Monday, March 30, 2015

Movie Review - Of Human Harts

Of Human Hearts, starring Jimmy Stewart (1937 or 1938, depending on your source).

This movie is a who's who of stars who appear in Frank Capra films. But don't let that statement confuse you, because Of Human Hearts was directed by Clarence Brown. It stars Jimmy Stewart (It's a Wonderful Life, You Can't Take it With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), Guy Kibbee (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), Sterling Holloway and Walter Houston (both from American Madness), and Ward Bond (It's a Wonderful Life).

It also stars Beulah Bondi, who, as she does in It's a Wonderful Life and several other films, portrays Stewart's mother. Her name is Mary in the film.

Early in the film, there is a collection in the church to pay the pastor's yearly salary. While it is paid mostly with second-hand clothing and food, each resident of Pine Hill, a pioneer village along the Ohio River, walks to the front of the church and adds to the collection pile. It is reminiscent of the last scene in It's a Wonderful Life, when the residents of Bedford Falls collect money for George.

Also like It's a Wonderful LifeOf Human Hearts opens with a bell. There is a Potter-like character named George. Another character, Dr. Shingle, drinks like Uncle Billy, and wears a monocle "to remember." There is even a reference to using the monocle as a reminder like Uncle Billy used strings tied around his fingers to try to remember things.

It has a taste of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, when one character gets a distant look in his eye and tells Stewart's character Jason that he can see Jason's mother, and her heart is breaking because she misses him. It is very much like when Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan) tells Dorothy that he can see her Aunt Em in the crystal ball.

Also like It's a Wonderful Life, there is a call to war. Only this time, it is the Civil War, not World War II. Both films look at personal yearning. Of Human Hearts, however, focuses more on the selfish aspect of this desire, whereas It's a Wonderful Life is more selfless.

In a bit of far-fetched story telling, Stewart returns home after an encounter with Abe Lincoln and a discovery of a long-lost friend. This film pretty much falls apart when the Civil War starts. Luckily, it is mostly over by the time that happens.

Of Human Hearts is often very funny, but at other times, it is harsh, examining the struggles inherent in family relationships.

Overall, I give this film 3.5 stars out of 5.

Be sure to check out my blog on Wednesday. Beginning April 1, 2015, I will participate in the Blogging From A-Z Challenge. I will post every day except for Sundays, one letter for each day. And every day will be related to It's a Wonderful Life. I am really looking forward to this challenge. It has allowed me to make new discoveries and approach the film from angles I have never before considered. Be sure to follow me or sign up for my e-mail updates so that you don't miss anything.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 3

Welcome back to Photo Friday. Here, I one or more photos each Friday. I will do my best to relate it to It's a Wonderful Life.

Today’s entry features the bell at First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, Ohio. These photos were taken March 8, 2015.

Photo Friday will not appear during the month of April. Instead, I will participate in the Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge. I don't post multiple posts (at least at this point) on any day. Therefore, my entire month of April will focus only on my A-Z challenge. Of course, that challenge will revolve around It's a Wonderful Life. Please be sure to come back and check that out. You can also follow this page. Photo Friday will return May 1.

You can follow me on Twitter at @iawlfan.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review - The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody

In my book reviews, I give my brief thoughts on what I read. Sometimes I will expound on those thoughts, but more often than not, I will just give a brief opinion. I could go into detail about what the book is about, but a lot of people have already done that. You can read their descriptions of the book, plus the official description on Amazon.

I was more pleased than I expected to be with The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody, by John Pierson.

It's a Wonderful Life was a dark film. It touched on some taboo subjects that still are difficult to talk about in present times. However, it ended on such a terrifically high note that most people forget how disturbing almost 75 percent of that film truly is.

I will admit that there were times when I was revolted and horrified that Pierson took such a great movie and moved it to an even darker place than what even Pottersville allowed.

Where Pierson excelled was in his attention to detail in the film. I found what I thought were a couple of errors. However, through the miracle of Goodreads and Facebook, I was able discuss these "errors" with Pierson, and came to understand that since this is an alternate version of how the story comes out, the details don't necessarily have to stay true to the film.

I was also disappointed that we didn't find out what ever happened to such a devilish character, or why he was so helpful to one character, yet so destructive to another. The motivation for both was missing. I had this discussion with the author, as well, but I'll leave the pleasure of discovery to you. Maybe you will catch what I missed.

When this book got really, really (really!!!!!) dark, I almost put this book down. It was taking me to a place that I, as a HUGE fan of It's a Wonderful Life, didn't want the story to go. But I followed through, and as much as it hurt, it was worth it. The epilogue is full of quotable moments.

Never think your future is written. It's not. Never let anyone tell you what you can or can't or should or shouldn't do. They need to keep their mouths shut. The world is out there. Now let go of the past and go explore it, even if it is just in your own back yard.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge Theme Reveal


For the first time ever, I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge. The challenge will begin April 1 and continue though the end of April. I will post every day in April except on Sundays.

As with my entire blog, my theme for this challenge will be It's a Wonderful Life.

I am excited for his challenge because it has allowed me to look at this film from new angles. I have made new connections I had not seen before. I am also excited because most of my entires will have more than one word. M isn't just for money. It is also for Mother, Martini and Mary. And I will look at them all.

My daily entries will explore characters, life-impacting decisions, faith, and the American Dream. I will look at actors and actresses, concepts and feelings. This challenge is about more than nouns. I hope it inspires you in many ways.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 2

Welcome back to Photo Friday. Here, I will post one or more photos each Friday. I will do my best to relate it to It's a Wonderful Life.

This week’s entry is The bell outside Family of God Ministries in Cygnet, OH. These photos were taken March 8, 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why bad things happen to George Bailey

This past Sunday (March 15, 2015), at Cedar Creek TV, we studied, in part, about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. The entire message can be found here.

There are MANY answers to this question. Our pastor, Lee Powell, spent a little time running through this list of 20 reasons. All of them apply to George Bailey and his many struggles in It's a Wonderful Life:

20 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering in the World - Alex Macfarland
  1. Suffering uncovers what is really inside of our hearts. - George is forced to look at his motivation and the reason for his discontent. His selfish wants cause him to ignore the gifts God has given him.
  2. Suffering breaks us of our pride. - George's role in town is to help others. When the $8,000 goes missing, he must forego that role and ask for help.
  3. Suffering can deepen our desire for God. - George prays twice. The first time is out of desperation. The second time is intentional.
  4. Suffering can mature us. - George is a better father and husband after his visit to Pottersville, because he learns to let go of his desires and let God be in control of his life.
  5. Suffering can breed humility. - We don't know this for sure, but we are led to believe that George will pray to God, both for help and in thanksgiving, more often.
  6. Suffering may be a warning of something potentially worse. - How many times did George give up his dreams for the benefit of others? Still, he failed to pay attention to those warnings, until he risked losing everything.
  7. Suffering can jump-start our prayer life. - George admits in his prayer at Martini's Bar that he is not a praying man. But that changes.
  8. Suffering may prompt a lost person to receive Christ. - We see this on the bridge when he says, "please God. Let me live again.
  9. Suffering may lead a Christian to confess sin. - George is a good man. He doesn't have a lot to confess. However, he does admit in a prayer that he does not pray regularly.
  10. Suffering helps deepen our trust in God. - George prays "I don't care what happens to me. Just get me back to my wife and kids." He has put his future in God's hands for the chance to return to Bedford Falls.
  11. Suffering can deepen our appreciation for Scripture. - If George has truly received Christ, then he will go to church more often, and will therefore get a deeper appreciation for scripture.
  12. Suffering helps us appreciate other Christians who were victorious. - Clarence was victorious. George gives him an "attaboy" at the end of the film. That is appreciation not only for Clarence's accomplishment of earning his wings, but also for saving his life.
  13. Suffering can take our eyes off ourselves and this world. - George learns his importance and impact on other people's lives.
  14. Suffering can teach us firsthand that God truly is sufficient. - George must let go of everything and trust God to get him through it (see number 10).
  15. Suffering can connect us with other people. - The famous final scene is proof of this.
  16. Suffering can create an opportunity for witness. - We never see George's discussion with Mary after the crowd leaves their home at the end, but I'll bet it is an amazing discussion. And I'll bet George tells Mary everything that happened. That is witnessing.
  17. Suffering can lead a person into Christian ministry. George already has the heart of a Christian by helping others. His experience will add to this (see number 16 and expand it in some way to the entire town of Bedford Falls).
  18. Suffering can make us grateful for what we had or still have. - One of the main messages of It's a Wonderful Life is contentment. It teaches us to be content with what we have and not to constantly look for the bigger, better thing.
  19. Suffering can position our lives to bring more glory to God. - Doing all of these other things accomplishes this.
  20. Suffering, properly handled, will result in rewards in heaven. - This is illustrated by Clarence. He waited 292 years to earn his wings, but he eventually earned his wings and moved up the social ladder to Angel, First Class.
List taken from "The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity" by Alex Macfarland (

Monday, March 16, 2015

Isn't George Ironic? Don't You Think?

His business is in trouble. Potter has (unknown to him) absconded with $8,000. Uncle Billy had neither his mind on his money or his money on his mind. Uncle Billy needs to call Snoop Dogg, fo' shizzle.

Of course, I am talking about the famous Frank Capra film, "It's a Wonderful Life." It’s all I ever talk about.

With nowhere to turn, George Bailey stands atop a bridge, ready to end his life. Then the strangest thing happens....Just as he prepares to jump, someone else falls in. George's protective, humanitarian instincts kick in and the jump changes from suicide attempt to rescue mission.

It turns out that George rescues his Guardian Angel. Ironic, isn't it? Someone call Alanis and set her straight. Since I'm on the topic of Alanis and irony, she should ask George and Mary Bailey about rain on their wedding day. I'll bet they have an opinion.

Anyhooo......time to cut the snark. Seriously. Now, back to the show.

In the course of their discussion, George wishes that he had never been born. Ironically (there's that word again. What's my problem tonight?), it's one of the few wishes he is granted.

George is swept off to Pottersville, like Dorothy on her way to Oz. There's even wind. Okay, it's not exactly like that, but I'm trying to break some sort of pop culture reference record. Note to self: Google "record for most pop culture references in a blog entry."

When George gets to Pottersville, he is shown a litany of train wrecks that are other people's lives. Without George, these people are lost.

Not to be too much of a Negative Nellie, that's a really sad commentary about all of these people and their need for someone else to make their lives meaningful. On the other hand, it says a lot about George and his importance to the community, his friends and his family.

George isn't shown one single thing that would change his life for better if he returned to Bedford Falls and not followed through with the suicide.

Nothing he is shown directly impacts or improves his life. Clarence leads him on a path of showing how great other people's lives are because George is in them. And yet, it is enough.

George ultimately decides to pray to be returned to Bedford Falls because, as he says, "I want to live again." That is not a wish, this time, but a prayer. His prayer is answered. He returns to Bedford Falls, knowing full well he will face charges of "bankruptcy and scandal and prison." And he goes joyfully.

He is glad to be alive for the simple fact of knowing that he has positively impacted the lives of so many other people.

For my dollar, that makes him the ultimate humanitarian; George, however, never noticed it. It's like Alanis said, after all: "Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything's okay."

Isn't it ironic?

Don't you think?
Ironically (HAHAHA) I couldn't find a picture of Alanis angry. So I chose this one instead.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 1

This is a new feature on my blog called Photo Friday. Here, I will post a photo, or maybe several. I will do my best to relate it to It's a Wonderful Life, but I won't guarantee it.

So here is my premier entry; my maiden voyage. The bell outside of the Village Hall in  North Baltimore, OH. These photos were taken March 9, 2015.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's a Wonderful Travelogue Part 2: Seneca Falls, NY

On August 6, 2014, I visited Seneca Falls, NY with my family. It's about an hour or so east of Niagra Falls, so it makes for a nice trip.

Seneca Falls claims the title of "The Real Bedford Falls," which is the setting of the film It's a Wonderful Life. Residents claim that the town - which Frank Capra was known to have visit - was his inspiration for the design of Bedford Falls. The Web site tells that story.

To tell the truth, I have read the argument, yet I remained skeptical. I felt like it was an attempt to grab some good PR based on a couple of weird coincidences. And yet, when I got there, I was really impressed. Read the argument at the link above and check out some of the pictures below.

As an added bonus, Seneca Falls has the It's a Wonderful Life Museum. I was amazed at the collections I found there. They were so much fun, and the collection was growing. A group was traveling around the country picking memorabilia from key collectors, including Karolyn "Zuzu" Grimes and The Goodson Collection to bring back to the museum. Learn more about the museum at

Have you been to Senca Falls? Do you want to go? Do you believe their claim? Comment below!

Here are photos of our trip from my personal collection:

This mill looks like the mill that can be seen in the background when the Martini family packs up their cars to move out of Potter's Field.

Another photo of the mill.
The bridge that started it all.
Me near the bridge.
The approach to the bridge...complete with a pedestrian walkway and a story of one person's sacrifice to save another.
George Bailey wasn't the only one to jump from a bridge to save someone's life. Antonio Varacalli did it in real life. He lost his life.

A plaque on the bridge identifies the connection to It's a Wonderful Life.
Even the streets are appropriately named.

These streets are in It's a Wonderful Life, as well.But you have to pay attention to catch that detail.

This is one of two houses that reportedly inspired the Granville House.
This is one of two houses that reportedly inspired the Granville House.
Same house, different angle. 
The train depot can be seen in the distance, left-center. 
Me in front of the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.
I wish I had purchased these dolls when they were sold at Target. They are worth a small fortune now. These dolls are at the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.
I have seen these Zuzu dolls selling for big money on eBay, but never in real life. This was in the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.
This really cool model of Potter's carriage can be found on display at the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.

An IAWL-themed quilt on display at the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.

A painting of Clarence that hangs in the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.
This incorrectly-quoted line from It's a Wonderful Life is a close-up detail of a larger painting of Clarence. This was on display at the It's a Wonderful Life Museum,
This cigar lighter, seen in the It's a Wonderful Life Museum, is like the one George Bailey wished on.
I totally wish I had a million dollars. It didn't work...yet.
I have never seen this train set until I found it on display at the It's a Wonderful Life Museum,
I inspected every square inch of every collectible inside the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.

George Lassos the Moon, without the lettering, but signed by Jimmy Stewart. SO COOL! On display at The It's a Wonderful Life Museum.
Seneca Falls is also the home of the Women's Rights National Historical Park. The park tells the story of the first Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls in 1948.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's a Wonderful Travelogue Part 1: The Jimmy Stewart Museum

Back in the early 2000s, I traveled to Indiana, PA. Yes, really. Not Indiana. Not Pennsylvania. Indiana, PA. It is the former home of Jimmy Stewart and the current home of the Jimmy Stewart Museum.

The museum, complete with a theatre that plays Stewart films all day long, is located in the town's library, across the street from the former location of Stewart's father's store. It was in this store that Stewart hung a map of the world and tracked Lindberg's flight. He later portrayed Lindberg on that very same flight in the film The Spirit of St. Louis.

Below are some photos of my trip there. These photos were taken from my personal collection. Things have changed over the years, and it's probably time I make another pilgrimage there. But you can find new updates at

Have you been to the Jimmy Stewart Museum? Do you want to go? Comment below!
The exterior entrance of the museum. I think this has changed since then.
A statue of Jimmy Stewart that stands outside of the museum.
Historical plaque outside of the museum.
I believe this is the location where Jimmy Stewart's father had his store. According to Google Maps, this building has undergone a drastic facelift.
This mural is inside the entrance of the museum, if my memory is still any good.
Once you enter the building, you have to take the elevator to the museum itself, which is on the third floor.
This was the temporary version of the Stewart statue that is now outside. Once the final statue was complete, the temporary version was moved inside. I think there is a sign somewhere that says don't touch. If it existed, I either didn't see it, or I didn't care. Not sure which.
This is the booth Stewart always sat at when he at at his favorite restaurant. That booth is now at the museum. I can't remember the name of the restaurant.