AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
It Happened One Night
Alternate Title: Night Bus
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
Release Date:   23 Feb 1934
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 22 Feb 1934
Production Date:   13 Nov--22 Dec 1933; retakes 8 Jan--12 Jan 1934
Duration (in mins):   105
Duration (in feet):   9,431
Duration (in reels):   11
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Clark Gable (Peter [Warne])  
    Claudette Colbert (Ellie [Andrews])  
    Walter Connolly ([Alexander] Andrews)  
    Roscoe Karns ([Oscar] Shapeley)  
    Jameson Thomas ([King] Westley)  
    Alan Hale (Danker)  
    Arthur Hoyt (Zeke)  
    Blanche Friderici (Zeke's wife)  
    Charles C. Wilson ([Joe] Gordon)  
    Ward Bond (Bus driver)  
    Eddie Chandler (Bus driver)  
    Wallis Clark (Lovington)  
    Harry Bradley (Henderson)  
    Charles Browne (Reporter)  
    Harry Holman (Third auto camp owner)  
    Maidel Turner (His wife)  
    Irving Bacon (Station attendant)  
    Harry Todd (Flagman)  
    Henry Wadsworth (Drunk boy)  
    Claire McDowell (Mother)  
    Ky Robinson (Detective)  
    Frank Holliday (Detective)  
    James Burke (Detective)  
    Joseph Crehan (Detective)  
    Matty Roubert (Newsboy)  
    Sherry Hall (Reporter)  
    Milton Kibbee (Reporter)  
    Mickey Daniels (Vendor)  
    Earl M. Pingree (First policeman)  
    Harry Hume (Second policeman)  
    Oliver Eckhardt (Dykes)  
    George Breakston (Boy)  
    Bess Flowers (Secretary)  
    Fred Walton (Butler)  
    Ethel Sykes (Maid of honor)  
    Father Dodd (Minister)  
    Edmund Burns (Best man)  
    Tom Ricketts (Prissy old man)  
    Eva Dennison (Society woman)  
    Eddie Kane (Radio announcer)  
    Frank Yaconelli (Tony)  
    Kate Morgan (Bus passenger)  
    Rose May (Bus passenger)  
    Margaret Reid (Bus passenger)  
    Sam Josephson (Bus passenger)  
    Bert Starkey (Bus passenger)  
    Ray Creighton (Bus passenger)  
    Rita Ross (Bus passenger)  
    Ernie Adams (Bus passenger)  
    John Wallace (Bus passenger)  
    Billy Engle (Bus passenger)  
    Allen Fox (Bus passenger)  
    Marvin Loback (Bus passenger)  
    Mimi Lindell (Bus passenger)  
    Blanche Rose (Bus passenger)  
    Dave Wengren (Bus passenger)  
    Jane Tallent (Bus passenger)  
    Charles Wilroy (Bus passenger)  
    Patsy O'Byrne (Bus passenger)  
    Kit Guard (Bus passenger)  
    Harry Schultz (Bus passenger)  
    Bert Scott (Bus passenger)  
    Emma Tansey (Bus passenger)  
    Marvin Shector (Bus passenger)  
    William McCall (Bus passenger)  
    S. S. Simon (Bus passenger)  

Summary: Spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews escapes from her millionaire father Alexander's yacht when he kidnaps her after she elopes with and marries King Westley, a playboy aviator whom Andrews thinks is a fortune hunter. She boards a bus headed for New York and meets Peter Warne, a reporter who has just been fired. Despite their dislike for each other, Peter attempts to catch the thief who steals Ellie's suitcase, but he fails. At their next stop, Ellie misses the bus after going to a nearby hotel to freshen up, and when she returns, discovers that Peter has waited for her, both to return the ticket she left behind and to show her a newspaper article revealing her identity, which she was trying to conceal. After another quarrel, they meet on the next bus, which is forced to stop due to a washed-out bridge. Peter and Ellie spend the night in an auto lodge where they pretend they are married and rent one cabin to save money. Peter informs her that he will help her reach Westley only if she will give him her exclusive story, which he needs to redeem himself, and that if she does not cooperate, he will call her father. She reluctantly accepts his terms while he strings a rope between their beds and hangs up a blanket, which he dubs "The Walls of Jericho." The next morning, they are preparing to leave when they hear her father's detectives approaching. They put on an excellent act of being married, and their fighting convinces the detectives to leave, after which Peter and Ellie board the bus. Meanwhile, Andrews has offered a $10,000 reward for information concerning his daughter. Oscar Shapeley, an obnoxious fellow passenger on the bus, reads about the reward and offers to split it with Peter, but then threatens to go to Ellie's father himself. Peter then convinces Shapeley that he is a gangster who has kidnapped Ellie, and the terrified man flees. Still worried that Shapeley will go to the authorities, Peter and Ellie leave the bus. They try to hitchhike the next morning, and after Peter's technique meets with no success, Ellie quickly stops a car by showing off her legs. Peter sulks as they drive, but his petulance turns to anger when the driver steals his suitcase, rousing Peter to chase the car, tie the driver to a tree and then return for Ellie. Back in New York, Andrews resigns himself to accept Westley to get Ellie back, and they issue a press release. Ellie sees the newspaper article with Westley's pleas for her return, but she hides it from Peter. She insists that they check into another auto lodge for the night, even though they are only three hours away from New York. That night, Ellie confesses her love for Peter, begging him to take her with him, but he rejects her. Later, seeing that Ellie is asleep, Peter rushes to New York, writes his story and sells it to his editor, Joe Gordon, so that he will have enough money to begin a life with Ellie. In his absence, however, the owners of the auto lodge throw Ellie out when she can explain neither Peter's absence nor give them money for the room. Ellie then telephones her father and gives herself up because she thinks Peter has deserted her. As her car goes toward New York, Peter passes it, going in the opposite direction, but Ellie does not see him. On the day of Ellie and Westley's formal wedding, Andrews confronts Ellie, and she confesses that although she loves Peter, she will go through with the wedding because Peter despises her. Her father inadvertently shows her a letter he received from Peter about a financial matter, which both of the Andrews mistakenly assume refers to the reward. Andrews summons Peter to the house, and when he arrives, he presents Andrews with an itemized bill for $39.60, the amount he spent during the trip. He refuses any reward, which impresses Andrews, and Andrews makes Peter admit that he loves Ellie as well. Moments later, as Andrews walks Ellie down the aisle, he tells her of his meeting with Peter and that her car is waiting by the gate if she changes her mind. She does, and runs off again, but this time much to the pleasure of her father. Andrews pays Westley $100,000 for not contesting the annulment of his and Ellie's marriage, then notifies Peter and Ellie that they may marry. The newlyweds go to another auto lodge, where they ask the owners for a rope, a blanket and a trumpet. That night, the trumpet sounds as The Walls of Jerico tumble down. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Production Text: Harry Cohn, President; A Frank Capra Production
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
  C. C. Coleman (Asst dir)
Producer: Harry Cohn (Prod)
Writer: Robert Riskin (Scr)
Photography: Joseph Walker (Photog)
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson (Art dir)
Film Editor: Gene Havlick (Film ed)
Costumes: Robert Kalloch (Cost)
Music: Louis Silvers (Mus dir)
Sound: E. L. Bernds (Sd eng)
Production Misc: George Brown (Gen press agent)
Country: United States

Songs: "The Man on the Flying Trapeze," words by George Leybourne, music by Gaston Lyle.
Composer: George Leybourne
  Gaston Lyle
Source Text: Based on the short story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins Adams in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (Aug 1933).
Authors: Samuel Hopkins Adams

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. 17/2/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP4497

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

Genre: Screwball comedy
Sub-Genre: Road
Subjects (Major): Heiresses
Subjects (Minor): Annulment
  Auto courts
  Fathers and daughters
  Fortune hunters
  Yachts and yachting

Note: The working title for this film was Night Bus , and it was to have starred Robert Montgomery, who was Frank Capra's original choice for the part of Peter Warne. Montgomery was replaced by Clark Gable, who was borrowed from M-G-M, while Claudette Colbert was borrowed from Paramount. In Capra's autobiography, he states that he variously sought Myrna Loy, Margaret Sullavan, Miriam Hopkins and Constance Bennett for the role of Ellie Andrews before selecting Colbert. A DV news item noted that part of the film was shot on location at Busch Gardens in Pasadena, CA. According to a HR news item, Columbia produced a special trailer to publicize the film. The trailer had "a special cast of players," "a unique script of fourteen scenes" and was distributed by National Screen; however, no other specific information about the trailer has been found.
       It Happened One Night was the first film to win Oscars in the five major categories, Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress (Colbert was the first French-born actress to receive the honor). It was voted one of the ten best pictures of 1934 by the FD Poll of Critics and the National Board of Review, and on 20 Mar 1939, Gable and Colbert performed a radio version of it for the Lux Radio Theater.
       Although he is uncredited on the film, Capra is given credit in many modern sources for co-authoring the scenario. In his autobiography, Capra credits his friend Myles Connolly with suggesting that he rewrite the script to make the characters more sympathetic. A modern source states that one of the auto lodges featured in the film is located at the Redwood Lodge (now the Conejo Lodge) in Thousand Oaks, CA. In his autobiography, photographer Joseph Walker describes locations at the RKO ranch in Encino and in Sunland, both of which are in the San Fernando Valley. Modern sources list two additional cast members, Hal Price and Charles Hall, both of whom played reporters, and Mary Wiggins, who was Colbert's stunt double for the dive off of Andrews' yacht.
       In an interview filmed for the 1975 feature Bugs Bunny Superstar , with Warner Bros. animation director Bob Clampett, he states that he based Bugs Bunny's characteristic carrot-munching technique on the scene in It Happened One Night in which Gable chomps on a carrot. According to a NYT article on how films can effect business, the scene in which Gable undresses and reveals that he is not wearing an undershirt adversely effected the sales of undershirts throughout the nation, but no other information has been located to confirm this.
       Although many films are called "remakes" of It Happened One Night in modern sources, only the 1956 musical You Can't Run Away from It , produced at Columbia, directed by Dick Powell and starring Jack Lemmon and June Allyson, was based on the same short story and used the same screenplay (with adaptations) as the Capra film. It Happened One Night was ranked 46th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 35th position it held on AFI's 1997 list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   22 Dec 33   p. 1, 4
Daily Variety   29 Jan 34   p. 3.
Film Daily   23 Feb 34   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Nov 32   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Oct 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Nov 33   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Nov 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Nov 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Nov 33   p. 1, 10
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 33   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Dec 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jan 34   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jan 34   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jan 34   pp. 3-5.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Feb 34   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Feb 34   p. 1.
Motion Picture Daily   31 Jan 34   p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald   3 Mar 34   p. 38.
New York Times   23 Feb 34   p. 23.
New York Times   15-Mar-36   
New York Times   17-Jul-38   
Variety   27 Feb 34   p. 17.

Display Movie Summary
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.