Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) at the Brattle

Lately, I've had this persecution complex that I just can't shake. I feel like everyone is out to get me. I've always had some form of a persecution complex, something I inherited from my mother, but it seems to be at it's peak right now. I feel very neglected, unappreciated, taken for granted but I also feel like people are out to get me. When I feel like this, I have a tendency to withdraw and disassociate. I try to avoid as much human contact as possible. My biggest problem has been being kind to others. I don't see why I should if all I get in return is maliciousness. However, another thing I inherited from my mom is her giving nature.

The other day, as I was waiting in line in a cafe, I saw a lady trying to waive down a taxi. She was in the worst imaginable spot. Most of the taxis that passed by already had customers that they had picked up from the taxi cab stand only a block from where the lady was standing. It was cold outside and she seemed anxious. I imagined that she was visiting a friend, was unfamiliar with the area and had a plane to catch. When I stepped out of the cafe with my hot steaming cup of chai, I went up to the lady and pointed her in the direction of the taxi cab stand. She blurted out a thank you and ran to the stand as quickly as she could. I felt good about helping her. Fast forward to that afternoon and something terrible happened to me. Someone, who had been watching me very closely waiting for me to slip up, saw her opportunity and pounced. I reeled from the embarrassment and humiliation this person had put me through. And it was all because of her jealousy. So why did I even bother with that good deed in the morning if all I got was a bad deed done to me in the afternoon? Where the heck was Karma when I needed it?

Sometimes it's difficult to do good deeds. Take George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) for example. When he saw his little brother fall through the ice, his first instinct was to pull him out and save him. What did he get in return? An ear infection that led to permanent hearing loss in one ear. What did his brother do for him in return? Abandoned the family business when George wanted to pass it on so he could see the world. Let's take another instance. A young George Bailey works at Mr. Gower's store. Mr. Gower, depressed over the news he's just received has drunk himself into a tizzy. He accidentally puts poison in pill capsules and sends young George off to deliver the pills. George sees what Mr. Gower has done and doesn't deliver them. What does George get in return? Mr. Gower boxes his ears until he bleeds and then gives him an uncomfortably tight hug. What does Mr. Gower get in return? A will to live and a successful business. 

No one really thinks that George Bailey is a shmuck though, even if he doesn't get to travel the world or become an architect. He doesn't have it that bad though. He marries a wonderful woman, has a beautiful home, raises 4 children, helps out the members of the community, etc. But he still has Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) always watching him for an opportunity to make him fall. (Maybe we all have our own Mr. Potter's in life). Bailey is driven to despair and that's when Clarence steps in. We all need a Clarence, don't we. Someone to tell us that "no man is a failure who has friends".

Carlos and I missed an opportunity to watch It's a Wonderful Life (1946) at the Brattle last year. This year, we were smart and purchased our tickets in advance. The house was packed to the brim and there was not one seat available. The audience was so-so. They laughed at many moments that were not supposed to be funny. I always relegate this to their stupidity for 1. buying tickets to a movie they don't really want to see and 2. not being open minded and understanding that this film is not from this time period. Oh well. They weren't as bad as I've seen in other circumstances and by the end many people were wiping their eyes. Why doesn't anyone think to bring tissues to this movie?

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried three times during the filming. I first cried during the scene when Mary (Donna Reed), Bert and Ernie had set up the old house with travel posters, tropical music, a roaring fire, dinner and a made bed ready and waiting for some copulating. It was really sweet for Mary to take an unfortunate situation and turn into something special. The second time I cried was during George Bailey's despair. He crashes his car, heads to the bridge and wants to end it all. I've never been suicidal but I know what despair feels like so I could really sympathize with him. The third and final time I cried was during the very last seen when the whole community comes together to help out George Bailey and sing Auld Lang Syne together. This is the moment when everyone shows their appreciation for Bailey and all he's done for the community. This sort of demonstration usually only happens during funerals. Lesson here: show people how much you appreciate them while they are still alive!

I've seen a few other people on Twitter and Facebook mention that they have seen this film on the big screen this Christmas season. What was your reaction and what was the audience reaction? Have you seen it on the big screen before? Please share your thoughts.

Special thank you to the Brattle Theater for showing It's a Wonderful Life every year!


  1. You are so lucky to have seen It's a Wonderful Life in a theatre! I've always wanted to, as it is one of my favourite movies of all time. And I think you have a point about George--it does seem like karma, destiny, what have you, returned his good deeds with ill! At any rate, don't feel ashamed to have cried three times during the movie. A friend and I figured out years ago that a good test if someone was a human being or a pod person was if he or she did not cry during It's a Wonderful Life. No human can sit through that movie without a few tears!

  2. This is such a great movie. I have seen it once on the big screen, and will see it there again next week. I always cry at the end too. I think George Bailey is such a relatable character. He just does his best, and is not always appreciated. I think how his situation turns out in the end is better than most people receive, unfortunely.

    Great post!

  3. Really neat you could see this in a theater. I never have! It's showing in Hollywood next week but it doesn't seem likely I'll have time to get up there (I'm driving up tonight!). Although, having read your post, I'm tempted to think about it! Definitely something to put on the "to do" list for the future.

    Inappropriate laughter has been a fairly rare issue when I go to see "old" movies. Wonder if it's sheer luck or if possibly it has anything to do with geography (i.e., seeing the movies in the general area where many of them were made)?

    The ending of WONDERFUL LIFE makes me cry for dual reasons. The story moves me, but as a classic film fan I also can't help crying simply seeing those wonderful *faces* as the camera pans around the representative of what once was possible in Hollywood, and all gone now.

    Best wishes,

  4. Hi! I love this film. It's one of my favorite Christmas movies. It's delightful & heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.

    Keep doing the good deeds that you are doing. You are a good person with a kind heart. If something bad happens afterword,just think that you didn't do anything wrong, it's the other person that is making the situation worse. Your heart is 10x more kinder than theirs. They have to nerve to say something or humiliate you, basically they are just humiliating themselves.

    Happy Holidays!!

  5. Watching "It's a Wonderful Life" on the big screen is an annual event for me. It's the only movie that makes me cry and it's definitely different watching it on the big screen. You notice more detail. For example, at the Bailey family home there's a collection of mounted butterflies and you later see this same collection in George's home. Little touches like this make me want to see more classics on the big screen.

  6. Definitely one of my favorite films to watch during the Christmas season - I wish I could catch this one on the big screen! This should be an annual event at theatres all across the country - in the same way it is aired on television annually.

  7. I avoided this film for years, on its cloying reputation. I felt so rewarded when I finally gave it a chance.

    A lot of us believe in karma, that good deeds reap rewards, and bad deeds, however minor, lead to punishment in the future when the cosmic scales balance. In reality, they are coincidences, and the rewards we reap for good deeds are internal.
    There are a few kinds of people in the world:
    Those who do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
    Those who do unto others as they do unto you.
    And those who do unto others before they do unto them.

    To quote from another Jimmy Stewart film, Harvey, you can be oh-so-clever or oh-so-pleasant. For years I tried clever. I'd recommend pleasant. :)

    When the world seems against you, every kind deed is an act of defiance against an uncaring universe.

  8. Mercurie/Terry - I think you misread my post. I said "I am not shamed". I will go up to anyone and tell them I cried 3 times during It's a Wonderful Life! I have no shame with that. :-) And I like that human vs. pod test. This movie definitely works for that. I looked for Jimmy the Raven in the movie thanks to you!

    Franny - Thanks for stopping by!

    Sweet Life - Thanks for the encouragement.

    Theduckthief - I see what you mean. Those small details are amplified on a big screen and we can pick up on things more easily that way than on our small televisions! Great point. :-)

    Robby - Can we start a petition to make that happen?!

    Tommy - I'm not religious anymore but I kind of like the Christian Science way of thinking: The more positive you put into the world (thoughts and actions) the more positivity you generate and the more negativity you cancel.

    My no longer believing in Karma is as sad as a young girl learning that Santa Claus doesn't exist. :-(

  9. Ha, if I were religious that's how I'd feel. I was raised Catholic and the "karma" thing got left over, for me. Whenever something bad happens I wonder what I did to make it happen :)

  10. I've only ever seen it on the small screen, but it's still wonderful non-the-less. Though I definitely wouldn't pass up the opportunity to see it in a theater if the chance arrived. You are SO lucky with that.

    I'm so sorry about your bad karma recently! You definitely don't deserve it. If anything you deserve a "Clarence" in your life to let you know how much you are appreciated, because you really are amazing!

    I love what you mention about appreciating people while they're still alive. It's so important. It reminds me of my reading of The Riddle recently, because one of the main characters is believed to be dead. It's terribly sad for the other lead character and the way the author portrayed the living character's regret was brilliant. It's so so important to help people understand their value and potential.

    Fantastic review, I'm absolutely jealous!

  11. I think being kind and nice to others is difficult when you have an inner dialogue of feeling persecuted, or unloved. Compliments that you give, or kindness shared; can come across as a double signal, with unintended meanings, or as desperate, etc.

    It's tough though, right? I hope you can take comfort in the fact that a lot of us relate to what you're saying and not only are you not alone because you have 350 followers here and probably a not more people who fly by; but because we all feel pretty similar to you, to different degrees!

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I really like your blog. You carry the spirit of the film's gone by that you write about. We are grateful. Stay you x

  12. Danielle - I think you are by far the kindest person I met in 2010. You are kind of like my online Clarence.

    Kid - I'm getting mixed messages from your comment. I have 630 readers, not 350. Not sure how you came across the 350 number (did you round down my number of "Google Friend Connect" followers?) I had another blogger belittle me recently as being a small blog. I think my blog is rather large for what it is: a personal classic film blog. I'm going to err on the side of positivity and see your comment as an act of kindness. I really appreciate you stopping by!


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