This romantic comedy about a bride running away from her rich father with a reporter won the Oscars for best picture, director, actor, actress, and adapted screenplay.
Kidnapped by her rich father Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly) on his yacht in Miami in order to annul her marriage to King Westley, Ellie (Claudette Colbert) refuses to eat and dives into the sea, escaping. A drunk reporter, Peter Warne (Clark Gable), talks on the phone and is fired. Ellie and Peter meet on a night bus; her bag is stolen, and she sleeps on his shoulder. Ellie tells the driver to wait for her and misses her bus. Peter found her ticket and calls her a "spoiled brat" when she tries to buy his help. Peter telegraphs his scoop on the missing heiress. He saves her from the talking womanizer Shapeley (Roscoe Karns) and puts her on a budget. In the rain he gets them a motel room as a couple. Peter tells Ellie she is just a headline to him; he wants her story, or he'll turn her over to her father. He strings a blanket between the beds and says she is protected by the "walls of Jericho." He shows her how he undresses.
Andrews is flying to New York and has detectives looking for his daughter. Ellie finds a line to the shower and tells Peter she was always told what to do. When detectives arrive, he belligerently protects his "wife" from them. Andrews offers a $10,000 reward. When the bus gets stuck, Peter gives their last $10 to a poor boy. Shapely asks Peter for half the reward, but Peter scares him away by pretending he is a gangster. Peter carries Ellie across a stream, lecturing her on piggybacking. She is hungry and scared, and they sleep on hay. The next morning Peter shows her how to hitch-hike, but cars go by until she shows her leg. Danker (Alan Hale) drives off with Peter's suitcase, but he manages to take the car.
Andrews withdraws his objection to Ellie's marriage. Though they are near New York, Ellie wants to stay another night in a cottage. She asks Peter if he's ever been in love. Then she says she loves him, but he sends her back to her bed. She cries and falls asleep. Peter trades his hat for gas and writes the story in New York, asking his editor for $1,000 for the story she is going to marry him. The motel owners tell Ellie to leave. The editor learns that Ellie called her father. Andrews and Westley with a police escort pass Peter on the road; then he sees them returning with Ellie. Newspapers report Ellie is going to re-marry Westley. Peter gives back the money to his editor. Ellie cries and tells her father she loves Peter but says he thinks she is spoiled. Andrews got a letter from Peter about a financial matter; but Peter only asks for $39.60 and declines the reward as a "matter of principle." At the big wedding as Ellie and her father walk down the aisle, he tells her that Peter loves her. At the last moment Ellie runs off to a waiting car. Andrews buys off Westley for $100,000, and Ellie and Peter finally topple the "walls of Jericho."
Once again Capra pokes fun at the rich and high society by showing how working-class people with common sense have fun with life's daily challenges while broke and hungry during the Depression.