It’s no surprise that “It’s a Wonderful Life” seems to be resonating with a lot of folks these days. George Bailey and his friends are everyday working stiffs trying give their families a decent lifestyle while fending off the greedy Mr. Potter, a wealthy banker who not only wants to own the entire town, he disdains the working class and thinks nothing of evicting entire families from their homes.

Sound familiar?

You’ll get three chances to see the 1946 holiday classic this week — the State Theatre in Portland is hosting two screenings on Friday with live entertainment, and the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta is hosting a free showing at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” is as much an annual Christmas tradition in my home as setting up the tree and sending cards at the very last minute. (It’s coming soon, Mom, I swear!) Despite having seen it more than 20 times, I still catch a new detail with each viewing, like the butterflies on the kitchen wall at the Bailey boarding house showing up later in George’s living room, or the amazing disappearing/reappearing Christmas wreath on George’s arm just before all hell breaks loose with the missing funds.

Here are some more details, both intentional and not, to look for while you enjoy this timeless classic this year. (Spoiler alert: If for some reason you haven’t seen the movie, read on at your own risk.)

When George is on the bridge contemplating suicide, he is visibly sweating. While many have construed this as a fine example of James Stewart’s acting, it’s really because the scene was filmed during a California heatwave.

Perhaps because Clarence the angel has “the intelligence of a rabbit,” he apparently can’t add. He tells George his brother Harry died at the age of 9 because he wasn’t alive to save him, but Harry’s tombstone reads “1911-1919,” making him 8 years old.

When George leaves his father’s office as a child, there’s an exchange between Peter Bailey and Mr. Potter when the door closes that’s barely audible. Years of poor reproductions on videotape made this snippet all but impossible to hear, but it’s since been restored on DVD and Blu-ray editions.

The scene with George breaking down in Martini’s bar was unscripted. Stewart was simply supposed to pray, but he was overcome with emotion and started weeping. The take was so powerful, director Frank Capra edited it from a long shot to a close-up.

Although Mr. Potter’s first name is never mentioned, it is given. Look for it on the door to his office.

When George is running through the streets of Bedford Falls near the end, the marquee on the movie theater is advertising “The Bells of St. Mary’s.” This is a nod to Henry Travers (Clarence), who had a supporting role in “Bells” in 1945.

If Violet (Gloria Grahame) appears to be squinting, it’s not because she’s making goo-goo eyes at George. It’s because Grahame was extremely nearsighted in real life and wore glasses when not on camera.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

[email protected]

 

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