It Happened One Night is a Pre Code romantic comedy/road movie directed by Frank Capra. At the 7th Academy Awards in February 1935, the film won an unprecedented haul of awards, becoming the first film to win ‘the big five’ of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. The feat went unmatched for over forty years and has only ever been matched twice. Although slow to catch on with critics and the public alike, word of mouth turned it into an unstoppable box office hit becoming Columbia’s highest grossing movie up to that point. Eighty years on from its release, the film remains an irresistible picture, combining drama and romance with a sizable dollop of Pre Code sentiment and behaviour.
Based on the short story Night Bus, the plot concerns a young heiress called Ellen Andrews (Claudette Colbert) who runs away from her comfortable lifestyle after her father attempts to have her marriage to a newly met aviator annulled. Aboard a bus to New York City she meets a down and out reporter called Peter Warne (Clark Gable). Warne is cocky and carefree and soon discovers there’s a story in the runaway girl. He agrees to help fund her journey to New York in return for cooperation on his story and the two begin a series of adventures on their way to the city.