Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema is It’s a Wonderful Life, of course, a wonderful title for a wonderful film about which “practically everyone who sees it will agree that it’s wonderful entertainment.” “No matter how often you see this perennial Christmas favorite, you will be entranced. Flawless.”
Capra at his finest.
Capra finds the most perfect balance between bittersweet and optimistic in this timeless holiday tale, to remind us that life is always worth it, even in the worst of circumstances. A wonderful story that resonates for a very long time after it is over.
It’s a Wonderful Life
By Angie Errigo, 27 Jan 2006:
If there’s one film synonymous with Christmas, it’s Frank Capra’s 1946 fantasy drama It’s A Wonderful Life. Yet its top seasonal status is hardly the result of any instant success. The ultimate cult comeback movie, it was coolly received upon its release and lost more than $500,000, then was all but forgotten for more than 20 years. But after repeated TV showings during the Christmases of the ’70s, it rocketed to the top of the list of favourite family viewing and is still paid affectionate homage throughout popular culture, from recurring references in other movies, to Sesame Street Muppets named after Bert the cop and Ernie the cabbie, to both a band and literary website named Zuzu’s Petals. That it should be the best-loved of Christmas fables is a story as full of ironies as the picture itself. But it is endearingly appropriate, since the idea for the film came from a Christmas card — of sorts.
Up in heaven, a chorus of prayers for help are heard coming from the small town of Bedford Falls. So a despairing man named George Bailey is prevented from committing suicide by the intervention of a funny little old fellow named Clarence Oddbody, “Angel, Second-Class”. The angel shows him what others’ lives would have been like, and what their town would have been like, if, as he wished, he had never been born. George has an epiphany, cries, “I want to live again!” and is restored to his family and friends who toast him as “the richest man in town”. And a tinkling bell on the Baileys’ Christmas tree tells George that Clarence’s successful mission has won him his wings…
Historian and novelist Philip Van Doren Stern was in a contemplative mood one morning while shaving, and was struck with the idea for a story about a suicidal man confronted by his guardian angel, who shows him the difference he’s made to people’s lives. After having it rejected by several magazines, he added the seasonal setting, printed 200 copies as 24-page booklets titled The Greatest Gift, and sent them as Christmas ‘cards’. One recipient was his agent, who sent it to the studios. At Cary Grant’s urging, RKO bought the film rights and hired Dalton Trumbo to adapt it. Trumbo, never credited, became the first of nine screenwriters who contributed. His script was supposedly too political, too dark and too sophisticated, but it was he who wrote the immortal line: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
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