Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

It Happened One Night (1934)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

It Happened One Night (1934)

In Frank Capra's classic Best Picture-winning screwball romantic comedy, putting together mismatched individuals in various uncomfortable misadventures - a spoiled socialite heiress and an unscrupulous reporter:

  • the opening scene of the flight of runaway heiress socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) from her wealthy father Alexander Andrews' (Walter Connolly) yacht in Miami, Florida after a temper tantrum with him: ("I come from a long line of stubborn idiots") - she jumped off the luxury yacht in her clothes to flee and take a Greyhound bus northward to New York to meet up and elope with her fortune-hunting fiancee - an aviator named King Westley (Jameson Thomas)
  • the early phone booth scene in a bus station during the firing of rogue newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable) (nicknamed "The King") for drunkenness on the job, who yelled at his boss Joe Gordon (Charles C. Wilson) on the phone as a crowd gathered outside the booth: (Peter: "In a pig's eye, you will!...Hey listen monkey face, when you fired me, you fired the best newshound your filthy scandal sheet ever had...That was free verse, you gashouse palooka!"); and then after his boss fired him and hung up, Warne made up the remainder of the call for the benefit of onlookers: ("Oh, so you're changing your tune, eh? You're a little late with your apologies. I wouldn't go back to work for you if you begged me on your hands and knees. And I hope this will be a lesson to you!")
  • after leaving the booth, Warne took a swig from a bottle, then told the many admiring witnesses: "We don't need anymore of his lip...I guess he knows now, how I feel about his job.... Is my chariot ready?"; he was ushered away as they shouted and escorted him: "Make way for the king. Make way for the king. Long live the king"
  • a long overnight bus ride to New York, beginning with Peter's loss of his rear bus seat when Ellie sat in his place (while he stashed his luggage) and the driver announced: "First come, first serve"; Peter was forced to share a cramped seat in the back; after the bus lurched forward, she fell into his lap, and he quipped: ("Next time you drop in, bring your folks")
  • the "Walls of Jericho" sequence in a rural autocamp when Peter separated their shared twin bedroom with a clothesline and a blanket, as Ellie dryly observed: "That, I suppose, makes everything quite all right?"; he explained the arrangement: "Well, I like privacy when I retire. Yes, I'm very delicate in that respect. Prying eyes annoy me. Behold the walls of Jericho! Uh, maybe not as thick as the ones that Joshua blew down with his trumpet, but a lot safer. You see, uh, I have no trumpet"
  • as the sequence continued, he gave her a memorable lesson on the various ways men undress - he flirtatiously undressed in front of her, taking one article of clothing off at a time: ("Perhaps you're interested in how a man undresses. You know, it's a funny thing about that. Quite a study in psychology. No two men do it alike. You know, I once knew a man who kept his hat on until he was completely undressed. Now he made a picture. Years later, his secret came out. He wore a toupee. Yeah. I have a method all my own. If you notice, the coat came first, then the tie, then the shirt. Now, uh, according to Hoyle, after that, the, uh, pants should be next. There's where I'm different..."); when he was in the midst of undressing, she fled to her side of the bedroom, but he reassured her: " got nothin' to worry about. The walls of Jericho will protect you from the big bad wolf"
  • Peter and Ellie's discussion in separate beds with the lights turned out, when he introduced himself as Peter Warne ("I'm the whippoorwill that cries in the night. I'm the soft morning breeze that caresses your lovely face...Yeah, I got a name. Peter Warne"); when she said she didn't like his name, he responded by suggesting a new temporary last name for her - to pretend that they were married for the one night: ("Don't let it bother you. You're giving it back to me in the morning...The pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Warne")
  • and later, Peter's breakfast lesson on how to dunk donuts and how real folks eat: ("Dunking's an art. Don't let it soak so long. A dip and (he stuffed the donut in his mouth) plop, in your mouth. Let it hang there too long, it'll get soft and fall off. It's all a matter of timing. Aw, I oughta write a book about it")
  • the scene of their deception of two nosy private investigators by impersonating a make-believe, quarreling married couple - he berated her for flirting with a "big Swede" on the Elks' dance floor and then insulted her: ("You're just like your old man. Once a plumber's daughter, always a plumber's daughter. There's not an ounce of brains in your whole family"); when the flabbergasted detectives left, the auto-camp manager commented: "I told you they were a perfectly nice married couple"
  • the busload of passengers singing "The Man on the Flying Trapeze"
  • after leaving the bus for a trek cross-country, the scene of Peter serving as a male protector by carrying Ellie slung over his shoulder across a moonlit stream; as he waded through the water, he taught her yet another lesson on piggyback carrying, arguing with her about what it takes to be a "piggy-backer" - an ability he claimed that her family of rich people didn't have: ("I'll bet there isn't a good piggy-back rider in your whole family. I never knew a rich man yet who could piggy-back ride...You show me a good piggy-backer and I'll show you a real human. Now you take Abraham Lincoln for instance. A natural born piggy-backer. Where do you get all of that stuffed-shirts family of yours?")
Hitch-Hiking Competition
  • the thumb vs. show-some-leg hitchhiking technique scene at the side of the road; Peter condescendingly lectured Ellie: ("It's all in that ol' thumb, see?...that ol' thumb never fails. It's all a matter of how you do it, though"); after a detailed lecture on the three proper and correct ways that common people hail passing cars while thumb hitchhiking, he failed miserably and she suggested her method: ("Oh, you're such a smart alec. Nobody knows anything but you. I'll stop a car and I won't use my thumb...It's a system all my own") - she provocatively raised her skirt above the knee, exposing a shapely, stockinged leg and garter - an immediately effective technique - the next car screeched to a halt; she joked: ("Well, I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb"); he quipped back: ("Why didn't you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars")
  • the night-time scene of Peter's idealistic speech to Ellie, as they both were outstretched on adjacent beds, when he described a dream of a Pacific island paradise where social pressures and restrictions would disappear, and he could live with a woman isolated from the world's worries: ("Sure, I've thought about it. Who hasn't? If I could ever meet the right sort of girl. Ahh, where you gonna find her? Somebody that's real, somebody that's alive! They don't come like that way anymore. Have I ever thought about it? Boy, I've even been sucker enough to make plans. You know, I saw an island in the Pacific once. I've never been able to forget it. That's where I'd like to take her. She'd have to be the sort of a girl who'd jump in the surf with me and love it as much as I did. Nights when you and the moon and the water all become one. You feel you're part of something big and marvelous. That's the only place to live. The stars are so close over your head you feel you could reach up and stir them around. Certainly, I've been thinking about it. Boy, if I could ever find a girl who was hungry for those things..."); Ellie responded with wet eyes and love for him ("Take me with you, Peter. Take me to your island. I want to do all those things you talked about"), but he was taken aback by her love for him and told her twice: "You'd better go back to your bed," where she cried herself to sleep
  • the aborted wedding scene when Ellie fled from the altar of her wedding as a runaway bride with her long veil trailing behind
  • the last scene, set in another autocamp, this time in Michigan, with Peter and Ellie in possession of a marriage license; the auto-camp manager and his wife discussed the couple: ("Funny couple, ain't they?...They made me get them a rope and a blanket on a night like this. What do you reckon that's for?"); when the manager mentioned they had requested a trumpet, the wife was puzzled: ("But what in the world do they want a trumpet for?"); suddenly, they heard the sound of a tinny trumpet blast - a signal that the blanket had 'fallen' (off-screen) and the "walls of Jericho" had toppled

Heiress Ellie Andrews Diving Off Yacht

Reporter Peter Warne - In A Phone Booth, Fired by His Boss

"Make way for the King!"

Sharing a Cramped Bus Seat: "Next time you drop in, bring your folks"

The "Walls of Jericho"

Lesson on Undressing

The Art of Dunking Donuts

Nighttime Discussion: Divulging His Name

Pretending to Be A Married Quarreling Couple

Wading Through Stream With "Piggy-Backer"

Dreaming Together

Ellie's Aborted Wedding


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