Two of my favourite authors – Jennifer Crusie and Lani Diane Rich (as Lucy March) – have started something called The Popcorn Dialogues. You can read all about it here, but basically they drew up a list of the best American romantic comedies of all time and they’re watching one each week and then blogging about it and recording a podcast. I’m going to attempt to watch along and then blog about the movies here each Monday.
CONTAINS SPOILERS SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW THIS MOVIE ENDS (ALTHOUGH SURELY YOU CAN GUESS) THEN DON’T READ ON.
The first film was It Happened One Night. I saw this movie years ago, but didn’t remember anything about it except for a) the bedroom scene with the “Wall of Jericho” sheet and b) I liked it. I’d never seen Clark Gable’s appeal until I saw this film. He’s very charming, funny and sexy and Claudette Colbert (who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything else) is too (I kept trying to work out who she reminded me of and eventually realised it was Rachael Stirling, who I love).
Jenny and Lucy have set ratings in three categories: Romance, Comedy and Technical. Romance-wise It Happened One Night totally worked for me, apart from a couple of things. Towards the end of the movie, when Peter (Clark Gable) is telling Ellie’s (Claudette Colbert) father that he’s in love with her, he says: “What she needs is a guy who’ll take a sock at her once a day, whether it’s coming to her or not.” Now I totally appreciate that this is of its time. And if it had come earlier in the movie – say, when Peter first met Ellie and was finding her to be a total pain – I would have been okay with it. But as part of Peter’s romantic declaration? No.
The other thing is the ending. It’s brave – funny and sexy – particularly for its time, but you don’t get to see Peter and Ellie kiss. At the end of a romantic comedy, you have to see the couple kiss. You just have to.
As for comedy, well, it *is* funny, but it didn’t make me laugh out loud. Not once. I smiled a few times, but I didn’t laugh.
The “technical” category includes the characterisation. Ellie and Peter are fabulous characters, but Ellie’s father seems to do an enormous switcheroo partway through the film (so much so that I even questioned that it was the same character, I thought maybe I’d popped out for a glass of wine and missed something vital). To begin with he’s controlling and overbearing, even slapping Ellie. Later Ellie complains to Peter about how her father has controlled her and hasn’t let her live, but then at the end the father is not only loving and kind, he encourages her to dump her fiance at the altar and follow her heart. Good, but odd. The other character I didn’t understand was Ellie’s fiance, King. He’s not important – he barely has a line to say – but I kept waiting for an explanation of why Ellie was planning to marry him and none came. I’m assuming it was simply to get away from her controlling father, which makes sense in the beginning of the film, but not at the end, when it turns out that the father isn’t controlling at all.
Anyway, by Jenny and Lucy’s categorisation, I give It Happened One Night four pops: ****
And you? Have you seen it? Did you love it?
And if you’d like to join in, next week’s movie is Bringing Up Baby.