In fact, this is the first film that I’ve seen with either of these actors, excluding some Gone with the Wind snippets that I’ve seen during my long days perusing YouTube.
This movie was delicious. I love black and white films. There is just something so special about them that I can never put my finger on. Maybe it’s the fact that all the colour and visually distracting aspects are pushed to the side to make way for what really matters: the story, and the acting.
This story centers around a bored heiress, Ellen Andrews (Colbert), who, tired of being told what to do, flees her father and attempts to make her way across New York to see her new fiancé, playboy King Westley.
On the way, she meets a newspaper writer (or newspaper man, as they called him in the movie, much to my confused delight, or amusement – I couldn’t really tell which) by the name of Peter Warne, a smart-aleck, and resourceful to boot, played by none other than Gable. The two don’t particularly get along: Warne is disgusted by what he calls Andrews’ spoilt disposition, and Andrews, imperious and used to being fawned over, isn’t exactly thrilled with his flippant treatment of her.
Of course the fact that the two don’t get along only adds to the audience’s amusement; and it definitely amused this viewer. Once Andrews possessions are stolen, Warne strikes a deal with her: he’ll get her safely to her fiancé if she, in return, allows him to publish his adventure on the road with her in a tell-all article on the paper for which he works. Their time on the road presents many obstacles, from overly talkative and much too forward strangers to managing their small finances and sleeping patterns. My favorite was the makeshift ‘Wall of Jericho’ that Peter Warne constructs by hanging a sheet on a rope between two beds.
The film is the very definition of entertaining. The chemistry between the two leads is so realistic and believable, and their slow evolvement from repulsion to an easy friendship and eventually something more was so easy and fun to watch. According to the special features the movie was regarded cynically by the two leads – with Colbert going so far as to demand double the salary she was offered and declaring it to be the worst film she had ever been in. Apparently there was also much scorn directed at the script – something I can’t fathom as the dialogue just flows so easily – and it’s not simply the result of the acting. Much of the things they say are not only funny but speak profound truths as well. Here’s what Peter Warne says about love and his dream girl when Ellie asks him if he’s ever thought about love:
“Sure I’ve thought about it. Who hasn’t? If I could ever meet the right sort of girl. Aw, where you gonna find her? Somebody that’s real. Somebody that’s alive. They don’t come that way anymore. Have I ever thought about it? 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… well, who’d jump in the surf with me and love it as much as I did. You know, 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… where the stars are so close over your head you feel you could reach up and stir them around.”
I absolutely love that image that’s painted with the moon and the stars. I really don’t see how anyone could have scorned anything like that. I can only hope there was something wrong with them, or that they hadn’t seen the final script. I’m just glad that Capra didn’t pay attention to all that scorn and decided to continue with the film.
Alexander Andrews (Ellie’s father): Oh, er, do you mind if I ask you a question, frankly? Do you love my daughter?
Peter Warne: Any guy that’d fall in love with your daughter ought to have his head examined.
Alexander Andrews: Now that’s an evasion!
Peter Warne: She picked herself a perfect running mate – King Westley – the pill of the century! What she needs is a guy that’d take a sock at her once a day, whether it’s coming to her or not. If you had half the brains you’re supposed to have, you’d done it yourself, long ago.
Alexander Andrews (hiding his smile): Do you love her?
Peter Warne: A normal human being couldn’t live under the same roof with her without going nutty! She’s my idea of nothing!
Alexander Andrews: I asked you a simple question! Do you love her?
Peter Warne: YES! But don’t hold that against me, I’m a little screwy myself!
Ellie Andrews: Your ego is absolutely colossal.
Peter Warne: Yeah, yeah, not bad, how’s yours?
(Peter hangs a sheet between the two beds on their first night together)
Ellie Andrews: That, I suppose, makes everything quite all right?
Peter Warne: Oh this? 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. Now just to show you my heart’s in the right place, I’ll give you my best pair of pajamas.
[he offers her the pajamas – she ignores them – so he tosses them at her]
Peter Warne: Uh, do you mind joining the Israelites?
Quotes courtesy of IMDB. Check out this movie. You’ll love it!