#83 It Happened One Night (1934)

Presenting the first screwball comedy ever made! Frank Capra (The Bitter Tea of General Yen)’s film is an example of actors who sign up for a film for business purposes and not because they feel proud of it or because they think it will do well. It Happened One Night is when a socialite meets a reporter while running away from her pampered life. Although they’re both repulsed by each other, they slowly start to fall in love.

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Screwball comedies are when members of the opposite sex that couldn’t be more different from each other go head to head with each other as they are put in a ridiculous and impossible situation with each other. While at first they can’t stand the sight of each other, all goes well with them in the end to prove opposites do attract. That’s basically what happens in this film where Clark Cable‘s character Peter takes advantage of Claudette Colbert‘s character Ellie in how she’s a socialite on the run and can’t risk getting caught. He’ll help her go to her newly eloped spouse as long as she can be his story for his newspaper. 

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It Happened One Night is a great film to show those that don’t understand what it was like to live in the days of The Great Depression where money was scarce and you had to watch your dimes and pennies. We see that in the scene where a little boy’s mother collapses after not eating and having to move to a new area for a new job. Or how Peter and Ellie resort to desperate methods of travel such as grand theft auto and hitchhiking. Speaking of hitchhiking, the most memorable scene in the film would be when Peter is attempting to show Ellie the right way to hitchhike and massively fails. So then Ellie proves that “the limb is mightier than the thumb!” This scene was a real girl power moment because throughout the film, Peter keeps acting like he’s better than her at everything including dunking donuts (I know, who would have thought that there’s a certain way to dunk a donut?) but this moment shows that women got skills of their own. And to think they were about to hire a leg double for Colbert!

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Other than Claudette Colbert showing off her bare leg, another thing that makes this film Pre-Code is the “Walls of Jericho”– the barrier between Peter and Ellie as they…get ready for bed. Colbert suggested the barrier because she didn’t want Clark Gable to see her undress. So imagine what it means when the “Walls of Jericho” come down! Hmm? A little sexual innuendo perhaps?

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So like I mentioned before, Claudette Colbert hated being a part of this film. She only agreed to it for double the salary and for it to be filmed in four weeks or less. Gable wasn’t excited to be part of this experience either as he was always in a bad mood on set and would mumble “let’s get it over with!” Rumor has it that MGM made him do this movie as punishment for his affair with Joan Crawford! The script was rejected many times. Can you think of any reasons why this movie was hated by those who were part of it? Because I can’t. I thought the script was very funny and quirky. So maybe it’s considered formulaic today but hey, it’s the first screwball. I liked the situations these two characters would get into as well as their chemistry. I love the story of how Claudette Colbert really didn’t believe in this film that she assumed she would lose Best Actress to Betty Davis when in reality, Colbert came out as the winner-in a travel suit! This film is one of the first to win the Oscars in every category. So obviously, this film did something right. Love romantic comedies? Watch one of the earliest ones here.

Take a look below at Frank Capra’s classic and comment what you think:

 

 

#83 The Goddess (1934)

We’ve seen a lot of tragic romantic love stories on this list. Well, this next film is a tragic love story between mother and son. The Chinese masterpiece The Goddess is about a prostitute that has to resort to her low position in society to take care of her son but the revealing of her secret could mean trouble for both her and her son.tumblr_mq2aw6dgi11qzjzyyo4_250

This young woman played by Ruan Lingyu is a prostitute that has to resort to this job in order to take care of her son. Even though we never see any sex scenes, we do see what a prostitute would go through and how it’s not a role that any woman should resort to take. This isn’t someone who’s proud of her job. This is what would happen if a woman was uneducated and couldn’t go to school. That men would treat her like property. But she’s willing to go through with this demeaning position in order to give her son the education that she never had. We see how society is quick to point fingers at this woman because of what she does for a living instead of trying to get to know her. Her son can get a bad reputation because of her which can really break your heart while watching this film. It’s realistic this way because people really will be quick to judge someone based on their profession instead of asking them why they have to do what they do for a living.

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I can absolutely understand why people would think of Ruan Lingyu as the Greta Garbo of China considering she uses such subtle facial expressions and a face for close-ups. She expresses such sorrow in her eyes both for herself and for her son without going over the top. I was very sadden to find out about the fate of Ruan Lingyu as she committed suicide at the young age of 24 a year after completing this film because she couldn’t get away from the meddling tabloids. It’s a shame how insensitive some people can be where they can’t just leave an actress alone who wants to keep her private life private. I’m glad I was able to see this film because her performance will always be in my memory and I suggest you see this film too in order to keep the memory of Ruan Lingyu alive.

Watch this tragic mother and son story and comment what you think:

#82 It’s a Gift (1934)

Ever have those moments in life where you dream of a different life with different people to stand by you? Well that’s basically how W.C. Fields‘s character feels in this comedic film. It’s a Gift is about a grocer who quits his stressful job as a grocer in hopes of having his own orange grove- if only his family was more of a help.

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W.C. Fields is another example of someone who started out on the stage doing comedy acts that transitioned to the screen such as The Marx Brothers and Mae West. That was a tool used back then to get those box office numbers up by bringing familiar sketches by famous comedians to the big screen. As funny as W.C. Fields was in this film using physical comedy such as unsuccessfully trying to get ready in the morning or sleeping on the back porch, I loved Kathleen Howard as his impossible, nagging wife. She has a powerful and forceful voice that would make any man afraid.

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This film can relate to anyone who is miserable in life whether it’s career-wise or if you wish for an escape from your annoying family. W.C. Field’s character Mr. Bissonette (now that’s pronounced Bis-on-nay) is feeling that misery as he works as a grocer and has a nagging wife and annoying children. This big dream of him having an orange grove could be the perfect escape for him. He drives to California with his family in search of this orange grove despite their lack of support in him. My favorite scene is when Mr. Bissonette’s next customer is a blind man who can barely hear who inadvertently ruins his store! I wonder how the blind community would feel about this scene? What I like about the character of Mr. Bissonette is that because his urge for this big dream is so strong, he never gives up. Everyone loves an underdog and a good laugh so check out this film!

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a copy anywhere online but here’s a clip from my favorite scene: