It's A Wonderful Life - Interesting to watch when it's not Christmas-time.

Lanza Morio's picture
Submitted by Lanza Morio on Tue, 2006-06-20 23:07

I watched this movie for the third time last night. The conflicts and resolutions are worked out brilliantly by director Frank Capra. Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) is a total babe. Last Christmas I watched it and was a little conflicted about it all. This time I loved every minute of the film and after thinking about it for half an hour I began to feel that I'd been tricked.

There seems to be something wonderful about the movie but I'm conflicted as hell about it. On the one hand the theme is "Be satisfied and even happy with what you have," and that's a good thing. On the other hand that same theme, "Be satisfied with what you have," pisses me off because it suggests that one ought to resign himself to a lesser existence.

What do you think?

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Great post, Marnee. It

Lanza Morio's picture

Great post, Marnee. It really is a sneaky one. I've been thinking about it and I see it just as you say. Capra sets up a false alternative. Either you pursue your dream or you settle into the traditional family & friends model. A third alternative is not on offer. The third alternative is that George Bailey could very well have left Bedford Falls and been a world-famous architect and had a great family with Mary and great friends to boot.

It's just so easy to get wrapped up in the emotions of it. I don't want George to jump off the bridge or to see him torn apart on Christmas Eve. This is one I expect dear old Ayn would watch and identify the false alternative straight away.

In the movie's favor I have to say that it is important to appreciate your loved ones the way George does at the end of the film. And the direction of the film is brilliant even where the content is a problem.

The problem is that the film

Marnee's picture

The problem is that the film makes it seem like you cannot have true happiness and be a great capitalist at the same time. It makes it seem like true happiness only occurs when you forget about your ideas, sacrificing your "caplitalist" dreams to live a quainte life in a cute town -- a false dichotomy that enshrines self-sacrifice. Its a sneaky movie Ill tell ya!

If George Bailey was such a great guy then he could have and would have had them both -- love and happiness and great acheivments. But in the end he gave it all up to live a simple life -- FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS. And its pretty explicit about it.

It is a beautiful, touching film...

atlascott's picture

...and there is no reason O'ist cannot enjoy it.  George DID have conflicting values, and the movie DOES portray a certain kind of capitalist  (Potter) as negative.  But what was George, other than a scrupulous capitalist, making a living by developing business at the margins?  Yes, business success is great, but, contrary to the insistence of the dysfunctional Roark-wannabees out there, people DO matter.  Emotions DO matter. Love DOES matter, and seeing the world as Hell or as full of wonder is often just a matter of focus and perspective.  Hell, who WOULDN"T want to live and be known in Bedford Falls? Capra was a master, and this was his finest work, even if you might disagree with some of the themes  Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.k

I think that is a proper

Marnee's picture

I think that is a proper analysis of the movie. Ed Cline made a similar judgement, comparing George Baily to Bill Gates, recently:

Excerpt: It is no cultural coincidence that the American Film Institute recently voted, out of one hundred candidates, that the most inspiring is "It's a Wonderful Life," the Frank Capra "classic" about a man, George Bailey, who surrenders his ambition to the needs of his "community." Bill Gates is another George Bailey. Reality emulates art again.


Lanza Morio's picture

Well, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart's character) gives up his KASS desire to travel the world, build skyscapers 100 stories tall and just plain get outta Dodge City (Bedford Falls). He gives up on his own desires because the people in his hometown need him. He puts the values of others ahead of his own.

It's a terrific story but a real life George Bailey would be miserable because he hates his job so much. They can bypass that because it's a movie but day after day of going to a job he hates would grind him down to nothing.

This might be one of those false dichotomies and I just haven't discovered it yet. Putting lesser values ahead of greater ones is a mistake. And there is also something to the idea of being satisfied with the reality that is available to you.

Victor Pross's picture

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