that's no faint praise, as I'm not a huge fan of screwball comedies.


The RMC Librarian loves FREAKAZOID! A lot. They didn't sell merch for this cartoon, so she went and made her own FREAKAZOID! shirt. So now that FREAKAZOID! is finally on DVD, we decided to screen an episode for tonight's preshow.

FREAKAZOID! is a super hero. Okay, not really. He was a nerd who got sucked into his computer and came out looking like a super hero. So although he has some limited powers (instead of flying, he runs with his arms out in front of him and makes flying noises), he's not really that...smart. But he does have a way cool SPIDER-MANish theme song.

The episode we screened was written by the amazing Paul Dini and is called "Foamy the Freakadog." Yes, Freakazoid gets a sidekick, albeit not a very helpful one, and no "doggie talk" from Freakazoid seems to help. Instead, Foamy insists on beating the shit out of Freakazoid.

FREAKAZOID! was a Spielberg production and featured tons of great villains and guest voices. One of the regulars, Sgt. Cosgrove, was voiced by Ed Asner. Cosgrove actually looks like Asner, just like he did when he was Carl in the movie UP.

We have to watch more of these.

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