Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Special: It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

George Bailey has spent his entire life giving of himself to the people of Bedford Falls. He has always longed to travel but never had the opportunity, because he has to prevent rich skinflint Mr. Potter from taking over the entire town. All that prevents him from traveling is his modest building and loan company, which was founded by his generous father. On Christmas Eve, George's scatter-brained Uncle Billy loses the company's $8,000. Potter finds the misplaced money but hides it from them. When the bank examiner discovers the shortage, George realizes that he will be sent to jail and the company will collapse, allowing Potter to take the last holdout in the town. Thinking of his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. But the prayers of his loved ones result in a gentle angel named Clarence coming to earth to help George and show him what life would be like if he had never existed.

"No man is a failure who has friends."

My Thoughts
I know It's a Wonderful Life is one of those timeless classics that everyone has seen, but to be honest I don't think I've seen any more than the clips of it they show of other people watching it in other Christmas movies. So I guess this is my first time through this movie...we'll see if it holds up to its praise in my opinion. :-)

I'm not a huge fan of how Joseph and God and Clarence are shown talking to each other, but I do like the idea that our prayers are heard and answered, maybe not as clearly as they are for George Bailey, but still answered somehow. And poor Clarence, without his wings yet, needs help from the older winged angel, Joseph (another thing that confuses me...why not Gabriel or Peter? Were they busy?).

The scene between George and Mr. Gower when George is still a kid is a very touching scene. George is full of life-saving when he's young. I like watching George's life with Clarence, like it's a TV show. I'm curious what happens to him between being twelve and being twenty, but I guess it's just the highlight reel.

I can totally identify with George and how he has to get away from there or he'll just bust. It's hard to explain that to the parents, but hopefully they understand that it's not them you're running from...At least not completely. :-P But sometimes you have to learn to appreciate what you've got and stop spending your entire life trying to get something else. (Not to say give up on your dreams, but enjoy the journey, too).

He's over a foot taller than everyone at his little brother's graduation party! We need to have dances like that now. I wanna have a Charleston contest! ...If I knew how to do the Charleston...

And wouldn't it be nice if we could still all just jump into a pool without caring about the cell phones and iPods in our pockets?!?

The scene where George promises Mary the moon is the best! It's one of the scenes that I've seen before, but I think it's one of the best scenes, which is probably why I've scene it before. :-)

And I love the old house across the street that she wants to live in someday. Those houses are definitely a lot of effort, but I think they're worth it.

George turns into his dad, thinking of everyone else but himself. That's all fine and good, but it leads to a very unhappy person if they never do anything for themselves. I know George had to stay to keep the business open, but paying for his little brother to go to school and then have his brother move on with his own life while he's stuck taking care of everything is what happens when you don't do anything for yourself!

Poor guy, when he wants Violet to walk barefoot in the grass and they all just laugh at him, it sounds like a great date to me. Walking in the grass and swimming in a pool and climbing a mountain and watching the sun rise...sounds perfect! I'd go in a heartbeat...silly Violet just needs to grow up. And then he goes to talk to Mary and proves how boys can be so clueless and rude sometimes...Geesh Georgie...Get a grip. Being a jerk one minute and getting married the next...They're crazy. Should've listened to your wife and just gone on your honeymoon, George...

When a whole town pulls together like theirs did, it just warms your heart. :-) Bank runs are the scariest things an economy can go through, especially when there's a crow sitting on the counter...(Do they every explain the random pets? Is that just another special quality of Uncle Billy's?)

When a town can pull together like they do to avert the bank run and still work out a way to give George and Mary their honeymoon around the world, it's inspiring. Do towns like that still exist??

Why's there always have to be someone around trying to ruin everything. If Mr. Potter would stop being such a Scrooge and be happy with what he's got, George wouldn't have half as many problems as he does! He makes a couple of good points when he's trying to talk George into getting out of the trap that is his life, but he's doing it for the wrong reasons...He's just a selfish old man trying to get the competition out of the way by buying it.

Even during the war, George was stuck in Bedford Falls. He had a family now, and his brother became a hero and George did rubber and paper drives at home. And then Uncle Billy goes and forgets his head cuz it wasn't screwed on...You can tie a string to each finger and it doesn't do a thing if you can't remember what they're for! If only Mr. Potter had a soul...

Watching George spiral out of control is heart-breaking. Thank goodness for Clarence and showing George what the world would be like without him. Sometimes I wish we could all see what the world would be like without might make us appreciate ourselves a little more.

Haha, Bert the cop and Ernie the taxi driver. When he said Bert and Ernie, it made me laugh for a second. I wasn't expecting a Sesame Street reference, especially since It's a Wonderful Life came first. And apparently it's just a coincidence...I Googled it, and that means it's official, right?

I've never seen someone so excited to have a bleeding mouth, rose petals in his pocket, and a ruined car. But Clarence definitely came through and deserves TWO sets of wings! :-) I'm definitely very disappointed in myself for not having seen this movie before tonight.

"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!"

Random Facts
James Stewart learned to fly in 1935 and was drafted into the Army as a private in 1940 (after twice failing the medical for being underweight) and rose to the rank of Colonel during WWII. He remained involved with the US AF Reserve after the war and retired in 1959 as a Brigadier General. Lionel Barrymore convinced Stewart to take the role of George, despite his feeling that he wasn't up to it so soon after WWII.

It's a Wonderful life originally ended with "Ode to Joy", not "Auld Lang Syne".

Films made prior to this used cornflakes painted white for the snow effect. Because this was so loud, dialogue had to be dubbed in later. Frank Capra wanted to record the sound live, so a new snow effect was developed using foamite (a fire-fighting chemical) and soap and water. This mixture was pumped at high pressure through a wind machine to create the silent, falling snow. 6,000 gallons of this snow were used in the film. The RKO Effects Department received a Class III Scientific or Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy for the development of the new film snow.

As Uncle Billy is leaving George's house drunk, it sounds as if he stumbles over some trash cans on the sidewalk. In fact, a crew member dropped some equipment right after Uncle Billy left the screen. Both actors continued with the scene ("I'm all right, I'm all right!") and director Capra decided to use it in the final cut. He gave the clumsy stagehand a $10 bonus for "improving the sound."

For the scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock into the window of the Granville House, Capra hired a marksman to shoot it out for her on cue. To everyone's amazement, Reed broke the window with true aim and heft without the assistance of the hired marksman. Reed had played baseball in high school and had a strong throwing arm.

After the war Capra set up Liberty Films with George Stevens and William Wyler to make more serious, soul-searching films. This and State of the Union were Liberty's only productions.

350,000 feet of film were used for this film.

While filming the scene where George prays in the bar, James Stewart has said that he was so overcome that he began to sob right then and there. Later, Capra reframed the shot so it looked like a much closer shot than was actually filmed because he wanted to catch that expression on Stewart's face.

Actor and producer Sheldon Leonard said in an interview that the only reason he agreed to play Nick the bartender in this film was so that he would have money to buy Dodger baseball tickets.

The scene on the bridge where Clarence saves George was filmed on a back lot on a day where the temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why Stewart is visibly sweating in a few scenes.

When Officer Bert shoots at George, the "s", the "v" and the "i" in the electric "Pottersville" sign far away in the distance, go out.

This film is one of 5 times Beulah Bondi portrayed James Stewart's mother. The others are: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, Vivacious Lady, and once on his television series The Jimmy Stewart Show.

The film was a flop when it played theatres in 1946.

The year that Potter offers George a $20,000 annual salary is unclear, but assuming that this scene takes place in 1939, that amount is equivalent to $310,567 in 2010 dollars.

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