Peter Warne (Clark Gable
) is a hard-bitten reporter. He loses his job, but finds a ticket back in when he stumbles onto a runaway heiress, Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert). He meets her on a cross-country night bus, and threatens to blow her cover unless she gives him the exclusive story about her escape. They hate each other at first; when they realize that they'll have to share a room, they invent the "Wall of Jericho," a blanket between their two beds to keep them apart. But they eventually fall in love...
This Romantic Comedy
from 1934 was directed by Frank Capra
. It was the first film to win all five major Oscars in the same year (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay - a feat only repeated twice since with One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
and Silence of the Lambs
), established Columbia Pictures
as a major film company, made Clark Gable a star, and let the world know that Frank Capra was a great director. Its title was the solution to the very first rebus on Concentration
It's also the first Screwball Comedy
— it started a whole genre of comedy films in which a straight man-style character is chased, harassed, and eventually romantically captured by a Cloudcuckoolander
(or related trope).
Tropes in the film:
- Abhorrent Admirer: A very obnoxious guy hits on Ellie on the bus so Peter starts pretending to be her husband.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Peter is kind of a jerk to Ellie in some scenes. She still falls for him anyway.
- She falls for him because of him being a bit of a jerk now and then - she likes someone who stands up to her and isn't impressed by her (father's) money.
- Anguished Declaration of Love
Ellie: I love you. Nothing else matters. We can run away. Everything will take care of itself. Please, Peter, I can't let you out of my life now. I couldn't live without you.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: They sure do snipe at each other a lot in the beginning.
- Blackmail: Peter wants the scoop on Ellie's flight to her husband; he threatens to call her father unless she gives it to him.
- Also, Oscar Shapely wants to go 50/50 on a $5,000 reward he sees in the newspaper.
- Break Up Make Up Scenario: one of the first in cinema, as Peter and Ellie angrily separate, only to be reunited at the end.
- Catch Phrase: I'll write a book about it.
- Clark Kenting: Peter and Ellie fool the detectives by pretending to be a low-class married couple. Somehow it works.
- Crowd Song: Though the bus passengers' rendition of "The Flying Trapeze" is believable.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ellie to Peter during his hitchhiking attempts.
- Domestic Abuser: Peter pretends to abuse his "wife" to fool those who are looking for Ellie.
- Fairytale Wedding Dress
- Fanservice: Clark Gable was seen without an undershirt in this film. There is an urban legend that this hurt undershirt sales.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: So blatant it hardly counts as sneaking. Peter and Ellie spend the movie hanging a towel (the Wall of Jericho) between the beds in their hotel/motel rooms for privacy. At the end, when they have been married, they retire to a hotel room, while the owner remarks to a friend how funny it is that the newlyweds requested a trumpet. Cut to a scene of a towel being thrown into the corner, with the sound of a trumpet being blown. Really suggestive for 1934.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "Dyke's Auto Camp" might elicit a few snickers today.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Peter, who is rude and crass but really does care about Ellie.
- Just for the Heli of It: The groom arrives at the society wedding in an autogyro (like a helicopter, but with an unpowered rotor), apparently for the PR value. The bride and her father are not favorably impressed:
Mr. Andrews: Everything's set. Creating quite a furore, too. (Pause) Great stunt King is going to pull.
Mr. Andrews: Yeah, he's landing on the lawn in an autogyro.
Ellie: (Flatly) Yes, I heard.
Mr. Andrews: Personally, I think it's silly, too.
- Ellie and her father aren't the only ones to find it a bit silly
Peter: I'd like to get a load of that three ring circus you're pulling. I wanna see what love looks like when it's triumphant. I haven't had a good laugh in a week.
- Lost in Imitation: Bugs Bunny's love of carrots was intended as an obvious Shout-Out to this movie, but it quickly became the Stock Animal Diet of fictional rabbits everywhere. (In Real Life, carrots are unhealthy for rabbits in large amounts.)
- Non-Indicative Name: It takes place over several nights and days.
- Parental Marriage Veto: The heiress has run away because her father is trying to annul her marriage. Of course, this happens before she meets Clark Gable.
- Road Movie
- Road Trip Romance: The Trope Maker
- Romantic Comedy
- Romantic False Lead: Does anyone watch this movie and think that Ellie will choose King Westley?
- Seinfeldian Conversation: Ellie and Peter spend quite a bit of time discussing hitchhiking techniques and what does or does not constitute a piggy-back ride.
- Gable has one of his own, where he complains that women "don't know how to dunk" (donuts into coffee). Nike used that scene for a shoe ad in the 1980s.
- Show Some Leg: The Trope Maker, and so old that many people don't even realize this is where it comes from.
- Shirtless Scene: Gable's scene caused a media sensation.
- Sleep Cute: Early in the film, Ellie falls asleep on Peter's shoulder, while riding a bus.
- Spoiled Brat: Ellie is so spoiled that she can't grasp the concept of a budget, and tries to buy candy on the bus when she has $4 to her name.
- The Thirties: Two dollars to rent a motel room for the night.
- This Is My Side: That bedsheet been homaged/used dozens of times by everything from Neon Genesis Evangelion to A Very Brady Sequel.
- Uptown Girl: A bit of It Was His Sled, right?
- Well, Excuse Me, Princess!
- Worst News Judgment Ever: Ellie's love life makes the top story on the front page of every newspaper. Evidently, not much else was going on in the world in 1934.
- Considering that it was in the middle of The Great Depression, chances are that any more upbeat news would've been more than welcome.