Practically every Christmas I shed huge, sentimental tears when “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes on television–as it does every Christmas, ‘cuz it’s in the public domain (it’s on NBC tomorrow at 8 p.m.). It’s Frank Capra’s 1946 movie about the small-town banker George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart at the top of his game), who tries to commit suicide on Christmas Eve when he’s suspected of embezzlement (the real villain is his banking rival, the icy-hearted Mr. Potter). George is reminded by an angel how much he means to the residents of his town, Bedford Falls, who owe their homes and community to the loans he makes them at small profit to himself.
Lately though, I’d been feeling guilty about my attachment to “Wonderful Life,” because also every Christmas there’s an essay in some conservative publication or other suggesting that George is an impractical fool who confuses business with sentiment, and the real hero of the movie ought to be Mr. Potter, whose hard-headedness about money creates more prosperity for Bedford Falls than George’s low-interest home loans ever could. These essays are similar to the depressing Scrooge-Is-Good essays about Dickens? “A Christmas Carol” that you also read in conservative publications at Christmastide, in which the tightwad Ebenezer garners praise for creating jobs, making his employees get to work on time (that means you, Bob Cratchitt!), and declining to hand out his money to the undeserving poor (“Are there no workhouses?”)–in contrast to, say, old Mr. Fezziwig, who squanders shareholders’ assets on Yuletide parties for his employees.
But now–who says it’s not the season of good cheer? Right Wing Trash comes to my rescue (hat tip: Kathy Shaidle) with a post defending “It’s a Wonderful Life” as not just a good movie but a good capitalist movie. Here, he describes the scenes in which the angel, Clarence, shows George what life in his town would be like without him:
“George finds himself in a world where he never existed. There’s no Bedford Falls. There is only the new town of Pottersville. You know Pottersville, too. It’s like the New York City that was envisioned by the dolt who was mayor before Rudy Giuliani. It’s the kind of cesspool that comes from folks who believe that sex shops give a community some character.
“There’s nothing wrong with a little red-light district. The problem is that Pottersville is nothing but pool halls, strip joints, and pawnshops. Leftists used to get offended when we’d note that they’d rather live in Pottersville. Nowadays, they tend to make that point themselves. It’s a hipster fantasy. The people we see living in Pottersville are miserable. They have no hope for a better life. They don’t believe in angels, either.
“And there are only two kinds of women in Pottersville: prostitutes and uptight old-maid librarians. The place practically invents modern Women’s Studies.
“Why does this story take place at Christmastime? Because director Frank Capra understood that Mr. Potter was a great Christmas villain. George Bailey is saved by the financial freedom of others. Christmas villains are always against people getting to spend their own money. Burgermeister Meisterburger of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town hates toys and forbids anyone to sell them. How The Grinch Stole Christmas is self-explanatory….
“It’s A Wonderful Life is all about money. It’s all about gifts. And it’s all about Sam Wainwright. He’s an old industrialist pal of George’s who has the money to save both Bedford Falls and George Bailey. The character’s barely on the periphery of the plot, but Wainwright is the film’s true force for Good.”
Yes, and speaking of the Grinch who stole Christmas in Cuba for nearly 30 years until the pope came for a visit in 1998, Kathy also links to this essay by the U.K.’s Peter Hitchens on the liberals who demonized the late Augusto Pinochet but just loooove Fidel Castro, even though Castro’s dictatorial brutality makes that of Pinochet?s look amateurish by comparison, and who, as even the Washington Post admits, is about to leave his country an economic basket case, in contrast to the thriving and democratic Chile of today.