A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that It Happened One Night is a funny and sophisticated early black-and-white romantic comedy. The behavior of the leading male and female characters reflects a gender inequality that was the norm for its time. The strong, dashing hero protects (and even babies) the vulnerable, needy "poor little rich girl." He calls her "brat," tells her to "shut up." She smiles and falls even harder for his brash charms. A fierce argument results in a father slapping his adult daughter in the face. There are flirtatious moments, "winks" to sexuality as the hero and heroine hang a blanket between them in a lodge room and undress on either side of it. Drinking and drunkenness are played for fun in several scenes, with slurred speech and back-slapping male camaraderie. Almost everyone smokes.
What's the story?
In the classic Frank Capra romantic comedy, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, fate throws an unlikely pair -- reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable) and spoiled society woman Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) -- together on a bus headed for New York. Upon learning that she's fleeing her millionaire father to be with her disapproved-of new husband, Warne smells a headline and tags after her. The two grow close on the trip, and before they reach New York they're broke and in love.
Is it any good?
As fresh today as it was in 1934, this sharply written comedy is great fun from setup on through its lively, suspenseful final minutes. An instant hit in 1934, It Happened One Night was the first movie to win all five major Academy Awards. The manic story line established the formula for screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.
Frank Capra was a wonderful director with a knack for squeezing the charm out of his actors, which is evident all over the place here. He and screenwriter Robert Riskin would team up again for Meet John Doe.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how comedies have changed and remained the same since It Happened One Night. How has slang changed? Can you figure out the meanings of unfamiliar phrases or words?
What do you think about how men and women are portrayed in this movie? What kinds of stereotypes are present? How have things changed in society and in movies since 1934 when this film was released?
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