It Isn’t Always a Wonderful Life! concludes at Trailers from Hell with John Landis introducing Frank Capra’s holiday classic starring Jimmy Stewart as frustrated small-town dreamer George Bailey.
Capra was known for such upstanding, optimistic films
(“Capra-corn” to the critics) that his lone Christmas-themed film must have
come as a real shock to ticket buyers. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has its cheery
side for sure, but it also contains moments so bleak it makes some film noirs
look like Mary Poppins. A boxoffice disappointment when first released, it fell
into the public domain for a limited period, resulting in massive TV exposure
that transformed it into a cultural touchstone, and one that holiday audiences
return to year after year. This week, two different TFH Gurus offer their takes
on a classic that was heavily investigated at the time by the FBI for supposedly
Communist influences. Be sure to check out Bill Duke’s take here.