IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE Sunday 25 December, 2011

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If all of the christmas films joined together (like Voltron) to form a christmas tree then this film would be the angel on top of the tree.

Released in 1946, It’s A Wonderful Life tells the tale of the ultimate nice-guy, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart in characteristically charasmatic fashion. It’s a tale of Good Vs Evil and strongly sends the message that if we all pull together then everything will ok. It’s also a film that firmly believes in the innate goodness of humanity. Even the most world weary cynic will struggle not to buy into the schtick on offer here. I’m generally considered to be a joyless cynic and I can’t help blubbing when I watch this film.

It’s just occurred to me that the message of this film could be read as leaning toward communism. I wonder how that was perceived in 1946. Would Joe McCarthy have been compiling his list already at that point? If so I suspect that Frank Capra would have been nudging his way onto it by making this film. Although, it’s likely that he would not have seen it or even heard of it. It’s A Wonderful Life was not a great success when it was released. It was only much later on when it began to be screened on television that it found an appreciative audience. For me watching this film at christmas is what defines the festivities.

For such a popular film it’s actually quite odd. It has angels with the ability to research an individual’s life by watching a video feed. These angels also have the ability to intervene in an individual’s life and alter the reality of their existence. There are also a few moments that seem out of step with the morality of that era (Donna Reed’s Mary yelling up to her mother the George is “making violent love to her”). Not that I’m complaining about that but I wonder how that would have been received upon it’s release. It also depicts some dark events for such a feelgood film (attempted suicide, recesssion, grief). I guess it’s testament to the spirit of the film that you can watch all of that and still come away feeling well disposed to your fellow man.

We must also be thankful to It’s A Wonderful Life for being the inspiration (in name at the very least) for Sesame Street’s Bert & Ernie who are named after Bert, the Bedford Falls cop and Ernie the taxi driver. If you’re a fan of the Red Dwarf novels you’ll also recognise the film as inspiring (and featuring) in a large part of The Better Than Life novel.

If you haven’t seen it yet go and get a copy and make sure you watch it over the christmas holiday. There’s nothing guaranteed to make you feel mor christmassy, except perhaps wedging a turkey in your face, dressing in red and jumping down a chimney.

 

 

 

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