You Are Now In Bedford Falls

I’m having my annual holiday wallow in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Those Precious Few who have been reading here for a while may have suspected that I am aIt's A Wonderful Life sap, and I guess this proves it. Until a few years ago, this movie was almost in the public domain, and as a result every local television station in the country had a beat up, dog-eared copy which they ran forty or fifty times every December. In a big market like LA you could catch it any time you wanted, twenty-four hours a day during the whole holiday season. I viewed most of these showings. Gradually it became a “classic,” even though it wasn’t well-regarded when it was released in 1946.

Then somehow NBC acquired exclusive rights to it, and they a.) made everybody stop showing it all the time and b.) decided to exhibit it only once (or twice) a year. As much as I loved to watch the movie, I was OK with these limitations, because by that time I knew the entire movie by heart, and I think it’s fitting for it to be treated with a little more respect. NBC got a nice, cleaned up print of it, so it looked better than ever, too. Some of those old prints were so bad you could hardly see the picture, or hear the great dialog.

But I was not always able to watch when NBC felt like showing it, so a couple of years ago I bought the DVD. Most of the time I try to seem tough-minded and skeptical, but once I year I become a quivering mass of schmaltz, as I worship at The Church of Frank Capra. That’s what I’m doing tonight, as I write.

Mary and SuzuI don’t know for sure when I became aware of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” but it feels as if I have literally grown up with it. The life of George Bailey is so touching and there are so many indelible scenes in the film that I sometimes lose track if it’s a movie or a rerun of my own life. Sure it’s hokey, and I love the hokey-ness. I know it’s over the top and manipulative, but for a couple of hours each year I give up my heart, suspend my sophisticated disbelief and go along for the sweet, sweet ride.

The moment when George realizes he is in love with Mary Hatch (the fetching Donna Reed) gets my vote for Most Romantic Scene Ever Filmed, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat across a table from my brother and repeated Nick the bartender’s words: “Look, mister, we serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don’t need any characters to give the joint atmosphere.” Has there ever been a more despicable villain than Lionel Barrymore’s “warped, frustrated” Mr. Potter? And surely we could do worse than a guardian angel named Clarence.

I’m not reviewing the film here, or summarizing the story, except to say that each person’s life touches many others, and even if you do only small things the world stands to be dimished if you were never in it. I wouldn’t be missed the way George Bailey was, or welcomed back so enthusiastically, but seeing this movie makes me want to do a few good deeds.

You know. Just in case.

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14 Replies to “You Are Now In Bedford Falls”

  1. “What’d you wish when you threw the rooooooooooooock?”

    My brother-in-law and I start singing that line on Thanksgiving, and then intermittently through the holiday. It never gets old.

    I saw this movie on the big screen a few weeks ago, from the balcony of a glorious old theater here in town. Great fun.

  2. kStyle – Maybe “sap” is not the right word, but whatever it is, you’re welcome here.

    Ron – Thanks, I think.

    Gnightgirl – Ooh, big-screen! I don’t know if I could handle it that way. Did the audience sing along at the end?

  3. Ew.

    I am certainly capable of sappishness, but this movie does not do it for me. I’ve only seen it all the way through a couple of times, and I was not enthralled. I didn’t hate it or anything, but . . . eh. And the love that so many people seem to have for it? Makes no sense to me. But hey, that’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla and Cherry Garcia.

  4. Hmmm . . . I was actually trying to come up with my answer to that, but I’m stumped. I’ll plead “it’s 5:17 am and I have to go make croissants” as my excuse. I”m not going to claim I don’t have an inner sap, though perhaps I don’t.

  5. I wonder what the remake would be like and who would star in it. Maybe it would be called “It Might Be a Tolerable Life for the Time Being,” in order to reflect our present-day cool detachment when it comes to adjectives and our fears that humanity-induced global warming will kill all our children.

    I like the idea of Nicolas Cage and Madonna in the lead roles.

  6. Goldie – No better excuse.

    Laurie – The telephone scene speaks to me.

    Caravana Basura – I might look at Madonna for the part of Violet, the troubled tramp with a soft spot for George. Trouble is, she can’t act. Sandra Bullock as Mary, maybe? She also has that bad acting problem, though. Owen Wilson as Sam Wainright. Jack Nicholson as Mr. Potter. I don’t go to enough movies to know who the good leading men are these days, but (re)casting this one would be fun.

  7. I bought this movie a few years ago because I discovered it in the middle of very drunken, crazy session in the middle of one night around the holidays with a friend of mine. He was amazed that I had not seen the movie and I decided to put my disdain for all things possibly schmaltzy aside and watch the movie.

    I loved it. That movie makes me want to be a better person. It’s a Wonderful Life makes me hopeful, and that is something I seriously miss at Christmas, lately.

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