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Monday, December 15, 2008

“The Greatest Gift” aka “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Sunday night my partner and I watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the first time this year. I’m sure we will watch it several more times by the end of this year’s holiday season.

We came up with some questions and observations.

First, when there was a run on the bank and George starts passing out his wedding gift money, the second guy that wants his money, says he’ll take $20 to get him by, and the next woman says she can get by on $20 also. That got Anastasia and I to thinking, what was that 1945 $20 equivalent to in 2008 money? I did find out online that a loaf of bread in 1945 costed $0.09. Today a loaf of bread costs about $2.99. What would that $20 be equivalent to in today's, 2008 terms?

We also observed that Uncle Billy had an affinity with animals. First the raven (Jimmy) latches onto his arm when he arrives after failing to make the $8,000 deposit. (What kind of money would that be today?) Then George follows him around town to retrace his steps and back to Uncle Billy’s house. When George leaves, a squirrel runs across Uncle Billy’s desk and up his arm. In all the probably hundreds of times I’ve watched this movie, I never noticed the squirrel until now. Apparently Uncle Billy had a “way” with animals.

Before George leaves Uncle Billy, he makes this speech "Where's that money you silly stupid old fool? Where's that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison. That's what it means. One of us is going to jail, well it's not gonna be me." Did you notice that scandal comes before prison? He’s worried about scandal more than prison. Things don’t change much do they?

My favorite line, Mary Bailey: “George, why must you torture the children!”

Anastasia’s favorite line, Annie: “I’ve been saving this for a divorce, if I ever got a husband.”

Malfeasance. How often do you hear that word today? I bet we could use that term to describe Blagojevich.

Some of the best lines of the movie:

Clarence: “You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”

Clarence: “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?”

Clarence: “You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

When you watch this movie, do you ever think about if you were in George’s place? What would the world be like without you? (Your community, your family, your friends.) I know this is just a movie, but work with me here, think about your life for a moment. I don’t know about you, but when I try to think about any significant things that have happened in my life, I can’t point to any moments even close to the definitive moments in George’s life.

Saving his kid brother Harry from drowning in the pond. (Harry who later won the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving all the men on his transport during the war.)

Catching Mr. Gower’s mistake and saving that family from cyanide poisoning.

Keeping his father's business afloat, thus allowing the townspeople to get loans to own their own homes and making their town a community full of beautiful homes and prosperous family businesses.

Keeping Violet on the straight and narrow by loaning her money.

Even if I try and get real creative with my personal history, I can’t imagine ever making a mark on someone else’s life that would be so significant so as to make my existence so essential. To my knowledge I have never saved a life, either directly or indirectly. I've never saved a business, thus saving the reputation of a town and it's inhabitants. And I never prevented anyone from becoming a prostitute. About the only thing I can come up with is that my high school friend, Margaret, would have never come to visit me that weekend in Chicago when we went out drinking and she met her husband Jack. Then they would never had their daughter Megan. As far as I know Megan hasn’t done anything history changing, she's just a high school senior this year. (If she would have won the Nobel Peace Prize, I think I would have gotten an email or something.)


How about you? What if you had never been born? How would that change the lives of the people around you?

In closing….Clarence: “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.”

This movie has my vote for the best holiday movie ever.


JD at I Do Things said...

This is definitely my favorite holiday movie. I absolutely love the "Why must you torture the children" line. And the look on Mary's mother's face when the two of them are on the phone with Sam Wainright. And on and on and on.

If I had any impact on anyone, it would probably be one of those minor "step on a butterfly's wings" kind of deals, where the guy I let in front of me in line at the store got home 5 minutes early and found his wife cheating on him.

Merry Christmas!

JD at I Do Things

Kathy said...

I love the Annie quote too! Cracks me up every time.

As for me, I have a hard time thinking of anyone upon whose life I made a difference. Although, my husband does tell me from time to time that he'd be nowhere without me. I don't know if I believe him, but I like to think we both have better lives for having met each other. Does that count?

p.s. Malfeasance has such a nice ring to it. Almost sounds like a good thing.

Lola said...


I never heard the "step on a butterfly's wings" thing before. So you're thinking the dark side reversing the male/female roles in "Sliding Doors". I didn't think of it until just now, but what about "The Butterfly Effect", one thing changes and it sets in motion a whole different set of circumstances?


Malfeasance almost sounds like a good character trait. Maybe that's what got Blagojevich confused?

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