Ellie is a rich spoiled brat possessed by a loveless covenant who has built a wall around her heart which all comes crashing down once she learns to blow her darling’s trumpet! Frank Capra’s prosaic yet profound parody finds two protagonists at opposing polarities (OK, I’ll stop with the alliteration) whose volatile association allows them to discover more about themselves in their tempestuous discourse! Ellie goes from King to Commoner to find true love.
The setup: Ellie escapes from her well-meaning yet domineering father in Florida to be with her new husband King Westley in New York City. The story: Everything that happens in between! Capra’s film has become the template for the Screwball and Romantic Comedies that have since graced the Silver Screen in the past 80+ years but, on its own merit, remains one of the greatest. Every facet of this production is top-notch, from the screenplay to Capra’s deft direction, to the beautiful photography and wonderful chemistry between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, which isn’t apparent in the first act but gradually is earned. The editing and suspense in the final act is taught and efficient leading the audience (and the characters) to literally a last second conclusion! And it’s the little details that accumulate throughout the film that make a big difference: Ellie learning to dunk donuts, Peter undressing in front of her as she looks on dispassionately, the woman on the bus who faints from hunger and the kindness shown towards a little boy, the talkative traveler who bugs them to death and he himself who is “Bug-ed” to death (or the threat of), the hitchhiking trial and error, and the motorist who hitches their belongings, to the final last second epiphany.
Ellie changes from severe and obstinate to a more sympathetic and charitable companion and Peter evolves from his dour and pessimistic monologues to one of hope. And a little toy trumpets this to the mean old world.
Final Grade: (A)