Skip

Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life
December 19, 2008 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Here’s the thing about Pottersville that struck me when I was 15: It looks like much more fun than stultifying Bedford Falls — the women are hot, the music swings, and the fun times go on all night. If anything, Pottersville captures just the type of excitement George had long been seeking. A different take on a classic movie.
posted by dersins (71 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've always felt that way. Pottersville has jazz, loose women, and booze. My favorite part (as a librarian) is that Mary's librarian-spinster fate seems to be what sends George over the edge. Thanks, George Bailey. Really?
posted by booknerd at 9:47 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oops, I should have specified: "Pottersville has jazz, loose women, and booze"... which is why it seems more awesome.
posted by booknerd at 9:48 AM on December 19, 2008


“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife.

This is exactly how I always understood the movie as well, and is why I've always loved it. George's whole story is of unremitting horror and disappointment, and Mary's is of a dependent, underdeveloped person who is still holding true to the terms of a contract she wrote as a child and continues to unfairly enforce upon herself. But I think the lesson to draw is that even in a life that has given you terrific tragedy, you can be happy. Happiness can exist absolutely independently of circumstance.

I also don't think Capra was ignorant of this; I don't think it's an unintended reading of the work at all. Even the title has this powerful ironic strength. He shows us a terrible life and calls it wonderful. But it IS a wonderful life, even terrible lives are wonderful lives, IF we decide it is so. George's visit with the angels is a constructed fantasy that allows him to justify the terms of his own life to himself. If that makes him happy then it is good. Neither of us will ever really know what we have done, and whether we made the right decisions. All we can do is try to, and move forward assuming that we have, and correct what mistakes we find in ourselves to the extent that we are able. And all of us stumble forward together, lashed always to the Wheel, trying to do well, trying to assume the best about each other.
posted by penduluum at 9:52 AM on December 19, 2008 [41 favorites]


(Replace "neither" with "none". Missing that edit feature right about now ...)
posted by penduluum at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2008


Like the author's father, I held off on seeing this movie for years because of it's schmaltzy reputation. But when I did finally watch it, I was amazed that one film could be simultaneously so uplifting and so obscenely, comically cynical. This combination comes in useful when I want to express my frustrations with things in my life that I should be, and am, thankful for, but which are currently bugging the crap out of me. It's become a Christmas tradition to quote, at least once, the line: "You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?"

Oh, and the librarian bit that booknerd mentioned is another favorite in our household. Moral dissolution and dead brothers are one thing, but Mary becoming a librarian is what sends him screaming back to existence.

George: Where is she?
Clarence: She's just about to close up the library!

**dramatic music**
posted by bibliowench at 9:55 AM on December 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


This must be going around this year. My Facebook status over the weekend pined for Pottersville rather than Bedford Falls. A friend helpfully uploaded a list of the Pottersville establishments we see in the movie:

-The Indian Club
-The Blue Moon Bar
-The Bamboo Room
-The Midnight Club ("20 Beautiful Hostesses -- Romantic Atmosphere")
-Dreamland
-Cut Rate Liquor Store
-Pottersville Theater ("Georgia's Sensational Striptease Dance")
-Imperial Loan Co. ("Pawn Broker -- Loans")

Meetup at The Bamboo Room, anyone?
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:56 AM on December 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Pottersville has jazz, loose women, and booze"... which is why it seems more awesome.

Bedford Falls has swing, booze and ("Why, I just wear this whenever I don't care what I wear!") loose women. The difference is, everyone is much friendlier about the whole thing.

It's not that Pottersville is evil or all that different from Bedford Falls, it's that everyone is Pottersville is an asshole.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 10:01 AM on December 19, 2008 [13 favorites]


Whee! Adulthood is fun! Oh, wait, NOT.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:03 AM on December 19, 2008


George tried his best to leave Bedford Falls and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.
posted by brandman at 10:07 AM on December 19, 2008


For another take on the movie: an amusing series of Sheldon strips starting here.
posted by dellsolace at 10:09 AM on December 19, 2008


Paging Astro Zombie to the Thread with the Exegesis. Paging Astro Zombie to the Thread with the Exegesis
posted by The Whelk at 10:10 AM on December 19, 2008


Meetup at The Bamboo Room, anyone?

I dunno, the Midnight Club ("20 Beautiful Hostesses -- Romantic Atmosphere")sounds a little more... hospitable.
posted by dersins at 10:10 AM on December 19, 2008


And yet another: It's a Wonderful Life, the 2003 remake.
posted by Iridic at 10:12 AM on December 19, 2008


It's not that Pottersville is evil or all that different from Bedford Falls, it's that everyone is Pottersville is an asshole.

Spot on. Who on earth would want a drink from Alternate Nick?
posted by Iridic at 10:14 AM on December 19, 2008


Yes, yes, ten thousand times yes! I first saw It's A Wonderful Life in a film class in 1993, and thought it was one of the most depressing movies I'd ever seen. Granted, I was monstrously depressed at the time, but this essay is a perfect summary of why I found it so dispiriting. I would add only that in order to reach the "happy" ending, George has to be terrified into it (by the visions of the alternate reality). When I talked with people about the film afterwards, they were without exception *astounded* that anyone could read the film that way; it was A Heart Warming Feel Good Classic, and anyone who thought otherwise was probably mentally ill.

As penduluum pointed out, Capra's films (the half-dozen I've seen, anyway) almost always have a darker side that often goes unacknowledged.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:14 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bedford Falls has swing, booze and ("Why, I just wear this whenever I don't care what I wear!") loose women.

Moar Violet Bix pl0x!!11
posted by MikeMc at 10:18 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Many bartenders, after being subjected to this insufferably patronizing sermon -- "Off with you, my lad, and be lively"? "That's a good man"? -- on top of being ordered to make an insultingly impractical drink, would simply reach behind the bar and bring down a baseball bat upon the head of the offending customer. To his credit, Nick does not. Instead, he delivers a speech that, while perhaps not as gracious as it could have been, is a model of frankness and concision. "We serve hard drinks for men who want to get drunk fast," he tells Clarence, "and we don't need any 'characters' hanging around to give the joint 'atmosphere.'"

Any bartender can attest that the prominent posting of these words in every bar in America would immeasurably improve the drinking experience of millions.

posted by EarBucket at 10:21 AM on December 19, 2008


Pottersville might look like a great time when you're 15 or 25. Mid-40s with three kids, not so much. And that's why God created Vegas.
posted by stargell at 10:32 AM on December 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I thought that someone would have linked this related reimagining already (parallel worlds short story). It only got posted about a week ago.
posted by leibniz at 10:36 AM on December 19, 2008


“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife

This reminds me of how, in one of the Adams Family movies, Morticia Adams takes a job as a nursery school teacher, and the camera finds her at work just as she's finishing up her retelling of Hansel and Gretal: "... and wasn't that a terrible, cruel thing to do to the poor, poor witch?" All Morticia's little students cry bitterly.

I love deconstruction and retellings of fairy tales.

It's become a Christmas tradition to quote, at least once, the line: "You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?"

When my mother, who raised eight children, heard that line, she snickered.
posted by orange swan at 11:14 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Could the writer be trying a little harder? Oh yeah look at you taking that hard-edged look at this soppy classic. I bet you have leather pants too.

Geez. The point isn't that one or the other option is perfect but that even when you feel like ass and flip out on people, there is some value to your life; maybe you just can't see it right now. Yeah, sometimes George is a d-bag, but who isn't? Not every dream came true: who hasn't had dreams come true that ended up not being what you thought?

You know, I like sideways readings that have something valuable to say, but this is just shallow.
posted by dame at 11:22 AM on December 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think The Family Man, with Nicolas Cage, tried to address some of these issues. To show us what Pottersville George's life would have been like if he had gotten everything he ever wanted, and then, instead of erasing him from existence, to place him in another life, the Bedford Falls life. Not as convincing as It's a Wonderful Life.

All right you pixies! Through the door, or out the window?
posted by steef at 11:46 AM on December 19, 2008


What happens in Pottersville stays in Pottersville.
posted by grubi at 11:49 AM on December 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife

"Welcome to the working week, oh, I know it don't thrill you. I hope it don't kill you." Or, you know, I hope you find yourself always on the sunny side.

Yeah, this is fairly weak. The problem is that George doesn't turn back to an uptight human being as far as we can see... we don't know what happens to him. Billy probably still gets loaded by 9 AM and Potter will probably try to buy out the savings and loan next week with another scheme. Does he go to jail? I thought it was hinted at in the movie that he probably will (if I remember correctly, but I may just be reading into it), but knowing that Bert and Ernie are at his house at the end, I doubt they'll do anything. Capra's democratic-socialist (with some religion thrown in for good measure since it is the season and it is American) utopia has room for everyone but people who want to buy up the town and destroy the community. Even sick children can pull their own weight!

Also, those who find Capra films treacly are the same people riding the bus to obvious town who say that Black Sabbath is a big, dumb, loud rock band or that Robert Frost isn't "poetic" enough. It's all part of the package/charm and you need to drive everything home with a sledgehammer get through to people sometimes.

Harvey is a much better movie with Jimmy as a broken drunk and a spirit that follows him. Also, thanks for posting this, dersins.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:52 AM on December 19, 2008


Harvey is a much better movie with Jimmy as a broken drunk and a spirit that follows him.

Elwood P. Dowd is a drunk, but he isn't remotely broken. He's the only truly sane person in the story. That's the whole point.
posted by EarBucket at 12:03 PM on December 19, 2008


I love this movie and always regret that it's been pigeon-holed as a feel good Christmas film. It's not, it's a bittersweet and mythologized portrayal of the good and bad of small town America. Of course George's triumph in the end with his friends and family coming to his rescue: that's very sweet. But it's not schmalz at all, and it's made all the more troubling because it's in opposition to all the terrible things in George's life. The movie was made in 1946; the War was just over, the Depression was well remembered. The bad stuff isn't an accident, it's part of the life of the audience and it's on the screen.

Also, the review linked here today points out my favourite part of the film:
Then, like any parent who loses his temper with his children, he seems genuinely embarrassed. He’s ashamed. He apologizes. And then ... slowly ... he starts getting angry all over again. To me Stewart’s rage, building throughout the film, is perfectly calibrated — and believable — here.
The scene where George loses his shit with Zuzu is absolutely frightening. So angry, so unfair, and so terribly believable. Jimmy Stewart acted the hell out of that role.
posted by Nelson at 12:11 PM on December 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


This flick has profoundly disturbed me since the first time I happened across it many years ago on PBS, partway through, in the totally terrifying scene at Mary's house where George surrenders to her inexorable Sweet Polly Purebred wiles.

(By the way, this wasn't at Christmastime; this movie was never considered any sort of "Christmas classic" in my region until about 20 years ago, thanks to some creepy marketing scheme I still don't fully understand, but I think it involved Ted Turner.)

Anyhow, that scene is one of the most sexual (in an awful, predatory way), upsetting things I've ever seen on screen. I sat there slack-jawed as poor George went through that whole miserable, painful, ineffectual struggle to withstand the awful snares of matrimony; it's like his hormones are kicking every dream, every bit of his better judgment to and better self death right in front of us as Donna Reed simpers in semi-virginal triumph. "WHAT the FUCK was THAT?" I gasped. It was more frightening than the time in my early teens when I saw Lady in a Cage on the WGN late movie without any advance warning.

Fortunately, I like dark, bleak movies especially on holidays, but my god, this one is like a vicarious crucifixion.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I love this movie and always regret that it's been pigeon-holed as a feel good Christmas film.

Seconded. IAWL is a fairly dark film that touches some depressing themes I think many people, myself included, can relate to. This is the film that really made me appreciate Jimmy Stewart. My wife OTOH refuse to watch it claiming it's "whiny and depressing". Different strokes I guess. When it started showing up television constantly my roommate and I watched it eight times in one week. In retrspect I'm not sure if that was because of boredom or my roommate's Donna Reed fixation.
posted by MikeMc at 12:23 PM on December 19, 2008


Pottersville sucks. Yeah, the signs look great. That's they're point. The bars are supposed to look fun. And then you go in and they are full of broke men with broken spirits standing around consuming as much cheap booze as fast as they can to drown out their awful lives, while their bartender abuses them, just waiting for Mr. Gower to stagger robotically on, so they can all mock him, even though they are all on their way to being Mr. Gower.

Compare that to the jitterbig dance in the school auditorium where the floor opens to reveal a pool and everybody falls in. That's Bedford Falls. That's a party. That shit is fucking legendary, man.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:36 PM on December 19, 2008 [23 favorites]


Well at least the damned atheists got their what was coming to them: Here is what Capra said about his film:

e as a welcome surprise to Frank Capra and others involved with it. "It's the damnedest thing I've ever seen," Capra told the Wall Street Journal in 1984. "The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I'm like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I'm proud … but it's the kid who did the work. I didn't even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea."[27] In a 1946 interview, Capra described the film's theme as "the individual's belief in himself," and that he made it to "combat a modern trend toward atheism."

We can still enjoy this spiritual reawakening for George while the godless post their
post-god jaundiced views on Metafilter.
posted by Postroad at 12:39 PM on December 19, 2008


Elwood P. Dowd is a drunk, but he isn't remotely broken.

He certainly is, just like anyone else with a heart who looks at life closely and for long enough. Veta says that he's never been right since "that awful war" so I'd say it's more a case of seeing the terrible abyss, then deciding that the only answer to it is to just be as kind to everyone else as you can. I believe this quite strongly because I am fairly convinced that's what happened to my own grandfather, apparently something of a fierce wild thing in his youth, who returned from that awful war in France and Germany the gentlest and most loving soul I ever knew. He probably had a pooka too but I never met him, unfortunately.

Everyone young should get to be wild with as little consequence as possible and it's sad when that doesn't happen but most of us survive. What's sadder still is when the years keep passing but you refuse to believe it, refuse to leave the Midnight Club and its beautiful hostesses even as your family and town and world fall to pieces around you. I know people like that -- doesn't everybody? Growing up means learning to give a damn about someone besides yourself and that is never easy. The alternative is worse. Pottersville is no place to grow up, or grow old.
posted by melissa may at 12:39 PM on December 19, 2008 [13 favorites]


I watched this movie ten zillion times when I was a kid, much to my mother's horror. (Not because it was a bad movie once, but when your nine year old won't stop watching it... I guess it's like ending up in Pottersville.) Now, looking back on it, it seems like a kind of creepy choice.

"Oh yeah! I want to go contemplate suicide and see what would happen if I never existed because my life is stupid! But everyone else's life would have been WAY STUPIDER had I never been born."

The bit with the pharmacist slays me though. Always makes me tear up. I admit it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:40 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Salon had this artcile a while back.
posted by milkrate at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2008


Besides which, if I can't find a bar that can serve mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves, what is the fucking point of life at all?

Pottersville: Screw you and your delicious drinks.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pottersville=Potter's Field?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potter%27s_Field
posted by Postroad at 12:57 PM on December 19, 2008


For another take on the movie: an amusing series of Sheldon strips starting here.

The gym floor that opens up to reveal a swimming pool was real and was located at Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles. (via IMDB)
posted by Bonzai at 12:59 PM on December 19, 2008


Yeah. Comedy is funnier when you do one second worth of research before writing and drawing an entire cartoon around a mistaken premise.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:05 PM on December 19, 2008


You know you have gotten a little too caught up in a movie when people actually call you out in a thread about the film, and you would have shown up to comment even if they haven't, because YOU AIN'T GONNA TAKE NOBODY TALKIN SHIT ABOUT IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:15 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Oh yeah! I want to go contemplate suicide and see what would happen if I never existed because my life is stupid! But everyone else's life would have been WAY STUPIDER had I never been born."


In my version George catches a dose of clap from Violet Bix, gives it to Mary (knocking her up in the process) and runs off to college. After to college he moves off to L.A. to perform feats of civil engineering during the day and lives a secret life of sexual depravity straight out of a James Ellroy novel by night. At the end he brutally murders Bob Crane and then takes his own life by jumping off of a bridge he helped build.
posted by MikeMc at 1:20 PM on December 19, 2008


From what I hear, what you just described is not actually that far from Jimmy Stewart's biography.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:25 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Elwood P. Dowd is a drunk, but he isn't remotely broken. He's the only truly sane person in the story. That's the whole point.

Actually, I'm pretty sure the whole point of that movie is that no one is "sane," to put it simplistically. Elwood is probably the kindest and most humane person in the movie (pleasant instead of smart is what he recommends), but he's far from sane. And I'm not talking about a Romanticized world in which crazy = closer to god.

Here's an interesting take on Harvey (and Arthur) from the book Hollywood Shot by Shot....

I can see what you're saying, but I think that you can't view the film with a sentimental eye. Elwood is a wonderful person, but he also spends every afternoon in a bar with a 6 foot rabbit--not that there's much wrong with that. I've done it myself (minus the rabbit mostly). However, Falstaff and his like are great until they become surly and tells everyone at the Christmas dinner he's going to drive off a bridge with his kids in the car as soon as he finishes his turkey or tries to beat up grandma.

Anyway, I can dig it. Back to Pazuzu's petals.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:27 PM on December 19, 2008


Well, I guess this is as good a place as any to post this.

It frightens me a little that it makes perfect sense to me.
posted by Biblio at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2008


I could almost suspect my brother of having ghostwritten that piece. We had this discussion every year while watching this movie (which is my favorite movie). As far as Pottersville, it only looks attractive as you survey happening Main Street. Its real-life analogues were a lot less attractive when you were six months pregnant and being evicted from your two-room Pottersfield house after your husband lost his arm in the mill. The economic realities that a swingin' Pottersville Main Street depicts are, as we've seen recently, shallow and limited in the pleasure they afford to the fortunate few.

Anyone who thinks of "It's a Wonderful Life" as a one-level, heartwarming Christmas feelgood movie has the wrong expectations - or just isn't thinking about it. The author's observations are obvious in the film; they're the setup. George is a young man with dreams, but his sense of responsibility - overdeveloped, probably - and the needs of others make him sacrifice his dreams. There's no smarmy sense that obviously one needs to sacrifice one's dreams for the well-being of others; portraying that shallowly is what Hallmark Christmas Specials do. Instead, the sacrifice is slow, anguished, an excruciating death by a thousand cuts. Capra meant the viewers to notice, and be pained, every time George receives another disappointment (for me, it's when that smug little peacock Harry comes back, with a cute new wife, saying "I know we always said I'd take over the building and loan when I came back, but my new father-in-law has a great job for me in research..."Screw you for not keeping your word to your brother, 'hero' Harry). Capra wasn't hiding this from the viewer.

After the suicide episode, the reason George chooses to live is not that his problems are suddenly solved - they're not - but that he realizes that his expectations for himself and his life are utterly immaterial. Contemplating the alternative of no existence reveals the value of even an imperfect life. As they say, life is what happens while you're making other plans -- and we know that George's other plans never panned out. He's used to being pretty salty and bitter about that - but when he realizes that he came close to losing it all, that the world would exist without him anyway but that his influence improved the lives of others - and gave him a pretty good life to boot! - despite his lame attitude, he matures in a heartbeat.

And there is an authenticity to that depiction of maturity, for me. Most of our lives depart significantly from the youthful fantasies of our teenage and early adulthood years. Most of us have to eventually confront that if you make the mistake of loving and caring for other people, you will not be able to continue to see yourself and your problems as the most interesting and vital thing in the world, nor will you be able to consider only yourself as you plan your future. This movie depicts the choice between living with strong human connections and living with indifferent self-centeredness. Love brings gifts but comes at a price.

The heartwarming part is that George is able to make a conscious decision to accept the price. Can you say the same? When George decides not to die, he realizes the life he's been despairing at - with the loud annoying kids, the dilapidated house, the "broken-down old building and loan," the deferred dreams - is actually a pretty good, in fact damned lucky life. People love him; he has resources he never bothered to assess; his life has meaning. If you have never felt that way, suddenly profoundly appreciative of the basic goodnesses in your own life, I'd wager you've never yet nearly lost your life. Because that is exactly how a person feels when you realize that your day-to-day stresses and strains and disappointments and bothersome entanglements are not in the way of you living your life; they are your life. The fact that you never got to become and engineer and see the oilfields of Venezuelas, or whatever it is for you, tends to fall dramatically in relative importance.

The movie is dark and depressing for a reason. This is a challenging message, one a lot of people really don't want to hear, and yet it turns out to be pretty true in most lives.
posted by Miko at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2008 [82 favorites]


I like how nowadays we have a popular cult film which is a reverse It's A Wonderful Life with mindfucks - the main character is shown an alternate reality which convinces him he must kill himself. Not naming it to avoid spoiling...
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2008


The primary reason the film became a holiday favorite in the 1980s was that: a) It doesn't totally suck, is actually watchable compared to most holiday drivel, and b) For a while there it was mistaken believed to be in the public domain, so stations didn't pay anything to anybody while showing it. Give me the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas any day over that. Interestingly, it stopped being shown much after the copyright issue was settled and the S&L crisis was largely forgotten, with the lessons from it apparently not even remotely taken to heart by our financial and governmental authorities.
posted by raysmj at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2008


Miko, you made me cry. Seriously, that was really beautiful. Thank you.
posted by emjaybee at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2008


I saw It's a Wonderful Life when I was just a kid at an army base theater. They often played old movies at the base theaters because new releases were often too expensive or hard to get over seas... they just kept the same prints in circulation for ever. It was a mattinee. Which meant mostly kids.

Thing is the film never gave me, or nay member of my family, the impression of schmaltz. In my family it was always a rather sad film. Like Old Yeller. We always viewed IAWL as an inoculation of sorts. In that way it's a great film.

It's funny how sad films were considered family (or kids) films back in the day.
posted by tkchrist at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2008


I haven't seen this movie in 20 years, and I only remember one line from it:

"Happy New Year to you - in jail!"

Cracked me up every time. That old salty dog Barrymore still had the stuff!
posted by droplet at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pottersville is no place to grow up, or grow old.

True, but it's a terrific place to visit!
posted by languagehat at 2:16 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pottersville: The Council Bluffs of Bedford Falls.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pottersville: The Council Bluffs of Bedford Falls.

So what's the Carter Lake?
posted by dersins at 2:40 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I can really argue the same for George Bailey's influence on me, but reading Miko's comment has (once again) made me feel like a better person.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:11 PM on December 19, 2008


Thank you, Miko.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:14 PM on December 19, 2008


"Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence."

I've always thought of It's a Wonderful Life as "Yeah, life can get you down sometimes, and, yeah, you didn't get to travel the world, but if you stop and look around for a bit, you'll find the life you ended up with isn't so bad."

Also, from the article:
“In terms of the theft, sure, you take the money and put it back, you still committed the larceny,”

Who's gonna turn him in? The bank examiner that kicked in some of his own money? Who's going to be on the Jury? Ernie the Taxi Driver? All the families living in Bailey Park?
George is untouchable, he's the Marlin Brando of Bedford Falls!
posted by madajb at 3:41 PM on December 19, 2008


It's A Wonderful Life became popular in the '80s because Americans were coming to terms with the knowledge that we are now living in Pottersville: American society, American culture have been completely commercialized and sexualized.

So yeah, there's nostalgia for the path we did not take, the path that led to Bedford Falls.

Because in the real world, Mr. Potter has triumphed.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 4:50 PM on December 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Elwood P. Dowd is a drunk, but he isn't remotely broken.

He certainly is, just like anyone else with a heart who looks at life closely and for long enough.


That. And:

Contemplating the alternative of no existence reveals the value of even an imperfect life.

this. And also:

If you have never felt that way, suddenly profoundly appreciative of the basic goodnesses in your own life, I'd wager you've never yet nearly lost your life. Because that is exactly how a person feels when you realize that your day-to-day stresses and strains and disappointments and bothersome entanglements are not in the way of you living your life; they are your life.

exactly this.
posted by penduluum at 6:04 PM on December 19, 2008


Miko I must say that in my 6+ years of darkening MeFi's doorway that has to be one the best comments I've read. Too bad I can't "favorite" it more than once.
posted by MikeMc at 7:31 PM on December 19, 2008


Because in the real world, Mr. Potter has triumphed.

I like to joke that we're expected to spend the other 11 months a year believing that Mr. Potter is the hero.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:20 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Three things that bother me about It's a Wonderful Life. All trivial.

1) Clarence introduces himself as an AS2, Angel Second Class. How do you get Angel Second Class from AS2? Doesn't the 'S' stand for second? If so, what does the '2' stand for?

2) When George goes back to his crashed car in the Pottersville alternate reality, he looks at the tree and see it hasn't been damaged. The owner of the tree asked him what he's doing and seems on concerned when George tells him he hit the tree until he checks it out and realizes that there is no damage. He then says, "You must mean two other trees." It's just one tree.

3) This is the big one. George doesn't get to go to college because he gives all the money he saved to his ungrateful brother when he has to stay behind to run the S&L after his father passes. He saves another chunk of money that he is going to use for his around the world tour but instead he gets married and is going to use the money for his honeymoon. However the day of his wedding there is a panic and he uses his own cash to tide over his customers until the bank re-opens.

This money is clearly meant as loans. He explicitly says so. So why does he never get his lousy honeymoon? Did the people of Bedford Falls never pay him back? What kind of welshers are these people? Did they ALL stiff him?

And for that matter why didn't Harry pay George back? Did the ungrateful little shit leave him holding the bag and stiff him to boot?
posted by Bonzai at 10:23 PM on December 19, 2008


I think the "two other trees" thing is a drunken-double-vision reference.
posted by penduluum at 10:58 PM on December 19, 2008


1) It might stand for "Angelic Sphere Two," the second Choir of the Divine Hierarchy. Going by the control over space and time he displays, Clarence is perhaps a journeyman Virtue, one of the angels charged with the regulation of the spheres and the maintenance of cosmic harmony. Not too shabby a job, actually, but there's plenty of room for promotion.

2) I agree with Pendulum. The script makes the context a bit clearer :
The owner bends down to examine the trunk of the tree, then straightens up and smells George's breath.
He backs away.

OWNER: You must mean two other trees.
3) Knowing George, he probably felt obligated to plow the proceeds from the loans back into the S&L during another dry spell. Or perhaps he did get the money back free and clear, but by that time the babies were on the way, the house needed new windows, he had to put a down payment on a new newel post...

And as for Harry, you said it yourself: he's an ungrateful little shit, the prodigal to George's dutiful son. But he even comes back at the end to give his brother his due, so maybe he's learned a thing or two. There's hope for everyone.
posted by Iridic at 11:27 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well I'm still reserving judgment on 1 and 3 (especially 3, it was like 3 grand. Back in those days you could have rebuilt the house for that much.) but I'm glad you two cleared up that "two other trees" thing.

That cheeses me off every year. When Potter offers George that job I always think he should take it. Who cares if the S&L goes down, those jerks owe him money. He could've gotten in on the plastics factory and made a fortune.

And who keeps a pet crow anyway? Those things are carrion eaters.

And how come in the alternate universe Mary doesn't marry Sam Wainright?
posted by Bonzai at 12:05 AM on December 20, 2008


AS2 bothered me, too, but none of the other WWII MOSs make any sense either, so I've let that go. One thing that always gets on my nerves is when the CO angels show all the wonderful things George did as a kid, and then talk gleefully about how it was good Harry was saved from drowning because later he shot down fifteen planes and saved every man on a transport ship. I understand the exigencies of war, but the tone is off. Apparently heaven, too, is squarely and cheerfully on the side of the Allies, so those pilots were inconsequential Bad Guys.

And who keeps a pet crow anyway
?

Frank Capra did! That was Jimmy the Raven, his own pet, who had a cameo in You Can't Take it With You and (so they say, I haven't verified) every Capra movie thereafter.

Incidentally, if you liked IAWL, you'll like some of Capra's other greats - the one above and also Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
posted by Miko at 5:30 AM on December 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


And how come in the alternate universe Mary doesn't marry Sam Wainright?

Because he's a bounder and a cad, I think. In the scene where George visits Mary at her house and has the little breakdown, they talk to Sam on the phone, and we see that while being sweet and flirty with Mary, he's sitting in his swanky New York office being caressed by a bevy of glamorous goldiggers. It's another little window into a path not taken - he wouldv'e either jilted Mary, or married her and been unfaithful, or even divorced her -- forcing her into [whisper] librarianship.
posted by Miko at 5:33 AM on December 20, 2008


The lost ending found!
posted by NoraCharles at 7:21 AM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I actually was never a big fan of the film -- but I've become an ENORMOUS fan of the "Christmas event" a theater company here in New York does every year. They do a sort of karaoke performance of it, where anyone can be in it -- you show up, and if you want to be in it you draw names out of a hat to see who you play, you get a script, and everyone sits on the audience and follows along in the script and when it's your scene you get up and act your part out reading along in the script, and then when you're done you go back and sit down.

If you love the film, it's a great way to indulge in your Jimmy Stewart imitations, and if you hate it it's a fun -- but gentle -- way to parody it (for the past TWO YEARS we've somehow ended up with a man playing Mary during the scene when George and Mary finally kiss, which has lead to much hilarity).

I can't watch the actual film, but this is different. (Somehow I've been Ernie twice.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 AM on December 20, 2008


It's A Wonderful Life makes it obvious that the people of Bedford Falls are better off with George Bailey having lived. However, it does not conclusively prove that he shouldn't kill himself. Maybe his family would be better off with a fat insurance settlement.

(sorry for ruining your day)
posted by Afroblanco at 1:15 PM on December 20, 2008


My 11 year-old daughter and I have had a little shared joke for a few years, which started one day when she'd been practicing piano for hours and it was on my last nerve and I yelled at her to give it a rest already. It continues to this day whenever I'm grouchy and snap at her. She looks at me and says, in a perfect, sad and pinch-faced imitation of George Bailey's daughter at the piano, "Oh...Daddy!" It's awesome.
posted by chococat at 10:24 AM on December 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just an fyi for anyone still following this thread, Ken Jennings just put up a Wonderful Life-related blog post.
posted by inigo2 at 7:47 AM on December 23, 2008


Damn, Miko. As usual. Amazing.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:58 AM on December 27, 2008


I saved this thread until after I got around to my Annual-ish veiwing of It's A Wonderful Life (Though, TBH, it's been a few years since I actually watched it). It did not disapoint.

Back to Pazuzu's petals.

Wife: Zuzu is a lovely name for a girl.
Me (thinks): Possible Exorcist reference!
posted by Artw at 10:02 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


« Older Could you please explain why it is   |   Grreat stufffff. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post