Friday, May 29, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 8

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.

This week’s entry is a two-fer. There are two bells outside of the Zimmerman School, located on Carter Road North of Bowling Green, Ohio. These photos were taken March 15, 2015.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Movie Review - Pocketful of Miracles

In my movie reviews, I give my brief thoughts on what I watched. Sometimes I will expound on those thoughts, but more often than not, I will just give a brief opinion. You can read plot descriptions on Internet Movie Database or on Amazon.

Pocketful of Miracles, starring Glenn Ford and Bette Davis (1961).

This is a sandwich movie. By that, I mean in was a remake that was also remade.

In 1933, Frank Capra made the film Lady for a Day. In 1961, he remade the film as Pocketful of Miracles. It was later remade in 1989 as Miracles - Mr. Canton and Lady Rose, directed by Jackie Chan.

The good news is that in my opinion, Pocketful is better than Lady. The bad news is that this is one of two of Capra's own films that he remade himself. The other is Broadway Bill (1934) remade as Riding High (1950).

In true form, Capra taps into his list of regular actors, including Wonderful Life stars Sheldon Leonard, Thomas Mitchell, and Ellen Corby.

Pocketful is seedier than Lady, getting deeper into the gangland activity. Lady seemed to focus more on the seedy side of street life and homelessness.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Movie Review - Lady for a Day

In my movie reviews, I give my brief thoughts on what I watched. Sometimes I will expound on those thoughts, but more often than not, I will just give a brief opinion. You can read plot descriptions on Internet Movie Database or on Amazon.

Lady for a Day, starring Warren William, May Robson, Guy Kibbee. Directed by Frank Capra (1933)

To what lengths will you go for family? How big of a lie will you tell? Who will help you? All of these questions are answered and more, in a fashion, in this Frank Capra classic.

It was nominated for Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Writing, Adaptation. It didn't win any, but it set the stage for Capra's next film, It Happened One Night (1934), which won five Oscars.

Once again, Capra digs into his stable of regulars, enlisting:
  • Guy Kibbee, who also appeared in Capra's Power of the Press and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and appeared with Stewart, Bondi and Ward in Of Human Hearts.
  • Joseph Walker, cinematographer who worked on It's a Wonderful Life and many other Capra films.
  • Robert Risken - Screenwriter who also worked on It's a Wonderful Life and many other Capra films.

Capra later remade this film as Pocketful of Miracles.

I give it 3 of 5 stars.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 7

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.

This week’s entry is the bell outside St. James United Methodist Church, 201 S. Second St., North Baltimore, OH. These photos were taken March 9, 2015.

This church is interesting because its signage tells a story. The cornerstone on the building says "First Methodist Church," and indicates that it was built in the 1890s. The plaque above the bell is dated 1867 from Hammansburg Methodist Church (Hammansburg is was just down the road from North Baltimore). The bell must have been moved to its current location, which is now called St. James United Methodist Church.

Due to the holiday weekend, I will post on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and remember the ones we lost by ringing a bell of your own!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jimmy Stewart Birthday May 20, 1908

James Maitland Stewart often is described as “Everyman.” Although it was a role he reprised several times, never was it more obvious than in the films he made under the direction of Frank Capra, including It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:

“The part of Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington constitutes the quintessential Stewart: the upstanding, all-American, small-town boy, loyal to his family, his country, his church and his ideals; the personification of ‘rock-ribbed honesty’” (Coe 43).

This persona was not a new role for Stewart. It was a role he lived off of the screen, as well as on. Stewart grew up with strong family and religious ties in his home town of Indiana, Pa. Later in his life, this small town dedicated the Jimmy Stewart Museum as part of the Indiana, Pa. Library.[i]

In 1985, a statue of Stewart was erected in front of the museum. It faces the lot where the J.M. Stewart and Co. Hardware store stood before it was razed in 1969.

Stewart biographer Jonathan Coe calls Stewart an “incorruptible American patriot” (9). Stewart was able to further solidify this image when he enlisted in March, 1941, and became an officer in the Army Air Corps and a bombardier pilot during World War II.

Coe has drawn parallels between Stewart’s real life and the life of George Bailey. Stewart signed on to It’s a Wonderful Life on Nov. 5, 1945 (Coe 78). In addition to coming from a background similar to George’s, Coe says Stewart was drawn to the part for another reason:

“There were reasons, in fact, why a story about a hero who feels ‘despondent’ might have exerted a strong personal appeal to him (Stewart) at this time, since he was profoundly shaken by his wartime experiences, which caused him to doubt both his faith and the fundamental worth of his career” (Coe 79).

Coe’s statement does two things. First, it suggests that Stewart’s despondency reflects the country’s feelings immediately following World War II. It could have been the same despondency that prevented It’s a Wonderful Life from being a box office success. Secondly, Stewart’s life at that time reflected It’s a Wonderful Life, with Stewart doubting his own faith and career, as George Bailey does in the film. George always talks about and dreams of being an engineer or an architect, but never about being an executive of a lending company. George constantly doubts his job and its value.

Stewart married Gloria Hatrick McLean. He adopted her two sons, Ronald and Michael Stewart. Together Stewart and Gloria had twin daughters, Kelly Stewart-Harcourt and Judy Stewart-Merrill.

James Stewart died July 2, 1997 at age 89. If he were still alive, he would be 107.

[i] The Jimmy Stewart Museum is located at 845 Philadelphia St., Indiana, PA, 15701. To contact the museum, call (724) 349-6112 or toll-free at 1-800-83-JIMMY, or e-mail Visit online at 

Coe, Jonathan. Jimmy Stewart: A Wonderful Life. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1994.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Frank Capra's Birthday - May 18, 1897

An Italian immigrant, Frank Capra discovered at a young age “what would later become one of the most important themes of his movies: ‘One nation. . .with liberty and justice for all’” (Stewart 82). Capra often made movies about the little man doing great things, representing ideals and qualities that made the little man great. Those qualities included, common sense, family values, a religious (though not overt) dedication, fidelity, family values, and Americanism.

Capra’s films have been referred to as “Capracorn” because of their perceived “corny,” unbelievable, or over-the top endings. The crowning example of this is the closing scene of It’s a Wonderful Life, because it can be misconstrued as being sappy and too-happy of an ending for such a dark film.

Initially, this hurt Capra’s feelings because he felt strongly about his films and the messages they carried. However, he later took this critical jab and turned it into a positive by calling most of his films “Capracorn” himself. To him, Capracorn came to mean "a brew of the comic, the sentimental, the rhetorical, the idealistic, and the melodramatic in which the values of the man on the street were raised above those of official authority in which, even at the cost of gliding over specific plot points, there was inevitably a happy ending. (Dewey 268).

Capra died Sept. 9, 1991, but not before the Mayor of Los Angeles and the city council declared May 12, 1962 to be Frank Capra Day (Capra 488).

If Capra were alive today, he would be 118 years old


Dewey, Donald. James Stewart: A Biography. Atlanta: Turner Publishing, Inc., 1996.

Capra, Frank. Frank Capra: the Name Above the Title, an Autobiography.
            New York: DaCapo Press, 1997.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 6

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.

This week’s entry is a bell in the library at All Saints Catholic School in Rossford, OH. This photo was taken March 10, 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Movie Review - An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

In my movie reviews, I give my brief thoughts on what I watched. Sometimes I will expound on those thoughts, but more often than not, I will just give a brief opinion. You can read plot descriptions on Internet Movie Database or on Amazon.

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Starring Phillip Glasser, Jimmy Stewart, Erica Yohn. 1991.

As Jimmy Stewart's last film, I really want to like this movie. I just can't manage it. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West was released in 1991. Stewart died in 1997 at the age of 89.

The movie opens with Stewart's character, Wylie Burp, but he doesn't show up again until about 40 minutes into the movie.

Watch Fievel Goes West if you have kids. Watch it if you want to be a Stewart film completist. But it certainly isn't a Disney movie.

Interestingly, Stewart played Wylie Burp in this film and starred as Wyatt Earp in the 1964 film, Cheyenne Autumn.

2 out of 5 stars.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 1894 - Dimitri Tiomkin's birthday

May 10, 1894 marks the birthday of Dimitri Tiomkin, the man who composed the music for the film It's a Wonderful Life. There is a lot more to that story, so I'll give you the quick and dirty description of him from Wikipedia and then tell you the rest of it.

Official Description:
Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin was a Ukrainian-born Hollywood film score composer and conductor. Musically trained in Russia, he is best known for his western scores, including Duel in the Sun, High Noon, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and The Alamo. (Wikipedia)

Born: May 10, 1894, Kremenchuk, Ukraine
Died: November 11, 1979, London, United Kingdom
Film music credits: High Noon, The Alamo, Rio Bravo (Also Wikipedia)

Tiomkin was nominated for and won several Oscars. See the list here.

Director Frank Capra hired Tiomkin to write the scores for Lost Horizon (1937) You Can't Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), and It's a Wonderful Life (1946). During World War II, he continued his close collaboration with Capra by composing scores for his Why We Fight series. (Wikipedia)

Not everything was roses between Capra and Tiomkin. It came to a head over It's a Wonderful Life. As Roger L. Hall wrote for the Web site Film Music Review:

"In his honestly written autobiography, Please Don't Hate Me (1959), Dimitri Tiomkin wrote about this film:

"The picture was in the best Capra style. Frank thinks it the finest he ever made. I never saw it after it was completed. After the music was on the sound track, Frank cut it, switched sections around, and patched it up, an all-around scissors job. After that I didn't want to hear it.

"Yet much of Tiomkin's music remains in the film and it's a terrific score. Stephen Cox in his fine book, It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book, wrote that:

"The film that eventually became one of Tiomkin's most famous works actually became a disappointment for the composer, both personally and professionally, when Capra replaced much of his original orchestration with existing music from other sources."


If he were alive, Tiomkin would celebrate his 121st birthday today. Learn more about him at or

Check out what is supposedly the original theme for It's a Wonderful Life, that was cut from the film and replaced with "Buffalo Gals".

You can listen to more of Tiomkin's work on Spotify or Google Play.


Mother's Day 2015

My mom and my boys. Christmas, 2013.
I'm a mama's boy, and I'm proud of it. So was George Bailey.

Ma Bailey had the best in mind for George, and deep down George knew it, even if he didn't listen to her sometimes.

The scene I have in mind is when Ma Bailey tells George to go visit Mary, who has just returned from college. She gives George his hat and pushes him away, sending him in the direction of Mary's house. Stubborn, George turns around and walks in the exact opposite direction his mother just sent him.

We all do that sometimes. Mom tells us something and we do the exact opposite. Sometimes it's out of spite. Sometimes it's because we think we know better. Sometimes we are confused. Sometimes mom just doesn't know the whole story. So we do the exact opposite of what mom recommends.

And if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we find out we were wrong and secretly do what mom told us to do in the first place. And by we, I mean you. Because of course, I would never do that...let alone admit to it. :)

A few of the nuggets that mom has relentlessly thrown at me over the years, and which I will consequently never, ever forget include:
  • "Do you have a jacket." (even though it's 80 out).
  • "No cold babies."
And the ever-popular...
  • "Watch out for wet leaves."
As much fun as it is to heckle her about these from time to time, Mom has been constant. It started back before I was born, but I think it solidified when I almost died as a baby. I was born with hypothyroidism. But instead of my body not producing enough of the hormone to control muscle control, heart function, metabolic rate and brain development, I didn't have a thyroid gland at all. I went through the Baby Factory and Inspector #8 missed that little oversight.

Mama and me when I was just days...maybe even just hours old.
August 1974.
But my doctor didn't. But before he could control it, I was taken to the hospital, where I almost died. My parents were sent home to shower and rest, but they no more that got back home when the received a phone call from the hospital that they needed to come back right away because they were losing me. Being raised a Catholic, I have received a right that most people my age have never received. A priest gave me my last rights when I was six months old, in the hospital.

But I'm a fighter (ask my wife. Ask my mom). And I made it. And I think it made mom and I closer.

Thank you.

Happy Mother's Day mom! I love you.

Mom and I on May 6, 2015.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 5

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.

This week’s entry is the (fake) alarm bells on a clock. This photo was taken March 11, 2015 at work. At 1:31 p.m. In my boss's office.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rhetorical Analysis is a Bit of a Cluster

In researching It's a Wonderful Life in mid-1990s, I found a Master's Thesis by James T. Coon, titled "Frank Capra and It's a Wonderful Life: A Burkean Cluster Analysis of a Rhetorically Self-Expressive Film." Dated May, 1989, it was part of his graduate requirements at Bowling Green State University, which just so happens to be in my back yard.

But what, you ask, is a Burkean Cluster Analysis? For the simplest description, I will begrudgingly refer to Wikipedia:

Kenneth Burke (May 5, 1897 – November 19, 1993) was a literary theorist best known for his analyses based on the nature of knowledge. He was one of the first individuals to stray away from traditional rhetoric and view literature as "symbolic action."

Burke was unorthodox, concerning himself not only with literary texts, but with the elements of the text that interacted with the audience: social, historical, political background, author biography, etc.
For a deeper exploration of Burkean Cluster Analysis methodology and theory, click here.

I'll start with the issues first. In this thesis, Coon:
  • Repeatedly refers to Violet Bick as Violet Bicks.
  • Incorrectly states that the man who pushes Potter around in the wheelchair also drives his coach.
  • Makes numerous errors in quotes taken directly from the film. Copying a quote from a script, or transcribing the words directly from the film should not produce this many errors.
Having said that, this thesis is not by any means bad. I'm not sure it's worthy of a master's degree, though.

Coon draws some very interesting comparisons and contrasts, looking at the symbolism of locations and moons and other themes that recur throughout the film. It's definitely worth a read for any Life scholar.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Reflections on the Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge

During April, 2015, I participated in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge.

In a word, it was amazing. In another word, it was inspirational....Now I have two topics for next year's blogging challenge!! Go me!!

Here's the back-story of how I got involved:

Over the past 17 years, I worked extremely hard writing and finessing a book about my favorite film, "It's a Wonderful Life." With any luck, that book will be published. Soon.

As part of that effort, I converted by old blog to a blog dedicated, as well, to the film, and all things related to it. So if you have ideas, PLEASE COMMENT!!!!!

Shortly after I converted this blog, my college cohort and blogger-in-crime, Holly Perry (a.k.a. Chasing Destino), contacted me and we started sharing writing and blogging stories. It was a blast from the past and I learned a lot from her. She gave me amazing tips and directed me to a bunch of fun groups and blogs that I needed to follow.

One of those blogs was the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. I had no idea what it was or what it involved, or how much work it would be, but I signed up right away, and I'm glad it did.

The challenge provided me with a jump-start to the blog. While I had many topics to write about, this forced me to create 26 of them in a very short period of time. In fact, although I signed up for the challenge in March, I had all of my topics written by the third day of the challenge. On top of that, after I had finished writing for the challenge, I averaged at least two more entries per day for the next two weeks, which will be posted in the future. In one week alone, I wrote 22 entries.

It was extremely inspirational and got my analytical mind going again. I had been hoping for that for a long time, and had recently lamented to a friend about feeling like I had lost the ability. I was so excited to get it back. Currently I am sitting on 83 completed blog entries waiting to be posted. I have ideas for about 19 more topics, and photos taken for an additional 45 more Photo Fridays.

In terms of inspiration, I never, EVER thought I would write about suicide prevention on my blog. But the challenge inspired me to do it, and I consider it one of my best entries of the challenge! I never thought I would quote a pastor as calling Violet a slut on my blog....and yet I did it!

One thing I was very excited about was my repeat visitors. Of course, my mom checked out every entry I had, but I also had several regular readers who started following me. One even commented on my blog every single day of the challenge.

The number of people who follow me on Twitter jumped from 26 to an average of 80 - give or take a few on any given day.

There were also some things that I was surprised about. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why my entry about Nick the Bartender got the most attention out of all of my entries. Nick was a supporting role, not a main theme or character. It was not one of my best entries, but it was by far the most popular. I still can't understand that.

Another thing I don't understand is how quickly my numbers exploded. My blog visits averaged between 60 and 80 a day. One day near the end, I checked my hits for the day, and I was at 58. Less than an hour later, I checked it again, and I was at 120 visits. That blew my mind. And I am convinced that it was because of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. So thanks to all of you who visited!

Then there were my failures....

I didn't support others as much as I should have. I took more than I gave. I visited several. I followed several. But I didn't comment often. And I certainly didn't read them every day. It was selfish. I could blame my schedule, but that's lame. There was always time to do that instead of/while watching Game of Thrones or Bates Motel.

So instead of offering excuses, I will offer apologies to my fellow bloggers. I let you down, and I'm sorry. I will try to do better in the future.

Thank you A-to-Z Blogging Challenge! You gave me the kick in the butt and the inspiration I needed to get this thing moving, and I appreciate that so much!

Stick around and follow me. There is so much more for me to say about this wonderful film!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Beulah Bondi .... Mrs. Bailey Born May 3, 1889

On May 3, 1889, Beulah Bondi, a.k.a. Ma Bailey, was born in Chicago, IL.

During her career, Bondi Portrayed James Stewart's mother in four films: It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Of Human Hearts (1938) and Vivacious Lady (1938), as well as on an episode of his television series, The Jimmy Stewart Show (1971).

Although she often played loving mothers and wives, she never married nor had children.

Bondi and Ellen Corby both appeared in It's a Wonderful Life, and in the television show, "The Waltons." In "The Waltons,' Ellen Corby portrayed Grandma and Bondi portrayed Martha Corrinne.

In 1977, Bondi won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series for her 1977 appearance in an episode of "The Waltons" titled "The Pony Cart."

Corby won a Golden Glove for Best Supporting Actress - Television, for her role in "The Waltons." That role also earned her three other nominations for the same award in 1973, 1975 and 1977.

Bondi also was nominated twice for Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her parts in The Gorgeous Hussey (1937 nomination), and in Of Human Hearts (1939 nomination). She never won.

"What distinguishes the real actor from the pseudo is the passionate desire to know what is going on in the hearts and minds of people," said Bondi.

Watch this wonderful tribune from TCM:

Bondi died Jan. 11, 1981 at age 91, in Woodland Hills, CA. She was cremated and her ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean. If she was alive today, she would be 126 years old.

Learn more about her life and career on IMDB, Wikipedia, and Turner Classic Movies.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 4

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.

This week’s entry is the bell outside of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in  North Baltimore, OH. These photos were taken March 9, 2015.

Photos taken by the blogger.