It’s that time of the year: The tree is up, the presents are under it, there’s enough rum in the galley to have with the egg nog…
…and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is going to be on tonight. Just tonight; after Republic Pictures reclaimed the copyright, the tradition I grew up with, where every station would run the film wall-to-wall at every chance they could, had to come to an end. Nothing is forever, not even public domain apparently, but that’s not worth bitching about now…
What comes to mind, prompted by a character in Jeremiah Conway’s FIVE BUCKS TO FRIDAY who attempted to do an updated version of the film, a scene that was both brilliant and horrifying in just how likely it could come about. If you thought the colorized version was a mistake, this ain’t for you, folks…
Still, I can’t blame Pete for wanting to take a crack at that script; I myself sometimes thought the film didn’t go far enough in showing the horror of a life unlived (below modified from copy of script found at http://sfy.ru/?script=its_a_wonderful_life):
MEDIUM SHOT –– George and Clarence approach the tree from which the “Bailey Park” sign once hung. Now it is just outside a cemetery, with graves where the houses used to be.
Are you sure this is Bailey Park?
Oh, I’m not sure of anything anymore. All I know is this should be Bailey Park. But where are the houses?
The two walk into the cemetery.
CLARENCE (as they go)
You weren’t here to build them.
CLOSE MOVING SHOT –– George wandering like a lost soul among the tombstones, Clarence trotting at his heels. Again George stops to stare with frightened eyes at:
CLOSE SHOT –– a tombstone. Upon it is engraved a name, Harry Bailey. Feverishly George scrapes away the snow covering the rest of the inscription, and we read:
IN MEMORY OF OUR BELOVED SON –– HARRY BAILEY –– 1911-1919.
CLOSE SHOT –– George and Clarence.
Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.
George jumps up.
That’s a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He helped us win the war!
Well, unfortunately not.
What- wait, what?
The battle was lost when those two transports went down, and the tide turned. Washington sued for peace in 1946, and I understand that things are very, very unpleasant everywhere Imperial Japan flies their flag. There’s millions of people in pain in Asia and across the Pacific because Harry Bailey did not save the lives of every man on that transport.
No… No, no, no…
Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them because you weren’t there to save Harry. You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?
Now mind you, I can think of a few good reasons why in 1946, Frank Capra wouldn’t want to entertain such a thought. And anyone who got high commendation for the WHY WE FIGHT series of films, you don’t question his choices about how to remember the war…
However you view reality, wherever you are and however you honor the day tomorrow, I wish you a merry one, and a happy new year; let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.