It Happened One Night (1934)

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Released 5-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Booklet-Bill Collins
Theatrical Trailer
Audio-Only Track-Radio Broadcast featuring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert
Featurette-Frank Capra Jr. Remembers...
Gallery-Photo-Vintage Advertising
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1934
Running Time 100:53
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Frank Capra

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Claudette Colbert
Clark Gable
Walter Connolly
Roscoe Karns
Jameson Thomas
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes, extensive
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It Happened One Night is one of those movies that nearly didn't happen. That would have been a shame. As you can tell from the cover, it won an Oscar or two. Actually, it won the big five: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress - the first picture to achieve this coup. In fact, this is the film which earned Clark Gable his first and only Oscar (he was nominated for Gone With the Wind, but didn't win); it is also the movie that won Claudette Colbert her only Oscar (she was nominated for Private Worlds, and Since You Went Away, but didn't win). Frank Capra won three Best Director Oscars, but this was his first (he was nominated the previous year, but didn't win). Columbia, at this time, was regarded as a second string studio - it had never won an Oscar. MGM loaned Clark Gable to Columbia for this movie to punish him for refusing to work - I wouldn't mind being punished like this...

    Frank Capra is probably best known for It's A Wonderful Life (even though he didn't get that Oscar), but he made a lot of wonderful films. While I was looking at his filmography I was a little surprised to realise that I already have six of his movies on DVD: Arsenic and Old Lace, Mr Deeds Goes to Town, It's a Wonderful Life, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Lost Horizon, and It Happened One Night. The idea of having six films by the same director may not sound too surprising, but bear in mind that these films were made from 1934 to 1944 - they are around sixty years old, and most are black-and-white.

    This film is credited with many firsts, including Columbia's first Oscars. It is given the credit for inspiring screwball comedies for many years.

    The story is fairly straightforward. Claudette Colbert is Ellie Andrews, an heiress who is spoiled rotten. She has married a man her father (Walter Connolly) doesn't approve of. He has confined her to his yacht which is moored off Miami, but she dives off the side, swims ashore, and catches a bus northwards to New York. Her father sets detectives after her, and gets the story published in the paper to help try to find her. Clark Gable is Peter Warne, a reporter who has just been fired - he's catching the bus to get home. Both of them want the seat at the back of the bus, and they end up sharing it, thus making each other's acquaintance. He recognises her, and offers to help her in return for her story, which he hopes will re-establish his reputation.

    Naturally, things don't go smoothly, and familiarity breeds affection, rather than contempt. The sequence of events is not completely predictable, however.

    In essence, this is a lovely romantic comedy, one of the earliest made. It is just as enjoyable now as it was when it was made, although sexual mores have changed to an extent that makes one or two scenes less understandable than they were then.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. This film was originally made in the Academy ratio (1.37:1), as were all films of its vintage - widescreen came about after the proliferation of television. The difference between 1.37:1 and 1.33:1 is imperceptible.

    The picture is soft but pleasing. Shadow detail is surprisingly good, except in the night sequence at the first bus stop around 9:25. There is no low-level noise, but there's quite a bit of film grain. There's oscillation of the brightness in the background of most of the picture, a delicate shimmer - it is quite common in films of this vintage, and I'm used to it.

    Colour? We have a wide range of colours from black to white through a wide range of greys. There are a couple of instances of over-bright white, with a glow around the edges of the white.

    This film was released in 1934. That makes it 68 years old. So the film artefacts come as no surprise. The only real surprise is how few there are, and how little they distract from the story. There's a watermark at 55:28 - that's probably the worst of the film artefacts. The softness of the picture and the film grain conceal almost all of the potential aliasing. Just as well, given the diagonally striped top Claudette Colbert is wearing for most of the film. There's no moire. There are no MPEG artefacts. There are some fades to black in the film that look rather poor by today's standards. There's a jump, perhaps a missing frame, at 95:02. Despite all this, the transfer is rather good for the age of the film.

    There are subtitles in heaps of languages. I only looked at the English subtitles. They are easy to read, accurate, and well-timed.

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 66:11, in a fade to black between scenes - superbly placed, and effectively invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are five soundtracks; English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, all mono. I only listened to the English. It is a bit quiet.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. There are no real slips in audio sync, although you can see a very slight mismatch around 66:25.

    The score is not particularly noticeable. The studio must have thought so, too, because there is no credit for the score in the film.

    Mono soundtracks means no surrounds and no subwoofer. No problem - this movie has no need of them.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The main menu is static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (1:24)

    A short trailer, and of lousy quality - makes it fairly clear how clear the main feature is.

Radio Broadcast (59:38)

    You don't often get an extra like this one. This is an original radio broadcast, a performance of a radio adaptation of It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, introduced by Cecil B de Mille. Interesting stuff, but with an image of a radio on the screen, it is not the most fascinating image you've seen.

Featurette - Frank Capra Jr Remembers (11:16)

    This is an interesting featurette, intercutting footage from an interview with Frank Capra Jr with footage from the film. He relates a number of anecdotes relating to this film, even though it was his father who directed it.

Vintage Advertising

    12 images used to advertise this film - original film posters and lobby cards (do they still have lobby cards?).

Talent Profiles

    We get a one-page profile, and a one-page filmography, for each of Frank Capra, Clark Gable, and Claudette Colbert. One interesting piece of trivia about these three - each of them did their last piece of work in 1961.

Collectible Booklet

    This is nothing more than a piece of advertising for the "Academy Award Winner" series of DVDs.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc is quite similar - it has all of the extras we get on the Region 4, plus two extra trailers (Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and Lost Horizon), and an audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr. The commentary would normally be a decisive factor, making the R1 the disc of choice, but this is a commentary by the director's son, not the director himself. It is interesting, but there are numerous lengthy gaps, and he does repeat himself on occasion. Many of the best anecdotes are repeated from the featurette, although there is one contradiction (in the featurette he says Ms Colbert demanded double her normal salary, whereas on the commentary he says Harry Cohn suggested offering her double).

    The big difference between the two discs is in the feature. The R1 version is fairly sharp, and this is a problem, because it means that we get constant aliasing on Claudette Colbert's blouse (amongst other things). You might think the sharper transfer would be desirable, but I hate it. I recommend getting the R4 with its softer image and smoother appearance.


    It Happened One Night is a delightful romantic comedy, presented rather nicely on DVD for a film of its vintage.

    The video is not good, but it is better than I expected.

    The audio is fine.

    The extras are rather good .

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, February 04, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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