Monday, August 31, 2015

Tribute to Argentina Brunetti

Frank Capra loved to name his film's characters Marie, Maria and Mary. That's an entirely separate blog entry that I need to remember to do one of these days.

Argentina Brunetti
It's a Wonderful Life contains both a Mary and a Marie. There is Mary Bailey, of course. There is also Marie Martini, Mr. Martini's wife. She is the one who takes the bread and salt from Mary during the Martini home dedication.

Marie was portrayed by Argentina Brunetti, who has 165 acting credits to her name. She was also known for her roles as Filomena Soltini on the television series General Hospital in the 1960s; and Sarah Benedict in 7 Faces of Doctor Lao in 1964. She was also in an episode of The Lone Ranger in 1955.

Brunetti's first acting job was an uncredited role in the film Gilda, in 1946. Her final role was as Neighbor Woman in the film The 4th Nenor in 2002, just three years prior to her death. She was also in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a television series that was turned into a movie and is in theaters now.

It's a Wonderful Life was only her third acting role, completed at the age of 38.

Today, we celebrate Brunetti's birthday. She was born Aug. 31, 1907, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She traveled America with the Bailey children to celebrate the 50th anniversary of It's a Wonderful Life.

She died Dec. 20, 2005, in Rome, Italy, at age 98. She was the last living adult actress from It's a Wonderful Life. If she were alive today, she would be 108. She was laid to rest in a mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum in Culver City, CA.
Argentina Brunetti's mausoleum stone

Friday, August 28, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 19

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 tower of Wayne United Methodist Church in Wayne, Ohio. These photos were taken March 29, 2015.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Movie Review - Rear Window (1998)

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.

Rear Window, starring Christopher Reeve and Daryl Hannah. 1998.

This is a remake of an 1954 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Jimmy Stewart. While the story had to be rewritten to fit the situation (Stewart's character broke his leg, but Reeve is paralyzed in real life), the basic questions remain the same:

Where do you draw the line between concerned neighbor and straight-up voyeur? They up the ante in this made-for-tv remake because of the use of video cameras instead of a 35-millimeter still camera. And with that, the creepy quotient quadruples.

And yet it's an appropriate message for today as our phones are now capable of doing what took expensive, bulky equipment to do in this late-90s film.

It is interesting to watch Reeve work again, as his acting career appeared to be over before this was filmed, due to a crippling horse-riding accident. It is hard to watch this film knowing that Reeve is dead. That's a really weird thing to say, considering most of the stars of the films I watch are dead. The difference, I think, is that we actually watch Christopher Reeve existing in his reality in this film. The wheelchair and the tubes aren't screen decoration or props. They are part of his everyday life.

Reeve died in 2004 of cardiac arrest.

3.5 of 5 stars.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Movie review - Rear Window (1954)

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.

Rear Window. Starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 1954.

Where do you draw the line between being a concerned neighbor and being a voyeur? Hitchcock explores this concept with this film.

A neighbor goes missing. Her husband mostly goes about his daily life as if nothing has happened. Can Scotty (Jimmy Stewart) solve the mystery before it's too late?

I have seen this film on the big screen twice and on DVD multiple times. It never gets old. It is interesting to see Stewart progress as he gets older. His characters get grittier as he gets older. There is less innocence and naïveté and more distrust and callousness.

And the fact that it is a Hitchcock film makes it even better.

4.5 out of 5 stars.v

Friday, August 21, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 18

Welcome back to Photo Friday. Here, I 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 a hand bell that my grandparents owned. It is part of a set of commemorative bells that portray landmarks around Bowling Green, Ohio. This particular bell commemorates the Wood County Historical Museum. This photo was taken April 2, 2015, during my last visit with my grandfather. He died July 21, 2014.

This bell is now part of my collection.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Places George Wants to Go

George Bailey dreamed of travel. He spent his entire life trying to get somewhere...anywhere. And he had a whole list of places he wanted to go.

As Bert the Cop said during the rainy night outside of the honeymoon suite, "They want romantic places, beautiful places ... places George wants to go."

As George told Mary earlier in the film, "I'm shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm going to see the world!"

Throughout the film, he mentions many locales he dreams of visiting. Below is a list of those places and an explanation of why he might have wanted to travel there.

National Geographic scene:


  • Of the many waterfalls in Tahiti, the most popular and accessible are the three waterfalls at Faarumai, know as the Cascades of Faarumai.
  • The historical capital of Papeete. It was established as the capital of dynasty in the 1820s by The last major queen of the Pomare dynasty, Pomare IV. She ruled until 1877.
  • Papaeari is the island’s oldest village, settled somewhere between 400 and 500 AD. It is also known for its association with Paul Gauguin, who lived in the area.
  • Built between 1844 and 1875, Cathedrale de L'Immaculee is a popular historical attraction and one of the oldest and largest churches in Papeete. It is located at Place Notre Dame.
Information taken from

Fiji Islands


USA Today published an article online about tourist attractions in Fiji:

"With more than 300 islands, the Republic of Fiji, or the 'Pearl of the Pacific,' earns its nickname with pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, dynamic underwater coral and acres of tropical jungle. Visitors can explore a number of attractions during their stay, and these showcase the area’s natural beauty, rich history and sense of adventure. Whether you are hoping to relax, learn or seek a thrill, you will find no shortage of things to do in Fiji."

The article (which can be read in full here) discusses several beautiful, historic sites, including the 
  • Sigatoka River, South Sea Islands
  • Kula Eco Park
  • Fiji Museum, and 
  • Bouma National Heritage Park

Coral Sea


The following has been copied from Wikipedia:

The Coral Sea is characterised by its warm and stable climate, with frequent rains and tropical cyclones. It contains numerous islands and reefs, as well as the world's largest reef system, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981. All previous oil exploration projects were terminated at the GBR in 1975, and fishing is restricted in many areas. The reefs and islands of the Coral Sea are particularly rich in birds and aquatic life and are a popular tourist destination, both nationally and internationally.
Additional information about the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef can be found at:

Luggage scene:



Italy is full of historic cities and landmarks. Some of them include:
  • Pompeii - The city buried under volcanic ash of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.
  • Canals of Venice - Perfect for romantic gondola rides past historic buildings, many of which have remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
  • La Torre Pendete, or as we know it in English, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Construction of the tower began in the 1100s. It had already begun to lean by the time the structure had reached the third level.
There are many more attractions in Italy, including some that will be explored below. You can find more tourist attractions listed and described by clicking here, which is where I found the above information.



Baghdad is a location of great history and amazing architecture, which would have particularly appealed to George Bailey. Some of the sights he could have explored in Baghdad include:

  • The cailiph's mosque, dating to 1289.
  • The 'Aquli Mosque, dating to 1328.
  • Many other locations dating to the late 13th and 14th centuries.

There also are a number of mosques, bazaars, and public baths survive from the Ottoman period.

I gathered this information from the Encyclopedia Britannica Web site.



This was the closest I could come to a travel brochure/poster for Samarkand. Both Baku and Samarkand are located in Uzbekistan.

According to the Visit Uzbekistan Travel Web site:

"Samarkand was a political, economic, and cultural center on the Silk Road trade route. Samarkand also served as the seat of the Timurid Empire, ruled at the peak of its power by Amir Timur (or Tamerlane, 1369 – 1405). Both Samarkand and Bukhara have strong Persian influences in language, culture, and ethnic makeup, a fact that is reflected in their Soviet and post-Soviet populations.The Islamic architecture in Samarkand, with its main square (Registan), the astronomer Ulug Bek’s observatory, and madrassahs on the Registan, became symbols of the Timurid Empire’s power and scientific achievements. Samarkand later served as an important comparison point for Soviet artists and building designers when creating ‘Soviet-Uzbek’ architecture."


George tells Joe Hepner at the luggage store that he is going to work his way across the ocean on a cattle boat. This is *may* have been what a cattle boat looked like.

Granville House rock scene:

Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum

Travel brochure for Greece, 1939

The Parthenon is located in Athens, Greece. The Parthenon is a former temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. It was completed in 438 BC although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Colosseum is located in Rome, Italy. is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. It is the largest amphitheatre in the world, and is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. (Source: Wikipedia).

The Colosseum can be seen on the travel brochure for Italy, which can be found above.
The Parthenon and the Colosseum are approximately 795 miles apart, which would take about 21 hours to travel by car in modern times using modern roads, according to Google Maps.

Train station scene:

Venezuela oil fields 


"Wanted, man with construction experience"

                                                              -George Bailey

The Venezuelan oil industry was born in 1908. By the end of the 1930s, Venezuela had become the third-leading oil producer in the world, behind the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as the leading exporter. (Source: Wikipedia)

Venezuela is also home to the real-life Paradise Falls, made famous by the Disney/Pixar film, Up.


"Wanted, man with engineering experience"
                                                   - George Bailey

The famous Klondike Gold Rush began after gold was discovered near Dawson City in 1896. As a result of the influx of people looking for gold, it was made a separate territory in 1898, split off from the Northwest Territories

The second major event in the Yukon's history is the construction of the Alaska Highway during the Second World War, for the transportation of war supplies. 

(Source: Wikipedia)

Here are the travel brochures that George holds at the train station and later discards
during Harry and Ruth's wedding celebration. The brochure on the right reads
"South America New York to Brazil-Uruguay-Argentina Schedule and Passenger Rates Munson
Steamship Lines New York City." The brochure on the left reads "Travel with the
Foremost Student Tours College Travel Club 1930s." 
Source for brochure wording: Willian, Michael. The Essential It’s a Wonderful Life Film Guidebook
Kerpluggo Books LLC, 2004.
Here is another picture of one of the brochures George carries at
the train station I found this photo in the book Zuzu's Wonderful Life in the Movies
by Christopher Brunell.

Honeymoon taxi scene

New York


Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the lights of Times Square, All of these and more can be found in New York City.

Outside of New York City, George and Mary can visit Niagra Falls, explore the location of the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls (which was also the inspiration for Bedford Falls).



Instead of me telling you what George and Mary may have done while in Bermuda, watch the video below about the Furness Lines and Bermuda.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Movie Review - Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life

"He gave me inspiration and I gave him death."
                         - Franz Kafka in Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life

The film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life opens with the first line of Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," which reads "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

The rest of the 23-minute film revolves around Kafka's struggle to write that one single line. In fact, it revolves solely around his struggle to figure out exactly what Gregor Samsa transformed into. This surreal film explores a lot of options, including a banana.

Interruptions abound, as well, in the form of:
  • Multiple knocks and interruptions at the door.
  • Other interruptions from noisy neighbors.
  • A nearby barking dog.
He receives multiple less-than-subtle hints that the answer to his struggle is an insect. But those hints and interruptions only cause him stress. His frustration grows and grows until he lashes out at a cockroach on his desk. It is at that point that inspiration and regret come to fruition.

 References to It's a Wonderful Life and other Capra films abound:
  • At one point, neighbors begin playing "Polly Wolly Doodle" on the piano, disrupting his thought. This song was recurrent in Frank Capra's You Can't Take it With You.
  • He is rescued by the donations made by his neighbors that change his outlook on life and his end story.
  • In the final scene, his neighbors begin to sing "Hark the Herald, Angels Sing."
  • Kafka comments "I didn't realize that I had so many friends."
  • Kafka invites his neighbors to call him "Mr. F." which is reminiscent of Henry F. Potter.
  • Kafka picks up his neighbor's youngest daughter and together they join the chorus of "Hark the Herald."
You must enjoy surrealism and films that leave you scratching your head, questioning just exactly it is that you have just seen. It is an odd film, but it is intended to be that way. Check it out. But if you aren't familiar with both Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and It's a Wonderful Life, you won't get it. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life was released in 1995 and stars Richard E. Grant.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Photo Friday - Bells Part 17

Welcome back to Photo Friday. Here, I 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 Weston United Methodist Church, in Weston, Ohio, taken March 29, 2015.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review - Go Set a Watchman

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. You can read plot descriptions on Amazon.

Since I established in my last blog entry that To Kill a Mockingbird is connected to It's a Wonderful Life, it stands to reason then, that the prequel to Mockingbird is naturally connected as well.

The title of Go Set a Watchman is taken from Isaiah 21:6, which says, "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."

That's what the King James version of the Bible says, anyway. The New Living Translation is more accessible, saying "Meanwhile, the Lord said to me, 'Put a watchman on the city wall. Let him shout out what he sees.'"

Originally, I was surprised that there is no sign of Boo Radley anywhere. in Watchman. Originally, I thought that maybe that was because the books were written out of order and Boo hadn't been created yet. However, I soon realized that this idea was wrong, because after Boo's heroism in Mockingbird, Scout walked him home and said she never saw him again.

Some facts have changed from the original story, especially concerning the outcome of Tom Robinson's trial. There has been a lot of talk about how Atticus is a different person than he was in To Kill a Mockingbird. And to some degree, that has merit. On the other hand, however, this perceived change in Atticus is the entire driving force behind the story.

Watchman is a book about childhood perceptions, reality and getting a dose of said reality. It's about grappling with what appears to be a change from what you thought you knew in childhood. In many ways, this is a story about growing up, just as much as Mockingbird was. And Scout is still growing up.

It helps to keep in mind that even though this book is a sequel, it was written prior to Mockingbird. That means that the Atticus we have known and loved until this book came out was written with the author's full knowledge of how he "really is." For me, that is a game changer. Atticus hasn't changed. There has just been more about him that has now been revealed, and his character has simply become more complex and deeper because of this new/old book. That's a good thing.

Readers who give Watchman one star on Amazon and Goodreads all seem to be freaking out that Atticus isn't who they thought he was. What they tend to forget is that it isn't about them. Both books are told from Scout's point of view. It is her perception that counts. Atticus didn't change. Scout's awareness of the world, and her ability to read people and understand her surroundings changed. It matured. It became more nuanced.

It makes complete sense that Atticus Finch can defend Tom Robinson in Mockingbird, but is a member of a racist group in Watchman. Public defenders do it all the time in 2015 - they defend the accused because it's their job, not because they believe in the goodness in the heart of a murderer caught in the act on a security camera. "Your honor, I don't know this man, but I sincerely believe he is a loving, caring, kind, thoughtful man who wouldn't hurt another human being. This surveillance video of him hacking away at his wife with a  meat cleaver is clearly a Hollywood production designed to falsely incriminate my client."

Bologna. Atticus Finch took Robinson's case because he was ASSIGNED to take it. He didn't volunteer for it. He wasn't approached by the family. He was assigned the task by a public official who had manners and disguised the assignment as a request. That's what good leaders do. My boss asks me, "could you please complete this report for me," and that empowers me because I feel like I am in control. He could just as easily tell me "complete this report for me." Either way, the exact same job gets done. The difference is that one is a polite, respectful request. The other is a heavy-handed command designed to put someone in their place. Atticus did not choose the Tom Robinson case. He was assigned to it. And even then, the outcomes are different, depending on which book you read.

Go Set a Watchman challenges everything we know. It challenges my northern perception of southerners. It asks questions that are difficult to answer, and it looks at issues I didn't even know existed in the south at that time. There are many, many quotable moments. It is definitely a book I will reread in short order.

Just do yourself a favor and when it gets offensive (and it does), don't forget to stop looking at it through politically-correct, hyper-sensitive 2015 glasses. Take a step back, remember that this book was written in the 1950s ABOUT the 1950s, and keep some perspective.

For me, Mockingbird gets 5 stars. Watchman gets 4, mainly because throughout the book, Lee would switch from first person to third person and back again in the same paragraph. That was distracting.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Book and Movie Review - To Kill a Mockingbird

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.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Starring Gregory Peck and Mary Badham. 1962

There really is a connection to It's a Wonderful Life here, even though To Kill a Mockingbird was released 15 years later. Follow me.....

To Kill a Mockingbird won Oscars for:
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gregory Peck)
  • Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Horton Foote)
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White
It was also nominated for: 
It's a Wonderful Life, while it did not win any Oscars, was nominated for:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Sound Recording
  • Best Picture Editing
  • Best Actor (Jimmy Stewart)
  • Best Director (Frank Capra)
Both films are about people with power trying to hurt people who don't have power...and a single man who is brave enough to stand up for the "little people," or the oppressed. Atticus Finch does it. George Bailey does it. Both of them teach their children what it means to do it, and why it is so important to do.

Both of them meet my definition of "film." They both are existential and deal with issues of equality and fairness. Both strive to do more than entertain. They strive to educate, inform, elucidate, and to question the norm.

The first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird about 7 years ago, I struggled with it in the beginning. But once I got a feel for the language, I fell in love with it. I watched the film several times since then and enjoyed that, as well. I often address my youngest son as "Hey, Boo" because of this book and film.

But my second time reading this book (April, 2015) was an entirely new experience. The comparison between Jews and African-Americans, and the comparison of Hitler to some racist white Americans was chilling, and sadly, true. It struck me the second time through in a way that didn't affect me the first time I read it.

In a world where the rights of the LBGTQ community is an increasingly debated topic, and when race relations appear to be getting worse in some areas of America instead of getting better, it is a good reminder to read this book for a childlike perspective about what equality means and what it should look like. Because sometimes as adults, we are just too jaded to see it ourselves.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book Review - A Novel Idea

It’s a Wonderful Life, by M.C. Bolin. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1996.

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.

My copy of the novelization of the film.
As with many popular films, someone writes a book that tells the same story that we see on the screen. Sometimes, as with The Help, the films are based on the books. In other situations, such as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the film came first, followed by the book, which is based on the film.

That is the case with It's a Wonderful Life, the book by M.C. Bolin, and released for the film's 50th anniversary.

It is pretty mundane, describing the actions that you see on the screen and the lines that are said in the film. But every once in a while, you get moments of brilliance when Bolin gets into the heads of the characters, and describes their thoughts and emotions.

One example of this occurs during the bank run when George thinks to himself, “What was it his mother had said not so long before about Mary’s having all the answers?” (Bolin 70)

2.5 out of 5

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tribute to Frank Faylen

Frank Faylen says and does some of the more entertaining things in It's a Wonderful Life. It is he who has the wonderful line, "how would you like to...." which gets cut off and allows our imaginations to run wild. He also gives Bert the Cop a kiss at the honeymoon, which earns him a little chastisement.

He was born Dec. 8, 1905, in St. Louis, MO as Francis Charles Ruf.

Through the years, Faylen racked up 219 acting credits, beginning in 1935 in a short titled Double Exposure. His final performance was on an episode of the TV series Quincy M.E.

His credits include such classics as:
  • The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis (1959), as Dobie's father, Herbert
  • Gone With the Wind (1939)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • The Lost Weekend (1945)
  • Road to Rio (1947)
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
He also appeared in many military/war films, but he may be best known as a taxi driver. A quick survey of Internet Movie Database credits Faylen with portraying "Taxi Driver" in the following films:
  • Four's a Crowd (1938)
  • Saturday's Children (1940)
  • No Time for Comedy (1940)
  • Footsteps in the Dark (1941)
  • The Palm Beach Story (1942)
  • Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble (1944)
  • The Well-Groomed Bride (1946)
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
He is credited as "Driver in Cafe" in They Drive By Night (1940), and even appeared in an unknown role (unknown to me, that is) in a film titled Taxi, Mister (1943).

I'm sure there are more instances in which he portrayed a taxi driver, but they are listed as named characters, not as "taxi driver" on Internet Movie Database.

I almost listed another film in which he played an ambulance driver. It's practically the same thing as a taxi driver. But I decided against it.

Faylen died 30 years ago today, Aug. 2, 1985, in Burbank, CA. He is buried in an unmarked grave at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hill, CA.
Frank Faylen's star on the Walk of Fame, 
on the North side of the 6200 block 
of Hollywood Boulevard.

He would be 109 if he was alive today.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tribute to Joseph Walker

Quite possibly one of Frank Capra's favorite cinematographers, Joseph Walker has 145 film credits to his name.

His first film was Back to God's Country, in 1919.

Among Capra films Walker captured are:

  • Ladies of Leisure (1930)
  • Dirigible (1931)
  • The Miracle Woman (1931)
  • Platinum Blonde (1931)
  • American Madness (1932)
  • The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
  • Lady for a Day (1933)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
And way too many more to count, including, of course, It's a Wonderful Life.

Walker was nominated for four Oscars, but didn't win any.

He invented the zoom lens, and also helped develop the wireless transmitter.

Here is a bit of interesting trivia for you: Joseph Walker's middle name is Bailey.

His last film was Affair in Trinidad in 1952.

He was born Aug. 22, 1892 in Denver, CO. He died Aug. 1, 1985 in Las Vegas, NV. If he were alive today, he would be 122 years old.