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It Happened One Night

Should It Happened One Night remain on the list?  

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  1. 1. Should It Happened One Night remain on the list?

    • Take me with you, Peter! Take me to your island!
      4
    • You'd better go back to your bed.
      2

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  • Poll closed on 07/03/20 at 07:00 AM

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Paul & Amy piggyback onto 1934’s Frank Capra romantic comedy It Happened One Night! They ask if this script fits the “screwball” mold, praise Claudette Colbert for subverting the cliches of the genre, and learn how Clark Gable inspired Bugs Bunny. Plus: which romantic comedies would Unspooled listeners add to the AFI list?

Help make a campaign ad for (or against) the mayor in Jaws! Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer. Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Also check out our live Spool Party episodes on youtube.com/earwolf! 

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There is no direct reference, but this is the Simpsons bit that came to mind for me while watching this movie:

 

 

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I'd never seen this one (not sure why, it won all the Oscars and is a Capra classic, so I probably should have gotten to it by now), and had no trouble getting into the story right from the jump. I agree with Paul that the movie does a great job of setting up the characters so you understand them immediately, like within the few few minutes of them appearing on screen. Then after that the set pieces where they bump against each other and sometimes react in unexpected ways (like Colbert immediately going along with Gable's playacting for the cops in the hotel room) are creative and varied enough to hold you through to the end. Loved it!

At certain points during the movie I would start to think, "Oh, that old cliche." And then I'd realize that it actually wasn't a cliche, this movie invented it and all the other rom-coms followed suit. Seems like a natural fit for the AFI list.

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Constance Bennet wasn't as "ahead of her time" as Paul thinks. United Artists was founded by (among others) the actress-producer Mary Pickford. Frank Capra tried to imitate UA with his own independent studio, Liberty Films, but neither of their two films in the 40s (the first of which was It's a Wonderful Life) were commercially successful.

Comedies do tend to get less respect than dramas. But remember: Green Book also won Best Picture!

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I'm probably going to be one of the few No votes, so I'll offer my thought on it.

Basically, I keep thinking about something Amy brought up earlier in the Unspooled series, about being blinded by the firsts. This is an early rom-com, early Capra, early screwball comedy. But I think there are better rom-coms, and better Capras, and better screwball comedies. This movie is textbook influential, for sure, but I'm not sold on it being textbook 'great'.

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I happened across this movie one night on a streaming service about two years ago (so, definitely not when I was in Marienbad), and roughly when I started listening to this podcast. Knowing it would eventually be on watched for the podcast, I turned it on. I remember enjoying it. But outside of her jumping out of the boat in the beginning and the scene of the male protagonist turning down the money, I don't remember much.

Something that crossed my mind when watching Shane. Some of these movies are better when not considered on a list of "100 greatest movies," but more of "here's a list of movies that we think are worth watching" or maybe someone's personal "here's my list of 100 favorite movies," (though that's not what this is).  Granted, saying that is like saying, "sometimes it's better to not really think about the source material" for adaptation - good idea, but impossible to do. Granted, based on my experience with this list (or even the older romantic comedies on the BFI list - I'm thinking L'Atlantale), I think I'm just not into romantic comedies overall. 

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There's no Corrections & Ommissions, but I still want to clarify the Bugs Bunny thing. Yes, Bugs Bunny's carrots was definitely inspired by Gable, but the name of Bugs is taken from the animator Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, whose design pages were labeled "Bugs' Bunny" (note the apostrophe) and the name stuck. Having names like "Bugsy" and "Doc" in the movie is coincidence and shows the names' commonality rather than a correlation. 

And as much as the discussion is getting caught up in the genre trappings of the film, which many say makes it worthy of the list, I think there's a lot going on with a psychological context that's more deep when you place it in history. Is Colbert's character representing the upper class and Gable's the lower? If so, is Peter then admired for "punching up", or is Ellie admired for "leaving" her station? Is there a celebration of community (like the bus scenes, getting a hitchhike, "we're all in this together" kind of thing) or a celebration of using community to your advantage (your individual needs manipulate the situation)? And although the age differences of the characters aren't so pronounced, it's still a bit weird. Tho that line of thinking makes me wonder how much is it a coming of age kind of story for Ellie.  

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6 minutes ago, DannytheWall said:

Tho that line of thinking makes me wonder how much is it a coming of age kind of story for Ellie.

Yea I think that makes sense as a way to look at it, especially with the ending being her realization she has to go do what she chooses, not what's expected. That's a pretty adult decision.

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17 hours ago, DannytheWall said:

There's no Corrections & Ommissions, but I still want to clarify the Bugs Bunny thing. Yes, Bugs Bunny's carrots was definitely inspired by Gable, but the name of Bugs is taken from the animator Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, whose design pages were labeled "Bugs' Bunny" (note the apostrophe) and the name stuck. Having names like "Bugsy" and "Doc" in the movie is coincidence and shows the names' commonality rather than a correlation. 

And as much as the discussion is getting caught up in the genre trappings of the film, which many say makes it worthy of the list, I think there's a lot going on with a psychological context that's more deep when you place it in history. Is Colbert's character representing the upper class and Gable's the lower? If so, is Peter then admired for "punching up", or is Ellie admired for "leaving" her station? Is there a celebration of community (like the bus scenes, getting a hitchhike, "we're all in this together" kind of thing) or a celebration of using community to your advantage (your individual needs manipulate the situation)? And although the age differences of the characters aren't so pronounced, it's still a bit weird. Tho that line of thinking makes me wonder how much is it a coming of age kind of story for Ellie.  

Thanks! I was going to post about this. The 1938 cartoon 'Porky's Duck Hunt' was co-directed by Ben 'Bugs' Hardaway, and was the first time a rabbit character appeared in a Warners Brothers cartoon. As various directors and animators used the rabbit character he evolved, and in the 1941 the cartoon 'A Wild Hare', directed by Tex Avery, he turned into the Bugs Bunny we know today. Compare the Clark Gable scene where he leans against a fence post eating a carrot while talking to Carole Lombard to the scene in 'A Wild Hare' where Bugs Bunny eats a carrot while casually talking to Elmer Fudd. (go to the 2:30 mark) 

 

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23 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea I think that makes sense as a way to look at it, especially with the ending being her realization she has to go do what she chooses, not what's expected. That's a pretty adult decision.

The more I think about it, the more I like looking at the movie through this lens. It's all quite monomyth/hero's journey for Ellie. Crossing the threshold, mentor, trials, the "false death" of marrying King, the new status quo, etc. There's still some problems from a modern-day persepctive, tying Ellie's hero's journey into one that is precisely about marriage, not to mention the presumed abusive nature of relationships, but aside from those constraints, factors of its cultural moment, it's acutally a film that's quite celebratory for Ellie making her own way through the world and it rewards her for her stepping out. (Contrast to the weakest element of The Wizard of Oz, which is the reward for Dorothy for deciding to never go traveling again in the bright and magical world "over there.") Not only that, but Ellie's reward is to reject the upper/join the lower class, where 'real' life and people are. 

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On 6/26/2020 at 7:51 AM, AlmostAGhost said:

I'm probably going to be one of the few No votes, so I'll offer my thought on it.

Basically, I keep thinking about something Amy brought up earlier in the Unspooled series, about being blinded by the firsts. This is an early rom-com, early Capra, early screwball comedy. But I think there are better rom-coms, and better Capras, and better screwball comedies. This movie is textbook influential, for sure, but I'm not sold on it being textbook 'great'.

Yeah, the AFI list kind of thrives on this ambiguity doesn't it? LOL Whatever the reason for it, it certainly leads to discussions (and podcast streams!) as we parse what the list means and how  what it means  says things about the films, etc. 

This film was a blindspot for me even tho I knew so many things about it. (The trivia of its Oscar wins shows up in many a pub quiz night.) I'm happy that the list and the podcast gave me an excuse to watch it. It gave me a Capra film that I actually like! 😛 But also a lot of things to think about and appreciate. I might think about incorporating it or its selections in some of my film classes that I teach. 

It's strange to think that this film is nearly 90 years old. 

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