HIDDEN GEMS: 15. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

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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5 FACTS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

HOLLYWOOD – Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the most popular Christmas films ever made, telling the story of how much difference one man’s life – George Bailey (James Stewart) – can make to a small town, Bedford Falls.

But very few people know the truth about It’s a Wonderful Life. Today, Studio Exec can exclusively reveal the 5 facts that nobody knows about one of the most popular Xmas films ever made.

1 . In the original cut of the film, Bedford Falls looked like it does after George Bailey (James Stewart) wishes he’d never been born – with noisy juke joints and neon lights – and then changed to the more sedate boring Bedford Falls after Clarence makes like he’d never existed, but the director – Frank Capra – said that ‘it made no sense’ whatsoever and insisted that it be swapped. 

 2. Donna Reed hated James Stewart so much she would bring a thin bladed flick knife on set and during their scenes together would stab him repeatedly about the upper thigh and torso out of shot. Stewart was such a gentleman about it, he made as if nothing was happening and limped away bleeding.

3. In the scene in which the pharmacist Mr. Gower hits Young George – played by Robert J. Anderson – on the ear, the elder actor hit the boy too hard and a few minutes after the scene Anderson collapsed and was taken to hospital where he died. Fortunately, it was his last scene and the heart-warming classic continued shooting. 

 4. Frank Capra is Italian for Frank Goat.

 5. ‘Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings’ became a code phrase in the times of the Vietnam war which was used to order US aircraft to launch napalm attacks on innocent Vietnamese children. 

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