Jon M. Sweeney on “It’s A Wonderful Life”
Date: December 17th, 2012

Every December, millions of people tune in to watch the quintessential Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life.  The iconic scenes of George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) running through the town of Bedford Falls wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and the ending where we hear an ornamental bell ringing to tell us that the hard-luck angel Clarence has finally received his wings, are familiar to almost everyone.  Some critics have tagged the film with the moniker of “Capra-corn” in reference to its director — Frank Capra — and its over-the-top sentimentality.  But is it more than just a movie that shamelessly pulls at our heartstrings?  Is there a darker side to the movie?  And are there deep spiritual lessons to be gleaned from the film.  Author Jon M. Sweeney who recently penned the e-book, The Spiritual Life of George Bailey, joins us to answer these questions.  We explore the films origins in a short story written by Philip Von Doren Stern that was sent out as a Christmas card in 1943 and quickly put upon the silver screen by Capra in 1945.  And then it is off to stroll through the streets of Bedford Falls, looking at a variety of critical scenes in the film that highlight both the important characters in the film and hint at what is to come.  We meet critical players such as George’s father, Mr. Potter, Mary, and Sam Wainwright.  Regular viewers of the movie will be familiar with the story, though Jon spices up various points of the plot with his own insights about human nature.  We are then treated to Jon’s fascinating interpretation of the second-half of the film as he shows us how the themes of temptation, resurrection, and salvation play out through the story.  Jon then reveals a suprising detail about the ending of the film that will shed some new light on how you watch the last ten minutes.  We don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so you will have to listen to the end of the interview.  Jon finishes with a brief discussion about what the Capra classic might tell us about our own lives in contemporary times, reflecting upon our need for community and connectedness.  He may have even convinced Tony, who is a devoted Die Hard fan, to watch the movie for the first time in at least ten years.  Recorded: December 10, 2012.

RELATED LINKS

Jon M. Sweeney’s biography.

The Spiritual Life of George Bailey: Turnkey Moments in Frank Capra’s Christmas Masterpiece, e-book by Jon M. Sweeney (available for $2.99)

The Pope Who Quit: A True Medeival Tale of Mystery,  Death, and Salvation, by Jon M. Sweeney.

Verily, Verily: The KJV – 400 Years of Influence and Beauty, by Jon M. Sweeney.

The St. Francis Prayer Book, by Jon M. Sweeney.

Born Again and Again: Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood, by Jon M. Sweeney.

Beauty Awakening Belief: How the Medeival Worldview Inspires Faith Today, by Jon M. Sweeney.

Almost Catholic, a blog by Jon M. Sweeney.

George Bailey’s prayer (on YouTube).

It’s A Wonderful Life ending with the ringing bell (on YouTube).

RELATED PODCASTS

Michael Medved on Religion & Hollywood.

Corey Olsen on Religion, J.R.R. Tolkien, and The Hobbit.

Jon Sweeney on the Pope Who Quit.


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