The Stratton Story, starring Jimmy Stewart June Allyson and Frank Morgan, 1949.
There are several similarities in this film to It’s a Wonderful Life, including trivial items such as a stop at a train station, a ride in a taxi, and a character named Ernie. More striking are two other scenes. One occurs on Ethel’s front porch when Monty pays a surprise visit. He is losing baseball games because he cannot stop thinking about her, and it is distracting him from the game.
Unlike the phone scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, in which George and Mary realize their love because of their different dreams, Monty and Ethel share a dream and want to reach success before getting married. However, a lot of the dialogue in this scene in The Stratton Story conveys the same emotion as the phone scene in It’s a Wonderful Life. Additionally, the camera angles are strikingly similar in both scenes.
The other scene that echoes It’s a Wonderful Life is when Ethel tells Monty that she is pregnant with their second child. In The Stratton Story, after Monty regains his hope, he is playing catch with Ethel and accidentally knocks her to the ground with a fast ball, causing her to quit playing.
“I never had a catcher quit me before,” he tells her.
“You never had a catcher before who was going to have a baby,” she responds.
After a short delay, Monty calls out, “What?!”
Ethel looks back from the house, but gives no reply.
These delayed, confused reactions – and the responses of the respective wives in each film – are indicative of what Stewart biographer Marc Eliot calls Stewart’s “‘whatever happened to my other shoe’ style of acting” (138).
This echoes the scene in which George learns that he and Mary are expecting their first child. Distracted, George is talking about his money woes and trying to understand why Mary would “ever marry a guy like me.”
“I didn’t want to marry anybody else in town,” she replies. “I want my baby to look like you.”
“You didn’t even have a honeymoon,” George answers, seeming to have missed the message. But it soon sinks in. “I promised you … Your what?”
June Allyson also played the wife of Stewart’s character in The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and Strategic Air Command (1955).
4 out of 5 stars.
Eliot, Marc. Jimmy Stewart: A Biography. New York: Harmony Books, 2006.