Article Outline:

I finally watched another classic an frequently referenced movies, my daughter and I are up to the 1940s.

First, why is it that so many movies of this era have some sort of cop chase scene where they shoot wildly into the air, often towards public streets full of people? It’s like how I grew up playing ‘cops and robbers’. Somehow, in an era without gun violence, movies sure showed a lot of cartoon-style use of it.

While on the subject of the police, the cops names are “Burt and Ernie.” Ha. While we’re at it, I always wondered whose voice Cameron was imitating on the phone to Mr. Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (the classic of the 1980s). Turns out it’s the bartender from It’s a Wonderful Life.

A Honeymoon in a falling apart house; posters for honeymoon locations on the wall – taking one of many sweet idea from Charlie Chaplain’s Modern Times

On to the plot – the movie reminds me a lot of Charlie Chaplain’s “Modern Times” from the 1930s. It has a distinctly populist message about a worker stuck in his place in life by an oppressive force (in this case, a banker with a lot of money) who wishes for something different. The ‘something different’ never comes and in the process of trying to figure it all out, a woman finds an old beat up house and makes him supper. (The wild-shot gun scenes come earlier in Modern Times.)

A Wonderful Life replaces the comedy genre with heart. It does it well. Mr. Bailey is not without his flaws (he can get angry and impatient, he let’s another woman kiss him, and like most movies of this era, marriage comes after man-handling a woman until she cries which is still better than the Garfield stone age version where he hits her over the head with a club and drags her home).

Despite his flaws, Mr. Bailey has a pure heart. He is put into a position where he wishes he were not, doing so to save the family business and the town from evil. Well given more than one chance to do what would be best for him personally, his first desire an choice, at the expense of education and money, is to others. It is a welcome change from today’s ultra-individualistic, “I do what pleases me” attitude. While I am no Christian (and the original story seems to have been written by a Jew anyway), it is easy to appreciate the family gathering at Christmas time. The version shown here is the epitome of appreciation of family and community who, in turn, appreciates him and just as he saved the community through self-sacrifice, the favor is now returned.

Mr. Bailey’s motives were altruistic yet led to more road blocks pushing him further with yet harder tests starting small and culminating with1946: It’s a Wonderful Life. Finally watching old classic an frequently referenced movies, my daughter and I are up to the 1940s.

While on the subject of the police, the names of the cop and taxi driver are “Burt and Ernie.” Ha. While we’re at it, I always wondered whose voice Cameron was imitating on the phone to Mr. Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (the classic of the 1980s). Turns out it’s the bartender from It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s Burt and Ernie!

On to the plot – the movie reminds me a lot of Charlie Chaplain’s “Modern Times” from the 1930s. It has a distinctly populist message about a worker stuck in his place in life by an oppressive force (in this case, a banker with a lot of money) who wishes for something different. The ‘something different’ never comes and in the process of trying to figure it all out, a woman finds an old beat up house and makes him supper. (The wild-shot gun scenes come earlier in Modern Times.)

A Wonderful Life replaces the comedy genre with heart. It does it well. Mr. Bailey is not without his flaws (he can get angry and impatient, he let’s another woman kiss him, and like most movies of this era, marriage comes after man-handling a woman until she cries which is still better than the Garfield stone age version where he hits her over the head with a club and drags her home).

Despite his flaws, Mr. Bailey has a pure heart. He is put into a position where he wishes he were not, doing so to save the family business and the town from evil. Well given more than one chance to do what would be best for him personally, his first desire an choice, at the expense of education and money, is to others. It is a welcome change from today’s ultra-individualistic, “I do what pleases me” attitude. While I am no Christian (and the original story seems to have been written by a Jew anyway), it is easy to appreciate the family gathering at Christmas time. The version shown here is the epitome of appreciation of family and community who, in turn, appreciates him and just as he saved the community through self-sacrifice, the favor is now returned.

Mr. Bailey’s motives were altruistic yet led to more road blocks pushing him further with yet harder tests starting small and culminating with a test of jail for a crime he didn’t commit where even here he learns to appreciate all he has done. This a very Jewish theme comparable to Abraham’s ten tests, culminating in destroying life itself when Mr. Bailey wishes that he himself were never born until aided, by all his past good, to pass this test as well. Just as an angel moved Abraham’s hand away from death, an angel does so here.

I was also happy to see that salvation does not come in the form of the evil oppressive force turning to good. This is … cheesy and unrealistic. I can’t help but think in religious-themed works, the evil stays evil. In Les Miserables, Javert never comes around. Here, the evil force does not even have what is his – yet this money he does not return. Still, the money doesn’t buy him happiness. Family and community do. Within the framework of many religious lifestyles, one finds that tests remain and sometimes they seem unfair (see Iyov/Job, Jonah…), yet it’s all for the good.

A Wonderful Ending – It’s Like an Anti-Rosebud

Recommendation: While the lessons of the movie are heartfelt, I thought I’d be at a loss for what to even write about during the first 1/3 of the movie. It was slow, jerky, and hard to understand what it was there for – it was about a man’s early life. Some of my own family joined in for the last half of the movie and completely got the point. Watch the second half – it’s good stuff. a test of jail for a crime he didn’t commit where even here he learns to appreciate all he has done. This a very Jewish theme comparable to Abraham’s ten tests, culminating in destroying life itself when Mr. Bailey wishes that he himself were never born until aided, by all his past good, to pass this test as well. Just as an angel moved Abraham’s hand away from death, an angel does so here.

I was also happy to see that salvation does not come in the form of the evil oppressive force turning to good. This is … cheesy and unrealistic. I can’t help but think in religious-themed works, the evil stays evil. In Les Miserables, Javert never comes around. Here, the evil force does not even have what is his – yet this money he does not return. Still, the money doesn’t buy him happiness. Family and community do. Within the framework of many religious lifestyles, one finds that tests remain and sometimes they seem unfair (see Iyov/Job, Jonah…), yet it’s all for the good.

Recommendation: While the lessons of the movie are heartfelt, I thought I’d be at a loss for what to even write about during the first 1/3 of the movie. It was slow, jerky, and hard to understand what it was there for – it was about a man’s early life. Some of my own family joined in for the last half of the movie and completely got the point. Watch the second half – it’s good stuff.

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