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How can anyone talk about IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT ($25) without mentioning the fact that movie took home all of the major awards at the 1934 Oscars. The Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay gave IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT a total of five Academy Awards. Sure, this number is less than those of other films, but then again, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT took home the awards that really matter. In my opinion, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is one of the most significant Academy Award winning films because it is a comedy. In later years, the Academy came to looks upon comedies with distain, which is completely unfair since making people laugh is a genuine art form. After all, dying is easy... comedy is hard...

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT tells the story of Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), a spoiled rich girl who runs away from her millionaire father because he objects to her penniless playboy husband. To avoid her father's dragnet, Ellie makes her way from Florida to New York on a bus where she encounters Peter Warne (Clark Gable), a down on his luck reporter. When Peter sees Ellie's face plastered on the cover of every national newspaper, he decides to get close to her and secure himself the story of a lifetime. Of course, it's a personality clash from the start. However, when Ellie and Peter are forced to abandon the bus and hitchhike the rest of the way to New York, the sparks really begin to fly. The plot of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is completely simplistic, yet the film succeeds on the strength of it's smart screenplay, the personalities of two genuine stars and a brilliant director who knew how to bring it all together. Without question, this powerful merging of talent remains as effective today, as it was way back in 1934. The cast of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT also includes Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Jameson Thomas and Alan Hale Sr..

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done a really fine job with their DVD edition of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. The film is more than sixty-five years old, yet most of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is in such phenomenal shape that it looks as if it could have been shot only yesterday. Unfortunately, not every last frame of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is as well preserved. There are inserts of footage that appear to have been taken from a 16mm source. While the inserts usually last only a few seconds each, the 16mm footage vastly differs in quality from the gorgeous 35mm elements that comprise most of the film. In addition to the 16mm inserts, there are sequences in 35mm that appear somewhat soft and hazy. But then again, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is a very old film that hasn't been preserved as well as it could have been. However, considering how many films have been lost to the ravages of time, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT could have been in far worse condition. Getting back to the black and white transfer itself, there are times where the image is genuinely stunning. The best 35mm footage provides a crisp black and white image with amazing contrast. As for the 16mm footage, it certainly doesn't deliver the perfectly rendered blacks or bright white of 35mm, plus the increase in film grain is quite evident (from nonexistent to highly obtrusive). Despite the flaws in the film elements, this is the absolute best IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT has ever looked on home video. Digital compression artifacts are virtually non-existent on this well authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is surprisingly good considering the film's age and 1934 recording technology. There is relatively little hiss on the track and the dialogue is always clean and intelligible. A Spanish language soundtrack is also provided on the DVD. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai.

The interactive menus are attractive, but basic in their implementation. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD's supplements. Frank Capra Jr. Remembers "It Happened One Night" is an on camera interview with the director’s son talking about the film. Additionally, Capra provides an audio commentary, which is somewhat sparse and covers pretty much the same material as found in the video interview. Also included is an hour-long radio broadcast version of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Filling out the supplements is vintage advertising materials, an original theatrical trailer and talent files.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is one of Hollywood greatest comedy classics and worthy of a place of honor in most DVD libraries. Fortunately Columbia TriStar has delivered a DVD edition worthy of this classic. Recommended.


It Happened One Night



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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