It’s Still A Wonderful Life

I spoke of the “controversial” It’s A Wonderful Life essay a few days ago, but this was written on memory. I watched it again and became convinced that the essay is rather perverse, moreso than I initially thought.

In particular, the scene where George and Mary are on the phone with Sam Wainwright must be one of the greatest in history. They’re trying to listen to him, but they’re trying harder not to kiss. And failing. But Mary knows full well that her wishes are diametrically opposed to his. (It also reminds me of another great Capra scene: In Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, where Jimmy Stewart is trying to talk to the beautiful socialite, and the camera stays on his hands fumbling with hsi hat.)

Mary isn’t selfish, however. Even when she instinctively wants to keep going to the airport, she’s also there with the honeymoon money to save the bank. And it’s important to note that this scene ends with a great victory–not at all the relentlessly dreary life suggested by Jameson.

Besides misunderstanding this love scene (which is tantamount to misunderstanding the whole film), it’s a gross conceit to cast Pottersville as a “resort town”. Resort towns are potentially successful at times manufacturing towns are not, but I doubt many people would be tramping to upstate New York for the dime-a-dance, pool and bowling, and seedy nightclubs.

This is a stretch. It also reflects a sort of Potter-ization in the modern world, almost as if Jameson is justifying his selfishness by saying the world would be better with it.

As for George, I like to think that he’s learned some valuable lessons by the end of the movie. He is too selfless, not as regard to his dealings, but with regard to the fact that he needs to value his own work enough to make a living for himself and be able to send his own kids to college.

Also, no more letting Billy do the deposits.

And while we’re on the subject, I really don’t see a communist bent in Capra’s work. I see a strong distaste for greed, for sure, but his movies were all about a victory of the good-hearted people over the selfish. I realize that’s the narrative Communists use, but it was always people who saved the day, or a heroic person, and the government and its agents were often the enemy.

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