Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

WHO: Frank Capra directed, produced, and co-wrote the screenplay for this film.

WHAT: You'd have to be living under a lump of coal not to know about this film, by now probably the most widely-loved Hollywood movie made before 1950 with the possible exception of Casablanca. You may have heard that it was a flop on its initial release in 1946, which is not exactly true, as it was nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture, and sold enough tickets to place it in the top 30 box office draws of the year. Just not enough to turn a profit on its unusually high (for its time) production cost. 

You may also have heard that it was forgotten for decades until someone realized its copyright had not been renewed, thus making it a cheap buy for television stations which soon began broadcasting it frequently, turning it into a classic. I'm not sure how truly forgotten it was (as a former Best Picture nominee it must have been known to some people), but it apparently was unknown enough that a classroom of film students including my favorite classic film podcaster Frank Thompson had never heard of it when Capra himself came to screen it in Boston in the early 1970s.

But It's A Wonderful Life has never really let up its grip on our collective cultural memory loosen since those days. Now annual screenings in cinemas and on television stations are joined by annual internet articles about the film's history as a target of anti-Communist investigation, about its surviving cast, and more. My favorite new-for-2013 piece of It's A Wonderful Life effluvia is a newly re-cut trailer put together by the Cinefamily (formerly Silent Movie Theatre) in Los Angeles for its current week-long 35mm run of the film. Enjoy!

WHERE/WHEN: Screens at 2 & 7 today only at Century Theatres around Frisco Bay (and beyond). It also screens at 9PM at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, but this annual showing is, as always, sold out. I warned you!

WHY: Merry Christmas!

HOW: 35mm at the Stanford and digitally elsewhere.

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