‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in Andy Griffith land

Tonight I had my third classic film on the big screen experience- and I have to add it might be my favorite thus far.

The Earle Theater in Mount Airy, NC. Taken from the Surry Arts Council

I drove roughly 30 minutes with fellow Elkin Tribune reporter, Kristin Zachary, to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) in Mount Airy, North Carolina.  Some of you may recognize Mount Airy as the town the television show “Andy Griffith” is based off of. The town is full of Andy Griffith related places such as the Andy Griffith Playhouse/mall/Parkway, Opie’s Candy Store or Barney’s Lunch Counter-but I digress, that is another post.

The film was showing at The Earle Theater, built in 1938 and opened in time to show “Gone with the Wind,” according to the Mount Airy News.

I can’t tell you when the last time I had watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Though my family owns it, it isn’t a Christmas movie we watch every year like “Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” “Bishop’s Wife,” “Christmas in Connecticut” or “White Christmas.”  I think part of the reason we don’t is because my dad gets very, very angry when Thomas Mitchell loses the money.

I had forgotten what a good movie it was, but then it’s a Frank Capra film so it’s pretty much flawless.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, the film is about George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. He is in a bad place in his life, and his guardian angel comes to help. Before coming down to Earth the angel looks back over George’s life- reviewing events like saving his little brother from drowning, the death of his father and getting married. We see the struggles George Bailey has gone through for his family and how he has had to set aside everything he wanted in life to help everyone else out-mainly to keep his father’s business out of greedy Mr Potter’s hands. Before being visited by his guardian angel, he feels like he has reached the end of his rope and everything he has worked for has been for nothing. Bailey wishes he was never born and Clarence the Angel (played by Henry Travers) shows him what Bedford Falls would be like if Bailey hadn’t been born and how much he has affected everyone around him.

We meet grown up Mary (Donna Reed) for the first time.

Capra has some great camera shots. Most of my favorites were toward the end when George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) hasn’t been born such as when childhood friend and local hussy Violet (Gloria Graham) is being arrested- the camera is in her face as she is struggling with the cops.  Another shot is  the close up of George Bailey’s face as he is frantically looking around Pottersville/Bedford Falls. Other shots I liked were at the graduation dance with the close up on Mary (Donna Reed) when George first sees her after many years and ( also at the graduation dance) when the two boys (one being Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Schwartz) are planning to open the swimming pool floor.

Some other thoughts I had during the movie:

-The last time I saw “It’s a Wonderful Life” I was probably in late elementary school or in middle school. Sometimes I didn’t understand why George was upset with how his life was going. Now that I’m out of college and have my own ambitions, I can relate to him a lot more.

George yelling at Uncle Billy for losing $8,000.

-Thomas Mitchell (who played Uncle Billy) broke my heart. He was so sweet and forgetful and didn’t mean any harm to anyone. I almost died at the part where George is yelling at him and calling him a stupid fool for losing the money and then….Uncle Billy cries….and a squirrel jumped on his arm-further tears from me.  I understand being upset over the loss of $8,000, but who sends the absent minded relative to the bank with that much money?

-I always knew Donna Reed (who plays Mary) was a good actress, but I was really impressed with her acting in this movie. Unfortunately, she wasn’t given the chance at MGM she deserved, because many roles that might have gone to her, went to June Allyson.

-Gloria Graham (who plays Violet) isn’t one of my favorite actresses, but she also does a great job in this movie. It may be my favorite role of her’s.

Lionel Barrymore, as Mr. Potter, is the richest, greediest man in town.

-Lionel Barrymore is my favorite of the Barrymores and he sure can play a good bad guy. Barrymore plays Mr. Potter who is the richest man in town, greedy and wanting to have control everything. However, is anyone else bothered by what looks like a bald cap on Mr. Barrymore?

-I never realized how many funny parts were in this movie, either. Kristin and I were cracking up the whole time, particularly because a little boy with a really funny laugh was sitting in front of us. Every time he laughed at the funny parts, we would laugh harder.

At the end of the movie, Kristin and I walked out wiping tears from our eyes and she said, “They sure don’t make movies like that anymore.’

George running through the streets of Bedford Falls thankful to be alive.

Overall, the uplifting film mixed with the small town ambiance of Mount Airy, it was a very lovely experience and is my favorite classic film experience thus far.

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Fashion in Films blogathon: I guess I’m easily influenced

Old movies have influenced my life in many ways, fashion is one of them.

When my classic film love started to really kick up in the middle school, I noticed fashion the most in the movies.  I always looked for the fashion designers during the credits and became familiar with Givenchy, Edith Head, Helen Rose, Walter Plunkett and Irene.

I even went through a period of time where I drew clothing for paper dolls based off costumes that Rosemary Clooney wore in “White Christmas” or Elizabeth Taylor wore in “Father of the Bride.”

All throughout high school I always wanted to buy vintage clothing, but my mom said it was too risky, “What if it doesn’t fit/is dirty/torn?”

Once I got to college and became VERY friendly with Ebay and started spending a lot of my free time…and money searching and bidding on vintage clothing. My constant Ebay purchases even became a bit of a joke with my friends.

All of my vintage clothing buys have been dictated by fashions I’ve seen in film.  Below are a few photos of some of my vintage clothing buys along with what inspired them: 

Donna Reed in peasant style clothing from LIFE.

Peasant Style: In the 1940s, Latin style outfits were all the rage as a result of the Good Neighbor Policy that the United States had with South American countries.  I’ve always been a big fan of the fashion during this era.  Actresses like Hedy Lamarr in “Tortilla Flat”, Jane Powell “Holiday in Mexico”, Shirley Temple and Jennifer Jones in “Since You Went Away” and Rita Hayworth in “The Loves of Carmen” (just to name a few) can all be spotted wearing peasant blouses and espadrilles.  I bought this outfit over the summer-its taken a long time to find an affordable set-so I could try to resemble some of my favorite 1940s stars.

Barbara Stanwyck in a plaid coat

Masculine Plaid Coats: Another style I’ve spotted alot in 1940s films are women in masculine-like plaid coats.  I first was drawn to this style when I saw Esther Williams in a red and green plaid coat looking beautiful and bright in Technicolor.  Last Christmas I found a Pendleton Wool jacket on Vintage Vixen and wanted it so I could look like Esther Williams.  Other actresses who wore masculine, outdoors coats like this are Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers or Margaret Sullivan.

Jane Powell in a formal.

Teenage Formals: I doubt I’m the only one who drools of the formals actresses wear in films.  I love all the evening gowns that actresses wear, but I have a certain fondness for teen formals in films. I love the dress that Elizabeth Taylor tromps through the mud in at the end of “Cynthia”, the adorable white and blue dress Jane Powell sings “It’s a Most Unusual Day” in during “Date with Judy” or the formals Ann Rutherford wears as Polly Benedict in Andy Hardy films.  Unfortunately, in today’s fashion culture, there aren’t many opportunities to wear formal gowns like they did in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.  But I couldn’t resist this yellow satin gown on Ebay. I’ll admit, I’ve only worn it for posing in photos, but maybe one day I can wear it out.

Sandra Dee in a see-through frothy cocktail dress.

Chiffon Cocktail dress: Chiffon, ruffled cocktail dresses seemed to be all the rage in the 1960s. I have seen Ann-Margret, Deborah Kerr, Eleanor Parker, Dina Merrill and Kim Novak in this style of gown-unfortunately I couldn’t find photos of any of these.  Sandra Dee’s dress is similar to mine but doesnt have a V-ruffled neck line. I was looking for a dress on Ebay to wear to my cousin’s wedding last September and found this Lili Diamond dress from the 1960s. This usually isn’t my style (if you can’t tell I really like 1940s fashions) but it was a good price so I bought it. It’s ended up being one of my best Ebay buys and I’ve worn it several times. It’s light, comfortable and flattering.

Hedy Lamarr in “Algiers” (1938) wearing a turban

 Turbans: It seems like every actress in the 1940s can be spotted wearing a turban at least once. Lana Turner in “Post Man Always Rings Twice”, Ginger Rogers “Tales of Manhattan” and Gloria Swanson are just a few.  In Hedy Lamarr’s autobiography “Ecstasy and Me” she credits herself with making turbans a fad. Her character in “Algiers” called for an exotic, aloof style so she and the costume designer thought of this look for her. After this, turbans became all the rage, according to Lamarr’s book.  Though several of my family members and friends think I’m nuts, I’ve always been a BIG fan of turbans. I have even worn this out in public several times (along with a vintage mink hat I own). It’s really unfortunate that hats aren’t part of every day wear anymore, but don’t let that stop you from wearing them!

Hedy Lamarr in “White Cargo” (1942)

Tribal: This isn’t a vintage dress, but I’ll admit that I bought it to look like Tondelayo in “White Cargo.” Hedy Lamarr said she felt ridiculous in the role of an over-sexed half cast, according to her autobiography. Regardless, Hedy looks amazing and so I wanted to buy a dress that had that same look.

Espadrilles and Spectator pumps

 Shoes:  I actually don’t have a large variety of shoes-it pretty much consists of 4 different colors of the same pair of flats. But I bought these spectator pumps after seeing so many of favorite actresses wearing them. When Teresa Wright flees Joseph Cotton in “Shadow of the Doubt” and gets cornered in a pub, her shoes are the first thing I noticed. I also love Espadrilles popular during the 1940s-I was fortunate that Old Navy decided to sell this style in Spring 2011.

When it comes to dressing like your favorite stars, beware. Ebay is my drug of vintage clothing choice, but I’m cheap and don’t like to spend more than $30 or $40 dollars. Be careful of people claiming something is 1940s, but is really a 1980s replica. Another great vintage clothing resource is Vintage Vixen. They are friendly, have quick shipping and the most reasonably priced vintage clothing website.

**Thanks to my mom for being patient and helping me take all of these photos today 🙂 **

This blog post is a contribution to Hollywood Revue’s Fashion in Film Blogathon!

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