Pretty Little Liars Extra Credit: It Happened One Night

One of our favorite parts of writing Rosewood Confidential was diving into the literary & film references on Pretty Little Liars to figure out the influences and insights on the episodes. So we’re going to keep doing it for Season 3! Expect posts on Rear Window, Ethan Frome, Hedda Gabler, and The Remains of the Day — and we’re open to suggestions! Request something in the comments below!

In today’s class, we fill you in on the 1934 Frank Capra classic It Happened One Night. It was a landmark film, the first to sweep all the main Oscar categories (a feat not replicated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Allegedly Clark Gable also single-handly undermined undershirt sales when he removed his shirt to reveal a bare chest. Luckily he helped the economy in another way: Greyhound bus travel seemed much more romantic after the film’s success. (It seems travelers were in for a big disappointment there.)

PLL has referenced the film twice: Mr. Fitz is an awkward date for Aria and Ella when they go to see it in “The Jenna Thing” (1.02), and the season 3 premiere, “It Happened That Night,” plays on the film’s name. Unfortunately there aren’t too many connections between the big screen version and our PLLs. The most obvious: one night can change everything. But beyond that you’ll find divided loyalties, wrong first impressions, duping unsuspecting parents, and love overthrowing all.

Sounds great, right? It really is. Here’s a brief low-down on It Happened One Night to pique your interest:

It Happened One Night

The movie opens with one of the great spoiled brat scenes of cinema: new money socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is aboard a family yacht, having a table-tossing row with her dear papa. He’s unhappy she’s married “King” Westley (given the guy’s name, I kind of sided with Dad) and is working to have the marriage annuled, and she wants to prove Daddy can’t control her or end her marriage. The best way to do that? Running away, starting with tossing herself overboard — sploosh! — and exiting by sea. Now that’s good old-fashioned gumption.

As she’s running away from Dad and toward King Westley, she runs into a smart alec reporter, Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who’s just been fired. Ellie’s rich girl upbringing hasn’t prepared her for the real world of taking buses and budgeting her money, so the resourceful Peter offers to help her get to New York if she’ll give him her exclusive story: a break that could get him his job back.

They hit the road on a Greyhound bus, and though this clash of worlds leads to a lot of verbal sparring, it’s clear we’ve got a bit of a Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett situation going on: the two are falling for each other. The on the road antics are most of the fun here (contrary to the title, the journey actually takes more than one night), though here are my highlights:

Peter teaches the heiress how to dunk a doughnut:

Dunkin Donuts

(This is the scene I remembered best from when I first watched it 10 years ago. It’s adorable.)

Ellie teaches Peter how to hitch-hike:

Hitchhiking 101

(Spoiler: She got results)

I won’t ruin the dramatic conclusion … but it’s definitely worth making like the Montgomerys and checking it out.

— Jen


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