A Mad Flight To Happiness

TCM-1A friend and colleague told me this week how horribly sick he’d been the previous week. He said he’d had so little strength he could hardly get out of bed. In the hours he wasn’t fast sleep, he watched Turner Classic Movie Channel. When I watch television, TCM is one of my favorite channels. There’s a lot to like:  limited commercial breaks, excellent movies, delightful back-stories about the movies and the stars. So much to like and if one has to be sick, a pleasing way to spend the hours while you’re down!

I’m not really sure what I like most about this channel. But today’s schedule offered a lineup that — not surprisingly − drew me in. I did my exercise watching the debonair Cary Grant in the 1966 production Walk, Don’t Run. And shortly after that movie ended, Clark Gable made his appearance in the 1934 classic It Happened One Night. (I’d finished my exercise, but couldn’t pull myself away!)

WalkDontRunThis isn’t the first time for me to view either one of these films. Because the stories weren’t new to me, I was able to focus in greater detail on other aspects.

Since Walk, Don’t Run aired first, my initial focus was on Cary Grant. Though he’s not the “leading” man who gets the girl in this film, he is every bit as attractive and handsome as in earlier films. What makes this film special for Grant is his quirky matchmaker role where he’s able to reveal a thoughtfully romantic side, managing to find a way to skillfully bring Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton together in the end. (Walk, Don’t Run was Grant’s final movie even though he lived another twenty years.)

For viewers today, this film is so dated as to be almost campy in its contrast to our world. Eggar is sufficiently demure and Hutton is perfect as a bumbling young man, but both were a genuine reflection of the time.

I remember so many of Grant’s earlier films. Whether he was playing a comedy, a drama or a mystery, for me (as a younger woman at the time), Grant was the epitome of what I believed a perfect gentleman would and should be.

affairtoremember50thr1artPerhaps his most memorable film (again, for me) is An Affair To Remember. Once more, he seems born to play the charming man whose smile and grace win the leading lady while complicating his own situation. The storyline may seem somewhat clichéd today, but with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in the leading roles, the film is nothing short of elegant.

At the end of Walk, Don’t Run, I knew I couldn’t turn the tv off before watching It Happened One Night. (With Clark Gable one of my favorite actors, how could I not watch?!) Remembering Cary Grant’s gallantry in the previous film, I compared his portrayal of Bill Rutland to Gable’s portrayal of Peter Warne.

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The films are very much alike. Both involve a marriage (one perceived, one actual). Eggar and Hutton actually participate in a marriage of convenience, while Gable and Colbert act out their husband/wife roles to fool others. In the end, the two couples realize what film viewers already know:  they’ve fallen in love.

It Happened One Night predates Walk, Don’t Run by more than thirty years. But the chivalrous behavior of Gable, Grant and Hutton is (for me) delightfully winsome! I know I’m a dinosaur, but these guys bring something very refreshing to the screen! For me, their character development is as good today as when the films originally debuted.

Both films have memorable dialogue. My title actually comes from Gable’s comments as he and Colbert are preparing for bed their first night together. He tells her he just wants to witness her “mad flight to happiness.” (She’s returning to New York to reunite with the man she married against her father’s will.)

Gable has his own agenda. He hopes delivering a scoop of the “runaway heiress” will redeem his newspaper career. As events unfold, it is a mad flight … but Colbert soon realizes she is far from happy when things begin to work out as she expected. She walks down the aisle to solemnize her marriage to a “fortune-hunter,” but while standing before the minister, she decides once more to take flight!

This time, she flees in her wedding gown and drives down the road to meet Gable. I love the foreshadowing that comes via this play on words! In the end, it is once more a mad flight, complete with a trumpet and the walls of Jericho tumbling down. A fine bit of script-writing in my humble opinion! And films worth viewing again! Thanks, TCM!

Renée