It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 20, 2014 by  


“It Happened One Night” is a romantic comedy classic that must be watched by cinema fans interested in learning about the career of Frank Capra or watching a historically significant film starring both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. But also for any fans of Screwball comedy or romantic comedies in general. This Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is no doubt the definitive version of the film to own! Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736


DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH


RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2014

Directed by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Robert Riskin

Based on the Short Story by Samuel Hopkins Adams

Executive Producer: Harry Cohn

Produced by Frank Capra

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Stephen Goosson

Costume Design by Robert Kalloch


Clark Gable as Peter

Claudette Colbert as Ellie

Walter Connolly as Andrews

Roscoe Karns as Shapeley

Jameson Thomas as Westley

Alan Hale as Danker

Arthur Hoyt as Zeke

Blanche Friderici as Zeke’s Wife

Charles C. Wilson as Gordon

Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance. The first film to accomplish the very rare feat of sweeping all five major Oscar categories (best picture, best actor, best actress, best director, and best screenplay), It Happened One Night is among the most gracefully constructed and edited films of the early sound era, packed with clever situations and gags that have entered the Hollywood comedy pantheon and featuring two actors at the top of their game, sparking with a chemistry that has never been bettered.


“It Happened One Night”, the 1934 award winning film that would usher in a genre of  romantic comedies known as the “Screwball Comedy”.  It was the film that would set the stage for filmmaker Frank Capra and would lead him on the path of more Academy Awards and hit films, it would earn screenwriter Robert Riskin an Academy Award and it would be a film that would earn Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert an Academy Award. In fact, “It Happened One Night” would win all five major Academy Awards, a feat. that would not be accomplished until 40 years later.

It was a film that generated excitement during its time and would be so popular that the film would stay in theaters for years after it premiered.

But surprisingly, “It Happened One Night” was a film that was almost never made.

For Frank Capra and Robert Riskin, the two were heading out to work on projects until Capra was told by Columbia studio executive Harry Cohn that he had to work on a film and he would have to work on the film “It Happened One Night” (a film based on Samuel Hopkins Adams short story “Night Bus”) with a production schedule that would last around four weeks.

Before Columbia was a major film studio, it was part of the “poverty row” (low-budget film studios) and for the major studios, in the effort to control unruly actors who ask for a pay raise or had contractual issues, these talent would be loaned to “poverty row” as part of the actor’s punishment (often called “banished to Siberia”).

And for Clark Gable, his problems with MGM’s L.B. Mayer led him to be punished and sent to Columbia to be part of Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night”.

As for actress Claudette Colbert, she had no interest in shooting the film, as she was more interested in vacationing in Sun Valley and asked for a lot of money ($50,000 which was a lot at the time) to shoot the film in four weeks.  Thinking that there was no way Columbia would pay for her to star in a film for that much, she figured that there was no chance that she would be hired.  But to her chagrin, Cohn agreed to her demand and “It Happened One Night” would eventually become a film.

After shooting the film, Colbert was quoted as saying “I’ve just finished the worst picture in the world”.

And to everyone’s surprise, Columbia would have a hit on their hands.  So much excitement that even the film critics couldn’t understand how America has warmed up to this film.

But “It Happened One Night” would eventually become a classic romantic comedy, the beginning of Screwball Comedy but most of all, establish in cinema a style that would best be known as a Frank Capra film.

In 1993, “It Happened One Night” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  And in 2013, the film would receive restoration.

And now, the Capra classic, “It Happened One Night” has received the Criterion Collection treatment and will be released in November 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD.

“It Happened One Night” is a film that begins with Ellen “Ellie” Andrews (portrayed by Claudette Colbert) in a heated argument with her wealthy father, Alexander (portrayed by Walter Connolly).  Ellie had eloped with pilot and fortune-hunter “King” Westley (portrayed by Jameson Thomas) and her father wants the marriage annulled.

Upset with her father, Ellie jumps off her father’s boat and runs away by boarding a bus from Florida to New York City, where she can be closer to King.

But while in the boat, she meets a former newspaper reporter named Peter Warne (portrayed by Clark Gable), a brash man who has a problem with the wealthy and is not afraid to tell people how he feels.

Noticing Ellie is trying to evade her father, he tells her that if she gives him an exclusive story about her trying to reunited with King, he won’t tell her father where she is.  If she refuses, he will call him immediately.  And of course, Ellie agrees to his demands.

But as Ellie has no money, she relies on Peter for her trip to New York City.  And the two must endure a road trip with not much money and find a way to get to their destination.  But can these two complete opposites stand in being with each other during this road trip?


“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are nice and deep. The film features a good layer of grain and the clarity of the film on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition. I did not notice any damage to the film.

Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident.  Sharpness was evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep.  There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “It Happened One Night” in terms of picture quality!

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a 35mm safety composite fine-grain made from the original nitrate negative and a 35mm nitrate print. The digital restoration was performed by the Prasad Group in Chennai, India.”


As for audio, “It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736” is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original nitrate optical soundtrack and a 35mm nitrate print. The soundtrack was restored by Sony Pictures, with additional restoration by the Criterion Collection. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 3.”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.


“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736” comes with the following special features:

  • Frank Capra Jr. Remembers…”It Happened One Night” – (11:16) A 1999 interview with Frank Capra Jr. discussing his father and the origins of “It Happened One Night”.
  • Screwball Comedy? – (38:36) Film critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate discuss “It Happened One Night” and if it is a screwball comedy.
  • Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House – (12:03) A 1921 silent short (Capra’s first film) based on Rupyard Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House”.  Featuring a new score composed and performed by Donald Sosin.
  • Frank Capra’s American Dream – (1:36:02) A 1997 documentary about Frank Capra directed by Ken Bowser and hosted by Ron Howard.  Featuring many film historians, actors and directors who were influenced by Capra’s work.
  • AFI’s Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Frank Capra – (59:11) The American Film Institute presented its 10th lifetime achievement award to director Frank Capra in 1982.  This version is a slightly edited television version of the AFI program.
  • Trailer – (1:24) The original theatrical trailer for “It Happened One Night”.


“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736” comes with a poster-sized insert with the essay “All Aboard!” by Farrah Smith Nehme on one side and production credits on the other side.


A film that was never expected to be a huge hit for Columbia, “It Happened One Night” was a film that would captivate audiences for its romantic comedy storyline but also for audiences seeing a side of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert that they have never seen before.

“It Happened One Night” also benefited from the fact that it was one of the last romantic comedies created in 1934 before the MPAA enforced the 1930 production code later that year.

It was a film with many scenes to remember.  From the dunking donuts scene, the sexual innuendo without the two characters having to engage in anything intimate onscreen, the bus ride as everyone sings “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”.

And of course, women saw Clark Gable’s bare chest, men saw the sexy leg of Claudette Colbert, but it was the storyline of complete opposites having to be together during a road trip.

As the character Peter Warne is set on his own ways, not caring about money, nor caring for spoiled brats… a reference to Ellie, the daughter of the wealthy Alexander Andrews and it’s a life of luxury that she only knows.  But while on this road trip with Peter, she exposed to another life, a life with no money, a life of seeing people who were hurt by the Great Depression and people struggling to get by.  But most importantly, learning a lot about life through Peter and Peter, in his way, his flippant style of trying to knock down Ellie from her high horse.

This is an important distinction of the film because it was released when families and pretty much the entire nation were trying to heal from the Depression, we have a film that was anti-money or anti-wealth.  About seeing life through those who struggle, in this case Peter Warne, out-of-a-job and willing to spend time with the Heiress in hopes that it will earn him a job.  But who knew that these two complete opposites, would find some love along the way.

So, there is so much to love about the story and enjoy the characters of “It Happened One Night”.  It was the film that introduced me to screwball comedies, the film that would introduce me to “poverty row” films, the film that would introduce me to the work of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert many years ago.  But most importantly, lead me to the path of discovering more wonderful films from Frank Capra.

As for this Criterion Collection release, this Blu-ray release is no doubt a wonderful tribute to not just the film (which looks amazing on Blu-ray!), but it’s the inclusion of two major interviews about the film, one significant documentary in regards to the oeuvre of Frank Capra but also the original 1982 special of the American Film Institute honoring Frank Capra.  And in addition to that, Capra’s first film, a silent short from 1921, “Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House” is included.

Overall, “It Happened One Night” is a romantic comedy classic that must be watched by cinema fans interested in learning about the career of Frank Capra or watching a historically significant film starring both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.  But also for any fans of Screwball comedy or romantic comedies in general.  This Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is no doubt the definitive version of the film to own!

Highly recommended!

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