Liz Tells Frank Stuff She Forgot About “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Dear Frank,

poster_wonderful_470_ixWe’ve had some interesting times this week! We learned what to watch if you’re super in the Christmas mood, and we learned what to watch if you’re SUPER-SUPER-SUPER-SUPER not.

John and Jesse took us to some dark places, and I think today, on CCH Pounder’s birthday, we should try to remember the real meaning of the season. Or at least, try to remember stuff that happened in It’s A Wonderful Life. Because what a weird movie this is!

Of course, I have, like, Christmas to celebrate, so let’s not get too bogged down in details. You know what happens in It’s A Wonderful Life, Frank! We all do! But there are some key details that might have slipped under the radar for you over the years…

EVERYBODY PRAY!

Let’s start off with a reminder that it is the year 1946 and you are Christian or else. During a fast-pased montage, we learn that everyone in Bedford Falls is praying to God to save George Bailey (from what? himself? I guess) and literally, this is what gets the angels interested in helping him out. It’s like complaining at Time Warner Cable on Twitter for customer service, except actually more effective.

EVERYBODY DO IT!

Damn, this movie is way more sexual than I remembered. And I’m not just talking about the bad-girl character Violet, who is introduced at the age of 10 as follows:

Mary: You like every boy.
Violet: What’s the matter with that?

Violet is quite the coquette as a grown-up lady, by which I mean she’s a shameless flirt with plenty of beaus. Until, that is, it apparently ruins her and she borrows money from George to move to New York, muttering about her lack of character. You know, the way sluts do.

It’s a weird subplot that makes no sense! But that’s not the only bit of sexytimes in this thing! Which is just a little bit odd, given that Truman was president at the time. (Not that Truman wasn’t a fun sexy guy… Sigh. Apologies to President Truman.)

Some of the sexy stuff that happens or is hinted at:

  • When Violet walks by in a nice dress, Bert the policeman gets so turned on that he has to go home and “see what the wife is doing.” Says Ernie the cab driver, “He’s a family man.”
  • George sees Donna Reed at the dance, immediately wants to tap that.
  • Their jitterbug contest becomes a wet t-shirt (or wet pantaloom) contest.
  • When their clothes get soaked, George successfully gets Donna Reed a robe to wear as they walk home. He tells her that he’d lasso the moon for her, which she can then “swallow.”
  • When Donna Reed’s robe gets snagged and she hides inside a bush, George teases her about not giving her her robe back. “Not often a man finds himself in a situation like this…”
  • Slightly-not-so-sexy: When Donna Reed, wanting her robe back, shouts that she’ll call the police, George replies “They’d be on my side.” HELLOOOOOO RAPE CULTURE.
  • At a later date, George says he’s going over to Donna Reed’s to engage in “passionate necking.”
  • When he eventually arrives (drunk) at her house, she invites him in. Her mother asks what’s happening. Donna Reed: “He’s making violent love to me, Mother!”
  • George and Donna Reed’s first kiss comes after he shakes her a little shouting about how he never wants to get married. Technically, this should not be sexy, but honestly? It kinda is.
  • Oh, and then they have like four babies almost right away.
  • Finally, I’m pretty sure Nick the bartender thinks George and Clarence are gay. He certainly calls them “pixies” and throws them out of the Pottersville bar.

But that’s not what REALLY matters!

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE GREAT DEPRESSION!

it’s really important to remember, Frank, that a good 60 percent of this movie’s conflict and plot comes from the Great Depression and how it affected a struggling small town building and loan. Pretty much every single thing I know about the banking industry has been gleaned from this movie, which is why I keep my money in a savings account and action figures.

Something I’d TOTALLY forgotten: On the Christmas Eve this story concerns, the Bailey Building and Loan is under investigation by a tight-ass bank investigator. At the end, when the people of Bedford Falls rally together to save the Bailey Building and Loan by passing around a collection plate, you would expect said tight-ass bank investigator to be, hmmmm, this doesn’t look like a stable business model for a federally accredited banking institution. Instead, he makes his own cash contribution. ‘TIS THE SEASON.

LET’S HAVE A DRINK!

Some of the alcohol-related things that happen in this movie, Frank: A pharmacist gets drunk and nearly murders a kid with poison, Uncle Billy is pretty much sauced the whole time, George is drunk on multiple occasions (including the night he eventually macks on Donna Reed) and in fact is driving drunk the night he tries to commit suicide.

I guess this is what happens when there’s a Great Depression? Still, it’s the sort of thing that kinda goes over your head as a kid.

DO YOU LIKE VAGUELY OFFENSIVE DEPICTIONS OF ITALIANS?

Frank, there’s an Italian family with a goat!

THERE IS ALSO A SASSY BLACK MAID.

In the memory of Hattie McDaniel and other actresses forced to play those roles for decades, we shall mention no more of it.

IT TAKES ABOUT AN HOUR AND A HALF TO HAVE A WONDERFUL LIFE.

What I always, always forget about It’s A Wonderful Life is that three-quarters of the movie are devoted to a nature documentary-esque look back at George Bailey’s life, setting up all the details that will prove to be key in the last 20 minutes (you know, the 20 minutes that this movie is ACTUALLY REMEMBERED FOR, the whole “I wish I’d never been born” thing). As far as a character study goes, it’s interesting. As an example of screenplay structure, it is BONKERS.

IT REALLY KINDA SUCKS TO BE GEORGE BAILEY.

I mean, things work out okay for him in the end — he has a wife and a family and a business, and an entire town that loves him. But his entire life, all he wants to do is a little traveling, and he can’t even manage a quick trip to New York once!

His entire life, he’s constantly working hard to at least get a taste of travel, and every time he gets close to achieving that goal, circumstance, fate, Mr. Potter being a dick or his brother Harry being selfish end up costing him. No wonder he gets drunk and kicks cars and is kind of mean to Donna Reed sometimes!

THAT SAID, THE END IS STILL STUPID BEAUTIFUL.

No man is a failure who has friends, Frank. Those are the only words of wisdom I choose to hear as we blissfully escape 2013, and move forward into hopefully a much improved new year.

Happy holidays,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on December 25, 2013, in Movies, Some Spoilers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It’s truly an insane movie. I saw it for the first time a few years ago and was slightly disappointed because I had such high expectations. And then it was just a weird little movie. Still really enjoyable, though.

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