Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct

(written last Saturday, remixed from last year)

Most everyone with a passing interest in Christmas, movies, and/or Christmas movies knows the tale of It’s A Wonderful Life – how it slid into relative obscurity only to become a beloved classic in the ‘70s after its copyright lapsed and the film was shown repeatedly during the holidays.

There are no memories for me of seeing the movie as a child in the ‘70s. Actually, I didn’t see it until a good decade or more later when I was in my early twenties. I was renting some movies from the video store next to the record store where I worked. I had two days off, was broke, and wanted to veg. There was It’s A Wonderful Life. I shrugged and figured I was due.

It was the middle of July.

An annual viewing, seasonally adjusted, is now a bit of a tradition. So, I’m stretched out on the couch and watching as the plans of Jimmy Stewart get laid to waste one by one – no travel, no college, no life in the dirty city.

(and, as I think about it, I’ve been fortunate to do all of those things he’d set out to do)

Paloma trudged through half an hour of the movie. She was up very early this morning and she finds the flick to be depressing.

(it is a mostly grim slog to Jimmy Stewart’s epiphany)

Tonight is one of the coldest of the season so far, but the central heat is keeping the chill of the outside world at bay. Its steady hum is soothing.

The only light, aside from the television, is the glow of several strings of white Christmas bulbs. My eyes kept catching snatches of items about the living room in the firefly flickers from the black and white images on the screen.

Bob Marley is smiling from some odd print that has him juxtaposed against stars and stripes. Godzilla battles the Smog Monster on a framed Japanese poster, a gift from Paloma.

There’s some of Paloma’s artwork on the wall, a cattle skull painted metallic silver, a British Union Jack and a Singaporean flag, as well as nearly a thousand albums filed against another wall.

One small, black kitten, Ravi, is asleep on a large chair. Another, Ju Ju, sits on the back of the couch staring out the window behind me. Both were abandoned by a neighbor and neither was with us last Christmas.

Coltrane is missed.

Pizza and Sam are most certainly curled up with Paloma, sleeping in the next room.

It’s peaceful, it’s comforting, and it is quite wonderful.

Here are some songs of the season that made annual appearances on most of the radio stations I was listening to in the early ’80s…

Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas

Band Aid’s charity single from 1984 has been pretty maligned and, granted, it might not be a stellar musical effort, but, if you were a young music fan at the time, it had a certain charm that it likely retains to this day. It featured some of the superstar acts of the early MTV era and it was one of the first musical events I had lived through.

And, if you were a kid at the time, it very well was one of the first times you realized that as big as the world might be, it was one world. And, maybe it made you stop and think that there are a lot of people in the world who might not have the simplest things which we take for granted, not just at Christmas, but each and every day.

At least it did for me.

Bryan Adams – Christmas Time

It must have been sometime in the mid-’80s when Bryan Adams’ Christmas Time became a radio staple. Like the string of hits he had had at the time, the song isn’t rocket science and Adams hardly reinvents fire, but the sentiment is true and it’s an engaging track.

Billy Squier – Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You

In the Midwest in the ’80s, Billy Squier was a rock god. The rock stations to which I was listening played not only the hits like The Stroke, Everbody Wants You, and In The Dark, but practically every track from the albums Don’t Say No and Emotions In Motion.

So, the rollicking Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You was in heavy rotation each December.

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
from I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts

The Waitresses only released one full-length album and an EP of their quirky, New Wave rock. But, despite their scant output, the group notched two, enduring classics – the sassy I Know What Boys Like and their modern holiday classic Christmas Wrapping.

I’m sure that I first heard the song on 97X during Christmas ’83 as I was discovering modern rock and it was immediately memorable.

Years later, I’d much better relate to the story within the song, and, somehow, despite how many times I’ve heard it, the ending is still a surprise that makes me smile.

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2 Responses to Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct

  1. Perplexio says:

    In the late 70s before the copyright on It’s a Wonderful Life had lapsed they did a made-for-TV remake, It Happened One Christmas starring Marlo Thomas playing Mary Bailey in a gender-reversal. Cloris Leachman played the angel, Clara, and Wayne Rogers (Trapper John from M*A*S*H*) played George Hatch. I believe it aired yearly as I remember watching it in the early 80s. I was still in diapers when it was originally aired in 1977 so I doubt I saw it at that point. I actually saw it BEFORE It’s a Wonderful Life. I thoroughly enjoy both movies.

    I’m guessing, given when it was made, the decision for the gender reversal was related to the equal rights ammendment and women’s lib and all that.

  2. Perplexio says:

    PS: Orson Welles played Mr. Potter in the remake. The only gender reversals were to make the story about Mary and to change Clarence into Clara. All of the other characters from the original stayed the same gender as in the original.

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