OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Many lessons to be learned from 'Wonderful Life' film

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-12-25T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Many lessons to be learned from 'Wonderful Life' filmPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Merry Christmas!

Yes, we've all seen the classic film "It's a Wonderful Life."

The annual airing of the Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed duo Oscar-nominated 1956 movie directed by Frank Capra has earned a place in the hearts of young and old.

Though Reed, who was 25 when the picture was made, died in 1986, and Stewart died a decade later at age 89, the movie continues to live on in the hearts of many, including author Bob Welch.

His new 208-page paperback called "52 Lessons from It's a Wonderful Life" ($15.99 Thomas Nelson Press) reminds that there's so much more to this movie than tugging at heartstrings.

Of course, the famed line from the film is: "Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings."

But Welch delves much further to "connect the dots" from the dialogue of the characters, including Valparaiso claim-to-fame actress Beulah Bondi, who portrayed George's mother, Ma Bailey, in the film.

Bondi was a 1916 graduate of Valparaiso University and returned several times to talk with students about the movie and her career before her death at age 90 in 1981.

Here are some of the "lessons" Welch ponders on the pages:

• You matter to the world

• You can't run away from your problems

• Trying to keep up with the Joneses is futile

• It's in helping others that we help ourselves

• Lost dreams can be found opportunities

• Actions speak louder than words

• Age is insignificant; how you live is not

"What matters in the movie's town of Bedford Falls? People matter," Welch says, reminding that in the scene when George goes "calling" on Mary, he passes couples enjoying the simplicity of evening walks.

He goes on to write that when there's "a run on the bank," not all of the townspeople insist that George close their accounts at his family's Bailey Savings & Loan. (Although some do, like Tom, who insists he be allowed to withdraw his entire $242.)

Welch highlights that Ed, who has $300 in his account, says he can get by on $20 and Mrs. Davis asks for only $17.50 of her funds which resulted in George planting an unscripted kiss on her cheek in gratitude.

Welch packs plenty into these pages, including fascinating tidbits that many might not have heard.

One of the most pressing age-old questions answered by Welch is regarding why "Old Man Potter" isn't punished in the film for his dastardly deed of keeping the money he stumbles upon in a newspaper that is intended as the bank deposit Uncle Billy is supposed to make on Christmas Eve.

Welch shares part of a Q&A interview Capra did in 1968 addressing this question I'm sure we've all wondered about.

"What to do with actor Lionel Barrymore's character really came up at the time we were shooting it, at the time we were writing the script," said Capra, who died at age 94 in 1991.

"How do you handle a guy like that? Well, we just left him alone. We just let him go on about his business. He was the kind of guy who wouldn't change, couldn't change. So we just left him, and our main interest was what happened to George Bailey. This Lionel Barrymore character was too crusty, too old, too happy with what he was doing to change. So we just left him as he was."

Author Welch adds: "And, really, isn't that the message that exudes from the Bailey living room late on that Christmas Eve, that good has overcome evil? George's redemption lay in the goodness that was returned to him as a result of his goodness to others."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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