Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is It Happened One Night (1934).
The first of three films to win the five major Academy Awards (picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay), It Happened One Night remains my favorite to bear that distinction. The first of Frank Capra’s major hits with the Academy and general audiences alike, the romantic comedy follows a socialite fleeing her father’s control and a reporter who recognizes her on a bus ride as they fall in love during an escapade that takes them across the United States. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert play the couple to hilariously engaging effect as constant bickering gives way to romance in a seamless way many romantic comedies have tried to replicate but few have ever come close to achieving. Like many romantic comedies, It Happened One Night can get overly sentimental at times, and at others it glides past some steps that might seem necessary, but the chemistry between the leads is wonderful, the humor remains hilarious, and it’ll make even the biggest cynics believe in true love for at least a few minutes.
The Real Best Picture:
There were twelve nominees in 1934 but none come close in any way. It Happened One Night is among the best to take home the prize.