James Stewart

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The Great Movie Re-Watch

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Director:

Frank Capra

Writer:

Francis Goodrich

Albert Hackett

Frank Capra

Jo Swerling

Starring:

James Stewart

Donna Reed

Lionel Barrymore

Thomas Mitchell

Henry Travers

Blurb:

An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

Thoughts:

It’s a Wonderful Life is in my top ten favorite movies. Probably in my top five, actually. I’ve already written a blog post about it, so I will try not to gush about it too much.

When It’s a Wonderful Life was first released, it was a flop. It didn’t make back what was spent, and people started to doubt Frank Capra’s abilities. It ended up falling partially out of copyright because it was forgotten. It wasn’t until TV broadcasts were looking for something to air that it became the Christmas classic it is today. It bombed and is now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. Amazing.

George wants to leave Bedford Falls so bad. Everyone knows it too. His friends, even old man Potter, his arch-enemy, know he wants to go, but he can’t. These people, people he knows and loves, could not take care of themselves as well as he could take care of them. So he stays. He gives up everything he wants in his life. College, travel, being an architect or engineer, everything. He gives it up because he knows that it’s best for everyone else

 If anyone ever complains about goody-two-shoes characters being boring to watch because their decisions are easy to make, point them to this movie.

You see George’s struggle. You see him break when it finally pushes him too far. For the first time in the movie, he’s not thinking clearly, and he’s about to make a stupid decision that would end up not benefitting his family at all. The movie gets dark, but ultimately he learns how to be happy with his life and stop yearning for the life he doesn’t have. He’s not settling. He’s still ambitious and has hopes and desires. He’s no longer thinking about the life he could have had if he hadn’t cared about anyone else, though. Now that is a fantastic Christmas gift.

Another thing I love about It’s a Wonderful Life is the socialist undertones. Mr. Potter is the perfect embodiment of capitalism, and the Building and Loan is socialism. The speech that George gives is beautiful.

You, you said that they — What’d you say just a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even thought of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what?! Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken-down that — You know how long it takes a workin’ man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”

You can’t get better than that.

Bonus: The Lost Ending of It’s a Wonderful Life from SNL

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Great Movie Re-Watch

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Director:

Ernst Lubitsch

Writer:

Samson Raphaelson

Starring:

Margaret Sullavan

James Stewart

Frank Morgan

Joseph Schildkraut

Blurb:

Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal.

Thoughts:

You’ve Got Mail was inspired by this movie. Even if you didn’t know, specific conversations in the film should clue you in. At least two are almost verbatim. The Shop Around the Corner is not the original of this story, though. That would belong to a Hungarian play titled Parfumerie by Miklós László. You’ve Got Mail is also not the only adaption. I have another version of this story that is coming up relatively soon, In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland. I clearly like this story. I should probably look into the play.

This film is from the 40s, so it’s very dated, especially in its views of women. Clara, Margaret Sullavan, talks a lot about how she won’t have to work anymore because she’ll be married soon. Kralik, James Stewart, discusses supporting a family on his salary.

I want to take a step back and focus on that for a moment. Kralik was a sales clerk. He had worked at the store the longest, so had more responsibilities, but he was still a sales clerk. There was also another clerk there that was married and had children. They were able to support a family on the salary of a sales clerk. Eighty years ago, one person could support themselves, in a city, on the salary of a retail worker. Sure, this was set in Hungary, but it was made for American audiences. Can you imagine a salesperson in a department store being able to support a family nowadays? It’s mind-boggling.

Back to the movie. Writing letters and falling in love in that way is one of my favorite tropes. It feels like the ultimate romantic storyline. Two people, who’ve never met, fall in love through words. In some cases, it’s so much easier to be yourself through words. Of course, it’s also easier to deceive, but I prefer to think of the previous scenario.

Obviously, I’m keeping this movie. It’s one I re-watch fairly frequently, even though I only own it on DVD. I should probably look into upgrading that, actually.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

The Great Movie Re-Watch

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Director:

Frank Capra

Writers:

Sidney Buchanan

Lewis R. Foster

Starring:

Jean Arthur

James Stewart

Claude Rains

Edward Arnold

Blurb:

A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn’t back down.

Thoughts:

When I last watched this movie I had a more positive outlook on my country. I ended up watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington through different eyes this time around. At many points through my re-watch I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. There were scenes that felt straight out of a propaganda film. It was in love with the ideals of the United States even as it bashed the lawmakers. There was always this hope that one man could change it all. They just had to try.

Imagine my surprise when I read the films Wikipedia entry and discovered that senators of the day accused the film of being anti-American and pro-communist. Several senators spoke out against it. I’m not sure how you can watch that movie and think it’s attacking the US unless you are complicit in the same crimes as the characters in the movie.

There were, of course, dated jokes and treatment of women. However, they did a good job acknowledging that Smith wouldn’t be where he was without the help of Saunders, Jean Arthur’s character. I do wonder, though, where the little girls will all be going while the little boys are off to a camp in the middle of the country.

Even watching it with a different mindset I enjoyed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I like hopeful, though, I do find that hard to pair with government. Stewart does an amazing job portraying a naïve man who just wants to do good. The ending was abrupt but I actually liked that. I didn’t need to see an epilogue, I think it would have lessened the impact.

Next up, The Shop Around the Corner, another Jimmy Steward movie.

Re-Watch The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Director:

Ernst Lubitsch

Starring:

Margaret Sullavan

James Stewart

Frank Morgan

Plot:

Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another, without realizing that they’re falling in love through the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal.

Review:

This is one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart movies. He plays a store clerk that has come to a point in his life where he wants a little bit more out of his life. So naturally he answers a personal ad in the paper.

One thing leads to another and he falls in love with the girl he writes to, evidently the idea of it being a dude doesn’t enter his mind. Such a trusting time. When he finally gets to meet her, he’s nervous that she’s going to be fugly, then he finds out it’s the woman he works with and hates.

Since it’s Jimmy Stewart and he’s not a total dick, though I’m not sure if anyone’s a total dick, he ends up wooing her as himself and not just through letters. It’s beautiful.

I do think Margaret Sullavan’s character is a bit of a bitch at times. There are also some dark moments, attempted suicide and infidelity, though, not from Jimmy or Margaret. It’s a great story and a nice look at depression era sensibilities.

5/5

Classic Christmas Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life

Classic Christmas Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Director:

Frank Capra

Starring:

James Stewart

Donna Reed

Lionel Barrymore

Plot:

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

Review:

Out of all the Christmas movies in the world, this is my favorite. When I was little, back in the days of VHS tapes, I wore two copies out. Two. That’s how many times I watched it. You can take your Christmas Vacation and your Home Alone, both great movies to be fair, but the Christmas movie I look forward to watching every year is It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s got the nice supernatural element I love in Christmas movies, there’s the amazing acting of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, and a bald villain in a wheelchair. There’s so much hope and love and an intense feeling that they can overcome everything. It’s beautiful.

It’s a Wonderful Life is everything I love about the holiday season.

5/5

Merry Christmas!