60 Thoughts on It’s a Wonderful Life, Having Not Seen It for About a Year

As most of you do about this time of year, I over-indulge in Christmas movies. Lately we’ve been visiting the cheesy made-for-TV variety, the hastily-put-together genre that we can’t seem to get enough of. After a while of wallowing in that trough, you have to revisit the classics to detox, so, while we wrapped presents, we made our way back to Bedford Falls.

Here are my thoughts, in chronological order:

  1. (wCaprahen we paused at the ‘Directed by Frank Capra’ portion of the credits, to get some clear tape from the dining room table) What is that Santa doing down there, to the left of Capra’s credit? Is he in a kick-line? Shouldn’t there be four other Santas kicking right next to him?
  2. The Angel Joseph is apparently the Constellation Orion. I’m betting that’s in the Apocrypha.
  3. Word to the wise, kids. Don’t go sledding down a hill into a frozen pond when there’s a GAPING HOLE IN THE ICE at the end of it.
  4. But then again, you can’t become a war hero later on in the movie if you don’t take risks.
  5. So how did Harry luck out and not lose hearing in one of his ears, even though he was foundering in the icy water for at least 20 seconds until all the rest of the kids came over to save him?
  6. Story of George’s life, I guess.
  7. Poor George.
  8. Violet Bick: trampiest 11-year-old ever.
  9. Creepiest moment: when Clarence declares from Heaven, “I like George Bailey.”
  10. What exactly are George and Harry doing upstairs that’s shaking the chandelier downstairs? Rough-housing? And can you actually picture Jimmy Stewart rough-housing?
  11. Beulah Bondi plays Ma Bailey. She played a lot of Moms. She played Jimmy Stewart’s Mom in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. When Jimmy Stewart had a sitcom in the early 70’s, she played his Mom in that, too.
  12. In case you’ve never noticed, that’s a moderately grown-up Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer who gets thrown over for George Bailey at the dance and eventually flips the switch to open the floor up to reveal the pool.
  13. How did that pool/gym floor idea never catch on?
  14. One of my favorite moments in the whole movie is George and Mary in the water, and he’s still dancing. Donna Reed is laughing so hard that I almost have to believe that wasn’t planned.
  15. Favorite line in the movie: “Why don’t you kiss here instead of talking her to death?”
  16. Things I’d like to know: while Mary is in advanced state of undress and in the hydrangea bushes, and just before George gets whisked away to see his ailing father, he says the line, “I’ll make a deal with you Mary…”
  17. I think 1946 audiences may not have been ready for the second part of that sentence.
  18. Harry was second team All-American. At his size. It was the thirties, all right.
  19. Wait, wait, wait. Harry got married and no one knew about it?
  20. Not even his mother, who (we assume) would have told George and Uncle Billy?
  21. This seems impulsive.
  22. Even if you have a good job in Buffalo waiting for you.
  23. Bedford Falls looks an awful lot like Mill Valley.
  24. In fact, isn’t that the clock tower in the background?
  25. It’s generally accepts that Sam Wainwright goes “Hee-haw.”
  26. But why?
  27. I mean, obviously it didn’t affect his business interests.
  28. But why?
  29. “Making violent love” obviously meant something different in 1946.
  30. So after George clutches Mary while she’s on the phone and tells her that he wants to do what he wants to do, and then gives in and starts making violent 1946 love to Mary, is Sam still on the phone? That would suck.
  31. Hee-haw.
  32. It also sucks to get married on the day the market crashes.
  33. There’s not a person my age or younger who doesn’t snicker a bit at the thought of George’s two friends being Bert and Ernie.
  34. Character Actor Alert: Charles Lane shows up in the scene as the guy explaining to Potter what’s going on in Bailey Park. That man played wiry, crotchety guys in Hollywood for 50 years. Even as a younger man he appears to be 55 years old.
  35. By the way, just for fun, focus in on the dude standing behind Potter’s chair. The longer you look at that stone face, the funnier it gets.
  36. Potter has a skull on his desk.
  37. Potter also has a bust of Napoleon.
  38. These are what are known as “warning signs.”
  39. Christmas is finally mentioned in minute 76 of the movie.
  40. Uncle Billy has a raven.
  41. Uncle Billy has a squirrel.
  42. These are also known as “warning signs.”
  43. George looks like he hasn’t shaved for about three days when he’s in Martini’s bar, being punched out by Mr. Welsh, but he had to have shaved that morning, because he was obviously at work. All part of his bad day, I assume.
  44. Wish I had never been born, the point of our whole story, comes at minute 103.
  45. George’s alt-universe sucks for pretty much everybody but Nick. Looks like he’s doing a good business in Pottersville.
  46. Pretty keen neon in Pottersville, too.
  47. But maybe I’m missing the point.
  48. George’s hair takes a beating through his trip to Pottersville.
  49. But then, George’s car takes a beating in Bedford Falls. And his reputation.
  50. And although everyone in Pottersville thinks he’s a loony, he can always go somewhere else.
  51. Again, I seem to be missing the point.
  52. Big finish: everyone shows up with money. That’s always a good ending.
  53. Character Actor Alert: Al Bridge shows up as the sheriff with the warrant for George’s arrest (which he later tears up). Al Bridge was in every one of Preston Sturges’ movies and was consistently hilarious. Watch him in Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek and you won’t be sorry.
  54. They’re missing 8000 dollars. Think there’s 8000 dollars in that basket?
  55. Sam Wainwright can wire up to 25,000 dollars. He’d just like everyone to know that.
  56. Well, that’s fine, Sam, but we only need 8000.
  57. Hee haw.
  58. At any rate, what happens to the extra cash? Just asking.
  59. And I’d like to think that once Old Man Potter drops the amount of 8000 dollars in the bank the next day, the townspeople will come around and give us the satisfying butt-kicking Saturday Night Live sketch ending we’ve always wanted.
  60. The end.

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