About It Happened One Night

Columbia bought the film rights to the Samual Adams short story Night Bus, and built it into a starring vehicle for Myrna Loy and Robert Montgomery, but Louis Mayer (who held the contracts on Loy and Montgomery at M-G-M) turned down Columbia, but he then counter-offered Clark Gable. It has been surmised this was a move by Mayer to punish Gable, because the actor had recently been asking for a raise and better shooting schedules.

With a relunctant Gable onboard, Harry Cohn (the President at Columbia Pictures) tried to get Constance Bennett, Margaret Sullavan, and Miriam Hopkins, but none were available or interested in making a film at the less-prestigious studio Columbia, which was at the time considered only marginally better than a "poverty row" film company.

Cohn and Capra then approached Claudette Colbert, who was contracted at Paramount Pictures. She didn't want to work at Columbia either, but her way of saying "no" was to offer to do the film for $50,000, which was an abnormally high salary in the early 1930s. To her surprise, Cohn answered "yes."

Gable and Colbert both showed up at Columbia to do the film, and neither were happy about it. Gable eventually warmed up to Capra as the production progressed, but Colbert remained certain the movie was going to turn out to be the worst film of her career.

When It Happened One Night was released in February, 1934, the reviews were tepid, but word-of-mouth was good and audiences began to grow, inflating the box office gross until it was registering across the country as a major hit.

The film's writing (by Robert Riskin) had taken the original short story and converted it (unknowingly) into being the progenitor of the 'screwball comedy' style that became its own genre in the 1930's. By adding farcical elements, satire, and melding it all around a love story between an arrogant, wise-cracking newspaper reporter and an immature "spoiled" rich girl, the tale leveled the differences between the leisured and the working class with laughter.

It Happened One Night eventually went into the Academy Awards and won all five of the main prizes: Best Picture of the Year, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Writing and Best Director.

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Original Page Aug 2014