So, I’m at the end of my run down from Halloween to Christmas. It all started back on 31st October when the uniquely themed The Nightmare Before Christmas started my Countdown to Christmas. It has taken in some classics and some dross, but we’ve got through it together!
And today it’s…
25th December, Day 56
It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
George Bailey is an ambitious young man living in a small town, Bedford Falls. He wants to travel the world and be an architect, but instead he takes over his father’s job at their Build & Loans company, and marries his sweetheart. Children follow, and life, although a struggle, is pleasant for him. He is a generous lender, meaning many in Bedford Falls can build homes they would never have been able to afford otherwise. This leads to local business man trying to buy the Loans company during a financial crisis, but George holds true to his values, and the company comes back from the brink.
However, when his uncle Billy loses the deposit he was meant to make to the bank, Bailey Bros face ruin. With a lifetime of thwarted ambition behind him, George Bailey has had enough, and decides to end it all by jumping from the bridge. He mutters a prayer just before he does though, and his guardian angel Clarence shows him how the world would be if he had never been born – will George Bailey change his mind and go back to Bedford Falls?
And of course, I had to finish off with the classic Christmas film. Frank Capra was a three time Oscar winning director at this point, but It’s A Wonderful Life didn’t break even in the cinemas on it’s initial release, with some critics calling it overly sentimental and whimsical. But how does it stand up 70 years later? And especially after 55 Christmas films in 55 days?
Well… obviously it’s great. It is so great. George Bailey is a man who wants to leave his small town, and is almost literally out of the door before he is made to run the loan company. He’s literally got the train schedule to leave when his brother arrives and introduces his new wife. He is driving out of town on his honeymoon when the Wall Street Crash draws him back to the Building and Loans Company. He sacrifices his own dreams in the service of his hometown, and seeing him brought so low is horrible. A lifetime of missed opportunities and thwarted ambition – was James Stewart ever better?
There is a frequently raised issue that the George-less Potterville is actually a freer, happier place, and that George is simply following his father into an early grave. However, that’s sort of the point: George Bailey basically makes Bedford Falls. He is the reason that it survives. Is it a better place for George Bailey than Potterville would have been? No, but his sacrifice makes the whole town happier. Ebenezer Scrooge wasn’t happier because he was more succesful or richer after the Cratchetts have shared Christmas dinner with him – he was happy because he made other people happier. George Bailey exists to make Bedford Falls exist.
Sure, the Bailey Bros. Building and Loans of this world have all gone. In fact, most the Potters have been eaten up by faceless corporations. But George Bailey gave everything to allow his town to thrive just a little longer.
Oh, and spoilers:
Overall, I give this
5 out of 5 Gold rings. Of course.
And that’s it. 56 Films in 56 Days. It’s been emotional. Thanks for sticking with me.
Merry Christmas everyone!!!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS Here’s my completed list.
31st October, Day 1: The Nightmare Before Christmas
1st November, Day 2: Rocky IV
2nd November, Day 3: Edward Scissorhands
3rd November, Day 4: Trading Places
4th November, Day 5: Batman Returns
5th November, Day 6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
6th November, Day 7: Gremlins
7th November, Day 8: Eyes Wide Shut
8th November, Day 9: Love Actually
9th November, Day 10: Lethal Weapon
10th November, Day 11: Die Hard / Die Hard 2
11th November, Day 12: About A Boy
12th November, Day 13: Trapped In Paradise
13th November, Day 14: Reindeer Games
14th November, Day 15: Joyeux Noel
15th November, Day 16: Nativity / Nativity 2 / Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?
16th November, Day 17: Jack Frost
17th November, Day 18: Jack Frost
18th November, Day 19: Arthur Christmas
19th November, Day 20: The Santa Clause / The Santa Clause 2 / The Santa Clause 3
20th November, Day 21: Miracle On 34th Street
21st November, Day 22: Miracle On 34th Street
22nd November, Day 23: Scrooged
23rd November, Day 24: Scrooge
24th November, Day 25: The Muppets Christmas Carol
25th November, Day 26: Elf
26th November, Day 27: Home Alone / Home Alone 2
27th November, Day 28: The Grinch
28th November, Day 29: Black Christmas
29th November, Day 30: Jingle All The Way
30th November, Day 31: Rare Exports
1st December, Day 32: Polar Express
2nd December, Day 33: A Christmas Story
3rd December, Day 34: Bad Santa
4th December, Day 35: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
5th December, Day 36: Santa Claus: The Movie
6th December, Day 37: Krampus
7th December, Day 38: Christmas With The Kranks
8th December, Day 39: White Christmas
9th December, Day 40: A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas
10th December, Day 41: Christmas With The Coopers
11th December, Day 42: Fred Claus
12th December, Day 43: Santa’s Little Helper
13th December, Day 44: Santa With Muscles
14th December, Day 45: Santa’s Slay
15th December, Day 46: Four Christmases
16th December, Day 47: A Christmas Horror Story
17th December, Day 48: The Family Man
18th December, Day 49: Silent Night, Deadly Night!
19th December, Day 50: Mixed Nuts
20th December, Day 51: We’re No Angels
21st December, Day 52: Holiday Inn
22nd December, Day 53: Babes In Toyland
23rd December, Day 54: Meet John Doe
24th December, Day 55: A Christmas Tale
25th December, Day 56: It’s A Wonderful Life