Frank Capra Goofed!

What is your favorite Christmas movie? Hands down for me has to be It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. My favorite scene is called by movie buffs “the prayer scene”. You know the moment. George Bailey is at the end of his rope, contemplating suicide. $5,000 of bank money has been misplaced by Uncle Billy and George is about to be arrested for bank fraud. George sits at a saloon and clutches his life insurance policy realizing that he is worth more dead than alive.

At this point, Jimmy Stewart surprises his director, Frank Capra, by totally absorbing himself in George Bailey’s desperate moment. His eyes fill with tears. He chews on his knuckles. I swear he did not even look like Jimmy Stewart anymore. His face contorts in grief. Quietly he prays, “Please God help me.” What was Stewart thinking during this scene? He revealed that he was thinking of all the lonely, desperate people of the world without a shred of hope. It was the first and only take of the scene. Capra had no idea that Stewart would deliver such an intimate scene, overwhelming for the actor. If Capra had known, he would have brought the camera in closer. Stewart was too emotionally spent to do a second take. Capra admitted that he goofed on this pivotal scene.

Not only does Jimmy Stewart deliver what some critics say was one of the most magnetic moments ever captured on film, he captured something else. As the cameras rolled, Stewart preserved on celluloid a central message of Christmas. Stewart’s heart broke for the poor, the lonely, the lost- a moment of genuine Christian charity.

Note: Mr. Potter never returned the $5,000. Unlike Scrooge, he had no conversion. In the grim “what-if-he-had-never-been born“ part of the film, George’s beloved wife Mary never  marries. She was a spinster librarian closing up the library. George is horrified! Hey, what’s wrong with being a librarian living the single life? My kids knew that comment was coming. It is Swegart tradition for mom to say that every year.

Anyway, please share your favorite Christmas movie.


Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

2 thoughts on “Frank Capra Goofed!

  1. I share your enthusiasm for “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It is my favorite. I love the “what if you had not lived” part. In my humble opionion Jimmy Stewart was one of the very best actors ever.

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