Tribute to "It Happened One Night"
It was the 1st movie to won all five of its nominated Oscar categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra), and Best Adaptation (Robert Riskin). Here are the best scenes and quotes from the movie!
"Next time you drop in, bring your folks." - Peter Warne
I don't want it reported!...Can you understand English? Would you please keep out of my affairs. I want to be left alone." - Ellie Andrews
"Listen, if you promise not to do it, I'll pay you. I'll pay you as much as he will. You won't gain anything by giving me away, as long I'm willing to make it worth your while. I've got to get to New York without being stopped. It's terribly important to me." - Ellie
Am I laughing? The biggest scoop of the year just dropped in my lap. I know where Ellen Andrews is...How would you like to have the story, you big tub of mush...Will try and get it. What I said about never writing another line for you still goes. Are you burning? PETER WARNE
Ellie: Darn clever, these Armenians?
Peter: Yeah, it's a gift.
Ellie: I just had the unpleasant sensation of hearing you referred to as my husband.
Peter: Oh yeah, I forgot to tell ya about that. I registered as Mr. and Mrs.
Ellie: Oh, you did...Well, what am I expected to do? Leap for joy?
Peter: I kinda half expected you to thank me.
Ellie: Your ego is absolutely colossal.
Peter: Yeah, yeah, not bad, how's yours? (He shuts and locks the door.)
Ellie: You know, compared to you, my friend Shapeley is an amateur. Just whatever gave you any idea I'd stand for this?
Peter: Hey now, wait a minute. Let's get this straightened out right now. If you're nursing any silly notion that I'm interested in you, forget it. You're just a headline to me.
Ellie: A headline? You're not a newspaper man are you?
Peter: Chalk up one for your side.
In the very famous "Walls of Jericho" scene, one of the highlights of the film, he divides their twin-bedded bedroom into two parts by stringing up a clothesline. Then, as he drapes a blanket over the line between their beds, she dryly observes: "That, I suppose, makes everything quite all right?" He explains the arrangement:
"Well, I like privacy when I retire. Yes, I'm very delicate in that respect. Prying eyes annoy me. Behold the walls of Jericho! Uh, maybe not as thick as the ones that Joshua blew down with his trumpet, but a lot safer. You see, uh, I have no trumpet." - Peter Warne
"Perhaps you're interested in how a man undresses. You know, it's a funny thing about that, quite a study in psychology. No two men do it alike. You know, I once knew a man who kept his hat on until he was completely undressed. Now he made a picture. Years later, his secret came out. He wore a toupee. Yeah. I have a method all my own. If you notice, the coat came first, then the tie, then the shirt. Now, uh, according to Hoyle, after that, the, uh, pants should be next. There's where I'm different..." - Peter Warne
He has bared his chest without an undershirt (setting off a no-undershirt fashion trend at the time). He demonstrates his shoes-before-pants style, and when he gets to his belt buckle warns: "After that, it's every man for himself." When he reaches for his belt and trousers, she hurriedly retreats to her side of the bedroom, acquiescing in the arrangement. Later, he assures her:
Ellie: By the way, what's your name?
Peter: What's that?
Ellie: Who are you?
Peter: Who me? (smiling) I'm the whippoorwill that cries in the night. I'm the soft morning breeze that caresses your lovely face.
Ellie: You've got a name, haven't you?
Peter: Yeah, I got a name. Peter Warne.
Ellie: Peter Warne. I don't like it.
Peter: Don't let it bother you. You're giving it back to me in the morning.
Ellie: Pleased to meet you, Mr. Warne.
Peter: The pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Warne.
At breakfast, Peter gives the privileged heiress a memorable lesson in the art of dunking doughnuts:
Peter: Hey, where'd you learn to dunk? In finishing school?
Ellie: Aw, now don't you start telling me I shouldn't dunk.
Peter: Of course you shouldn't - you don't know how to do it. Dunking's an art. Don't let it soak so long. A dip and (he stuffs the donut in his mouth) plop in your mouth. Let it hang there too long it'll get soft and fall off. It's all a matter of timing. Aw, I oughta write a book about it.
Ellie: (Laughing) Thanks professor.
Peter: Just goes to show you - twenty millions, and you don't know how to dunk.
Ellie: Oh, I'd change places with a plumber's daughter any day.
They take to the road, shot from behind, with Ellie clutching her purse and limping next to Peter, who carries a suitcase and his coat over his shoulder. He tells her that it's too early to expect cars to come by:
Ellie: What do you say we're supposed to be doing?
Ellie: Oh. Well, you've given me a very good example of the hiking. Where does the hitching come in?
Peter: A little early yet. No cars out.
So she turns to walk out of the shot to the right: "If it's just the same to you, I'm going to sit right here and wait til they come." Perched on a split-rail fence at the side of the road while waiting for cars to come by, she lets him pick a piece of hay out of her teeth with his penknife. She declines his offer of a raw carrot (cleaned with his penknife) for breakfast: "I forgot. The idea of offering a raw carrot to an Andrew. Hey, you don't think I'm going around panhandling for you, do ya? You'd better have one of these. The best thing in the world for you - carrots." Ellie is disgusted by them: "I hate the horrid things."
In another film highlight, the film's most-remembered and funniest sequence, as he continues to chew and clean the raw carrot, they compare hitchhiking techniques to try to attract a ride on a rural highway. With a macho attitude, he brags about his expert knowledge, and his intention to write a book entitled: The Hitchhiker's Hail. This causes her to comment again:
"There's no end to your accomplishments, is there?"
"It's all in that ol' thumb, see?...that ol' thumb never fails. It's all a matter of how you do it though."
- Now you take number one, for instance. That's a short, jerky movement like this - that shows independence, you don't care whether they stop or not. You've got money in your pocket, see...(Ellie responds: "Clever!")
- But number two, that's a little wider movement - a smile goes with this one, like this, that means you've got a brand new story about the farmer's daughter...(Ellie responds: "Hmm, mmm. You figured that out all by yourself!")
- Number three, that's the pits. Yeah, that's a pitiful one you know. When you're broke and hungry and everything looks black. It's a long sweeping movement like this, but you've got to follow through though...(Ellie responds: "Oh, that's amazing.") It's no good though, if you haven't got a long face to go with it.
So Ellie offers to give it a try, demonstrating her superior hitchhiking technique, but he mocks her proposal to do better: "You? Don't make me laugh.":
Ellie: Oh, you're such a smart aleck. Nobody knows anything but you. I'll stop a car and I won't use my thumb.
Peter: What're you going to do?
Ellie: It's a system all my own.
Without using her thumb at all, she hops off the fence, ambles nonchalantly onto the side of the road, and provocatively raises her skirt above the knee, exposing a shapely, stockinged leg and garter. Her technique is immediately effective and the next car screeches to a halt - large closeups show a foot hitting the foot brake and a hand grabbing the hand brake.
After a wipe transition, they are in the back-seat of a Model T - Ellie looks smug and happy, but Peter next to her is downbeat. She asks for a little credit for her alternative thumb-less method:
Ellie: Aren't you going to give me a little credit?
Peter: What for?
Ellie: Well, I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.
Peter: Why didn't you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.
Ellie (sarcastically retorting): Oh, I'll remember that when we need forty cars.
Peter: Well, we're on the last lap. Tomorrow morning, you'll be in the arms of your husband.
Ellie: Yeah. You'll have a great story won't you?
Peter hangs another "walls of Jericho" blanket on a line separating their two beds. From opposite sides of the blanket as they undress to prepare for bed, she is not as anxious as she was earlier to arrive at her destination:
Peter: Well, you certainly outsmarted your father. I guess you ought to be happy.
Ellie: Am I going to see you in New York?
Ellie: Why not?
Peter: I don't make it a policy to run around with married women.
Ellie: No harm in your coming to see it.
Peter: Not interested.
Ellie: Will I ever see you again?
Peter (snapping back): What do you want to see me for? I've served my purpose. I brought you back to King Westley didn't I? That's what you wanted, wasn't it?
Ellie: Have you ever been in love, Peter?
Ellie: Yeah. Haven't you ever thought about it at all? Seems to me you, you could make some girl wonderfully happy.
Peter: Sure I've thought about it. Who hasn't? I never meet the right sort of girl. Aw, where you gonna find her? Somebody that's real. Somebody that's alive. They don't come that way anymore. I never thought about it. I've even been suckered enough to make plans. I saw an island in the Pacific once. I've never been able to forget it. That's where I'd like to take her. She'd have to be the sort of a girl who'd jump in the surf with me and love it as much as I did. Nights when you and the moon and the water all become one. You feel you're part of something big and marvelous. That's the only place to live. The stars are so close over your head you feel you could reach up and stir them around. Yeah, I've been thinking about it. Boy, if I could ever find a girl who was hungry for those things...
Ellie: Take me with you Peter. Take me to your island. I want to do all those things you talked about.
Peter: You'd better go back to your bed.
Ellie: I love you. Nothing else matters. We can run away. Everything will take care of itself. Please Peter, I can't let you out of my life now. I couldn't live without you. (She weeps and cries in his arms, totally submissive to him.)
Peter: You'd better go back to your bed.
Ellie: Sorry. (Returning to her own bed, she cries herself to sleep on her pillow.)
Headlines from the newspapers for the next few days announce her return and plans for a large formal, proper church wedding: "ELLIE ANDREWS RETURNS HOME," "'GLAD TO BE HOME,' SAYS ELLEN," "LOVE TRIUMPHANT - FATHER YIELDS TO LOVERS' DEMANDS," "ANDREWS INSISTS ON REAL MARRIAGE CEREMONY! - Scoffs at Justice of Peace Vows", "ELLEN ANDREWS AND WESTLEY TO HAVE CHURCH WEDDING," "LOVE TRIUMPHS AGAIN - Family Rift Smoothed Out as Marriage Nears," and "'CAN'T THWART LOVE' SAYS FATHER OF ELLEN ANDREWS."
Mr. Andrews: Now don't tell me you've fallen in love with a bus driver...Who is he?
Ellie: I don't know very much about him. Just that I love him.
Mr. Andrews: Well, if it's as serious as all that, we'll move heaven and earth to...
Ellie: No, it's no use. He despises me.
Mr. Andrews: Oh, come now.
Ellie: Yes he does. He despises everything about me. He says that I'm spoiled and selfish and pampered, and-and thoroughly insincere.
Mr. Andrews: Oh ridiculous.
Ellie: He doesn't think so much of you either...He blames you for everything that's wrong with me. He says you raised me stupidly.
Mr. Andrews: Now that's a fine man to fall in love with.
Ellie: Oh, he's marvelous!
Mr. Andrews: Do you love her?
Peter: A normal human being couldn't live under the same roof with her without going nutty. She's my idea of nothing!
Mr. Andrews: I asked you a simple question! Do you love her?
Peter: (As he departs and slams the office door.) Yes! But don't hold that against me. I'm a little screwy myself.
As Peter leaves, he notices Ellie in her satiny wedding gown toasting her high-society marriage, surrounded by male wedding guests:
Ellie: Well, here's to the merry go round.
Peter: (Ellie sees Peter coming out of her father's office.) Perfect. Now you look natural. (She walks over to him.)
Ellie: I hope you got your money.
Peter: You bet I did.
Peter: Thanks, same to you.
Ellie: Stay around and watch the fun. You'll enjoy it immensely.
Peter: I would, but I've got a weak stomach.
The documentary-style, formal ceremony/society wedding on the lawn of the Andrews mansion (with bridesmaids, ushers, flower girls, etc.) begins when King Westley lands in an autogyro (an early form of a helicopter) - two newsreel cameramen crank their cameras to record the festivities before top-hatted guests. As Ellie is escorted to the altar down the long, crowded wedding aisle and across the grass, she is arm in arm with her father. The Wedding March is played by an orchestra. Out of the side of his mouth, Mr. Andrews whispers Peter's love for her, admires his integrity, and then offers her an escape plan to elope with Peter - an expensive interruption for the costly ceremony:
That guy Warne is OK. He didn't want the reward. All he asked for was $39.60, what he spent on you. Said it was a matter of principle. You took him for a ride. He loves you Ellie. He told me so. You don't want to be married to a mug like Westley. I can buy him off for a pot of gold. And you can make an old man happy and you won't do so bad for yourself. If you change your mind, your car's waiting back at the gate.
Ellie reacts passively, not revealing her intentions. At the last moment during the dramatic ceremony when asked by the white-surpliced priest: "Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, so long as ye both shall live?" and expected to say "I will," Ellie breathes heavily, rolls her eyes up and down twice, bites her lip, shakes her head (to signify no), curtsies briefly, hikes up the long train of her wedding gown, and turns and bolts across the sloping lawn to a waiting car. The newsreel cameramen race to capture the fleeting, panicking image of the runaway bride. The train of her long white veil billows out behind her as she escapes - once again similar to the film's opening - from the wedding ceremony and from all the oppressive restrictions and upper-class values of society - to a getaway car waiting at the gate (with Peter Warne in it?).
They go to Glen Falls, Michigan, two lovers married and ready to share their honeymoon together, but uncertain whether the annulment of her marriage to Westley has come through. A telegram arrives from Peter to Mr. Andrews: "What's holding up the annulment, you slowpoke? The walls of Jericho are a-toppling." He orders a telegram returned to them, dictating an answer that is supportive of their marriage: "Send them a telegram right away. Just say, 'Let 'em topple.'"
Peter and Ellie have gone to a familiar locale as newlyweds - a secluded autocamp in Michigan. They have just received Mr. Andrews' telegrammed response and have secured a marriage license. In the final scene outside their cabin, the autocamp manager and his wife speculate on the young couple who have just rented the cabin and made strange requests for a rope and a blanket:
Wife: Funny couple, ain't they?
Wife: If you ask me, I don't believe they're married.
Husband: They're married all right. I just seen the license.
Wife: They made me get them a rope and a blanket on a night like this. What do you reckon that's for?
Husband: Blamed if I know. I just brung 'em a trumpet.
Wife (puzzled): A trumpet?
Husband: Yeah, one of them toy things. They sent me to the store to get it.
Wife (puzzled): But what in the world do they want a trumpet for?
Clark Gable Tribute Section
|A tribute of my favorite Gable film: It happened 1 night|
|Clark's Leading Ladies & Picture Gallery|
|Clark's Love of his Life: Carole Lombard|
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