Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra

I'm back. I'm sorry. It wasn't intentional. I have been ill. Perhaps one day, I will blog about my experience. For now, suffice it to say that migraine headaches suck and attempting to hunt down the cause and make them stop leads you to places you never knew you would go. I assure you that my passion for this film and dedication to this blog has not waned. I was just laid up in bed for a week. That's all. Now, two IV's, one spinal tap, a blood patch, and lots of Percocet, headaches and back pain later, I have returned.

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.

Review of American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra by Ray Carney.

I have one confession to make: I didn't read this entire book. I only read about the films that impacted my research. Specifically, I read the portions about American Madness, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, You Can't Take it With You, and It's a Wonderful Life.

The thing about this book is that the research and the insights are fantastic. There are considerations here that I have never thought of before. The problem is that there were several simple errors. For example, Carney:
  • Talks about Henry C. Potter (pg. 379). His name is actually Henry F. Potter.
  • Repeatedly refers to Violet Bicks (pg. 384 and many others). Her name is Violet Bick.
  • Repeatedly refers to one of the characters in American Madness as Dixon. (pg. 117). His name is spelled Dickson.
  • Misquotes George Bailey as saying "sounds of trains, anchor chains, and boat whistles" (pg. 422). George's actual quote is "anchor chains, plane motors, train whistles."
  • Incorrectly states that after the phone scene, there is a "following scene showing George and Mary leaving the church after their wedding." This is wrong. They may or may not have been married in a church. We have no proof of this. However, they leave the Bailey home, not a church, as they climb into Ernie's taxi. The proof is the picture of Annie the maid hanging below the steps as George and Mary run down them.
These missed facts do not take away from the scholarship and depth that this book goes into. The research and dedication to studying the facts of the films instead of the dreams and metaphors is admirable.

American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra is dense. It's thick and scholarly, and requires patience and a great degree of concentration. That being said, it is also required reading for fans of Capra and his films.

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