This is my inaugural Movie Review post. I had never seen It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) before I watched it with my family over the weekend. The only reason we got to see it was because I walked past it on DVD in Best Buy and it was on sale. I have always been a little leery about it because it has such epic, classic status in society. I don’t usually agree with popular opinion, but this is one time when I’m jumping on the band wagon.
One of my reasons for not wanting to see it was the casting. I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone, but Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are not my favorites. If I was making a list of my top 50 favorite stars, they wouldn’t even make it. Truthfully, I have always found both of them to be a trifle annoying. So, the prospects of watching this film in which they star didn’t fill me with the happiness I usually have when watching classic films. To my great surprise (and relief!) they are both terrific in It’s a Wonderful Life.
One of the biggest reasons that I found them bearable was the superb supporting cast that can’t be beat: Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Gloria Grahame (!), Ward Bond, Beluah Bondi and Lionel Barrymore. Each of the supporting characters adds their own magic to the mix and makes the film a joy to watch. (A little side note: once you become infected with the classic movie bug, the character actors are just as important as the major stars. You start looking for your favorites and shouting their monikers with jubilation when they appear in the credits.)
It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of a young man in a small town in New York – George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). He hates being confined in the tiny town and is determined to escape it and see the world. Trouble is, something always stops him each time he is ready to leave. His father owns a company that makes loans to the townspeople so they can build houses and start businesses. The Building and Loan is in direct competition with Mr. Potter’s (Lionel Barrymore) bank for customers. Mr. Potter is the meanest guy you’ve ever seen in your life. I’m not kidding – I was truly surprised and the nastiness of the character. I kept waiting for the Hollywood ending where the audience gets to see that Mr. Potter has a heart of gold after all, but it never came. The story is a continual portrayal of the friction between Mr. Potter and the Bailey’s.
This film was also the means of a great movieland invention. Up to this point, painted cornflakes had been used to create the effect of falling snow. But, the creator of this film – Frank Capra – did not want to have to re dub all the dialogue after the scenes were shot because of the loud sound that the crunchy cornflakes made. So, “film snow” was invented with fire foam, soap and water. You’ll notice that it’s so much more realistic than the cornflake snow. (source)
I came across a fascinating website that provides quite a bit of convincing evidence for the theory that the town of IAWF – Bedford Falls- was actually based on Seneca Falls, NY. I was excited about this morsel of knowledge because I’ve been to Seneca Falls and visited the historical houses there. It’s a beautiful, beautiful town. It makes me happy to be able to claim a connection (no matter how remote!) to a great classic film.
Well, there’s my Christmas movie recommendation. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Hot dog!