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We see a boat in the water. On board, one of the crew members tells the captain that the captain's daughter, whose name is Ellie, has begun a hunger strike and has refused to eat for the last day. The captain whose name isMr. Andrews, decides to go below deck to talk to his daughter himself. Below, three sailors are gathered around Ellie's door as she insists to her father inside her cabin, "I'm not going to eat anything until you let me out of this boat!" We see Mr. Andrews try to comfort his daughter, but she does not accept his love. It is clear that she has recently run off with someone namedKong Westley, and that her father does not approve of it. Mr. Andrews insists he intends to have the marriage annulled when someone knocks on the cabin door. It's a line of men bringing in food and, at Mr. Andrew's prompting, setting it down on a nearby table. He starts eating in front of her and encourages her to eat by herself. Ellie doesn't take the bait and laments that her father basically kidnapped her from her own wedding; "Your idea of strategy is to use a lead pipe," she says.
Outside the door, a group of sailors listen while Mr. Andrews tells Ellie that her new husband, King, is a "fake". She protests, but he insists that she only married her new husband to rebel. When he calls her a "stubborn idiot," she replies, "I come from a long line of stubborn idiots!" As her father eats, Ellie continues to shout, begging her father to let her off the boat, and when he refuses, he knocks over the table he is eating on. He hits her and she runs out of the room, dives off the boat and swims to shore. Mr. Andrews orders the men to capture her, but she manages to escape. Mr. Andrews tells one of the crew to send a message to the detective agency with the message: "Daughter escaped again, watch all roads, airports and train stations in Miami." The scene changes and we see Ellie at a station hoping to catch a night bus to New York. Two men look at her and decide that she is indeed notEllie Andrews, because the wealthy would never take the bus. An elderly woman walks over to Ellie and hands her a ticket, and Ellie tips her generously before boarding the bus to New York.
Elsewhere in the train station, a group of men crowd around a phone box where newspaper reportersPeter Warnearguing with someone on the phone. Peter is talking to his editor and has apparently just been fired. At the other end, his editor tells him, "You wouldn't know a newspaper story if it reached up and kicked you in the pants." Peter maintains a smug attitude as the editor speaks out against his negligence as a journalist. Just then the editor is interrupted by his secretary who informs him that Peter has reversed the charge on the call and the editor will have to pay for it. The editor fires him once and for all and slams the phone down. Self-conscious about the crowd of reporters gathered around him at the phone booth, Peter pretends the editor is still on the line, making it look like he's stepping down and taking over. As he hangs up, he emerges from the phone box drinking some whiskey and shaking hands with some other reporters. Peter is visibly drunk, and the other reporters escort him to the bus, exclaiming "Give way to the king!"
On the train, Peter goes and sits in the back, but notices several stacks of newspapers preventing him from sitting down. When the bus driver won't move them, Peter starts throwing them out the window and into the street. The driver gets upset and scolds Peter for doing it, to which Peter replies: “I never liked the idea of sitting on newspapers. I did it once and all the headlines fell off my white pants...No one ever bought a newspaper that day. They just followed me around and read the news by the seat of my pants.” As he and the driver argue, Ellie walks past them to the back row of the bus. As the dim-witted driver torments Peter, Peter makes jokes at his expense and the bus bursts into laughter. The bus driver walks back to the front of the bus and Peter discovers that Ellie has taken a seat in the back. He tells her to "laugh" and when she doesn't, he sits down next to her and orders her to move over. He sarcastically asks if she wants him to put her bag in the trunk, and she rolls her eyes and does it herself. As she puts the bag in the compartment, the bus starts to move and she falls into his lap. "Next time you stop by, bring your people," he jokes, and she sits back, looking annoyed. As the bus drives down the road, Peter lights a cigar and they sit in silence.
The scene changes and we see the bus stop for 15 minutes. Peter watches as Ellie leans against the bus and smokes a cigarette. She notices him looking at her and rolling his eyes. Suddenly, Peter sees a man coming up behind her and stealing her suitcase. Peter runs after the man, past Ellie, who hasn't even noticed her bag is gone. When he comes back and tells her that he couldn't catch the thief, she tells him, "I don't know what you're talking about young man, and besides, I'm not interested." Here he informs Ellie that her bag has been stolen and she is immediately upset; all her money was in the bag. Peter tries to comfort her by telling her that she can pay home for more money when they get to the next stop. "No I can not!" she starts to say but catches herself and lies that that's what she wants to do. When Peter tells her he's going to go tell the driver about the theft, she stops him and tells him he shouldn't. "I don't want it reported!" she shouts, even though Peter thinks she should report the theft. She storms back onto the bus.
In the bus, Ellie sits on the aisle two rows in front of Peter. He stretches out as the bus boards. As passengers snore on the bus, a larger man falls on top of Ellie in her sleep and she tries to push him off. Looking back, she sees that there is still a seat next to Peter and resignedly walks over to sit next to him. Peter sees her coming and pretends to be asleep and puts his hand on the seat next to him so Ellie has to move it into her lap. The two fall asleep next to each other, vigilant not to touch. The scene changes and we see the bus arrive in Jacksonville where they have half an hour for breakfast. The camera pans from the front row of the bus to the back row where Ellie is now sleeping and leaning against Peter with her arm wrapped around his. Peter looks down at her as her eyes flutter open and she realizes she's leaning on him. Embarrassed, she apologizes, but Peter assures her that he didn't mind and that she looked "beautiful" while she slept. He invites her to have breakfast with him, but she declines, telling him she is going to the Windsor Hotel. When Peter warns her that she doesn't have enough time, that the bus leaves in 30 minutes, she assures him that the bus will be waiting for her and tells the driver that she'll be a little late and make sure to wait on her. Peter looks confused.
When Ellie returns to the bus depot, she discovers that the bus left without her, as she is 20 minutes late. Peter sits nearby, laughing at her naivety as she indignantly tells a conductor that she thought the driver would wait for her. Peter greets her and says, "Remember me? I'm the guy you slept with last night." The conductor tells her that the next bus doesn't leave for 12 hours and Ellie looks dejected. When Peter suggests to Ellie that he got off the bus when he realized she was going to miss it, she condescends, "Listen young man, you don't have to worry about me. I can take care of myself." He calls her bluff and hands her her ticket, which she carelessly left on her seat. "You'll never get away with that, Ms. Andrews... Your father will stop you before you get halfway to New York," he tells her, causing Ellie to pause. As Ellie tries to deny it, Peter shows her a newspaper story about her. The headline reads, "Ellen Andrews Escapes Daddy" and includes a photograph of her. As she reads, Peter disparages her new husband, King Westley, advising her to take the first bus back to Miami, calling King Westley a "fake".
Annoyed, Ellie tells him she doesn't need his advice. As Peter goes to leave, Ellie asks him if he will call her father and collect the money that Mr. Andrews offers in exchange for any tip on Ellie's whereabouts. To ensure that Peter does not give up his location, she herself offers to pay him for his silence. When Ellie tries to make him an offer, Peter cuts her off, saying, "You know, I got you hooked right from the jump. Just a spoiled brat of a rich daddy. The only way you're going to get anything is to buy it, is right? You're in a pinch and all you can think about is your money. It never fails, does it? Have you ever heard of the word humility? No, you wouldn't. I guess it would never fall into just saying, 'Please sir, I'm in trouble, will you help me?' …You don't have to worry about me. I'm not interested in your money or your problem." He walks away and goes to send a telegram. The secretary reads it out; it's a note to Peter's editor claiming he knows where Ellie Andrews is. He's sent it for pickup.
We see a bus driver announce that another bus is going to New York. Ellie boards the bus and finds once again that every seat is full except for the one next to Peter. She sits across from him as the bus moves. Her seat mate turns to her and goes into a smooth monologue in an attempt to strike up a conversation. His name is Shapeley, and when he talks her ear off, Peter looks over skeptically. When Ellie makes a sarcastic comment about how wide-eyed he is, Shapeley laughs and says, "There's nothing I like more than a first-class mother who can take them back to you!" Shapeley continues to hit on Ellie and the more she resists the more he talks until Peter gets up and tells him that Ellie is his wife and he wants to sit with her. Embarrassed, Shapeley agrees to switch places with him, making excuses for his sexually aggressive interlude.
The film has a playful tone and immediately establishes that it is a light-hearted comedy from the first moments of the film. Ellie Andrews, the heiress to millions, goes on a "hunger strike" so she can marry the man she loves. Her father witheringly discusses his daughter's rebellion with an assistant on a yacht, while the sailors aboard the ship listen with bated breath for the next development in the drama. When Mr. As Andrews goes downstairs to confront his daughter about her progress, we see a comically large number of sailors huddled around the door, listening in as if it were a radio play. At the same time, the viewer is in line with the main characters, while at the same time keeping a kind of distance from them. We follow Ellie's story, and she is the main character, but we are also privy to the response that the surrounding characters have to her, which is a piqued interest and voyeuristic investment. Thus, the film's light-hearted tone suggests that the viewer will be privy to the inner foibles of the rich and famous, while maintaining an outsider view of the servants and assistants that surround their world.
Class is a major theme from the start, as Ellie is actually a member of the upper classes and tries to escape her strictures. As an elite, she is somewhat closed off from the rest of the world, and her father's disapproval of her lover, King Westley, actually stems from the fact that he thinks the King is only interested in Ellie's wealth. Such are the problems of the wealthy as portrayed in the film: they enjoy luxurious privileges but are unable to trust those around them and unable to cross the boundaries of their wealth to do the things that normal people do. This doesn't stop Ellie, however, as she dives off the side of her father's yacht to swim to shore before boarding a bus to New York, an adventure no one would expect an heir to her privilege to undertake undertake. Ellie is determined to break free from the confines of her class, marry whoever she wants, and drive the bus like everyone else. Her "prison break" at the start of the film literalizes and dramatizes her attempt to escape the isolating realities of her status as a socialite.
While Ellie is privileged and spoiled, Peter Warne is considerably less well off, but shares Ellie's sharp intelligence and independent attitude. A cynical newspaper man, Peter is at once Ellie's match and her foil. After being fired from his job, Peter is independent, unemployed and floating towards his next adventure with nothing to tie him down. In contrast, Ellie has a squadron of her father's assistants seeking to tie her down by any means necessary. Both are transitory, in-between and unbound, but with completely different stakes. In addition, they share quick-witted and opinionated attitudes; both are determined to survive and thrive on their wits and their ingenuity. While their first meeting on the bus is somewhat adversarial and unfriendly, it is precisely this competitive edge, the sense that they have each met someone who can give them a run for their money, that gives their connection a genuine compatibility. Although Ellie and Peter are from completely different classes, they share a brave self-respect that ultimately brings them together.
As headstrong, entitled and confident as Ellie Andrews can be, she seems to have a lot of trouble taking care of herself. In fact, her privilege has conditioned her to believe that the world will take care of her without her having to think twice. As she struggles to maintain her independence and escape the watchful eye of her protective father, her material struggles are few. Faced with the logistics of a bus trip to New York, Ellie finds herself out of her depth. While absentmindedly smoking a cigarette, a man steals her bag and she doesn't realize it until ten minutes later when Peter informs her. Then, when they stop in Jacksonville, she assumes the bus will wait a little longer for her so she can take a longer break than the rest of the customers. Of course it doesn't, and when Peter greets her at the depot, he has her crumpled up ticket that she left on board. While she insists to the smug Peter that she can take care of herself and doesn't need his help, we can see that this is definitely not the case, that she is inexperienced in being truly independent in the world. Much of this inexperience has to do with privilege and the assumption that the world will meet her needs without her having to change her priorities or standards.
The film is all the more romantic because it takes place in transit. From the moment Ellie dives off the side of the yacht into the water, she is in motion. As unglamorous as bus travel can be, the open road provides a sense of opportunity for the headstrong heiress and an escape from her overbearing father and society's expectations. Transience and fluid travel allow Ellie to break free from the social confines of the upper class, and although she encounters some problems along the way and is at first quite irritated by Peter, she gradually becomes more accustomed to her situation and her traveling companion. Once she escapes her ivory tower, Ellie is not a princess, but a more neutral subject, someone who has to make her way in the world. Ellie's rejection of social expectations—her secrecy, independent spirit, and drive—give the film a romantic and exciting tone.
It happened one night Questions and answers
TheQuestions and answerssection for It Happened One Night is a great resource for asking questions, finding answers, and discussing the novel.
Tell them not to kill me!
I see no evidence of this line in the manuscript fromIt happened one night.
I see no evidence of this line in the manuscript fromIt happened one night.
What was the turtle's name?
I see no evidence of a turtle's name in the script for "It Happened One Night".
I see no evidence of a turtle's name in the script for "It Happened One Night".
When we are introduced to Peter Warne, what is he actually doing on the phone?
Peter Warne, clearly drunk, shouts at his boss for sacking him. PETER (shouting into the phone) Listen, monkey face - when you fired me, you fired the best news soundbite your dirty scandal sheet ever had.
Peter Warne, clearly drunk, shouts at his boss for sacking him.
PETER (shouting into the phone) Listen, monkey face - when you fired me, you fired the best news soundbite your dirty scandal sheet ever had.
Study Guide for It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night study guide includes a biography of Frank Capra, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a complete summary and analysis.
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