It’s NOT a Wonderful Sequel

It's_A_Wonderful_Life-George_with_Mary

By National Telefilm Associates (Screenshot of the movie) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a crime against humanity. And I’m totally willing to press charges against these people. This makes me want to cry!

Star Partners and Hummingbird Prods. are collaborating on production of a sequel to Frank Capra’s iconic 1946 movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which starred Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

The sequel, titled “It’s A Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,” is being produced by Allen J. Schwalb of Star Partners and Bob Farnsworth of Hummingbird. The duo are aiming to get the movie into theaters for the 2014 holiday season.

Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s daughter “Zuzu” in the original,  will return for the “Wonderful Life” sequel as an angel who shows Bailey’s unlikeable grandson (also named George Bailey) how much better off the world would have been had he never been born.

…“The storyline of the new film retains the spirit of the original – every life is important as long as you have friends,” Farnsworth said.

(Emphasis added)

I sincerely hope that’s a typo, because it makes me want to cry.*

I’ve writen before about my favorite movie of all time, and how I learn something new every time I watch it.

There is literally nothing that can or should be added to this story. If I saw these people, I’d smack them upside the head!

Here’s a piece from Catholic Education Resource Center on Capra’s beautiful film:

It’s a Wonderful Life is a work of summation, whose undercurrent of angst can be interpreted in different ways. At the heart of the film lies the conflict between the desires of the heart and the needs of the common good. The hero of the story, George Bailey (played by Stewart), struggles throughout the picture with this irreconcilable conflict within himself. Even though his nemesis, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), typifies the classic Capra villain, he’s really more an external manifestation of one side of George’s divided spirit than an autonomous character.

Most of the film is an extended flashback, in which an apprentice guardian angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) reviews George’s life as the head of a small-town building and loan. Believing he has failed as a husband, father, and businessman, George is contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. With Clarence, we see key moments in George’s life, moments when he had to make important choices about family, friends, and career. In spite of his desire to escape Bedford Falls, George has chosen to stay so that he can run the lending institution founded by his father for the “garlic-eaters” (Potter’s word) who can’t afford Potter’s bank loans.

His dreams of college, travel, and a professional life in the big city fall by the wayside. George marries and starts a family. Now, on the day before Christmas, a careless mistake on the part of his absentminded uncle threatens to wipe out the Building and Loan and give Potter complete control of the town. George is on the brink of total despair.

Enter Clarence. God sends the angel to prevent George from jumping off a bridge. By making George see what Bedford Falls would be like without him, Clarence leads him to an experience of conversion. This “unborn” sequence is shot in stark visual contrast with that of the extended flashback, using film noir techniques. It shows how the absence of George’s goodness would have left the town to be devoured by evil:

Bedford Falls, renamed Pottersville, becomes an urban hell of mean little people, beginning with George’s embittered mother and the wife he never married (Donna Reed). Awakened by this desolate vision, George turns away from the bridge’s parapet to return home, where he’s surrounded by the warmth and affection of family and friends, who will together save the Building and Loan from insolvency. The hero’s wry smile at the close is a wink to the audience; he has seen, understood, and accepted life in all its glory and imperfection.

Surprisingly enough, this embrace of life was a box-office disappointment. Capra called It’s a Wonderful Life the greatest film he had ever made: “A film to tell the wary, the disheartened, and the disillusioned; the wino, the junkie, the prostitute; those behind prison walls and those behind Iron Curtains, that no man is a failure! To show those born slow of foot or slow of mind, those oldest sisters condemned to spinsterhood, and those oldest sons condemned to unschooled toil, that each man’s life touches so many other lives. And that if he isn’t around it would leave an awful hole.”

What Star Partners and HummingBirds Productions are about to do is bastardize the entire basis for Capra’s uplifting classic and update it for today’s cynical world by making it another avenue to show people they do not matter. I hope it flops in a spectacular fashion.

* UPDATE: As I was finishing this post, MovieFreaks tweeted to me that this is no typo. This means that while the people putting this atrocity together are saying they’re staying true to the original message of It’s a Wonderful Life, they are absolutely not; this is exactly the opposite of what Capra wanted from his movie. I hope someone puts a stop to this. It’s disgusting.

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