101 Funniest Screenplays

Opposites – of class, certainly, and of temperament, ostensibly – attract in what has become one of the most important romantic comedies of all time. Claudette Colbert is an heiress fleeing her impending marriage and Clark Gable is the tough-minded newspaperman she comes across on a bus going from Florida to New York. Screenwriter Robert Riskin, who collaborated with director Frank Capra on such films as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and You Can’t Take it With You, earned on Oscar for It Happened One Night, which Riskin adapted from the short story by Samuel Hopkins Adams. Among its landmark achievements, said film historian Molly Haskell, was that its lead characters were allowed to behave in silly ways, in a genre where such behavior previously belonged only to supporting characters. Though released a few years before the term “screwball comedy” was coined, It Happened One Night is a progenitor of the genre.