TTT Christmas freebie: 10 ways 'It's a Wonderful Life' is like a reverse 'Christmas Carol'...

Pin on Disney The Muppet Christmas Carol
Week Three ENG 225: The Use of Sound in the Film It's a Wonderful Life –  melsfilmblog

It's a Wonderful Life is one of my favourite Christmas films and I think in some ways it gets a bad wrap. The final half hour - where Clarence shows George what life would be like if he had never been born - is spoofed a lot, and so it comes across as mushy and sentimental. But really it's about how being a good person can be really difficult and annoying (but is still worth it.) Maybe it's just the Christmas theme, but I always think of It's A Wonderful Life as A Christmas Carol in reverse. Scrooge is shown the error of his ways, while George has to be convinced that the life choices he's made are good ones, and that his life has been worthwhile. Lots of the same motifs appear in the two stories, so I reckon this is partly intentional? Here are ten ways I think the comparison works - do you agree? 


1. Christmas Eve visitation 

COMEDY GOLD #20: George meets Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) –  The Old Hollywood Garden
Using Textual Clues to Understand “A Christmas Carol” | NEH-Edsitement

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his old business partner, Marley, who tells him that he's been a cold, selfish person all his life and if he doesn't sort himself he's going to die alone and unloved (and then go to hell, basically). Throughout It's a Wonderful Life we're shown that George Bailey has made selfless choice after selfless choice and on Christmas Eve he's visited by an angel, who shows him that's he's not a failure and his life has been worthwhile - because he was in need of reminding.


2. The Ghosts vs Clarence

In It's a Wonderful Life, we start with the two angels narrating George Bailey's life - from childhood through to the present day. We see him as a boy, his first job, his first love, the growing of his business and then when things start to go a bit wrong. In A Christmas Carol the ghosts show Scrooge his childhood, his first job, his first love, the growing of his business, and then when things start to go wrong... Clarence could be a bit like the Ghost of Christmas present too?



3. Young Scrooge vs Young George 

Robert J. Anderson - IMDb


Young George Bailey is shown to be always surrounded by people - he saves his little brother's life, stops his grieving boss from making a terrible mistake, is admired by the little girls who come into the shop. Like little Scrooge he has big dreams and lots of ambition, but where Scrooge puts aside anything or anyone that will be a distraction (he stays at school in the holidays, doesn't mix with the other kids, is no fun at the work Christmas party) George thinks of people first, even when it interferes with his life path.  


4. The Bailey Building and Loan vs Marley Brothers Ltd

This is the one that makes me think the Christmas Carol thing is intentional. Both Scrooge and George are money lenders. Unlike Scrooge's business however, the Bailey Building and Loan is about helping the community. He gives up opportunity after opportunity because he feels he has to do the right thing and keep the business afloat for the sake of the local people - so there're somewhere they can go without crawling to Potter. 

5. Belle vs Mary 




One of the saddest scenes in A Christmas Carol, is when Scrooge loses the love of his life, entirely through his own fault. Both Scrooge and Belle and George and Mary meet at a party. They both like each other. But Scrooge and George both have things they want to do before they settle down and get married. Scrooge keeps putting Belle off while he's chasing the money and eventually she gets fed up and dumps him. In the telephone scene in It's a Wonderful Life  (I love that scene!) it's clear George is trying to take the Scrooge path... But in the end he chooses Mary. He gets the wife and kids, but he's never going to be rich, which is exactly what Scrooge was trying to avoid. 


6. The tombstone scene 




This needs no explanation (but I'll give you one anyway.) In both stories there's a bit in a graveyard, in the snow, with the hero kneeling by the grave while a spirit/angel stands over them. They wipe snow from the grave and there's their name! Although technically in It's a Wonderful Life it's actually his brother, Harry Bailey's stone. If George hadn't been born there wouldn't have been anyone there to save him. 

7. Sam vs Marley 

This one's a bit of a stretch, but I reckon Sam (hee-haw guy) could've been George's Marley, if he'd left the building and loan and taken a job with him. He shows us how George could've been making big money if he'd put himself first once or twice.


8. Bob Cratchit and Potter 

So Potter, in It's A Wonderful Life, is the sort of Scrooge figure, while George is more of a Bob Cratchitt type (no money, loads of kids, good person.) George is like Bob at the end of his tether and ready to crack. Where Potter is a Scrooge who doesn't get the push to be redeemed. 


9. Perils of being a good person vs being a bad person 

What I love about It's a Wonderful Life is it turns the idea of Christmas Carol on it's head. You automatically think Scrooge would've had a much better life if he'd made more selfless choices, but what if it was more complicated than that? What if he'd married Belle and had they'd had to struggle for money and Scrooge had grown frustrated and resentful? What if he'd been a model employer, friend and landlord but people kept letting him down and taking advantage? It's a Wonderful Life ultimately shows, I think, that making the right choices doesn't necessarily make for an easy life - but at the end of the day we'd all rather be a George than a Potter - wouldn't we?


10. Christmas Day happy ending 

How I Kicked Off the Christmas Season at Thanksgiving - The Rush Limbaugh  Show


The Curator of Schlock #70: The Muppet Christmas Carol (Redux) | The  Drunken Odyssey

My final comparison is the ending. It's Christmas! George and Scrooge are both new men! They run through the streets shouting a Merry Christmas! They end surrounded by friends and family, they've learnt to appreciate people and be (or continue to be) a good person. And then the cute kids bring out their catchphrase! (Every time a bell rings, and angel gets it's wings... and God bless us, everyone!) 



So what do you think? Is It's a Wonderful Life just A Christmas Carol in reverse?








Comments

  1. I adored this post. I'd never thought about the many similarities between these stories.

    My post.

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    1. Thank you! I didn't know whether I'd make it to ten but they do have a lot in common

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  2. I love this post SO MUCH! My husband just finished reading A CHRISTMAS CAROL for the first time (I re-read it every year, so I'm not sure how he never has!), so we've been talking a lot about the symbolism in the story and how so many other Christmas books and films were inspired by it. It's a Wonderful Life has come up a lot because it's MY favorite Christmas movie too. I haven't thought about the comparison between the two as deeply as you have, so I really loved reading all your insights. Thanks for that! I'm going to send my husband a link to this post. He's going to love it as well :)

    Happy TTT!

    Susan
    www.blogginboutbooks.com

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    1. Aw, Thank you!! I have to watch both over Christmas (Muppet Christmas Carol of course!) or I don’t feel Christmassy, haha. I loved the book too, it surprised me how close all the versions stick to it!

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  3. I was raised an It's a Wonderful Life lover. I see no flaws. But I love the side by side you did here

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    1. Thanks! I would say it was the perfect film - except for the cheesy bit with the flashing stars at the very beginning...

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  4. I LOVE this, Catherine! I'd never considered this before but you're so right, and it definitely seems like this was done on purpose. Like you said we'd all rather be George than Scrooge, but making the right choices isn't always easy and, sadly, there are always people who will take advantage of someone else's good nature. Great twist on this week's topic!

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    1. Thanks! It had to have been on purpose I think, too many coincidences otherwise!

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  5. Oh wow! That's awesome! Though I only ever watched It's a Wonderful Life once...and my A Christmas Carol was more Muppet style than anything else, I can see these similarities as you pointed them out! So cool! Great topic too!

    Thanks for visiting my TTT!

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    1. The Muppet version is the best version though! Haha thanks!

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  6. We watched both of these this week, and, wow, you are spot on!

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    1. Thanks, it’s when you watch them close together you notice I think!

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  7. Such a cool post! I definitely think a lot of the similar themes are done on purpose. I need that phone scene! It gets me every time. I’m going to re-watch your included clip right now.

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    1. Thanks! The phone scene is the one I always wait for haha

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  8. Great post! I love that you decided to dig into two stories a bit deeper.

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  9. Interesting comparisons! I’ve never thought about this. Probably because I’ve only seen these movies once.

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    1. Thanks! I watch them most years, haha - I've only seen Home Alone once though

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