Reel Rumbles #14 – “It’s a Wonderful Life” vs. “A Christmas Story”
In This Corner…
Twas the fight before Christmas, and here at Flickchart,
Two titans were ready to give it a start.
Capra in one corner; Clark in another,
About to decide who is the Bad Mother.
Reel Rumbles so festive, and ready to bring,
Two holiday classics into the ring.
I, Aric Mitchell, am your humble guide
Reffing this contest to finally decide
Which, this Christmas, is the best flick of all:
It’s a Wonderful Life vs. A Christmas Story?
On with the brawl!
Round One: Story
We start with the story of George Bailey’s life,
One littered with disappointment and strife.
He lived his whole time not fulfilling his dreams
Giving them up for others’ well-being.
He walks on the bridge, a downtrodden slough
Thinking, without him, “Bedford Falls…better off!”
When, what to his glistening eyes should appear,
But a miniature angel, wings nowhere near.
A leap from the bridge, he sank like a stone,
Bailey soon followed, before he was gone.
To safety they swam where warmth they would find
When Bailey said something to self most unkind:
“My troubles are double, joy all forlorn,
Surely ’tis better I’d never been born!”
So the angel Clarence showed him just what that would mean
To the Falls of great Bedford, his leaving the scene.
At the mercy of Potter, charity unfound,
Had run Bedford Falls straight into the ground.
Without the good Baileys to keep it all straight
Those whom George loved never would rate.
And so, with new hope, he returned home to see
The town’s love surrounding his sweet family.
As the carolers sang on into the night
And the buckets of money soon ended his plight,
George Bailey would hear from his tree a bell ring,
And Zuzu say proudly, “My teacher told me
When a bell rings, an angel gets wings,”
So George winks at Clarence, and with a smile sings.
While our next story is not quite so deep
It follows young Ralphie whose wishes we keep
For a gift that completes us, and gives us some hope,
That brightens our season, with no room to mope.
Red Ryder Range Model, he tells them all week,
To complete his Christmas, Ralphie doth seek.
To get it he’ll need immeasurable clout
Grown-ups all saying, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
And so his frustration begins to set in,
Dodging rejection from family and friends,
In Santa he searches, one last desperate act
To attain the treasure that he finds so wack!
He pesters and pleads; but alas, no luck!
This holiday season will most certainly suck
If he cannot convince them, however he can
His well meaning mother or foul-mouthed Old Man,
He must make due with whatever he gets,
Give up his struggle and avoid any fits.
But just when he thinks that all hope is gone
A neatly wrapped package in the corner doth shone!
Red Ryder, Red Ryder, so glad to see
This Christmas turn out a sweet memory
And so as both films end one round of fight,
Happy endings to all, and to all a good night!
Red Ryder is funny, and all kinds of fun,
But George Bailey shows us the power of one
To touch other people and show them the way
Making the most of this holiday.
Round Two: Script
Thanks, Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich;
Jo Swerling’s efforts made this a pitch
Of Doren Stern’s story that you can’t resist!
This film without them would surely be missed.
So many great lines you’ll always remember
Any time of year, not just in December.
How each man’s life touches a soul,
Without him it leaves such a deep dark dank hole.
But with humor and warmth, Clark puts up a fight
His ‘Christmas Story’ with Leigh Brown unites
To render a telling of Jean Shepherd’s book,
“In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” a crass-sounding hook,
Deceptive in telling, with poignant fine grace,
Captures the season with nary a trace
Of untruth or falsehood, this is who we are,
One comedy that raises the bar.
And so a bit tougher to pick a true champ,
Depends on your tastes, your memories, and camp:
Satire of commercialism or finding your worth
As we keep turning on this changing earth?
For me, it boils down to human condition.
I give it to Capra and to his bright vision
Of who we are and what we can bring
When we choose love over bright shiny things.
Round Three: Performances
Now on to round three and the stellar acting,
Where Jimmy Stewart leads Capra’s casting.
A loveable everyman with a New York-sized heart,
The perfect performer to handle the part.
The rest of the stars play their roles with delight
Beulah Bondi’s Ma Bailey, “Hee Haw,” Sam Wainwright
Played by Frank Albertson, who comes across silly;
But not like Tom Mitchell, who plays Uncle Billy.
Still the great role most worthy of note
Is oft overlooked, ne’er given a vote:
Henry Travers as Clarence, in search of his wings,
Rights George’s path, and clarity brings!
On the flip side of this holiday coin,
Ralphie’s young plight is worthy to join,
Because Peter Billingsley is an everyman kid,
Who makes us remember our toy-driven ids,
Reminding us the joy of what it means to be young,
When life’s full of daydreams, adventures, and fun.
Joined by his brother, a whiny young fella,
Laughably rendered by Ian Petrella.
To cuss without cussing, a truly fun art;
Still deep in the cockles, he demonstrates heart.
Without him this movie would surely be ruined.
Look at the sequel; Charles Grodin can’t do it!
And while I do love this Christmas tradition
Of pulling for Ralphie to complete his mission,
I must side with Frank; and his magical cast.
Now on to round four, the final and last.
Round Four: Direction
No State of the Union nor It Happened One Night,
Could ever compare or carry a light
To Capra’s warm vision of a man beyond hope,
Who reaches in darkness to find there’s a rope
From Heaven Eternal to save from dark ends
Learning no man is a failure with friends.
Capra shows vigor and sets every frame
With holiday splendor and emotional range.
In much the same way, Clark’s effort moves near,
Though lighter on heartache and heavy on cheer.
Never fear in the end both stories will cease
With warm happy feelings that sure aim to please.
There is good reason we love them so much.
These films have a purpose; they reach out and touch
Our sense of wonder with each passing season
Holiday traditions that encompass the reason
We love to gather and share with our friends
Eggnog and laughs as the year comes to end.
To pick a winner is surely a toss,
I just can’t do it; we’ll call it a wash.
And the Winner Is…
Hope you enjoyed this; it was fun to write
Both films are classics and full of delight.
As Christmas comes closer, and all join as one
For future warm memories and holiday fun,
Make it a double, there is always time
To relive the magic of films in their prime
Whether finding your worth or busting a gut,
Either choice has the moxie to end any rut