The Most Overrated Movie of 1934

I am going to start posting a brief note on the movie (or movies) that I think is highly overrated.  First up: a Capra classic.  It Happened One Night is probably the biggest name omission that didn’t make it on the list partly because the movie just isn’t any good.  I hadn’t seen it in quite a long time and I just assumed it would appear on this list, probably in the bottom half.  But I watched it again last week and I was stunned at how bad and boring it was.  It starts out fairly well, but the second half just goes on and on (and on and on … zzzzz).  And, as I’ve said before, I can’t stand comedy that relies on misunderstandings that don’t make sense.  Why couldn’t Clarke Gable tell Claudette Colbert he was going into the city?  Or – now here’s a radical idea – leave a note!  That way when she wakes up and you are gone, she won’t think you abandoned her and run back to her fiancé.  Oh, but I forgot, it was the Depression so maybe there was a pencil shortage?  That nonsense at the end is enough to knock the movie well out of contention and how it won so many Oscars, I’ll never know.  Claudette Colbert didn’t think much of Frank Capra or the movie (until, perhaps, she had Oscar in hand) and I think her instincts were right.  Capra’s son suggested it was a case of an actor not having the complete vision of the movie that the director had, but I don’t think so.  She knew bad writing when she saw it.  The only really good thing about the movie is Clarke Gable’s surprisingly jubilant performance.  (I say surprising because I’ve never been a big Gable fan.)  This movie is average at best and isn’t anywhere near as good as my bottom two on the list Happiness and The Thin Man.

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6 Comments

Filed under 1934, Yearly Best Pictures

6 responses to “The Most Overrated Movie of 1934

  1. I like this one well enough — I would say I like it better than Twentieth Century but, to be fair, I’ve only seen the Hawks once — but I hear you on the subject of the comedy of misunderstandings, and I can’t work myself up to defend a romantic comedy that vigorously. I expect that others may pick up the gauntlet, though.

    • Funnily, the first time I saw “Twentieth Century” I didn’t care for it much either. It was only after a second viewing that I realized how great it was. But sit down with a “Twentieth Century”/”It Happened One Night” double feature. You might be surprised how much better the Hawks film looks over Capra’s.

  2. Yes Samuel, I will. I love Capra exceedingly, but never cared for this film at all. Imagine all the Oscars for this mediocrity?! I am not a Gable fan either Jason, but I’ll give him that performance in GWTW, even if Donat, Stewart and Olivier trumped him that year.

    • Good to know I’m not alone in my antipathy for “It Happened One Night.” And, like you Sam, I enjoy a lot of other Capra movies, but this one leaves me cold. By 1934 the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences already had a track record of handing out Oscars to mediocre movies and performances (something they continue, for the most part, today), so it isn’t surprising all the praise for this. The best American movies of the year were comedies, with the exception of “The Scarlet Empress,” and they weren’t about to hand out Oscars to lowbrow fare like “It’s a Gift” or a scathing satire of “serious” theater people in “Twentieth Century.” Capra’s movie was just the safest of the bunch.

  3. jeffrey

    I have to disagree. It happened one night is a very enjoyable film fully deserving the recognition it received at the time. The fact that gable doesn’t leave a note means that ending of the movie is elongated because we know by that time that the two leads are in love with one another. The point is that the movie is 80% over by the time this scene occurs. Its vastly enjoyable movie up to that point. the film has memorable sequences such as The walls of jerrico scene; the singing of “the man on flying trapeze” scene ; The hitch hiking scene; and the Alan Hale sequence. The movie also has great chemistry between the two leads; when they are on screen together the movie has a warm glow to it. Claudette colbert is sexy, charming charming and has great comic timing. Colbert was a marvelous actress in 1930s movies being able to play both sexy and demure roles.

    • Well Jeffrey, I know I am in the minority here, but I’ve always found the movie stale and frustrating. I believe the first 20 or 30 minutes are fine, but it spirals out of control after that. I agree that Colbert and Gable have good chemistry (oddly this is one of the few movie I think Gable gave a good performance in) and share some good scenes, but there are just as many bad scenes. And they don’t fit together well. But you, and many other, love this movie and I’m glad for that. I’m also glad that I’ll never have to watch this movie again.

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