Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's a wonderful life (and film)

OK, have a seat and we'll talk about one of my favorite little movies, since it's getting to be Christmas and all.

(Am I the only one who gets nauseated at the thought of going to the mall this time of year? I swear, it's enough to turn Mother Teresa into Ebenezer Scrooge. Definitely doesn't say much for humanity. But I digress.)

I had to whip up a quick column to fill space this afternoon, so I chose a discussion of a charming little picture, Frank Capra's 1946 classic "It's A Wonderful Life." Who can resist James Stewart as the small-town hero George Bailey -- the type of guy we all hope to be and down deep inside know we aren't.

Never will forget that scene at the end, when Stewart and Donna Reed gather together with their onscreen children around the Christmas tree, with all of Bedford Falls in the parlor, proclaiming George "the richest man in town."

OK, it's corny. Yeah, it's overtly sentimental. But it's Christmas. Isn't this the time for such things?

Whatever idealism is still left in me hopes that my town is still like that. The cynic in me knows better.

But wait. This is Halls. So a little of it is true. Folks stop by here just to chat. Jay Newcomb and Tud Etherton regularly bring vegetables that I take to my grandparents. Dwight Smith stopped by on Monday for no other reason than to talk baseball for an hour. Kind of makes up for the people who show up to complain or yell at me for something I did (or didn't do).

My friend Chuck Maland, gentle sage and film studies professor at UT, says he frequently sees his students well up with tears after he shows "It's A Wonderful Life" in class.

"The movie presents a vision of community where people really do care about each other," he says. "The fact that people often end up crying tears of warmth is because they are responding to that part of American democracy that we could do well to cultivate more."

I guess I've got my rose colored glasses on tonight, but isn't it something to think that one little guy changed an entire town simply because he took the time to care about others?

Something to think about here at Christmas, even when you already lead one wonderful life...


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