Following the discussion that our Akira Kurosawa Film Club started last month on One Wonderful Sunday, we will now be moving onto the 1934 Frank Capra film It Happened One Night. This does not mean that discussion of One Wonderful Sunday should end of course, as we have specifically chosen It Happened One Night as a companion piece for the Kurosawa film.
It Happened One Night stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in a screwball comedy about a rich man’s daughter (Colbert) and a handsome, direct but well-meaning reporter (Gable). Although it was initially seen as a failure, the film proved a major sleeper hit, and went on to win five Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adaptation. It was the first ever film to carry home the “Big Five”, and reportedly also the first film to really popularise the screwball comedy genre on the silver screen.
Nevertheless, when you first watch It Happened One Night, you may wonder why on earth it is on our viewing list. This is actually a valid question. The film was chosen based on remarks in Richie and Galbraith, who list it as one of the works that influenced One Wonderful Sunday. (Galbraith, 90; Richie, 45) Yet, while there are certain basic similarities between the two films, it could be argued that they are fundamentally very different works.
The interesting question then is, why It Happened One Night, together with works such as Capra’s Lady for a Day and Mr Deeds Goes to Town or films by F.W. Murnau, Josef von Sternberg, Henry Koster or D. W. Griffith have been listed as influential to One Wonderful Sunday. How did they influence One Wonderful Sunday, and perhaps even more interestingly, how have they influenced the way that critics have approached Kurosawa’s film?
This would also be a good place to discuss Kurosawa’s influences in general, and the influence of Frank Capra in particular. Kurosawa’s stock answer for the question about his favourite directors was “Ford, Wyler and Capra” (Richie, 45), although as Richie points out, this answer may especially later on have been used more out of a habit than anything else. Yet, Richie goes on to note that Kurosawa was strongly influenced by Capra at the time of his first postwar films. Where does that influence manifest?
Whatever its connection with One Wonderful Sunday, It Happened One Night is of course an enjoyable film in itself. How do you think it compares with other works of its time, and how has it aged in your eyes?
Next month, the Akira Kurosawa Film Club will be moving onto Drunken Angel. For a full schedule, see the film club page.