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The Place-Based Magic of 'It's a Wonderful Life'

An examination of the commentary on place found in the classic Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life."
December 25, 2016, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"The best scene from the 1946 Frank Capra flick It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t the final one, the famous part where everybody sings “Auld Lang Syne” in George Bailey’s living room. It’s the one before it, that long tracking shot that follows George as he bounds exuberantly through the long main street of Bedford Falls, the idyllic little town he’d once vowed to flee," writes David Dudley.

Dudley notes the film's evolving place in American culture, as different political and economic eras have offered different readings of the movie. In the contemporary United States:

In today’s Divided America, there’s something here for everyone. Conservatives can enjoy the small-town values and vigorously interventionist deity, while progressives cheer George’s lending policy toward low-income immigrant residents. But for those Americans living in places that look less and less like Bedford Falls, it’s hard not to see the movie as something else entirely—a fable of American anxieties about urbanism and community.

Dudley isn't the first, and not likely not the last, to consider the urban vs. small town and modern vs. old-fashioned themes presented in the film. Click through to Dudley's article to find the links to discussions on these subjects in 2001, 2008, and 2012.

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Published on Thursday, December 22, 2016 in CityLab
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