The 5 Keys to George Bailey’s Wonderful Life

2021. What a year it’s been.

I know I’m not the only one who is happy to see it go and have a new one take its place.

2021 has been a year of fears, tears, loss, and dreams stripped away. For most of us, there’s a new life entirely that we have had to adapt to – involuntarily.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this year marks the 75th anniversary of Its a Wonderful Life, a film illustrating a man’s attempt to navigate the battlefield of life – it’s ups and downs – but especially, the downs.

This year as I watched George Bailey’s struggle in Bedford Falls, several points stood out to me, reminders that I need on a constant basis.

And so dear reader, I am writing this to myself as much as to anyone who would like to glean from George Bailey’s Wonderful Life.

1. Accept Your Destiny

Throughout It’s a Wonderful Life, a war rages within George between his desire to make it big in the world and his moral conscience which won’t let the townspeople suffer at the hands of Potter.

The longer he stays there the more we realize along with George that he, not unlike a trusty lamppost lining Main Street, is a permanent fixture of Bedford Falls, U.S.A.

George loves his friends and family, and though years have gone by, his dreams of ambition haven’t faded away.

Although George is physically present at the Building and Loan, it is evidenced that at times his heart is in another place – building skyscrapers, perhaps, in some exotic locale.

After learning of his value via Clarence, George stops running from his fate and accepts his place in life. Now, he is finally at peace with himself and can experience true happiness.

2. Be Willing to Ask for Help

George refers to a “bust in the jaw” from Mr. Leech at Martini’s Bar as an answer to a prayer, to which Clarence quickly refutes and claims George’s prayer as the reason he was sent down from Heaven.

Independence is an honorable trait, but so is being aware of our capabilities and limits. If George hadn’t asked for help, who knows what the ending of our story might have been.

This much we can surmise. There would have been no Clarence and no travel back in time…

Thankfully, as we know, George got the help that he needed and (eventually) was humble and wise enough to accept it.

Often in life we don’t want to be a bother or feel the vulnerability of relying on another so we choose to go our way alone. We forget that as human beings we are a social race and, in many ways, rely on each other for survival.

3. Realize the Bad Guys Don’t Always Get Outwardly Punished

Mr. Potter, the baddest of the bad.

How did he, the richest man in town, get away with stealing that invaluable $8,000 dollars from the good-hearted, but always broke, Bailey Building and Loan? I thought in Code films the bad guys were required to get retribution for their dastardly deeds…Did Frank Capra miss something here?

Strangely enough, this is one of my favorite aspects of this movie, so hang tight.

Our villain, though deserving he may be of public humiliation, to be put in the stocks, so to speak, does not even receive a proverbial slap on the hand.

His fate is to live out the rest of his life in misery with only his money and his manservants around him. Never to feel the warm glow of love, the tenderness of a kind word, or the support of a caring friend.

I love the scene when a penniless, jubilant George wishes miserly Mr. Potter a Merry Christmas after he’s been on his relevatory trip. It never fails to make me laugh and cry tears of joy, and in this one image the distinction is never clearer between the winner and the loser.

I ask you, discerning reader, how perceptive is Capra’s ending for Potter? Often we don’t see the end of the story for the “villains” but sooner or later, they will pay the piper for their misdeeds.

It just might be in a way we would never expect.

4. Believe that Good Can Come from Bad

We know the story. Uncle Billy misplaced the Building and Loan money and that meant ruination, scandal, and jail for the Bailey’s.

George never thought much of himself but what about the family reputation? What about Mary, Pete, Tommy, Janie, and Zuzu?

This led George to a dark place where he believed the words of Mr. Potter, “You’re worth more dead, than alive.”

All he had left was a life insurance policy. If he took his own life and let his family use that life insurance money they could get on for a little while before, surely, someone else could help them…

On that cold dark night, George’s heart was troubled which led him to a prayer for help.

Help came in the form of Clarence. Clarence helped George to see his worth and in everything around him which enables George to live his best life yet.

This chain of events would never have happened if Uncle Billy hadn’t lost the money in the first place.

George had to lose almost everything to find out he had everything.

5. Invest in People

Peter Bailey’s office bears the sign “All you can take with you is that which you give away.” He devoted his life to that credo and George followed suit.

Throughout the movie he gives and gives of himself till he has nothing left.

That all changes in the last scene when everything he has given returns to him tenfold, not only monetarily, but most importantly, in spirit through his friends’ generous love and support.

This iconic scene (that makes us all get out the hankies) beautifully illustrates the meaning of life and Christmas.

Investing in others is never futile. Like a domino effect, our impact on the lives of those around us lasts long after we are gone. Acts of charity, the memories we make, relationships we build, and the love we share with family and friends, turns out a profit that will last – forever.

This post is my contribution to the It’s a Wonderful Life Blogathon: A 75th Anniversary Celebration hosted by yours truly. Click here to continue the celebration of this beloved holiday classic!

Love & War: Marriage in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Image: amc.com

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the Old South, is one of the best selling books of all time. When made into a film in 1939, it became an international phenomenon that has intrigued the public like no other. To this day, Gone With the Wind is still the most succesful movie ever made.

Ripe with complex characters, wonderful performances, and non-stop action, the film thrills in every way possible. In the midst of this sprawling epic are three couples with varying dynamics in their marital relationships. I would like to focus on these in particular: Gerald and Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s parents; Ashley and Melanie Wilkes; and of course, Rhett and Scarlett.

Gerald & Ellen O’Hara

Image: Pinterest

Gerald (Thomas Mitchell) and Ellen O’Hara (Barbara O’Neill) are the owners of the Tara plantation. Their pride and joy is wrapped up in every fiber of the land.

Image: gonewiththewindfandom.com

Ellen devotes herself to being the mistress of Tara and is a very capable one. A responsive mother to the emotional needs of her daughters, and a midwife to the women in town, she is highly respected in their community.

The relationship between Gerald and Ellen is platonic and respectful. Coming from the book, theirs was an arranged marriage and while Gerald was wild about Ellen, she did not feel the same about him. Ellen was in love with another man whom she could not marry due to her family’s disapproval. Gerald was always of the opinion that his wife was as happy as he was in their marriage, and I’m sure it would have broken his heart if he knew the truth.

When Ellen passes on, Gerald cannot function without her and sadly, loses his mind. His strength seemed to come from Ellen even before she passed, but it was most definitely buried with her when she died.

Ashley & Melanie Wilkes

Image: lanternhollow.wordpress.com

Our next couple, Ashley (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland), are second cousins. In the film Ashley says, “She [Melanie] is part of my blood and we understand each other.” That pretty much summarizes their relationship – it is built upon understanding and familiarity. In the book, Ashley and Melanie share the same interests: reading, culture, and the arts. While this is not spoken of in the film, it is clear that they are cut from the same cloth. They both are peace loving people with not an aggressive bone in their bodies.

Image: directexpose.com

Although Ashley strings Scarlett along with hopes of romance, his heart belongs to Melanie. While he is drawn to Scarlett’s fire and passionate nature, he knows that a relationship between them would not be a successful one. Melanie is much better suited to him. She understands his nature and idolizes him, while he leans on and admires her quiet, gentle strength.

When Melanie passes, Ashley takes on a similar behavior that Gerald exhibited at Ellen’s passing. He then confesses to Scarlett that he cannot live without Melanie. “She’s the only dream I’ve had that didn’t die in the face of reality.” Like Gerald, Ashley’s strength comes from his wife, and it is at that moment Scarlett realizes how her affections have been misplaced for so long.

Rhett & Scarlett

Image: abcnews.go.com

It is love at first sight when Rhett (Clark Gable) first lays eyes on Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). He’s drawn to her beauty, her strength, and to the fact that she is just like him. Rhett admits to Scarlett that they are alike and meant to be together.”Bad lots – both of us. We are able to look things in the eye and call them by their real names.”

Scarlett has a disrespect for Rhett in the sense that he is not a genteel Southern gentleman whom she was raised to admire. He is a self made man who takes advantage of the war by making his own fortune off of it. He has no nostalgia for the Old South nor respects its ways. Rhett is a man of action, ready for whatever life throws at him. He is not the type of man Scarlett has been dreaming of marrying since she was a little girl. That place belongs to someone like Ashley.

Rhett proves himself a capable and trustworthy man despite his scandalous reputation. Although Scarlett doesn’t admit to loving him until the end of the movie, she does come to lean on him in times of need. That’s not something she could say for many of the other men in her life.

Image: Pinterest

You could say Scarlett uses marriage as a tool – sometimes as a weapon, other times as a shield. When she marries her first husband, it is out of spite to hurt Ashley. Not only that, she strategically marries into Ashley’s family, forever being tied to him. When she marries her second husband, it is to save Tara from being taken away from her. When she marries Rhett, it is for the security of never being poor. Unlike most women, Scarlett does not marry for love.

Rhett and Scarlett’s marriage is volatile, tempestuous, and passionate. The times we see them happy together are few, and the tension between them mounts as the film goes on.

Rhett seethes with jealousy as he observes Scarlett in her constant pursuit of Ashley and is deeply hurt by Scarlett’s rejection of him, while Scarlett believes that Rhett is in love with Belle, not with her at all.

Image: Pinterest

Their marriage is characterized by misunderstanding fostered by miscommunication. Neither of them can admit their true feelings to each other. The few times one of them comes close to having a transparent conversation, the other throws a jab and then they’re back to square one – arguing and bickering without coming to a resolution.

Rhett and Scarlett were both strong willed individuals and meant for each other, but Scarlett failed to see the cold, hard facts until it was too late.

Rhett and Scarlett rank right up there with literature and lore’s most famous lovers: Antony and Cleopatra; and Lancelot and Guinevere. However, unlike the aforementioned couples, Rhett and Scarlett did make it to the marriage altar – for better or worse.

This post is my contribution to The Wedding Bells Blogathon hosted by Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood. Click here to read the rest of the blissful entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!