Saturday, December 24, 2011

"It's A Wonderful LIfe" 1946

"It's A Wonderful Life"

This is it.  It is my absolute favorite Christmas movie.  I love this movie.  

I must warn you as you read this, I have taken some prescription pain medication. 

This movie starts in Heaven.  A lot of people are praying for a man named George Bailey. 

They have an hour to tell AS2, Clarence what he needs to know about George Bailey

It starts with a little boy with big dreams.  He is playing with his friends on a frozen lake and they sledding down a hill on shovels.  It is all good natured boyhood fun until George's little brother, Harry falls through the ice. 

Of course he saves him but he loses hearing in one of his ears.  But our George is an industrious boy and at age 12 already has a job at the local pharmacy.  He serves sodas and ice creams to all the cute girls, including little Mary Hatch.  She's going to love him till the day she dies.

There he saves another life, a little boy who almost gets poisoned by the druggist, Mr. Gower.  It isn't Mr. Gower's fault, his son was killed in the war and he just got the telegram. 

Soon George Bailey is all grown up.  He's been waiting patiently for Harry to graduate from high school and take over his job at the Bailey Building and Loan so he can see the world.

George Bailey: I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long...

But before he can take off he decides to go to the senior dance at the high school.  Next thing he knows he is dancing with a very grown up Mary Hatch.

They Charleston right into the swimming pool.  It was under the dance floor.

While they are walking home there is romance in the air and a full moon.

 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?

 Next thing you know George wants to kiss Mary and she ends up naked.  It is really quite innocent, but George is ready to take advantage but she is in a bush.  As he teases her , a car pulls up to let him know that his father's had a stroke.

So George gives up a trip to Europe that he paid for and takes over the Building and Loan.  He turns things over the board of directors and tries to leave for college.  He is almost gone when Mr. Potter insults his father and his life's work.

George Bailey: Just a minute... just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was... why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that? Why... here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You... you said... what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!
He impresses them so much that they give George an ultimatum,  Stay and run it or the Building and Loan is done.  So of course George stays and his little brother Harry is sent to college in his place.

Harry does great at college, he becomes a football hero, brings home a pretty wife and a job offer in Buffalo.  It is the last nail in the coffin for George.  He is stuck in Bedford Falls.

So after the reception, he treks by Mary Hatch's house, nudge ever so subtly by his mother.  Mary tries to seduce him with song and her artistic pursuits.  When that doesn't work, she tries jealousy.  While in the phone with his old friend, Sam Wainright, they end up so close you can't avoid the sexual tension.  This scene had to be edited for censors due to the hotness.

 A little anger and frustration turns to making out.

George Bailey: Now, you listen to me! I don't want any plastics, and I don't want any ground floors, and I don't want to get married - ever - to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do. And you're... and you're...
[runs out of words, sees her crying]
George Bailey: Oh, Mary, Mary...
Mary: George... George... George...
George Bailey: [kisses her intensely] Mary... Would you?... Would you?...
Soon they are married.  Of course they choose to get married at a bad time.  The banks start to crash as they are leaving town with $2000 for a honeymoon.  Even today that would be a nice budget for a  honeymoon.  But again, George has bad luck.

There is a run on the bank and Uncle Billy panics and locks the doors. 

When the crowd turns ugly, Mary steps up offering their honeymoon fund to the town to tide them over.   They make it to closing time with two dollars to spare.


George Bailey: [the staff celebrates closing the building and loan company with only two dollars remaining, to stay in business] Get a tray for these two great big important simoleans here.
Uncle Billy: We'll save 'em for seed.
George Bailey: A toast! A toast! A toast to Mama Dollar and to Papa Dollar, and if you want to keep this old Building and Loan in business, you better have a family real quick.
Cousin Tilly: I wish they were rabbits.

Soon Mary and George are settling into an old house.  I love the honeymoon with the record player/rotisserie.  There are night clothes on the bed and George's face is priceless.  They are soon popping out the babies and settling into married life. 

He is almost tempted by Mr. Potter who decides if he can't put him out of business, he will buy him out.  I love when George is almost seduced until he shakes Potter's hand and pulls away as if he'd touched something dirty. 

When the war starts, Harry goes off to become a war hero while George's bad ear keeps him home.  Soon it is Christmas Eve and Harry is coming home.  George is on top of the world.  Then Uncle Billy screws up. 

Busy bragging up his war hero nephew he unknowingly hands Mr. Potter an $8000 deposit. 

This starts to spiral out of control.  When he tells George that he lost the money and a bank examiner shows up, there is major trouble in store for George.

George Bailey: [yelling at Uncle Billy] Where's that money, you silly stupid old fool? Where's that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison! That's what it means! One of us is going to jail... well, it's not gonna be me!

All the built up rage and frustration is unleashed. 

He yells at all his kids and Mary.  He even yells at little Zuzu's teacher. 

He calms down for Zuzu but breaks her flower and has to tuck the petals in his coat.

He is so desperate he leaves the house and goes to Potter for the money. 

Mr. Potter: [to George Bailey] Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me a warped, frustrated, old man! What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stocks, no bonds. Nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy.
[Potter chuckles]
Mr. Potter: You're worth more dead than alive! Why don't you go to the riffraff you love so much and ask them to let you have $8,000? You know why? Because they'd run you out of town on a rail. Well, I'll tell you what I'm going to do for you, George. Since the state examiner is still here, as a stockholder of the Building and Loan, I'm going to swear out a warrant for your arrest. Misappropriation of funds, manipulation, malfeasance...
[sees George runs off]
Mr. Potter: All right, George, go ahead, George! You can't hide in a little town like this!

George tries to drown his sorrows at his local watering hole.  His breakdown at the bar is incredible.  He is almost turned around when he gets punched in the face. 

He wrecks his car and ends up on a bridge.  He has his insurance plan on him and thinking terrible things.

Then Clarence shows up.

To get George's attention he drops into the water ready to be saved because he know George will do the right thing.

As he and George dry out, he explains his mission.

Clarence:Clarence Oddbody, AS2.
George Bailey: Oddbody... Hey, what's an AS2?
Clarence: Angel, Second Class.
[the bridgekeeper, overhearing it, falls backwards in his chair]
When George says that the world would be better off if he'd never been born, Clarence goes into action. 

When George heads back to town, he finds himself in Pottersville. 

The bar is different.  Uncle Billy is in the insane  asylum, Violet is a whore and Harry died when he was nine.  And then there is poor Mary.  She is a spinster and a librarian.

The horror!

And she is wearing glasses!  Apparently being with George Bailey is good for your eyesight.

Finally he returns to the bridge wanting all his life back, good and bad.  It starts to snow and he is back.  He runs through town joyously.

George Bailey:Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!

Finally he reaches home.  There are cops and bank examiners and his kids.  But while he was having his nervous breakdown, Mary has been busy.

She has been canvassing the town begging letting everyone know that George is in trouble.  Soon the town is filling his living room and the Building and Loan is saved.

They solve all his financial problems.  Then Harry crashes the party after flying through a snowstorm to get there.

Harry Bailey: A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.

Then the bell on tree rings and George knows that Clarence is going to get his wings. 

[last lines]
Zuzu Bailey: Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.
George Bailey: That's right, that's right.
George Bailey: Attaboy, Clarence.

So, reasons I love this movie.  It is awesome.  The performances are natural and I love Jimmy Stewart.

When we bought our house it had a wiggly newel post that we've never fixed.  It makes me think of "It's A Wonderful Life" every time I put my hand on it.

Now, there are some things that bug me. 

Harry Bailey is living this charmed life and doesn't seem to care that his brother is barely getting by.  He just runs off and lives his life as he wants to. 

George is almost out several times and even when he is told to stop, he goes ahead and stays even though he could have left.  No one is keeping him there but himself.

In 1977 Marlo Thomas did a gender swap version where she did the Jimmy Stewart role.  It is not good. 

It just doesn't feel like Christmas til I see this movie.  It is great.  And this post is very long.  Thanks for hanging on.   And Merry Christmas!!

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