Listen to our It’s a Wonderful Life episode on:
Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is routinely cited as the greatest Christmas movie ever made – even though the seasonal element only really comes into play in the film’s closing scenes. Still, something about the story of an ambitious young man driven to suicidal thoughts after a lifetime of crushed hopes and compromised dreams seems to strike a chord with people when the holidays are in full swing, so it was an obvious choice to kick off our month of festive specials.
Like practically every great movie, It’s a Wonderful Life was considered a financial disappointment when it was first released back in 1946, only earning its reputation through re-runs in subsequent years. Stars James Stewart and Donna Reed both cited it as the high point of their respective careers.
Like last week’s The Shining, the legacy of It’s a Wonderful Life can be measured by the sheer volume of parodies and imitations it has inspired over the years. Some parts of the movie have aged better than others – the treatment of Lillian Randolph’s Annie is… of its time, to say the least – on the whole it’s the rare family classic that defies cynicism and sweeps you away with the force of its good-natured optimism.
That said, we did have a few questions about the movie’s apparent preference for small-c conservative family values over such things as personal ambition and sexual liberation. Not to mention the business ethics behind the constantly beleaguered, apparently infested Bailey Brothers’ Building and Loan. For better or worse, this film is the epitome of the white-bread American dream, and in imagining a 2017 remake or sequel, we had plenty of ammunition to poke holes in that particular fantasy…
Tune in using the links at the top of this post to hear John, Harry and special returning guest Ross Burton debate why this film has aged considerably better than Citizen Kane, build some productive drinking games around 40s vernacular and George Bailey’s aggressive man-spreading and of course pitch our sequel ideas, which this week include a Christopher Nolan-helmed spin-off chronicling Harry Bailey’s wartime adventures, a dystopian reboot for the age of extreme reality television and a version of the movie populated entirely by Muppets…
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We’d love to hear your sequel ideas for this movie – or suggestions for holiday classics you’d like us to take on in the future. The only rule is that it can’t already have an official sequel – which, unfortunately, means Die Hard is out… but on the plus side, Surviving Christmas is very much still in play.