IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) Directed by Frank Capra Writing credits Samuel Hopkins Adams (story) Robert Riskin Stars Clark Gable .... Peter Warne Claudette Colbert .... Ellie Andrews Walter Connolly .... Alexander Andrews Roscoe Karns .... Oscar Shapeley Jameson Thomas .... King Westley It Happened One Night is one of the greatest romantic comedies in film history, and a film that has endured in popularity. It is considered one of the pioneering "screwball" comedies of its time, setting the pattern for many years afterwards. The madcap film from Columbia Studios was an unexpected runaway box office hit, and it garnered the top five Academy Awards (unrivaled until 1975, forty-one years later by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) - and then again by The Silence of the Lambs (1991).) It won all five of its nominated categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra), and Best Adaptation (Robert Riskin). The theme of the film, appropriate during the Depression Era, is the story of the unlikely romantic pairing of a mismatched couple - a gruff and indifferent newspaper man and a snobbish, superior-acting heiress on the lam. It is a reversal of the Cinderella story (the heroine rejects her wealthy lifestyle), a modern tale with light-hearted sex appeal in which courtship and love triumph over class conflicts, socio-economic differences, and verbal battles of wit. Frank Capra was a director at Columbia studios who ended up with the script for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT after it was turned down at MGM. Clark Gable was under contract to MGM. Gable was being difficult, declining roles, he checked himself into the hospital. Louis B. Mayer punished Gable by “loaning” him to Columbia in exchange for Capra directing a MGM picture. Gable eventually showed up at Capra’s office drunk and telling the director that his office smelled and that he didn’t care what Capra did with his script. Eventually things were worked out and the two men actually became friends. Capra helped make Gable a star. Gable appears in the film without a T-shirt and caused a new fad. T-shirt sales plummeted. His clothing also became a fad, after the film Gable continued to wear a trenchcoat in most of his films, considering it the coat to be lucky. Claudette Colbert was under contract to Paramount but was convinced to come to Columbia by doubling her $25,000 salary. She was also guaranteed that filming would be finished in 4 weeks, so she could meet friends for Christmas a Sun Valley. Colbert was also difficult; she argued constantly with Capra. She balked at taking her clothes off, so the director had her toss undergarments on the top of a blanket while standing on the other side. Colbert also refused to show her leg in the famous hitchhiking scene, so Capra called for a stand-in. Colbert decided she didn’t want someone else’s leg attributed to her and finally agreed to do the scene herself. For all his difficulties Capra brought the picture in in 4 weeks for a total budget of $325,000. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) Director .... Billy Wilder Screenplay.... Robert Thoeren M. Logan Billy Wilder I. A. L. Diamond Cast: Marilyn Monroe .... Sugar Kane Tony Curtis .... Joe (Josephine)/Junior Jack Lemmon .... Jerry (Daphne) George Raft .... Spats Colombo Pat O'Brien .... Mulligan Joe E. Brown .... Osgood Fielding The ribald film is a clever combination of many elements: a spoof of 1920-30's gangster films with period costumes and speakeasies, and romance in a quasi-screwball comedy with one central joke - entangled and deceptive identities, reversed sex roles and cross-dressing. In fact, one of the film's major themes is disguise. It's also a black and white film (reminiscent of the early film era) filled with non-stop action (e.g., the initial car chase), slapstick, and one- liners reminiscent of Marx Brothers and Mack Sennett comedies. An earlier Bob Hope film had the same title: Some Like It Hot (1939). The exceptional film was the all-time highest-grossing comedy up to its time, and one of the most successful films of 1959. Only a few other cross-dressing comedies have come close to approximating the film's daring hilarity: Tootsie (1982), La Cage Aux Folles (1978) and Victor/Victoria (1982). Some Like It Hot also inspired the Broadway musical Sugar that opened in 1972. This was Marilyn Monroe's second film with director Billy Wilder, her first being The Seven Year Itch (1955). Countless stories have circulated regarding her erratic behavior and health/personal problems, her 'no-shows' and frequent tardiness to the set, her self- doubts and numerous re-takes required for some scenes, and her inability to remember her lines. The film's preview in December 1958 at a greater LA theatre, when it was paired with the Tennessee Williams Southern drama Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) about cannibalism and a threatened lobotomy, was also a disaster. This very funny film, very much unlike director Wilder's darker films Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), was advertised with the tagline: "The movie too HOT for words." It was released at the end of the repressive 1950s at a time when the studio system was weakening, the advent of television was threatening, and during a time of the declining influence of the Production Code and its censorship restrictions. Director-producer Wilder challenged the system with this gender-bending and risqué comedy, filled with sly sexual innuendo. This film received six Academy Award nominations including Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (based on a German musical titled Fanfares of Love (1935)), Best B/W Cinematography, and Best B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration - with its sole Oscar awarded for Best B/W Costume Design (Orry-Kelly, for costumes including Marilyn Monroe's shimmering gowns). Unfortunately, it was competing against one of the biggest winners in Oscar history - Ben Hur (1959). Assignment: 1. Critique each film. Write two paragraphs discussing elements of each film that you like or dislike. You should comment on acting, story, editing, and entertainment value. Be sure to back up your comments with examples from the films. (20 points) Typical Aspects of the Screwball IT HAPPENED ONE SOME LIKE IT HOT Comedy NIGHT Setting Urban America of the 1930’s and 1940’s, in the upperclass world of socialites, heiresses, and debutantes Characters The main characters are a couple, a man and a woman, who are initially mismatched – by temperament or S social class. The woman is of a higher social C class than the man, and she is feisty, headstrong and proud R The men are of lower class or professionals; they’re sometimes E clever, but often befuddled or clumsy W Secondary characters include various friends and relatives of the B couple, ditsy rich people, servants, and hangers-on. A Plot The mismatched lovers meet L (usually bumping into each other by accident), continue to be thrown L together against their will, have a series of improbable adventures, grow attached to each other in spite of themselves, survive comic C disasters, and end up happily engaged or married. O Themes usually explore how love overcomes, how couples negotiate a M relationship, and what constitutes a “good match.” There is a “feminist” D bent because the woman is dominant or at least equal to the E male. D Iconography Clothing is important as a sign of Y social status as a symbol of gender role. There are usually lots of evening dresses and tuxedos. Sometimes incidents of cross- dressing occur. Props include party paraphenalia such as champagne glasses, society orchestras, night clubs, and the trappings of the rich. Mood Light, daffy, and joyously optimistic regarding relationships. The couple may fight and struggle, but love conquers all. Cinematic Style The screwball comedy is dominated by sound – particularly the rapid pace of the dialogue.
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