Saturday, August 26, 2006

What A Schmuck

Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends. Just beware of freeloading, deadbeat family members.

There are two things I used to be able to count on every holiday season: reeducating the gentiles on the meaning of Hannukah, and multiple viewings of the 1946 classic, "It's A Wonderful Life." There was a time when you could watch this classic piece of sentimental cheese on as many as 3 local channels at the same time, and I did. I used to be able to recite entire sections of dialogue. I marveled at the sighting of Alfalfa from The Little Rascals being cut out of a dance with Mary Hatch by a randy George Bailey. I rolled my eyes when George got excited by the prospect of making a whopping $20,000 working for Mr. Potter (because 44 years later, I was making the less than that at my first job out of college). I laughed at the cab driver/cop combo named Ernie and Bert, 22 years before "Sesame Street." And then things started going wrong. First, it was colorized. Then NBC bought the rights and suddenly, the world was robbed of a holiday tradition. One, maybe two, viewings was all we were allowed. So I bought it on DVD. But it just wasn't the same.

For a fun, :30 reenactment of the film done by bunnies, click

On to the subject at hand. I've watched this film enough to be something of an expert. I've analyzed and scrutinized every scene and every character. And I've come to one important conclusion: George Bailey is the biggest schmuck in history, fictional or otherwise.

Thanks to a wingless guardian angel named Clarence (AS2), George is allowed to see what the world would have been like without him. He was, in one way or another, responsible for the happiness of dozens of families and the lives of hundreds of others. Joan of Arc was a selfish bitch compared to George. Not one person in his life wanted for anything. And 99% of the time this was at his own expense, emotionally and financially. He risked bankruptcy for his friends, prison for his family, and this all led him to a suicide attempt. But the folks of Bedford Falls were, for the most part, grateful. Sure there was Tom, who wanted all of his money out of the Savings and Loan when the Great Depression hit; and Sam Wainwright, who didn't need George's help because he knew about the value of plastics long before Benjamin Braddock in "The Graduate." But there was one person who selfishly took advantage of all of George's generosity more than anyone else: his brother Harry Bailey.

As of the end of the movie, Harry Bailey had a truly wonderful life. Good looks, High School All American, college sports star, war hero, pretty wife, good job. All this for a guy who should have died when he was 9. George dove into freezing water and lost the hearing in one ear to save his brother's life. And the total lack of justice goes on from there:

Fact: When it was time for George to go off to college after paying his dues at the "dusty old Building and Loan", his dad dies and George's sense of duty leads him to take over the business, sending Harry to college. And George is stuck in Bedford Falls.

Fact: When it was time for Harry to come home from college to take over the B&L, he brings a wife ("Ruth Dakin Bailey, if you don't mind) and a job prospect. And George is stuck in Bedford Falls.

Fact: When war breaks out, Harry gets to do all the traveling George always dreamed of, becoming a war hero and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. All while George is stuck in Bedford Falls.

We all know what happened next. A liquor-soaked Uncle Billy misplaces $8000, sending George into a tailspin. He runs from Mr. Potter and Mr. Carter, the bank examiner (who wants to spend the holidays in Elmira), he yells at his family, screams at Zuzu's teacher Mrs. Welch, threatens and then gets punched out by Mr. Welch, drives drunk and plows his jalopy into a tree (owned by the one guy in Bedford Falls who seemingly doesn't know who George is), and contemplates suicide. Meanwhile, the whole town is looking for him.

Bear with me, I'm getting to my point.

Eventually, George decides he wants to live and he runs home. Waiting for him is the town of Bedford Falls, literally throwing money at him. George needs help? The town remembers all George has done for them and they chip in to the "Keep George Out Of Jail" fund. Annie the housekeeper adds in her divorce money ("in case I ever get a husband"). Mr. Martini "breaks-a open the juke-a box". Even Mr. Carter and the sheriff donate money. Then the climax of the film. War hero Harry Bailey shows up with Bert, the accordion-playing cop. And he offers up a toast, "to my big brother George Bailey. The richest man in town." Yeah? No thanks to him! Watch this scene again. How much money does war hero world traveler college athlete Harry Bailey donate to the cause? NOTHING!!!! He mooches some hooch and makes a toast. Hey Harry? It's pronounced "thank you." Your brother's life sucks and it's your fault. I wonder how long Harry hangs around before he goes back to Rochester or wherever his wife's family lives.

George Bailey. Nice guy. Biggest schmuck ever.

An angel gets his wings and a nice guy gets a lifetime of this.

1 comment:

VaMEad said...

Hello from a celtic-pagen, we are not as gentle as gentiles! Cheers,