Recently, my wife and I spent some time at Dollywood's Christmas celebration in Pigeon Forge, TN.
One of the seasonal themed shows the park offered was a stage adaptation of the classic Frank Capra film, "It's A Wonderful Life".
The show was presented as a musical. Because there's not really much music associated with the original 1946 film (other than the song "Buffalo Gals") it used songs from other well known Broadway shows. More on that in a future post.
The combination of seeing the story performed in a different way and my watching the actual movie a couple of times this holiday season got me thinking (often a dangerous thing for me).
I asked myself, since "the remake" is all the rage in the movie business these days what would a 2016 version of George Bailey's story look like?
After some thought I came up with 10 ways (yes, I always have to do 10) it would be different. I would like to share them with you. Some are relatively serious, some are humorous, some are a reflection of our current times and culture, and some are just my opinion. There are even one or two that would make the story vastly different or irrelevant.
Please take each of these with a grain of salt and a wink and a nod. I am just trying to have a little fun batting around an idea about one of my favorite Christmas movies and it's place in our culture and history. I have tried to place them in order of how it would effect the spirit of the film. Here I go.
One of the things that always bothered me about "Wonderful Life" is that Mr. Potter never had to pay for his theft of the Bailey's money. He was the cause of all the problems that drove George to suicide because of his criminal act. Today, DNA evidence would lead to the discovery that would result in him being charged with theft and filing a false police report.
After getting drunk at Martini's bar Bailey drives his car into a tree that's a landmark in Bedford Falls. Today, either George himself or Martini, the bartender and owner, would have called a cab to take him home.
For years the media has been rampant with rumors about the Sesame Street characters, Burt & Ernie, being in a romantic relationship. Nowadays Hollywood would have to make the Bedford Falls cab driver and cop "more than friends". Doing this would give the scene where they sing "I Love You Truly" together while standing in the rain and Burt kisses Ernie on the head, a totally different perspective.
Or at least not in the way that the character, Annie, (Lillian Randolph) was portrayed. Those stereo typical roles are just not written into today's "politically correct" movies; at least not unless they are to illustrate blatant racism. I won't even go into what many would call " on the job sexual harassment" by Harry Bailey during the Bailey's dinner scene.
While portrayed as the "popular bad girl", in this day and age, Violet wouldn't be seen as being a "Sex In The City" type girl. She would also be on Tinder just looking for fun and awaiting the guys to swipe right and contact her for a "date."
In the movie, the Bailey family patriarch is portrayed as a drunk, mostly as a means of comic relief. However because alcoholism is seen as serious issue today, in a remake he would be different. He would be sober with a back story that includes: a family intervention, a stint in rehab and on-going recovery.
This would theoretically effect the plot in that he wouldn't have the lack of clarity that caused him to lose the money while at the bank; the beginning of the Building & Loan's problems.
In one of the most memorable scenes near the end of the movie, a "revived" George Bailey runs through the downtown area of Bedford Falls shouting "Merry Christmas" to the buildings and businesses. But in the reboot the area would probably look a lot different.
The theater would no longer show movies but would be revitalized as an arts center that hosts touring Broadway shows, road companies and musical acts.
The Emporium building would be abandoned having been put out of business by the Walmart, Sam's Club and Target on the edge of town.
Finally, and most importantly, the soda fountain inside Mr. Gower's drug store (now a Walgreens) would be a Starbucks.
Henry Traver's portrayal of George's guardian angel was integral part of the original movie. In the reboot the part would be cast in a very different way. Some of my suggestions would be: Octavia Spencer, Kevin Hart, Dewayne Johnson, Lady Gaga (not sure if she has the acting chops for the role), Jim Parsons, or Johnny Depp, to name a few. Who would be your choice?
Upon learning of her husband's dilemma, Mary Bailey takes to Facebook & Twitter explaining the situation and asking for prayers.
All the people of the town, check their phones but are too busy with their own affairs to do anything but like or comment on the post.
From his home in Rochester, Sam Wainwright starts a "Go Fund Me" page to help raise the amount of money George will need plus his future legal fees.
The page's goal is met but when George returns to home all he finds is Mary staring at her phone while the kids play on their I-Pads.
The community stays away (the roads are too bad to drive or walk although they did go to the store to buy bread, milk, and toilet paper), currency and coins are not collected in a wicker basket, no arrest warrant is torn up, the bank examiner keeps his investigation open but the bottles of wine stay corked.
The festive singing of Auld Lang Syne by a grateful community never happens.
George does discover a wrapped present under the tree with his name on it. He opens it and it's the ugliest of Christmas sweaters.
Inside is a card that reads: No man is a failure who has friends. Post a pic of you wearing this sweater on Instagram and you will find out just how many you have. By the way thanks to you, I now have something better than wings; a drone with a webcam. Merry Christmas, Your Guardian Angel."
And finally, the sound of a bell is heard in the room. Zuzu Bailey then proclaims in the cutest way possible, "See Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, you get a notification."
Nobody pays attention to her. They are all looking at their phones.
Okay, so there are none of the "fairy tale" elements that are part of the original "Wonderful Life." But back in the post WWII era America needed some modern fairy tales. But in 2016, that's not the type of movies America is drawn to. They are drawn to holiday releases like "Office Christmas Party" and "Why Him." We look to escape to films that take us to "a galaxy far far away."
As anyone who knows me understands I am as sentimental about the holiday season and everything that goes with it as anyone. I just had these thoughts about one of the most enduring Christmas movies of all time. It reminds me of my parents and of a time when I lived in an America that openly embraced "modern fairy tales."
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