“It’s a Wonderful Life” is the kind of film everyone loves to see (and see again). Maybe it is a film that is often shown around Christmas, but it can be watched at any time of year. It seems like the more things change, the more a film like this stays the same. This film is like a kind of film-watchers’ comfort food. Our lives may be different today and society may be very different today. It is reassuring to come back and see this type of film. Perhaps some of us are not so sure anymore of why exactly we like this movie. Perhaps we have forgotten how the tradition of watching it got started. Perhaps if we think about it we will not be sure if the film is really all that good in the first place. We know that it’s a part of a well-worn tradition (like eating fruitcake and turkey giblet gravy at Christmas). For that reason, if for no other, we will probably see it again some time.
There’s just something terribly attractive about that everyman character, George Bailey (played by the actor Jimmy Stewart). It’s not that he’s all that good looking. He is not extremely clever or exceptionally charming or anything else. He’s just supposed to be an ordinary “nice guy”. In this big old mean old world, even nice guys can have some pretty big problems. At a certain point, George’s "wonderful" life falls apart and he finds himself about to jump off a bridge to put an end to it all. George Bailey wonders out loud if his life has really been worth living. A guardian angel (played by actor Henry Travers) is immediately sent from heaven in order to put things right. If George had never been born, a lot of good things would never have happened. With the help of the unearthly messenger, George comes to realize that his life has had a tremendous impact, not only on his close family members, but on the whole community.
Wholesome is a good word to describe this film. It’s not a type of movie that you would see made today. Some people who might not like this film very much might use another word to describe it: maudlin. People like that might not really understand how things work in families and closely knit communities. They might not appreciate what exactly goes on around the family dinner table each Christmas at our house. There are just certain favourite dishes that my mother makes for every Christmas dinner (like the orange jellied salad or the buttered spicy squash). If you come as a guest for the dinner every year, you know that you are going to have to eat those dishes. It does no good to complain. You should just accept what is on the traditional menu offering and find something good to say about the salad (even if you don't like it that much). You’ll enjoy things a lot more if you do. And after all, what’s so bad about being good? Milk is wholesome too. It can be quite pleasant if you are used to it. And you would probably miss it if you could no longer have it. That’s kind of how I feel about “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
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See the three minute summary of "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). You can watch the whole movie in short segments here. Also see the scene where George lassos the moon (sweet-talks Mary to impress her).
Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 02:08AM by Catherine Savard in 1940's films, Donna Reed, Frank Capra, Henry Travers, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Steve Martin, Thomas Mitchell, comedy, fantasy, oldies, video trailer | Post a Comment