It's a Wonderful Life Collector's Set is a Real Holiday Pleaser
If you're a member of one of these new fangled Wordy Generations, such as the Gen X, the Millennial, or even the Baby Boomer Generation, chances are you didn't see the original film in an old movie house, like I did.
Back in our family's youthful days we braved the icy winds and snows in Fairbanks, Alaska, where winter temperatures often plunged to 60 degrees below zero. Our phone was one of those black Bakelite jobbies that preceeded dial telephones, and it stood on a desk in the living room.
Movies, if we knew the term at all as elementary schoolkids,
lived in Southern California. Oh, we knew that region, because after my drowning and revival at a hard rock mine in the interior of Alaska, back in the late 40s, my parents whisked us kids off to the Golden State's far south region, to the warm embrace of an uncle and aunt we kids had never met.
That's not all we hadn't met before, and
we didn't want to embrace everything that popped up in the desert night. My aunt and uncle had children our same ages and for a time we even lived in the same house, until we found the place of our own where the tarantula spooked my mom one night and her shrieks tore us kids from our beds.
So we dealt with mega spiders and snakes
and such. We learned to love earthquakes for the amusement park type rides they delivered when they struck while we lay awake in our folding-army-cots, that my uncle quickly purchased to house the Alaskan mine refugees for a time.
This was where I enjoyed the wonders of turning a plastic bagged malleable white blob into a new butter substitute - margarine. We girls spent many an hour sitting out on the curb of the subdivision squeezing white into yellow. It was pure kid homemaker joy.
Into this dazzling life came a movie
that turned our world black and white. These were the 40s and no one we knew had a television set. For entertainment we sat around the dinner table chatting and telling stories, as a family. During daytime the men went to their jobs and the women fed and played with the kids in a super safe neighborhood that held no open water wells, like we had fled from the mine.
Our lives sure felt dreamlike, with all the adventure
a child can hope for. Then we went to the movie - the whole bunch of us. I was a little scared by the grand family adventure into the movie theater and then the onslaught of Henry's wishing to drown in water, something I had just escaped from. Oh, I couldn't put that together in words, being too young.
But I heard my mom's comments and I caught her feelings. She was still traumatized about my near death; that was why we were in California - to get away from it all.
In the 60s Mom and I caught the film together again
on television and we both had an entirely different take on it. Why, oh why would anyone want to take their own lives, we pondered. We were both newlyweds, enthralled with the goodness of life.
The film challenged us to step over our shared niavete, to disect Henry's life, to examine the ways our existence affects the lives of others. Mom, true to her independent spirit, didn't take it much further than possibility, reserving the act of taking one's own life as a right she was unwilling to relinquish.
Me, literally enfolded in my religious faith, I knew suicide was wrong, and it was a leap for me to set aside that conviction long enough to examine familial interactions in my own family of origin, without blame. Entrance into Henry's life enhanced my understanding of some of the old ancestral tales, with much sadness and appreciation.
background image It's a Wonderful Life from WikiCommons
Imagine that this film came out today! Would we be calling it a Communist Conspiracy? That's what happened after it's release.
- The year the movie came out the U.S. FBI indicted it in a memo, saying that the formation of the banker's persona in It's a Wonderful Life was a purposeful move to smear the whole profession of money handlers. They maintained that he was the most detestable person in the film. The memo maintained that promoting this negative impression of bankers was often a Communist subterfuge perpetrated on the gullible.
- One contributor to the memo maintained that bakers were benevolent in their attitudes towards their deposit holders, so they should be depicted as worthy characters. The miscreant, the document said, was Henry.
Will Chen writes on WiseBread that It's a Wonderful Life
was produced at a time when even small towers were being courted by the big banker guys, to put their money where it was safer and better off. He draws the parallel between the 2013 continuing struggle of individually owned hardware shops to maintain standing, against the mass consumer offerings of the mega home improvement stores.
He obtained redacted copies of the actual FBI memos, and you can see them for yourself on the link to his site, above.
This movie captures the heart of everyone who wishes and dreams and loves the innocent, like the little girl.
Kris Kringle tugs at our heartstrings as he ages into a benevolent senility, and links up with the girl, Susan, played by a favorite of mine, Natalie Wood.
The two characters spin the kind of magic that can only be called love and generosity of spirit on the stodgy adults who are acting the part.
Coming from the Wintry scenes of Alaska, when I first heard this song in the 50s of my childhood it called up all the freedom and joy of play on a snow filled landscape.
Later on I learned to play the tune on the piano and the feelings have been forever linked since then.
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire infuse Irving Berlin's songs with all the resonance of a happy stuffed turkey, with gifts awaiting unwrapping.
A dozen songs, new for this film include White Christmas and Easter Parade.