Monday, December 19, 2016

It's a Wonderful Life Radio Show

We'll be using this calendar in 2017. Also have the 2016

I've written about one of my favorite movies before, most recently when we were in Seneca Falls in the Finger Lakes a few months ago -- (VA-CA Report: A Tour of the Finger Lakes).  We bought a bunch of movie memorabilia at the museum dedicated to the movie, a museum supported by the actress who played the little girl Zu Zu. I think they were even selling her petals. We thought of going back up a few weeks ago for the 75th anniversary at the museum but didn't make it.
check out Chaintheatre

Instead we went to a radio broadcast of the movie yesterday at a performance space in Long Island City by Chain Theatre Co ( and it was a wonderful experience. I love radio-type broadcasts, like Prairie Home Companion. Yesterday they had 8 actors playing all the roles.

On the Today Show, the 3 actors who played the kids were on and Matt Lauer talked about the values in the movie, but of course they didn't go near the epic battle between uber capitalist slumlord Potter and the semi-socialist views of George Bailey. That It's a Wonderful Life has a lot of lefty in it is ignored and the religious aspects are pushed. Many assume Frank Capra was a Roosevelt lefty but this NY Times review of a Capra bio says otherwise:
The film critic for London's Daily Express thought that Capra's political influence was potentially as great as Franklin D. Roosevelt's. And Capra was one of those rare Americans whose name became not only a household word but an adjective as well.

Audiences flocked to see "Capraesque" movies like "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Meet John Doe" -- parables of ordinary people forced to stand up against the greed and corruption of the rich and powerful. Those dramatic comedies, with their depictions of hardship, their "common man" heroes (usually Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper) and their celebrations of small-town virtues, gave expression to a country struggling to climb out of the Depression; they have, ever since their release, been identified with Roosevelt and the New Deal. Yet it is one of the great surprises of Joseph McBride's masterly, comprehensive and frequently surprising biography, "Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success," that the man who seemed to put the spirit of the New Deal on the screen was, in reality, a closet reactionary and a dogged Roosevelt hater.

Frank Capra managed to fool just about everyone; even his wife was unsure of his political affiliations. Longtime co-workers who were Democrats assumed he shared their political convictions. Katharine Hepburn, who starred in his 1948 picture "State of the Union," thought him "quite liberal"; others applied the term "radical" to him. And why shouldn't they have, when Variety was calling a sympathetic character in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" "quasi-communistic" and The Saturday Evening Post was reporting that in the Soviet Union Capra was "hailed as a comrade"? But as Mr. McBride, the author of previous books on Howard Hawks, John Ford and Orson Welles, tells us, Capra was a lifelong Republican who never once voted for Roosevelt. He was an admirer of Franco and Mussolini. In later years, during the McCarthy period, he served as a secret F.B.I. informer.

In part, the misperception was due to Capra's writers, who generally ranged from New Deal Democrats to card-carrying Communists. One of Capra's great strengths as a director in the 1930's was his ability to work with anyone who had something to contribute to his pictures, even those who were far to his left. He was also enough of a popular entertainer to cater to his audiences; he understood that during the Depression the most hissable villains were grasping bankers and businessmen.

But ultimately the misunderstanding over Capra's politics seems to be a case of people seeing what they wanted to see. In his analysis of "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," Mr. McBride points out that the Gary Cooper character, far from being some sort of socialist or New Deal liberal, was, if anything, an "enlightened plutocrat" whose philosophy of voluntary giving was little different from that of Republican businessmen opposed to the New Deal; and he shrewdly notes that while Deeds got into trouble for trying to distribute most of the $20 million he inherited to desperate farmers, he was still planning to keep $2 million for himself.
 Here are links to some of my previous posts on the movie.

Not a Wonderful Life: Education Writer's Block
Dec 27, 2013 ... Well, the good news is that I can spend 3 hours tonight watching “It's a Wonderful Life” for the hundredth time,

The Hottest Love Scene in Film History - 
Dec 6, 2014 ... I'm a sucker for "It's a Wonderful Life" -

The Subprime Mortgage Crisis: It Was All George Bailey's Fault

Update on The Baileys and Potter
Can't resist today's cat photo.
Dec 25, 2008 ... As an adjunct to last night's post on It's A Wonderful Life, there is this item in today's business section of the NY Times. Jeffrey Goldfarb writes in ...

1 comment:

  1. Socialist or no.... it's playing on the big screen this Thursday nite at Tarrytown Music Hall.

    5 bucks. ( I'd say that's more "socialist" than not.)

    Favorite and most enduring line: "Ya know, Mr. Potter? In the whole vast configuration of things you're nothing but a scurvy little spider."



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