It’s a Wonderful Life is my second favorite movie of all time – right between Hoosiers and Patton. Ever since NBC got the rights to it 16 years ago, you have to make sure you don’t miss it. It’s on Christmas Eve. Has anybody else noticed that there are at least five actors in It’s a Wonderful Life that are also in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?
No? Well, have you noticed that several of the Christmas classics aren’t all about goodness and light? It’s a Wonderful Life is really kind of a dark movie. George is about to commit suicide before Clarence Oddbody, Angel Second Class (AS2) saves him. Suicide. On Christmas Eve. That’s cheery.
What about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Santa isn’t exactly the jolly old fat man with the snowy white beard when he gives Donner the beat down about his kid having that unacceptable physical deformity. How about Coment telling Rudolph’s pals that since he looks different he can’t play any games with them? None of that however compares to the toys Santa leaves on an isolated island hidden north of the Arctic Circle. Toys that have been rejected by children around the world and then herded up and locked away in an internment camp. Not all comfy cozy is it?
Rankin-Bass has some others that are weird too – Santa Claus is Coming to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Santa Claus is Coming to Town tells the story of how Santa became Santa. His folks leave him on a doorstep when he’s just a baby. Instantly, you’re forced to explain abandonment to your kids. Which is not a subject I’m especially fond of explaining around Christmas. Although it is a little easier now that you can use what Congress is doing to the Constitution as an example.
Anyway, Santa is raised by an elf family luckily named Kringle. Evidently, the Kringles have the same powers that Snow White and Dr. Doolittle have since baby Santa is brought to them by the animals through the forest of the Whispering Winds. Which really sounds like an exclusive golf course. The Winter Warlock, bearing a striking resemblence to Judge Smails in a wizard costume, is evidently the honcho who rules the forest and all the animals live in fear of him. Which is what is going on in the nearby town where the baby Santa was left on a doorstep. Rankin-Bass developed this special in 1970 which is only 25 years after WW 2. Which might explain the anti-German bias in there. How else can you explain the Burgermeisters? Why are the Germans cast as the villans anyway? They don’t hate Christmas. They aren’t fun-loathers. They invented Octoberfest for cripes-sake!
Anyhow, Santa not only befriends the Winter Warlock and melts his icy heart but he outwits the Burgermeisters as they do everything they can to stop him from delivering toys to the children. Many of their efforts lead to explanations as to why we have stockings, why Santa comes down the chimney, why he grew his beard, why Santa lives at the North Pole and why reindeer fly. Its all pretty logical and easy for kids to understand. Except for the parts where the Burgermeisters capture Santa, throw him in jail and burn all toys he’s delivered to the children. I use that as a lesson to the girls about what happens when you put a San Francisco liberal in charge of banks.
In The Year Without a Santa Claus, Santa gets sick and is told to take a break as not many people still believe in him anyway. So two of his elves, Jingle and Jangle, who we’ve never heard of before or since, travel to America to find some folks who still believe. They go south and avoid the northeast because, unless its subsidized by the government, they don’t believe in anything out there. But this story does takes place in the 20’s when America was still America and wasn’t beaten down by 90 years of the income tax and other subtle forms of wealth redistribution. But Jingle and Jangle screw up and lose Vixen who ends up in the dog pound in a place called Southtown. This, I tell the girls, is why we don’t have a dog. The mayor of Southtown goes all Ray Nagin and says he doesn’t believe in Santa or Christmas and it never ever snows in Southtown anyway. But if the elves can make it snow, he’ll free Vixen. Which means during a Christmas special intended for children you have an elected official clearly violating the basic rights of Vixen and engaging in blackmail.
So the bumbling elves go to Mrs. Claus for help. She turns to Heat Miser, who bears a striking resemblance to Dan Rostenkowski, and Snow Miser. Turns out for it to snow in Southtown, Heat Miser has to allow it. He says no deal unless he can get some of that action Ben Nelson got to vote for the health care bill. Result?
So Mrs. Claus, in a nod to 70’s environmentalism, asks their Mom, Mother Nature, to lay the smack down. At this point, Santa has had it with the Pelosi-like pace of his health care and sheds the Santa gear and goes to Southtown to get Vixen himself. While he’s there, he discovers that people do still believe in him and in Christmas. In fact, the children get together and decide if Santa needs a break, well that’s just fine and they’ll make presents for him this year. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is the plot to the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Special too. Well, Santa decides he’s fine, flies to Southtown and makes a rare public appearance in what is now a snow covered Southtown. Then Al Gore verbally accosts Santa for speeding up global climate change through this unprecedented snowfall in Southtown, berates the townsfolk for having faith in something other than Mother Earth and then starts waving around his Oscar statue.
Or something like that.
At any rate, I’m looking forward to watching It’s a Wonderful Life Thursday evening. Mixed messages or not.