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Frank Capra
Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Jameson Thomas, Alan Hale, Arthur Hoyt
Writing Credits:
Samuel Hopkins Adams (story), Robert Riskin

Two great lovers of the screen in the grandest of romantic comedies!

Winner of five Academy Awards, Frank Capra's celebrated romantic comedy stars movie legends Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

When Ellie Andrews, a millionaire's daughter, marries a man her father dislikes, the resulting family squabble sends the beautiful heiress into hiding. She travels across country by bus, a fugitive from high society. En route, she meets the man of her dreams: a sexy but brusque news correspondent who has just lost his job - which unknown to Ellie, he hopes to recover by selling her story to his former boss. Together, Peter and Ellie have a series of hapless adventures and comic misunderstandings, leading them to the realization that they were made for each other.

Box Office:
$325 thousand.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $59.95
Release Date: 12/5/2006

• Audio Commentary with Frank Capra Jr.
• “Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… It Happened One Night” Featurette
• Vintage Advertising Gallery
• Original Live Radio Broadcast
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Booklet

Available Only As Part of “The Premiere Frank Capra Collection”


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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It Happened One Night: The Premiere Frank Capra Collection (1934)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 15, 2007)

Call it reverse deja vu - that's what I experienced with 1934’s It Happened One Night. I felt as though I'd seen the film, even though that wasn't the case. However, this pioneering effort has been imitated so many times over the decades that what was an original picture seems derivative. See 1999's Runaway Bride one recent hit incarnation of the film's plot.

Of course, I can't call Night derivative because it apparently wasn't. I wasn't around back then to know, but all accounts indicate that it was a fresh and original piece of work. Just because it broke new ground doesn't mean it stands up over time. Plenty of seminal works look poor in later years. That doesn't seem to be the case with Night. Though it shows its age - particularly in the handling of women and various semi-political issues - the movie still appears pleasant and entertaining.

Despite its status as a classic, I can't say that I really love Night. I like the movie and I recognize that it was well-done, but it doesn't really win my affection. Still, it's a very neatly planned and well-executed piece, in any case.

The acting seems uniformly strong, as one would expect from a film for which both lead actors - Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable - won Academy Awards. I found Colbert's work to appear especially good, as she showed a tremendously wide - but appropriate - range of emotions and displayed believable growth in her character. Gable also is very good, but he doesn't seem quite as strong as Colbert. Much of that may be due to the constrictions of the part, since I doubt they would allow a "tough guy" character to demonstrate similar emotional range. In any case, both actors are tremendously winning and effective in their roles.

Night suffers from some very significant plot holes but still seems charming and amusing. I don't know if it really deserves its status as a classic, but it remains a solid film after all these years.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

It Happened One Night appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some moderate concerns, the picture held up well for its age.

Sharpness usually looked good. Some softness seemed to result from the style of photography; Capra appeared especially fond of spotlighting Colbert with some mild "glamour shot" lighting. Otherwise, the movie mostly boasted good clarity and definition. Though a little edge enhancement occurred, I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges.

Source flaws caused very few distractions. Grain could be a little heavy, and I noticed a handful of specks and marks. However, these were quite minor, especially given the age of the movie. Black levels seemed reasonably dark and tight, though they occasionally appeared a little grayish. Shadows also were slightly erratic. While most low-light shots seemed fine, a few appeared somewhat too dark. Night wasn’t a stellar transfer, but it worked quite well overall.

Another pleasant surprise came from the monaural audio of It Happened One Night. The film came out during the relative infancy of sound movies and I expected it to sound harsh and scratchy. However, it's actually a very clean and accurate soundtrack. Distortion - which plagued more old mixes than anything else - was virtually nonexistent, even when characters shouted.

Dialogue lacked warmth but seemed clear and intelligible. The lines sounded quite natural for such an old movie. Effects and music - of which we heard little - sounded fine. Many old soundtracks suffered from much tape hiss and popping, but background noise was refreshingly absent. This was about as good as a track from 1934 could sound.

How did the picture and audio of this 2006 DVD compare to those of the original 1999 DVD? I felt the sound remained the same, but the visuals offered notable improvements. Actually, both looked a lot alike except in terms of source flaws. The 2006 transfer was significantly cleaner than its predecessor.

Night offers a few supplemental features, all of which come from the prior DVD. We start with a running, screen-specific audio commentary from Frank Capra, Jr. The director’s son covers the project’s genesis and development, cast, characters and performances, and various production elements.

The commentary begins well as Capra goes over the movie’s origins and related issues. However, he soon peters out and offers only sporadic notes throughout most of the film. Occasionally he’ll toss out decent remarks about his father’s use of rain in his flicks or the movie’s reception, but much of the time he either remains silent or simply describes the action on screen. This is a pretty dull commentary without much to keep us going through its 105 minutes.

We hear more from Capra in an 11-minute and 14-second piece called Frank Capra Jr. Remembers...It Happened One Night. This program intercuts interview shots of Capra with scenes from the film and other photos as he talks about the movie. He discusses the project’s origins and development, cast, characters and performances, sets, the tight schedule and related challenges, and the flick’s success.

Some of the information from the commentary also appears here. Really, the show is how they should have presented the commentary; simply make it into a documentary like this, since it would have compacted Capra’s narration into a much more listenable package. "Remembers" isn't a great program, but if provides some useful information.

One fascinating supplement that appears here is a 59-minute and 32-second live radio broadcast of It Happened One Night that aired in March 1939. This program adapted the film and featured both Colbert and Gable in their original roles. It's very entertaining, and I found it especially fascinating to note the differences in the story. (For one, the characters seem much more mild mannered; their mutual antagonism is almost invisible.)

Also delightful are the period ads from sponsor Lux soap. Apparently if I wash my underwear before I don it, I will be more popular. So that's why I've had such a weak social life! Where do I get me some of that Lux?

In addition, we encounter a Vintage Advertising section on the DVD that offers a mixture of lobby cards and theatre posters for the film; it provides 12 stills in all. The disc ends with the original theatrical trailer for Night.

As part of “The Premiere Frank Capra Collection”, we get an extensive booklet. This piece covers It Happened One Night along with four other Capra flicks and different aspects of his career and life in the 1930s. It comes with a mix of photos and other archival materials along with good information. It acts as a quality component.

This disc drops a few extras from the original release. It loses trailers for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Lost Horizon as well as talent files for Capra, Gable and Colbert and a booklet with brief but informative production notes.

As far as a recommendation goes, It Happened One Night gets a positive call, though not an enthusiastic one. I like the film, though it doesn't bowl me over, and the DVD provides pretty decent picture, sound, and supplements. It's not a fantastic DVD, but it seems strong enough to warrant viewing.

Note that this release of It Happened One Night currently appears only as part of “The Premiere Frank Capra Collection”. This set also includes You Can’t Take It With You, American Madness, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and a documentary called Frank Capra’s American Dream.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2727 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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