Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life

My wife and I were watching Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” on NBC the other night for the 100th time or so. We both have seen the movie so many times we can recite the actor’s lines as they say them. We watch it every year just as we put up a Christmas tree every year. Although we have seen the movie many times, we both thoroughly enjoy watching it again often saying, “This is one of my favorite scenes,” or “I can’t wait to see this part.”

I started thinking about this film and why it is still popular and why it is so timeless. After all, the film debuted in movie theaters on December 20, 1946, it is in black and white and the lifestyle and mores of the era are those of our parents and grandparents depending how old you are. Some of the actors and scenes are corny by today’s standards, but the film remains highly popular. In addition, it was considered a box office flop because it did not generate the anticipated revenue.

As I watched it I could see that the film was made like a well written novel. Great characterizations, conflict, drama and George Bailey’s (played by Jimmy Steward) self realization that his problems were nothing compared to all the things he had done and all the people his life had touched. All the plot points are resolved in the end and two major themes emerge: self sacrifice to help others and that family and friends are all that matter.

This is the stuff of great novels like GONE WITH THE WIND, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and others that speak a universal human truth that lives on through each generation. A truth that is not anchored in time and relevant to the values of any era. This is the kind of story telling all writers would love to write and it is the universal thread that keeps us writing against all odds.

If you have never watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” it is one of those films that should be required watching to become a member of the human race. It’s a film you should watch if you are writing a novel because it has all the elements of great story telling.

Here are links to additional information on the film.

A great review by Tom Dirks on filmsite.org

Photos and videos on The Internet Movie Database

Photos and information at Reel Classics