Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week It’s a Wonderful Life. You’re welcome.
Possibly the least known Christmas film ever made, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life stars minor character actor James Stewart in a dark tale of financial fraud, sexual repression, oedipal drama, psychosis and schizophrenia. From the viewpoint of a chuckling angel (Henry Travers) we see unfold the life of George Bailey (Stewart), a small town guy who dreams of nothing but escape from the stultifying boredom of Bedford Falls. From boyhood, he dreams of getting out, but he is subjected to physical abuse by the local chemist and psychological warfare from his seemingly gentle but violently racist father. When he is almost killed by local pranksters, he foolishly falls for the manipulative wiles of wannabe librarian Mary (Donna Reed) and her demands for the Moon. To spite his son, the sadistic racist father dies on purpose, leaving George trapped in the town as the only one capable of looking after the family’s piffling Building and Loan company. Kind old geezer Mr. Potter tries to free George via the beauties of capitalism but George prefers to build houses for immigrants to assuage his white guilt. When a number of things go wrong one Christmas Eve, George decides to kill himself and that’s when Clarence the angel arrives to show George what a stupid asshole he’s been. How life would be so much better without him, and how Bedford Falls would have been the sexier and more exciting Potter’s Ville. The whole point being if he hadn’t existed, the World would have come to Bedford Falls. It was George all along who was keeping Bedford Falls in its somnambulant state of paralysis and repression. Even Mary would have got her lifelong wish to be a librarian. Idiot that he is though, George Bailey chooses not to kill himself and the hell that is his life continues.
Happy Christmas everyone!
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