It Happened One Night is a 1934 American Pre-Code romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite, Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father’s thumb, and falls in love with the roguish reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable). The plot was based on the August 1933 short story “Night Bus” by Samuel Hopkins Adams, which provided the shooting title. The movie was one of the last romantic comedies created before the MPAA began enforcing the 1930 production code in 1934, the film was released on February 22, 1934. It Happened One Night was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat that would not be matched until One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and later by The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Filming began in a tense atmosphere as Gable and Colbert were dissatisfied with the quality of the script. However, they established a friendly working relationship and found that the script was no worse than those of many of their earlier films. Capra understood their dissatisfaction and tried to lighten the mood by having Gable play practical jokes on Colbert, who responded with good humor. Colbert, however, continued to show her displeasure on the set. She also initially balked at pulling up her skirt to entice a passing driver to provide a ride, complaining that it was unladylike. Upon seeing the chorus girl who was brought in as her body double, an outraged Colbert told the director, “Get her out of here. I’ll do it. That’s not my leg!” Through the filming, Capra claimed, Colbert “had many little tantrums, motivated by her antipathy toward me,” however, “she was wonderful in the part.” After her acceptance speech at the Oscars ceremony, she went back on stage and thanked Capra for making the film. Source: Wikipedia.
The hitchhiking scene
In one of the most highlight, most-remembered and funniest sequence, Peter and Ellie try to stop a car in a rural highway and Peter as a macho, know-it-all attitude, tells Ellie about his hitchhiking techniques to try to attract a ride, and brags about his expert knowledge, and his intention to write a book entitled: The Hitchhiker’s Hail. This causes Ellie to sneer and comment on his dubious skill: “There’s no end to your accomplishments, is there?” Peter lectures condescendingly at her, and confidently gives Ellie a detailed lecture on the three proper and correct ways that common people hail passing cars while thumb hitchhiking.
– I wish you wouldn’t talk so much. Now we let a car get away.
– And suppose nobody stops for us?
– They’ll stop all right. It’s a matter of knowing how to handle them.
– And you’re an expert I suppose.
– Expert. And I’ll write a book about it. Call it “The Hitchhiker’s Hail.”
– There’s no end to your accomplishments, is there? You think it’s simple?
– Well, it is simple. It’s all in that old thumb, see? Some people do it like this. Or like this. All wrong. Never get anywhere.
– The poor things.
– But that old thumb never fails. It’s all a matter of how you do it, though. Now you take No. 1, for instance. That’s a short jerky movement, like this. That shows independence. You don’t care if they stop or not. You got money.
– No. 2, that’s a little wider movement. Smile goes with this one, like this. That means you got a brand-new story about the farmer’s daughter.
– You figured that out all by yourself?
– That’s nothing. No. 3, that’s a pit. That’s the pitiful one. When you’re broke and hungry and everything looks black. It’s a long sweeping movement like this. Gotta follow through, though.
– That’s amazing.
– But it’s no good, if you haven’t got a long face to go with it.
– Here comes a car.
– Okay. Now watch me. I’m gonna use No. 1. Keep your eye on that thumb, baby, and see what happens.
[A car drives by without stopping]
– I still got my eye on the thumb.
– Something must have gone wrong. I’ll try No. 2.
– When you get to 100, wake me up.
[After failing to get over a dozen cars to stop]
– I don’t think I’ll write that book after all.
– Think of all the fun you had, though. You mind if I try?
– You? Don’t make me laugh.
– Oh, you’re such a smart alec. Nobody knows anything but you. I’ll stop a car and I won’t use my thumb.
– What’re you going to do?
– It’s a system all my own.
– Aren’t you going to give me a little credit?
– What for?
– I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.
– Why didn’t you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped 40 cars.
– I’ll remember that when we need 40 cars.