Throughout the holiday season we will be looking at some of the most beloved Yuletide flicks ever made. With this in mind, today we are reprinting this post from guest blogger Bill Dunphy in which he shares his thoughts on his favorite underappreciated holiday gem, the currently unavailable It Happened One Christmas:
This movie is not so much a remake of It’s a Wonderful Life, as it is a remodel, or perhaps even better, a re-invigoration of that much loved movie. The storyline is intact, the main characters are all there, the setting, the timeframe, all in full vigor, the one hitch, or would it be a switch, is George Bailey, is Mary Bailey (played by Marlo Thomas). The other notable change is that Clarence, George’s guardian angel, becomes Clara, Mary’s guardian angel, beautifully portrayed by Cloris Leachman with a semi-cockney accent. Orson Welles does his usual great acting, portraying Mr. Potter, still “the meanest man in town”, and just as delectably detestable. All the other lovable characters are there, and most of the scenes are there with the understandable variations necessary for a 1970s TV remake. Marlo Thomas was very believable in this role, and like they said in the original, I laughed, and cried, and then laughed again.
The cast is superb, with Wayne Rogers playing the Donna Reed role as George Hatch, thereby making Marlo’s character, later on, Mary Bailey-Hatch. They had to do some minor alterations to the Violet part played by Gloria Graham in the original, and played by a very pretty Karen Carlson here. The Thomas Mitchell part of Uncle Willie was played by Barney Martin, who you will recognize from his wonderful portrayal of Liza Minnelli’s father in the movie, Arthur. Bert the cop, Ernie the cab driver are there, as is Mr. Gower, and Martini the restaurant owner, all played by wonderful character actors who you will recognize, but not be able to name. Mary Bailey’s mother is played by the remarkable Doris Roberts. I am confident you know Miss Roberts, since she has been in TV, and movies, since 1951, most notably in Everybody Loves Raymond and as Beverly D”Angelo’s “tipsy” Mom, in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Since this movie was made in color, the beautiful photography allows the town of Bedford Falls to shine a little brighter than it’s black & white cousin. The cinematographer was Conrad L. Hall, no novice to television or movies, with a career that spanned 45 years and included Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and American Beauty to name a few. As an aside, he also did many episodes of The Outer Limits for TV, which I probably watched back in the 60’s. The music, composed by Stephen Lawrence (no, not of Steve & Edie fame) is beautiful, and surpasses that featured in It’s a Wonderful Life. Lawrencedid mostly TV work, most notably on Sesame Street, winning several Emmys, and he also composed the music for the movie, Bang the Drum Slowly.
Bottom line, I think this movie is every bit as enjoyable as the original, the wonderful warm feel is there, and it will always be a part of my Christmas movie schedule. As I write this, I notice I am humming Mr. Hall’s beautiful theme song for this movie, and more than likely will watch it tonight with my dinner, life is good, and it’s not over yet!
What is your favorite underappreciated holiday film? Let us know below!