Old Lady Movie Night Old Lady Movie Night: "It's A Wonderful Life" Anne T. Donahue

HELLO, I HAVE RETURNED! I’m so sorry I’ve been THE WORST, but man oh man, you guys know how the holidays can be. I mean, it’s good! It’s not like I’m about to get angry about Christmas, but I AM going to admit that I am a terrible manager of time when Christmas happens. Case in point: last week, abandoning Old Lady Movie Night because I forgot how to use a planner properly.

So thank you for bearing with me! True, I have deprived you of two Christmas movies now (“I’M A MONSTER!!!” – Buster Bluth), but here’s a movie that I hope will make up for that.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

And isn’t it, though? Courtesy of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, who I love and who I would also love to be. (To make that clear, I love Jimmy Stewart. To make that clearer, I would love to be Donna Reed. I don’t want to be Jimmy Stewart.) (I mean, I can see WHY people want to be Jimmy Stewart, but he’s so tall, and a dude, and also if I am him, I can’t marry him, in my mind.) (I sound insane.) I used to watch this every year with my Mom and my Dad, and then we stopped watching it together because I realized that I can’t handle crying that much in front of my parents. I love them, but this movie. So many tears. How many, you ask? Well let’s begin.

1. Well here’s the thing: you’re going to cry while watching this movie

Just straight up. It’s a fact. You’re probably going to start crying from the first scene where everyone’s worried about him, and then you’re going to stop for a while, and then you’re going to totally fall apart over Mr. Gower, and then you’ll be okay, and then it’s all over during the ending. ALL OVER. Seriously, I can’t watch this movie unless I know I’m going to be alone, and no one is going to walk in on what a mess I’ve become. EVEN NOW. I mean, my GOD, it’s a bunch of stars talking, and I’m already like, “BUT THEY LOVE GEORGE SO MUCH EVERYONE OH MY GOD [SOBS].” And we wonder why I over-romanticize old movies so much.

2. Do we know how Sammy developed his “hee haw” trademark?

I mean, it’s never really determined, but the guy goes from pretending to be a donkey (?!) at age like, 12, to pretending to be a donkey at age like, 32. WHERE DID IT COME FROM. Either way — spoiler alert — I am so relieved

3. Violet is my favourite person in the whole wide world

When I was a kid, I was very anti-Violet, pro-Mary. And I mean, in all fairness, Mary rules. But in even MORE fairness, Violet! OH MY GOODNESS, VIOLET RULES JUST AS HARD AND MAYBE EVEN HARDER. First of all, she calls him “Georgie.” Second of all, she wants licorice shoelaces (which are just delicious, who are we kidding). And third, this conversation.

Violet: “I like him.”

Mary: “You like every boy.”

Violet: “What’s wrong with that?”

What IS wrong with that, Mary? Huh? I like every boy too! And so do the Teen Girl Squad girls! (“I have a crush on every boy!”) I SAY EMBRACE IT. Also, I love the actress who plays her. She’s also in The Greatest Show On Earth, and let’s also remember the line about her dress, “Why, this old thing? I only wear it when I don’t care how I look.”

DROPS MIC. GLORIA GRAHAME, WHAT IS UP. And speaking of actors in other movies I love . . .

4. UNCLE BILLY IS SCARLETT O’HARA’S DAD IN GONE WITH THE WIND

FIY EVERYONE. Also, take it as a warning that after Christmas movies are over, I will be writing about Gone With The Wind which I love to the point of say, buying a magazine from 1939 at the antique market because it had a feature on the movie in it. I mean, MAYBE I DID. Also, I am just going to say I don’t know how Uncle Billy is employable because he not only doesn’t remember important things, he also LOSES $8000. Which in 1945 is what . . . eight million? HE LOST EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS. But then again, I accidentally refunded someone $3000 when I worked at a hardware store, so who am I to judge?

5. Damn it, it’s the Mr. Gower time now

AND HERE COME OUR TEARS AGAIN, FRIENDS. Forming a river that we are all floating down towards the giant dam of emotion that will be the movie’s last scene. Oh my GOD, the hugging, and the “don’t hurt my sore ear” and ALL OF IT. And yes, okay, let’s address that Mr. Gower totally lost it, and got super abusive, and YIKES. But also, let’s address that he found out in a telegram that his son died . . . ? Thanks for that, 1919. We are all sobbing, basically right now, let’s be honest.

6. Donna Reed + Jimmy Stewart = the most beautiful couple in the world

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL. Which is exactly why she ditches the guy who played Alfalfa in the original Little Rascals (“Oh, why don’t you stop annoying people?”) to hang with lovely, unicorn-like Jimmy Stewart who DANCES THE CHARLESTON WITH HER. Guys, I’m not proud — lies, I am very proud — of trying to convince my friends in elementary school to dance like this. It didn’t work. But you know what did work? THE POOL GAG. (No, I didn’t try it in school! I  mean in the movie. THE MOVIE THAT I LOVE AND WE ARE ALL WATCHING TOGETHER NOW LIKE A WONDERFUL FAMILY.) Why is It’s A Wonderful Life perfect?

7. “You want the moon?”

YES. I DO WANT THE MOON, JIMMY STEWART. GIVE ME THE MOON. LASSO THE MOON AND THEN GIVE IT TO ME. See, again, we are all Kathy Geiss right now. Mary and George are talking about hopes and dreams, and now we are shouting “KISS KISS KISS!” at the screen. (We are, right? Am I alone here?)

8. It makes me sad, though, a bit, that George didn’t get to do what he wanted

Don’t get me wrong, I love the George Bailey, Mary Bailey, Bedford Falls, etc. timeline, but as someone who doesn’t want to live in her hometown forever, and who wants to pursue various goals, I really hope that after the financial crisis got sorted, George was able to go on a business trip or something AT LEAST. I mean, it’s amazing how everyone came together, and George’s life is obviously priceless and amazing, but I completely understand why he got bummed out. I GET IT. I think we all do! I mean, imagine the disappointment of not even being able to go on a trip with your spouse because your business had to come first? AGAIN? I WANT TO HUG YOU, GEORGE BAILEY AND MORE SPECIFICALLY, JIMMY STEWART. (Always Jimmy Stewart because I am a human with a heart and eyes.)

9. I also never really understood why George acted like such a d-bag to Mary before they start making out

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right now: I am in love with Jimmy Stewart. Watching Jimmy Stewart movies is hard for me because they are all super old, and he is not alive anymore, and I have these feelings for a man who is not only deceased, but famous before I was even born. But the scene where he goes to Mary and acts like SUCH an asshole is just the worst! I GET THAT HE’S CONFLICTED. I GET IT. But YOU called on MARY! And then you shake her or something? Yes, we are all Kathy Geiss AGAIN when they share the phone, but still! STILL. CALM DOWN. There’d be a serious red flag situation arising, and we would have to talk about his anger issues. Especially when she makes him this:

And he doesn’t even remotely appreciate it! Oh, the discussions we would have, you guys. THE DISCUSSIONS HE AND I WOULD HAVE.

Okay, but also for the record, watching this scene now, and I am still basically shouting (AGAIN) KISS KISS KISS. I really am this woman, in this 30 Rock scene:

Thank you.

10. Now, financially speaking, I don’t know what a run on the bank is or how it works

Is it a United States thing? I’m genuinely asking because in Canada, there are only these major banks, and the government’s involved, and even when I worked at one, I wasn’t even 100% sure how it worked. (I lasted six months because, as mentioned a lot, I am completely unemployable in any other industry.) So this run on the bank! What the hell, Bedford Falls? WHAT’S GOING ON? All I know is that it’s terrifying, and there was also a run on the bank in Mary Poppins too. Thus, I spent a good portion of my childhood watching banks and waiting for people to run to, in, or on them. (And trying to quote the episode of The Simpsons where they do an impression of George Bailey: “Your money’s at Joe’s house! At Fred’s house!” – “What the hell is my money doing at your house, friend?”)

Also, on a sidenote, did you know that Lionel Barrymore is related to Drew? Because I had a pretty good time telling everyone I had ever met about this fact when I was small. Wasn’t I a peach? Didn’t I just seem like the greatest child to be around? FULL OF FACTS, YOU GUYS. JUST A BARREL OF LAUGHS!

11. Mary Bailey defines YGG

Mary Bailey, YGG. This dame fixes an entire house, has kids (which, if that were me, would mean I would just sit around being overwhelmed), then deals with George and his existential crisis. The woman is a force. A force! And frankly, I am going to go right ahead and believe that Donna Reed was just as awesome, since everything I have ever read about her has been full of praise.

12. But seriously, Uncle Billy, WTF

I mean, really. You have ONE JOB. ONE JOB! You literally had to deposit money into the bank. Why would you go over and talk to Potter? JUST SAY NO. It’s a valuable lesson: if you see somebody that you hate, just don’t talk to them. Resist the urge. RESIST THE URGE! Also, how did you manage to fold it into the newspaper, Bill? How? And how did you  not notice right away? Also, wouldn’t your deduction lead you to knowing RIGHT AWAY that you folded it in the newspaper? This really stresses me out so much. Also, POTTER YOU D-BAG. You just stole thousands of dollars! YOU SHOULD BE IMPRISONED. Lionel Barrymore, if you weren’t a wonderful thespian of stage and screen, I would hold you personally responsible for this.

13. And then the bank examiner assumes George and Violet are having an affair?!

Because his childhood friend came to visit him, and she gave him a kiss on the cheek? Anyone who knows either of them would know they’ve been friends since 1919 (AT LEAST), so I mean… it’s Christmas? Why are all of you so uptight? Also, I would totally watch a movie all about Violet. Why did she have to leave town? I want to know everything. MY FRIEND, VIOLET.

14. Okay, but REALLY, I would probably fire Uncle Billy

And this is why I’m not a business person or anyone who should ever be involved in business. Especially with family members, let’s be honest with ourselves and everyone we care about. Uncle Billy would be fired, and I would probably just flee the city. And I would blame Billy, that’s the thing! George is so noble! Blaming himself? I would be 100% blaming Uncle Billy, WHO LOST THE MONEY TO BEGIN WITH. And then when everyone brought the money, I would still fire Uncle Billy, or at least give him a new job that consisted only of filing. Regardless, he would have zero monetary responsibility, and I would probably never forgive him.

15. George’s freakout = totally justifiable

The other day I freaked out because someone cut me off when I was driving, and yesterday, I forgot I had to do something before this afternoon, and THAT made me almost freak out. So all I’m saying is that I would absolutely spiral and kick over a table and yell at my kids if some random person — nay, MY UNCLE — lost $8000 and I needed it. I got a cheque late last month (by four days), and I was already ready to scream at some kid and tell them to stop playing “Hark! The Harold Angels Sing.” So George? Getting hammered and basically spiralling out of control? Pretty understandable. But I will say that as soon as he steps onto the bridge — you guessed it — it’s tears/emotion central up in here.

14 seconds later: OH GOD THEY ALL LOVE HIM SO MUCH. (Mr. Martini! I love you!)

16. Well let’s be serious: this new bar seems like a lot of fun

I said that to my Uncle and Aunt when we were watching it on TV a few weeks ago, and they were like “Pottersville is seedy and gross!” and LISTEN. As someone who comes from a town that can be both of those things (sometimes, not all the time) (well it WAS, it’s getting better now) (fun fact: my great-grandmother was a bootlegger), I can appreciate certain places being a little seedy and gross. Nick’s bar? 110% one of those places. Also, Nick! SUCH ATTITUDE. Kind of like another Christmas movie I’m thinking of: Home Alone. (Read: “Keep the change, ya filthy animal!”) Do people still speak like this? Can they start? We all sound so terrible now! NO ONE SAYS “BOYD” INSTEAD OF “BIRD.” We’ve failed our ancestors.

17. I’m also going to say that the townspeople aren’t horrible, they legitimately think George is insane

So George goes into a cab, and talks to Ernie like he knows him, and TOTALLY FREAKS HIM OUT, and we wonder why Ernie called the cops? I will say that maybe Bert the cop (LIKE BERT AND ERNIE #OMG), could have maybe not gotten so violent with him, but then at the same time, George — if you don’t know the circumstance — seems like he could totally lose it at any second. I’m not going to lie, if some guy knew a bunch of facts about my life and I didn’t know him, I would call EVERY cop, and then I would install 529528525 locks.

Also, remember how terrifying it would be for his mom to have some strange man show up and say, “Mother! Mother!” I seriously would set my house on fire, hop in a cab, and never look back.

18. THERE IS NO WAY MARY BAILEY WOULD BE AN OLD MAID

NO WAY IN HELL. She’s beautiful! She’s smart and she’s a force! There’s no way she would just not go to school. Because her being an old maid implies she only educated herself and tried to look nice to get George? HAIL NO. Mary Bailey would probably have just gone to school and moved away and lived a really great life someplace. Why? Because she’s a really great lady! I mean, yeah, the rest of the town would have sucked without George, but there is no way Mary’s life would have been that bleak. IT’S DONNA REED, PEOPLE.

19. “I wanna live again!”

AND NOW WE ARE ALL CRYING AGAIN. HE WANTS TO LIVE AGAIN. CRYING ON THE BRIDGE. SNOW FALLING REALLY HARD. HIS MOUTH IS BLEEDING. ZUZU’S PETALS. TEARS EVERYWHERE. MERRY CHRISTMAS.

20. But Bedford Falls > Pottersville, obviously

I mean, even aesthetically it looks better. BUT I will say that it could absolutely do with some more jazz ala Pottersville, and it wouldn’t hurt Nick for him to keep speaking like the gangster in Home Alone. But aside from that? Beautiful! Movie theatres, and lights, and people in hats!

21. Remember when everyone shows up and gives George money?

And all of us are reminded of WHAT A FREAKING FLAWLESS AND BEAUTIFUL MOVIE THIS IS? Like, I WISH, am I right, you guys? But at the same time, and maybe I’m just being really optimistic, if you were in a terrible jam like George, and you asked the people you’ve known your whole life for help, they really would probably rally together and help you. I mean, I see things like this on the internet all the time, especially when someone’s facing a crisis. In fact, last night, I forgot my debit card and had to use cash at the grocery store, and didn’t have enough for my cashews (I’m really cool, everyone), and the cashier was like “Oh, actually they’re paid for.” And I was like, “Huh?” And she’s like “Somebody paid for them.” And I was like, “WHO?!” and she was like, “That guy.” And enter: a dude I had never met, who was just buying his groceries, then said Merry Christmas to me, and then just left. Like, no “so what’s your  name?” just like, a mysterious holiday mascot or something, buying my cashews.

22. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings”

How am I typing/how are you reading when we are actually just weeping about how beautiful this scene is? You don’t even have to be religious! (Seriously. I’m not. And I STILL love this scene.) It’s just SO LOVELY. It’s not even about angels! It’s about how THEY ARE ALL SINGING THAT SONG.

23. And SPEAKING of that song, I would like NYE so much better if we all sang that song

I might be wrong here (and I probably am), but as someone who doesn’t like New Year’s, I would 100% like New Year’s parties more if they involved singing “Auld Lang Something-or-other.” The classiness! The nostalgia! The lack of people “in the club” iwth their “bottles full of bub” (THEY GOT WHAT WE NEED)! Which is why this year, like the last five years, I will be eating at Red Lobster with my two friends and going to see two movies. We will not be singing the New Year’s song, but we WILL be wearing fancy dress. To the movies. BECAUSE IT IS AN EVENT.

24. So: consensus. George’s life is pretty wonderful

BUT it would be more wonderful if it always allowed him to live his various hopes and dreams, too! So let’s assume this. Because of all the money from Bedford Falls’ residences, George and Mary spring for a vacay and finally get out of town. The kids stay with Grandma, then every year, they vow to take a trip because damn it, THEY DESERVE IT. The kids grow up, and George and Mary travel the world, all while the Building and Loan continues to make Bedford Falls an even better town. AND EVERYTHING IS TIED UP IN A NEAT LITTLE PACKAGE.  (Special appearance by: Clarence, who’d never been to Rome, but tagged along with them for a day because he could.)

25. This isn’t It’s A Wonderful Life related, but . . . 

THANK YOU for such an awesome, wonderful year, you guys. I seriously can’t believe I started writing these a year ago, but I did, and all of your kind words and willingness to read things I type onto the screen have meant so much. You really are the literal best.

So I say this: please feel free to recommend any movies you have on your hearts and minds. Even if I haven’t seen them. I’ve started a list, but I can’t find it anyplace, so if you’ve already recommended something that I haven’t written about yet, recommend it again and I’ll get on it. (See how many times I just said “recommend?” It means I’m serious.)

SO THANK YOU. And of course, I hope you have the best holiday. I have so much fun writing my Old Lady Movie Nights, but I can 100% guarantee they would be a lot less fun if none of you were reading them.

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  1. old lady movie night: penny serenade with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant . you WILL need a box of kleenex

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  3. I love this movie so much! Every year the woman who played Zuzu comes to the theater near my house to share memories from filming and answer questions. It’s now a Christmas tradition :)

  4. IAWL is definitely one of my favorite movies. I usually start crying when Mary says: “Is this your bad ear? George Bailey, I’ll love you ’til the day I die!” and I don’t stop through the rest of the movie. I think Mary being an old maid is cool because it’s like saying George was her soul-mate and she wasn’t going to settle for some other guy just for the sake of being married. She was way ahead of her time. She’s rather be a librarian than marry Sam. I would too!
    Also, you did know Bert and Ernie the sesame street characters are named after the cop and cab driver, right??

  5. THANK YOU so much for writing this. This is my favorite movie and I feel like I wrote this article myself! I agree with everything you wrote. Let me just end by saying JIMMY STEWART! You are so right. Amen.

  6. I have been waiting my entire life for a New Years that involved the collective singing of “Auld Lang Syne”…

  7. Anne, it’d be totally rufus if you wrote about Never Been Kissed.

    Thank YOU for writing these hilarious gems (almost) every week!

  8. Ms. Donahue, can we be BFFFs (Bedford Falls Friends Forever)? Here are some good reasons:

    1. You seem to love IaWL even more than me. Was that possible? No one would have thought so. I would almost let you marry Jimmy Stewart instead of me, but nope, sorry, I just want it too bad.

    2. Tonight (the very day that this article was posted!) I am going to see THE FILM on the big screen at the IFC in NYC. Have you ever been to this? Some nights, the early show has… DONNA REED’S DAUGHTER … come and talk to you about how awesome her mother was. Truth.

    3. At my friends’ new year’s party last year, we all toasted to “My brother George, the richest man in town!” and spilled champagne over our fancy dress while singing Auld Lang Syne. This will probably happen again.

    Bottom line: so excited to find this column! YGG!

    • I do not know why I have never made this toast before, but i am going to MAKE IT HAPPEN this year.

      ALSO! Anne, you are a special snowflake(we all are really) and im hoping you will do another xmas movie next week(still counts, its before New Years!) so can you do Little Women?

      also also, maybe in general, could you do BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY(how have you not reviewed that yet? that movie=everything.)

    • You are probably the coolest person I have ever met. Please, please, please befriend Donna Reed’s daughter and convince her to meet us at a halfway point between New York and Toronto. There, we will all sing Auld Lang Syne. WE CAN DO THIS.

      Anne T. Donahue | 12/20/2012 08:12 am