This Hollywood classic is playing at several local cinemas during the festive season. I went to see it with some friends on Sunday. The film stood up well. This is one of the great performances by Jimmy Stewart and he is well supported by a galaxy of familiar Hollywood performers. The long flashback that opens the film works really well as we get to know (along with Clarence) the Bailey family and the residents of Bedford Falls. The dark chaos of noir which follows subverts this world as the dark side of George Bailey’s world emerges.
This was the first time that I had revisited the film for several years, possibly earlier than 2008. But the memories of that year offered an interesting news slant on the film. I have always found a problem in the way that Henry F Potter keeps his ill-gotten $8,000. But now, I realise that the film both references the Great Depression and is extraordinarily prescient about its recent successor. Portersville is the sort of urban world in which David Cameron and George Osborne would feel completely at home. Potter, like his peers on Wall Street and in the City, successfully grows richer on the travails of the Bailey Bros. Building and Loan Association. The remedy for this is not the justified expropriation of his ill-gotten riches but requires ordinary working people to bail out the deficit and the local financial system. Which is why we don’t see Potter at the end of the film: he is at home counting his loot.