It Happened One Night

Critics Consensus

Capturing its stars and director at their finest, It Happened One Night remains unsurpassed by the countless romantic comedies it has inspired.



Reviews Counted: 56

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Average Rating: 4.2/5

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Movie Info

Frank Capra's seminal screwball comedy, which won all five major Academy Awards for 1934, is still as breezy and beguiling today. Claudette Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, a spoiled heiress who has married fortune-hunting aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), despite her father (Walter Connolly)'s objections. To keep Ellie from marrying this lothario, her father has been holding her prisoner aboard his yacht. But Ellie bolts from the yacht, swims ashore in her clothes, and eventually slips onto a Greyhound bus bound for New York. Aboard the bus is newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who has recently been fired for drinking on the job. Peter gets the last seat on the bus -- but when he gets up to argue with the bus driver, Ellie takes his seat. Since it is the last seat on the bus, they have to share it. When Ellie has her purse stolen and she refuses to report it, Peter begins to suspect something. The next morning, they both miss the bus after a leisurely breakfast, and Peter reveals that he knows her identity. She makes a deal with him: if he helps her get to New York, he can write a scoop about her for his paper. Peter thinks she is a spoiled brat, however, and refuses a monetary bribe: "I'm not interested in your money or your problem. You, King Westley, your father -- you're all a lot of hooey to me!" But as they travel northward and engage in a series of misadventures, the gruff newspaperman and the spoiled rich girl, thrown together by circumstances, fall in love with each other. This movie set the pace for the "screwball" comedy, the witty and romantic clash of temperaments between a man and a woman mismatched in both personality and social position, a type of movie often associated with Katherine Hepburn in such classics as Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and, with Spencer Tracy, Adam's Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Desk Set (1957), among others. The only other movies to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay) were One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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Claudette Colbert
as Ellie Andrews
Clark Gable
as Pete Warne
Walter Connolly
as Alexander Andrews
Jason Thomas
as King Westley
Roscoe Karns
as Shapeley
Jameson Thomas
as King Westley
Alan Hale
as Danker
Ward Bond
as Bus Driver
Henry Wadsworth
as Drunk Boy
Blanche Frederici
as Zeke's Wife
Wallis Clark
as Lovington
Hal Price
as Reporter
Eddy Chandler
as Bus Driver
Ky Robinson
as Detective
James Burke
as Detective
Joseph Crehan
as Detective
Sherry Hall
as Reporter
Earl Pingree
as Policeman
Harry Hume
as Policeman
Bess Flowers
as Secretary
Ethel Sykes
as Maid of Honor
Edmund Burns
as Best Man
Eva Dennison
as Society Woman
Eddie Kane
as Radio Announcer
Harry Holman
as Manager Auto Camp
Tom Ricketts
as Prissy Old Man
Maidel Turner
as Manager's Wife
Irving Bacon
as Station Attendant
Harry Todd
as Flag Man
Bert Starkey
as Bus Passenger
Rita Ross
as Bus Passenger
Ernie S. Adams
as Bus Passenger
Billy Engle
as Bus Passenger
Dave Wengren
as Bus Passenger
Kit Guard
as Bus Passenger
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News & Interviews for It Happened One Night

Critic Reviews for It Happened One Night

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (13)

  • It's all about the snappy dialogue and simmering tension between these hugely charismatic stars.

    Sep 5, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • A charming, human, believable story, with charming, human, believable characters.

    Feb 26, 2018 | Full Review…
  • It's probably more historically important than it is a masterpiece (the last 20 minutes take the missed conections and misunderstandings an inch too far), but it's still very easy to fall in love with.

    Feb 22, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    David Jenkins

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The direction is excellent. Frank Capra never lets his picture lag for a moment. It is never very exciting, but it moves along snappily and it is full of amusing situations.

    Feb 17, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Perhaps not the greatest of the screwball comedies, but Frank Capra's It Happened One Night is one of the racier.

    Dec 10, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • As buoyant and elegant as bubbles in a glass of champagne, Frank Capra's sublime 1934 comedy... survives triumphantly because of its wit, charm, romantic idealism and its shrewd sketch of married life.

    Feb 3, 2014 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for It Happened One Night

This charming classic may be the very first screwball comedy of Cinema, a funny, amusing and optimistic movie with a deliciously sharp dialogue and wonderful performances from Gable and Colbert, who have a great onscreen chemistry together.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Frank Capra's road trip from Miami to New York is actually a poem to everyday America and Americans (your unwashed masses) and laced throughout with vignettes of common people simply enjoying life ... practically the blueprint for Hollywood gold. Remember James Cameron's Titanic? Well, here is where he stole the central theme. Gable and Colbert are great as the surrogates for us in this tale, he as the jack-of-all-trades everyman, and she as the princess who finds her Prince Charming is closer than she thinks. It never gets old, the scene in the bedroom still laced with agonizingly palpable tension, even after all these years.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Colbert and Gable hated making it and it ended up being one of Hitler's favorite films, but Capra's perfectly scripted romantic comedy has a stamp of glorious old-Hollywood quality.

Kevin Cookman
Kevin Cookman

Super Reviewer

With the company of a charming newspaperman, a woman flees her father to marry a man whom her father disapproves of. I've finally found a Frank Capra film that I don't find so saccharine that I found myself rolling my eyes all the way up into my cranium. This is not to say that this film has any great substance. It's a high-energy, madcap farce that has just enough pathos to keep it from becoming Bringing Up Baby and just enough fun to keep Capra from making great pronouncements of life and morality. I thought that the characters' changes, particularly on the father's part, were too convenient, and Peter's near-abuse of Ellie makes it odd that she would have any great affection for him. Overall, though the film often defies credulity, it is one of my favorite Capra films, and I'm glad that I can finally like one of his movies.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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