Saturday, December 27, 2014

MOVIE WEEKEND: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Several years ago I spoke to a young person who said she had never seen It's A Wonderful Life. Horrors! Moreover, she swore she did not know who Jimmy Stewart was. I was appalled, simply appalled. My children did excellent Jimmy Stewart impersonations by the time they were eight years old. Thus I began my one-woman campaign to encourage everyone on God's green Earth to see It's A Wonderful Life (1946, Unrated, Available on DVD and shown on television every year during the Christmas season).


Don't be fooled by this color picture promoting the movie. It's a black-and-white film, although that so-and-so Ted Turner colorized It's A Wonderful Life. The movie's star, Jimmy Stewart, was one of many to join film industry professionals who opposed the colorization of movies.

Stewart plays George Bailey, a man who longs to go to college and travel the world, but ends up running his late father's Bailey Building & Loan with the assistance of his bumbling Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell). George is married to Mary (Donna Reed). They have four children. One day Uncle Billy goes to the bank, owned by nasty old man Potter (Lionel Barrymore), to deposit $8,000 for the Building & Loan. He accidentally hands the money over to Potter, who does not return it. Now the money is lost, which leads to a crisis and the possibility that George will be sent to jail. George stands on a bridge and he jumps in the water, not to commit suicide as he had intended, but to save the life of Angel Second Class Clarence (Henry Travers), who longs to earn his wings.

Clarence grants George the unique opportunity to see what the world would have been like if George had never been born. And the rest is history.

Of the ninety-two movies Jimmy Stewart made, this one was his favorite, and George Bailey was Stewart's favorite role. Director/writer/producer Frank Capra's choice for his favorite movie among the many he made was It's A Wonderful Life. It's also my favorite Christmas movie, and my all-time favorite movie.

It's hard to resist a film in which the characters' prayers for their beloved friend/family member George Bailey are answered in person by an angel. I also love a happy ending.

Some people think this movie is corny (hence the term Capracorn), but I think it's sweet and beautiful and well made. The acting is ideal.

My favorite scene is one in which George sits in a bar and begins to pray:




Capra did not shoot this scene as a close-up, and, of course, computers and CGI and all that weren't available at the time to help Capra change the shot. Thus, he used an optical printer* to gradually enlarge the frames so we slowly see a close-up of George Bailey.

My favorite lines from It's A Wonderful Life are when George tells Mary:

George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.
Mary: I'll take it. Then what?
George Bailey: Well, then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve, see... and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair... am I talking too much?

It's a Wonderful Life makes me happy for so many reasons, and I hope you'll allow it to make you happy, too. On another day, perhaps I'll write more about Jimmy Stewart. Though my favorite contemporary actors are Johnny Depp and Ryan Gosling, my favorite actor forever and always is Jimmy Stewart. He was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for It's a Wonderful Life. He didn't win that year, but he's never been anything less than a winner with me.

It's a Wonderful Life earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Joyful Approval.

Happy Viewing!


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


*The optical printer was invented during the early 1930s and wasn't readily available for use until the mid-1940s. It allowed the director to do almost anything he wanted with the film. The optical printer is a movie camera and projector that face each other so individual frames from the film can be rephotographed and changed. In addition to making a medium shot into a close-up, an optical printer could achieve many effects including the following: create a freeze frame or a split screen, change the speed of the action, create transitions such as fades and dissolves, and add title credits

29 comments:

  1. I am one of those who had never seen it until the other day,. I enjoyed it so much I'd happily watch it again. that scene is moving.. well acted too
    Great review btw

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  2. It's a Wonderful Life is the most wonderful film of our lives.

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  3. Janie, we watch it every year. I was wondering if the film will ever wear out, but I guess in today's modern world, it will always be digitally available. There is such a great message in this, and the screen writing is great.

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    1. It has been preserved by the American Film Institute.

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  4. Yeah, I think I've heard of it...

    Seriously, it's one of my three favorites. A definite classic in a world where "classic" is an over-used term. (Especially when a new film is called an "instant classic.")

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    1. What are your other two favorites?

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    2. "Casablanca" and "The Philadelphia Story" (another Jimmy Stewart flick)!

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  5. That's amazing about the camera. I love behind the scenes stuff. This is one of my favorites too. I also grab a box of tissue!! One year I used a bath towel :))

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    1. If you look at the Internet Movie Database, you'll find lots of great trivia. I learned about the optical printer in a film class.

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  6. Anyone who does not know who Jimmy Stewart is has led a cloistered life and needs to be kept at arms length. She has no idea about life and her opinion needs to be taken with a grain of salt. She is a sad lady. As for the movie, I got tired of watching it about 30 years ago. I'd rather watch a good football game or porn.

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    1. She was just a teenager. Not everyone has parents who introduce them to the great films.

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  7. To that young person's credit, I didn't see It's a Wonderful Life until I was in high school. I don't know how I missed it. I saw Miracle on 34th Street when I was 12 for the first time. I don't think those movies aired on TV as much in the 80s as often as they do now so maybe I have an excuse. I did see just about every version of A Christmas Carol throughout my childhood. Seems like some version of that movie was ALWAYS on TV!

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    1. I don't know when I first saw it. After my children were born we watched it every Christmas.

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  8. It's a wonderful movie. I've seen it dozens of times and I never fail to see something new in it. Take care.

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    1. I love finding new moments in old movies.

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  9. I never saw it until I was with Den and he insisted that I watch it.
    And if I don't make it back, have a wonderful and fun New Years eve and may you get everything you want in 2015!

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    1. Happy New Year, but I already have what I want.

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  10. I have ALWAYS loved this movie!!

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    1. And you were fifty years old when it was first shown in theaters.

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  11. I had to skip over most of this post because I really want to see that movie and I don't want to spoil anything :P I'll let you know when I get around to it :)

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  12. I first saw it when I was about 18. A girlfriend asked me if I had ever seen the movie--no. We watched it in her basement with a box of kleenex between us. It was monumental to me. Maybe my worthless life might be of value some day--somehow--to someone if I just kept trying to be a good person no matter how many times I got knocked down, you know? (Had just been raped the year before.) I have watched it ever Christmas since. I watch It's a Wonderful Life and cry and then I watch A Christmas Story and laugh every Christmas. Jimmy is also my all time favorite actor and this is my all time favorite movie. I have introduced many people to its gifts over the years. Absolutely, totally, positively agree with you, Janie!! :):)

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  13. Definitely my favorite Christmas movie. It is so infinitely watchable even today. I hadn't seen it until I was 23 and steeped in jaded pseudo-coolness, and this movie melted it. My favorite scene, despite it being really awkward, is the scene where we go to the bar to see what it would be like if he never lived and everyone plays that scene exactly like it would go if some stranger came in babbling about angels, including hitting the register to "give out wings."
    One weird part I would hope you could explain. The dance scene in the gym, I get the guy's motivation to open the floor to the pool, but who is the devil who shows up with the key to the open the floor!?! That is the devil, right? He now owns the soul of the spurned suitor who actually accepts the key. I just realized, that movie is dark.

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  14. This is my favourite film-period!! I have no idea how many times I have seen this great film and I am also one who try to inform people about this great film and this great actor. I went to his hometown this past year and it is a delight. I bought a mount that is in my library that says "It's A Wonderful Life". That scene where he prays was done in one shot and Jimmy Stewart was so overcome by the words he was actually crying. It is a powerful film and dark since he seems so unhappy with most of his life because he thinks the grass is always greener. He also never gets rid of Potter who does not seem to age at all. It is one of his best love scenes he ever did and, actually one of the best in any film.

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  15. Oh how I love this movie and Jimmy Stewart

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