I’ve never seen this movie. I’ve also never seen Miracle on 34th Street. These two movies run together in my mind, like chocolate and peanut butter, or like water for chocolate. The differences between It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street are as lost on me as the differences between Jerry Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s a confusing Christmas movie, where Santa gets thousands of letters in a courtroom, wonders what the world would be like if he were dead, and then shouts “Woop woop woop woop woop!” and runs in circles on the floor. I really do need to see one or both of these movies so I can know once and for all which movie has what scenes.
Fortunately, my confusion will be resolved tonight. I invite everyone to help me figure out exactly what is going on.
I’m sitting here in my office in the Wonderful town of Potterville, um, er, I mean Bedford Fal-, I mean Indiana, PA, hometown of beloved actor Jimmy Stewart thinking: “Wha? You’ve never seen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’?” Next thing you’ll be telling me is that this giant invisible rabbit looking over my shoulder is imaginary.
Have fun. Christmas in October! My wife would love it.
Since this is my all-time favorite movie, I’ve seen it at least two dozen times. I don’t even have to watch it tonight, but of course I will.
LateComer, Indiana, PA is one of those places I plan to visit one of these days. The way some people are about Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, that’s the way I am about Jimmy Stewart. I told my boss once that when Jimmy Stewart died she should not to expect me to come in to the office. When he died over the Fourth of July weekend in '97, I stayed home and cried for the entire weekend. How pathetic is that?
I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get the director’s cut with the alternate ending where he gets liquored up and loads an AK-47. But, enh, the movie would have been radically different.
One of the fringe benefits of watching these classic movies that I’ve somehow missed over the years is that I now recognize references in other works - for example, the scene in the Building & Loan where George says that each person’s money has been loaned out to someone else was parodied in a Simpsons episode (but rather than the banker providing his own money, the mob ended in a brawl and riot).
The timing of last week’s movie and this week’s movie couldn’t be better - these are both movies that, no matter how frustrating your day, week, or month has been, you feel okay about the world afterwards. (Maybe not for very long, but at least there’s a moment of comfort.) Given that for the past two weeks I’ve been working under the spectre of sudden unemployment, despite obscenely long hours, I’ve been far happier to watch Singin’ in the Rain and It’s A Wonderful Life than I would be to watch, say, Psycho at #18 or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest at #20. Not that I was considering throwing myself off a bridge (rather becoming far more acquainted with my liquor cabinet), but I needed something like this, even if it were just two hours of reassuring, relaxing movies.
Prior to watching these last two movies, I would have been very reluctant to rate them this highly on the list - I would have argued that they’re little more that feel-good claptrap without any redeeming cinematic value - but after experiencing them in the way that others have, rather than observing from a clinical and detached viewpoint, I agree that these are ‘pretty good’ movies.
The tenth and eleventh best American films of all time? Mmm, I don’t know. But they’d be on my list of the top 100, to be sure.
My favorite thing about this movie is Jimmy Stewart letting show that dark side that he didn’t show enough of in his career. In fact, I’d say he does a better job of it in this than he does in Vertigo. Sitting in the house, prior to going out to Martini’s bar and them jumping off the bridge, Stewart doesn’t just look disturbed–he looks crazy. Absolutely, 100% nuts. Hell, he looks like a rummy caught in the grip of the worst DTs ever experienced. I love it!
Actually, the best part is when he says to 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!” For irony, he should’ve cuffed him in the ear, too.
Finally, Gloria Grahame as Violet was extremely hot.
I had a momentary feeling of Bogart shaking Mary Astor and shouting, “I won’t play the sap for you! You killed Miles and you’re going over for it!” (Only a few more weeks until The Maltese Falcon, fortunately.)
My favorite scene was always the one on the bridge, where he realizes how good his life really is, and he begs “Clarence! I want to live! Let me get back to my wife and kids!”
Incidentally, I read that this was originally filmed as a mid-shot, but when Capra saw just how wonderful Stewart’s performance was, he stayed up late that night hand enlarging each frame of the film to make it a close up.
Also, brilliant as Capra was, he managed to make a boo-boo into another fine moment. Watch as Uncle Billy walks off camera after Harry’s first homecoming. You hear a horrible crash, followed by Billy’s “I’m all right! I’m all right!”
Turned out a stagehand accidentally knocked over a table, and Capra liked the moment so much (he said it added a great note to Uncle Billy’s character) he left it in. Also watch Stewart’s reaction to this ad-lib – it’s wonderful.
I first saw this movie in a theater on a large screen – if you EVER get the chance to see it this way, GO! Wonderful as it is on TV, a big screen adds a whole 'nother dimension that you just don’t get on a 19 inch screen.
I’d heard the same thing, but for the crying scene in Martini’s. Cervaise? Anyone? What’s the Dope?
Every Christmas for years, I saw bits and pieces of the movie on TV, before wandering back to whatever room I had wandered from. The first time I saw the whole thing at one sitting, I was amazed that all of those scenes were actually the same movie!
It’s only been (relatively) recently that this classic became ubiquitous. When I was A kid it was pretty hard to find, but again, mom made sure we got to see it. In at least one interview, Stewart himself said IAWL was his own personal favorite.
For fun you should compare Gloria Graham as Violet and as Annie in Oklahoma. I love a good actor.