In 1933, Columbia Pictures was considered a "Poverty Row" studio in Hollywood, relegated to low budgets and B pictures. Not being able to afford a host of contract stars, Columbia would borrow from other studios when the need arose. So when director Frank Capra bought the rights for a magazine story called Night Bus, Columbia boss Harry Cohn tried to borrow MGM star Robert Montgomery for the male lead and change the name to It Happened One Night. Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, refused (MGM turned down the rights to the Night Bus, having lost money on a "bus picture" called Fugitive Lovers, which, ironically, had starred Montgomery). Instead he offered the services of up and comer Clark Gable, as punishment to the rising star for demanding a higher salary. Mayer wanted to humble Gable by showing him the comparison of working at the lowly Columbia as opposed to the pristine Metro Goldwyn Mayer where there were "more stars than there are in Heaven".
Gable was not happy about the arrangement arriving on his first day drunk and angry. He also had doubts about his ability to play a light, comedic role, as he had spent his early years at MGM playing heavy handed thugs and he-men. Capra was also wary on this point. Gable would play Peter Warne, a hard boiled, down t0 earth newspaperman who meets runaway heiress Claudette Colbert. The story follows their misadventures and eventual romance on board a New York bound bus in Florida. After a shaky start with Capra, Gable read the script, relaxed and settled into the part, actually enjoying his time on the set.
It Happened One Night became a sleeper hit and one of the classic screwball comedies. The success of the film actually raised the status and financial viability of Columbia Pictures. When Oscar night rolled around in February 1935 all the headaches paid off. The film was not only a success with the public, it became the first in history to win all 5 major prized: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress (Colbert) and as Best Actor, Clark Gable.