(As originally posted on my MySpace blog)
For most of my life, I avoided watching It’s A Wonderful Life because it was on TV constantly…usually for 24 hours straight during the Christmas season. I figured, if a movie is that cheap and readily available, it has to be a worthless dud. (I had not yet been introduced to the treasure of classic movies).
Then one time some friends invited me to their home for a little Christmas get-together, and they whipped out a VHS of the Jimmy Stewart standard, and I moaned inside…worst of all, I saw Donna Reed was in it. At that time in my life, I only knew Donna Reed as a stand-in “Miss Ellie” on DALLAS, and I could not stand her interpretation of the role that was made for Barbara Bel Geddes…I’m very loyal to the actors for characters I grow fond of, and do not like “interlopers” replacing my people! (Please try to forget that I admitted to being a former DALLAS fan…)
But within the first five minutes of this 1946 classic, I was hooked. I fell in love with this movie like no other. I laughed, I cried, and I cried some more. I got angry at Potter, and annoyed at Uncle Billy. I got a kick out of Violet. It was fun to see Ellen Corby, a.k.a. “Grandma Walton” ask George for $17.50. This was the first Jimmy Stewart movie I ever watched, and it began a decades-long admiration of this likeable fella. And, I was astonished at my reaction to Donna Reed: she was sweet, precious, lovely, and perfect for the role of Mary Hatch Bailey.
Of course there is a lot of faulty theology to overlook – you aren’t right with God just because you are a nice guy and have lots of friends; people don’t become angels after death and “earn their wings”, and of course, I really doubt that bell ringing has anything to do with it. (I love the scene in the bar, when George doesn’t exist, and Nick is opening the cash register repeatedly, and says “Hey look, I’m giving out wings!” )
All in all, it’s a feel good movie, superbly acted, and a much-looked-forward to part of our Christmas Eve ritual. When we’re ready to settle in for the night, we get some hot cocoa, and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas followed by It’s A Wonderful Life.
My favorite cartoon series, The Far Side, even alludes to this movie, with a toon of some botany experts marvelling about the extremely rare and hard to come by ZuZu’s Petals, obtained from a one-eyed man in Istanbul.
Karolyn Grimes, the actress who played ZuZu is now 66, and makes special appearances. She is one of only a few remaining actors from the movie.
Here are a few other links that I thought would be fun to explore:
Merry Christmas Everyone!