Monday, April 19, 2010

'It Happened One Night' Open Thread


  1. But it didn't, did it? It happened in stages, as they got to see past the snap judgements they had made about each other when they met.

    My memory of the opening scene -- Eliie, finding that hunger-strikes and angry arguments won't work, runs away from her father -- was of a spoiled, willful snob that behaved outrageously until her demands were met. Which seems to be pretty much the "thumbnail" that's given in all the descriptions of the movie. So i was surprised to find myself thinking that -- as far-fetched as it may be to suggest she swam to shore and went shopping in whatever wet loungewear she had on -- her reaction to her situation was quite understandable. As she points out, she is not a minor, and no matter how ill-advised her father believed her marriage to be, it's beyond unreasonable to expect her to acquiesce when she is kidnapped from her wedding, and held hostage until her marriage can be annulled.

    She is, certainly, unaccustomed to functioning in a world where she is not surrounded by employees awaiting her instructions -- the debacle of the bus-driver told to wait for her is a case in point. And her assumption that payment will be expected for any behest gets her lambasted by Peter, when she offers to pay him to keep her secret, for not recognizing that a good guy would just be a good guy. There are, certainly, elements of childishness -- she has been kept a child in some ways by the continuous application of indulgence and control. The shallow celebrity she has impulsively married is the first man she found herself unfettered around, and she imagines herself in love.

    As much as she needs Peter's assistance to make her 'underground' trip to rejoin her new husband, it isn't until he begins to engage her familiarly that she can see him as any more than another body-guard trying to constrain her. And of course, there is the minor detail of the highly improper overnight accommodations that Peter very pragmatically arranges.

    It is Peter's pragmatism that keeps him engaged. after all -- a scoop about the runaway heiress is his ticket back into employment -- although I suspect he'd have continued the journey with Ellie just for the adventure of it, even if he hadn't needed to. And he is a good guy, sometimes grudgingly solicitous, sometimes tender, but always attentive to the naive fish-out-of-water for whom he's made himself responsible.

    I enjoyed, so much, watching them learn the truths about each other, discover the kindnesses, find the humor they shared. Testing each other, teasing each other, coming to love each other -- until the Big Misunderstanding that requires another interrupted wedding to resolve.

    And the great wacky moments, like the two feigning a domestic argument to throw off Ellie's father's detectives, and Peter's pretending to enlist chronic nuisance Shapely's help in a big-time kidnapping caper. And the Great Piggy-backing Debate. (I know the hitch-hiking scene is quite famous, but what I like best about it is how agreeably Peter retracts his claim of expertise.)

    I hope that yet another gently-paced (slow) old movie hasn't bored you silly. I was having serious second thoughts, but feel a bit more hopeful having watched it again. (I do have a few more contemporary choices for future viewing...)

    "Young people in love, are very seldom hungry."

  2. Why doesn't my comment show up on the main page?

  3. Oh, I saw it. There is often a lag between posting a comment and seeing it on the comment roster. Don't know why.

    But wow, that was a great comment, and I am really keen to watch the show. I need to wait until tonight, but I am very much looking forward to it. Sometimes, you can get these great performances in these older shows. Definitely the minor characters seem to be more thought of and considered than what we might see in a movie made in our times. And often you get a great performance from the leads..the key is accepting the setting and putting yourself in their time. Splendor In The Grass would make little sense to a high schooler of today, but it was a great movie.

  4. Gosh, i hope I didn't give anything away! ;)

  5. What a fun show!

    Well, you have commented so very well that there really is little I can add to what you have said. Clark Gable was something, as a solid, confident capable and handsome gentleman, who really was a sort of an everyman for the audience..a hero of the average man, who had virtue and character, and who was not intimidated by the wealth of others, or oppressed by the lack of his own. It is a strikingly American view of the world, not seen in other countries such as England or Canada, where wealth and class are tied closely together and given significant deference.

    The scene of their first night at the auto park I enjoyed very much. There he was, confident, calm and seemingly unaffected, yet as he lay there in his bed with the rain beating outside and the rest of the world far away, he gazes up at the blanket he had strung to note an undergarment slung over..and then another... and in that quiet scene it was very clear that he was lonely and desiring her to be near him.. yet he stays there, and drolly asks her to remove her things from the wall. That was a great scene. Despite the confidence, despite the capable handling of life's challenges, that far away loneliness that we all have...right there.

    Also the scene in the haystacks, where Ellie claims to be hungry and afraid, and Pete, speaking from apparent experience, replies with some exasperation "You can't be both hungry and scared". And after he slips away to look for food, and she becomes proves out that he was in fact right, and his temper with her then is more a marker of his own interest and frustration at her unattainability than of anything else.

    Some fun things I picked out as unique to the times included the bus driver delivering two honks every time he pulled out of a bus station, the bus travelers themselves, well dressed and largely well behaved, and the mournful sound of a steam whistle far off in the distance in a number of the traveling scenes. We never hear that sound anymore, but in those days that was the sound that raised thoughts of adventure and new horizons.

    Yes, it was a fine show. I am very glad to have seen it again. It is funny how much one's perspective changes with the passage of time.

  6. I'm really glad you liked it. It is better than I remember, but that may be because elements of it are more meaningful than they were when I was younger.

    You know, I don't think I was consciously aware of the steam whistle while watching the movie, but it is a sort of a siren song, isn't it, calling us away to -- as you say -- adventure and new horizons.

    A bus ride is a bus ride, and a long bus ride must count towards time in Purgatory.

    But the train is a magic carpet, skimming just high enough above the ground to let you see the signs of living all around, yet hold you unreachable, invisible to the earth-bound mortals you pass.

    I so want to take a long train trip someday, tucked away in a people-sized cupboard at night, waking up to a new piece of the world each morning, living the day amongst books and strangers and the scenery slipping effortlessly past the windows...

    And I love a real dining car, one of those places outside of time, with white table cloths and proper menus and bud vases that somehow stay in place despite the bumps and lurches and various other hiccups in the ride. I wonder if they even exist any more. I'd better assume they don't, so I'm not too disappointed.

  7. Oh, a train trip - yes, that would be grand! I traveled by train from Banff to Vancouver BC, and it was the most beautiful thing. Of course, I was as poor as a church mouse at the time, so no sleeper car for me, but I understand if you get one it is just great. You can sit in bed and look out your own private window, get a comfortable rest at night and go up to the observation dome or back to the lounge car any time you like...which brings to mind another great movie...but we will have to wait a little longer to let it breathe. The other thing I would love to do is to go on a cruise, perhaps cross the Atlantic and visit London, or that would be grand indeed! Cold wind, warm coat and blankets on the deck, good book, and all whisking along across the water, traveling to reach a far away place.

  8. Your trip in Canada must have been fantastic -- well, at least when you weren't trying to sleep. (Of course, when you're young and flexible, getting some sleep is a lot easier.) The longest train ride I've done was DC to New York, and back the same day. It was a great way to take care of the business at hand, but not a trip.

    But to make the crossing -- it never occurred to me that you could still do that. Oh, how fantastic would that be! And I think I want to see Ireland, and Scotland -- but I'm a little afraid I wouldn't want to come back once I got there.

  9. everyman for the audience..a hero of the average man, who had virtue and character, and who was not intimidated by the wealth of others, or oppressed by the lack of his own. It is a strikingly American view of the world, not seen in other countries such as England or Canada, where wealth and class are tied closely together and given significant deference.

    You're right -- very American! There may be discomfort between the rich and the less-so, but crossing between camps isn't a matter of tremendous social courage, so much as a willingness to put up with the unfamiliar.

    And now I'm wondering whether the depiction of the relative ease of movement between socio-economic groups (which I didn't think about, as it is such a given in my lifetime) was an intended message of the (1934?) movie. Particularly considering how much happier Ellie's father was at the prospect of her marrying honorable regular-guy Peter than dapper dilettante-aviator King Wesley.

    I shall, however, resist the inclination to google vintage critiques of the movie, and resume addressing the more pragmatic items on today's list!

  10. One of the other blogs that I used to get the address for one of the photos I used here spent a fair amount of time talking about the scene where Pete undresses for bed and he is not wearing a t-shirt...the influence that had on the t-shirt market, the influence that smoking may have had on the audience. I suppose that was of interest to some, but that wasn't big on my mind in terms of what the show was saying to us and about us.

    Along those lines, when the fella that gave them a lift stopped for gas and offered to buy them some food. Ellie is willing to accept, but Pete is staunchly against the idea, and will not let Ellie take the hand-out either. "What were you trying to do, gold-dig that guy for a meal?" No way was Pete going to do that. It was a certain pride, and a determination to be self-reliant that he was unwilling to give up, a knowledge that the act itself of accepting would change who he was, and that was completely unacceptable to him. The motivation he espoused was familiar ground for his audience, and I am confident he was well understood. I believe it would either go right over the heads of an audience of today, or strike them as rather odd. As a man, Pete was just as free as Mr. Anderson was. He didn't have to look down or excuse himself for anyone, but he felt all that would change if he began accepting hand-outs.

    And it was not the ease of movement between income groups that was of interest to me, but the unstated idea that the people involved were on equal footing. Perhaps that is the same thing as what you were saying. Certainly wealthy people can have a sense that they are better than others, and I've felt that at times, just I never believed it, and neither did Pete. Equal before the law is a tradition of English law, but equal in the eyes of society is an American tradition. And I agree, the comfort that Mr. Anderson felt at the prospect of Ellie marrying a straightforward guy that was an honest , hard worker was indicative that Pete's perception of being an equal to any man, regardless of relative wealth, was shared by Mr. Anderson, and was of course correct.

    I believe the Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mary II both still do Atlantic crossings. Someday, I hope to go