Friday, November 19, 2010

Must Watch Friday: It Happened One Night

Modern Heat author Heidi Rice delights in one of the sexiest and sassiest rom-coms ever made. A vintage love-on-the-run story from the 1930s which is still as fresh and funny as it was when it was first released a staggering 75 years ago!!

The 1930s in Hollywood were a golden era, there were glittering epics such as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, fabulously overblown women's pictures like Dark Victory and The Women and a raft of acclaimed literary classics such as The Grapes of Wrath and Wuthering Heights.... But by far the most entertaining films of that golden age for me, and the films I return to again and again are the glorious romantic comedies of Frank Capra. Because Capra's comedies weren't just funny and gloriously romantic, they were also heartfelt and genuine, shedding a healing light on the hard times of the Great Depression.

Escapism with an edge, I like to call it.

Now Capra was a fan of Gary Cooper (Mr Deeds Goes to Town) and later James Stewart (It's a Wonderful Life), but my favourite of his comedies (and it's got a lot of competition) has to be the time he cast Clark Gable as his leading man in It Happened One Night. This was Gable five years before he took on the iconic role of Rhett Butler in GWTW and while the darkly handsome good looks, alpha tendencies and trademark playboy 'tache are already in evidence here, this is a younger, more playful and laid-back Gable — he's super-sexy, but his reporter Peter Warne is also witty, wonderfully contemporary and gets as good as he gives from his sassy heroine — Claudette Colbert's runaway heiress Ellie Andrews. So if we translate that into M&B terms, while Rhett is more of a Modern hero, Peter for me is all Modern Heat.

Like most of Capra's films, the story is simple and remarkably subtle, brilliantly clever and always character-led.

Ellie has decided to tie the knot with 'society aviator' King Wesley against her millionaire father's wishes. Dad whisks her away to his luxury yacht to make her see sense, but she escapes - determined to make her way back to King come what may. Enter our smart, jobbing reporter Peter Warne who's on the look-out for a headline-grabbing exclusive. And Ellie's race across country to be reunited with her beau is it. Ellie's at first reluctant, but after a spot of blackmail and the realisation that she needs Peter — because you see she has no money, very few clothes and she is not used to slumming it — they end up hitchhiking and bickering their way across country together.

Thus begins an often hilarious (see the hitchhiking scene below), frequently heart-warming and also exceptionally sexy (now check out the 'Walls of Jericho' sequence) battle of wits that turns to romance, when Ellie finally figures out that Peter's more of a match for her than King will ever be, and Peter figures out that his career isn't as important as finding true love — and a woman who knows 'the limb is mightier than the thumb'!

But don't take my word for it. This film won the five big Oscars of 1935 - namely Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay — can still charm the pants off you three quarters of a century after it was made and, most importantly of all, put an end to men wearing vests (when Gable revealed his bare chest). And let's face it ladies, we've all got to salute it for that!!

So here are those two keys scenes to check out:

First: The Hitch-Hiking Scene... Watch how Ellie strings Peter along so beautifully while he happily gallops towards his come-uppence fuelled by his own self-importance.

And the piece de resistance... Considered super-risque in it's day, this scene is still pretty hot now but you'll have to watch the movie to see The Walls of Jericho come tumbling down!

I give you It Happened One Night, proof that not only does money not buy you love, but actually slumming it can be very romantic.... Especially if you're doing it with Clark Gable.

Heidi's brand new Modern Heat novel Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger has just hit bookshelves in the UK and Ireland. While her latest Presents Extra, Unfinished Business with the Duke is currently still available in the US. Come talk to her on her blog, on Facebook or on her website about vintage rom-coms, Clark Gable's bare chest, or even her books!


  1. This is one of my fave films. I must see it again.
    When Clark Gable takes his shirt and revealled he wasn't wearing an undershirt, he changed the way men dressed...
    Wasn't Claudette Colbert being punished for something and that was why she was put out on loan to make this movie which wasn't supposed to be as big as it became.

  2. I love this film - the banter, the hitching, the heroine who needs the hero to get what she wants and then realises that she doesn't want it any more. And Clark Gable without a vest. :)

    It's a classic romance and inspired me when I wrote Eloping With Emmy.

  3. Oooo so want to see this film. Sarah Churchill wrote about it recently as well.

    *heads off to Amazon*

  4. Liz and Michelle, I knew you guys would appreciate the wonders of hitch-hiking with Clark!

    And Biddy, do get a copy, have a feeling this will definitely appeal to your sense of humour!

    H x

  5. Oh this looks wonderful, Heidi! Loved that peek at the second scene there too! Must see if Netflix has it.:-)

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  7. You should Mira, you'll love it, I guarantee it, it's definitely a movie to watch with hot chocolate while curled up on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon!

    H x

  8. One of my favorite romantic comedy classics, right alongside Bringing Up Baby and Roman Holiday.It's the perfect combination of smart and hot, and timeless leading man. And a great, strong female role, too.

  9. Excellent romantic comedy! I may have to dig out my copy as I have not watched in some time.

  10. I saw the movie aaaaages ago. Loved the clips - just brilliant! Note to self - must get a copy and watch it again!

    Thanks Heidi - great post :)

  11. Such a fun film! Thanks for the reminder. Some of the oldies really were terrific goodies!

  12. Summer, Heather, Joanne and Anne.... Knew you lot all had superior taste. Like Moi! Am thinking we should start a little It Happened One Night fanclub... Am now going to lobby for that to be my next book title! After all anything's possible with Riva!

    And Summer, thanks for the tips, will have to do Roman Holiday pr Bringing Up Baby for my next Must Watch Friday movie as they're both golden oldies too!