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I accidentally caught "It Happened One Christmas" on television a few
years back. It could very much be likened to an accident. It was
horrifying. My stomach turned. But I couldn't look away.
If you'd like to see a fictional epic biography about a person caught somewhere between egotism and altruism that contains elements of fantasy and spiritual allegory and just happens to climax on a snowy Christmas Eve, then for Pete's sake watch It's A Wonderful Life. It's widely considered one of the greatest movies of all time and stars one of Hollywood's most admired stars, Jimmy Stewart (He was the Tom Hanks of our grandparent's generation).
Let's face it, folks. Once in a great while there comes along a masterpiece that cannot be recreated. Attempts of this nature should be considered blasphemous. No one can repaint the Mona Lisa or re-pen the speeches of Hamlet. Next, you'll be telling me that Hollywood is making a movie based on The Honeymooners...(Rats!)
Add another one to the "what the hell were they thinking?" list. This
feminist remake of "It's a Wonderful Life" is anything but wonderful.
There are several reasons for that. One reason is that it is impossible
to improve on the original; after all, what could they POSSIBLY do to
make it better? Well, Marlo & Co. thought they found a way--reverse the
roles of the original and put a feminist slant on it.
Another way they apparently thought to improve the original was to suck out every single trace of humor that the first one had.
Didn't work either.
Last, but not least, they decided the best way to improve on the original was to have Miss Thomas give the absolute worst, most obnoxious performance of her life.
That worked. I finally turned it off.
There's an old American saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Somebody should explain to her what that means. Otherwise we'll soon be seeing Marlo Thomas remaking "The Wild Bunch" and having General Mapache's Mexican bandit gang sitting around "sharing their feelings" and "getting in touch with their inner child."
Pardon me while I lose my lunch.
This gender-swap vanity project goes one enormous step beyond
colorization, inserting the usually-likable Marlo Thomas in place of
James Stewart, in one of the great American films. If the copyright on
the original had not lapsed, this crime against film history could not
have occurred. It is certainly lovingly produced, and well cast...aside
from the misbegotten lead and some terrifying scenery-chewing by Cloris
Leachman. That Ms. Thomas' perky performance isn't up to Stewart's
legendary portrayal isn't even the worst part; as producer, that she
would inject herself into such a story without radically rethinking it
is very much the point.
As it is, the teleplay by Lionel Chetwynd (whose contributions include such thudding, on-the-nose rephrasings as "You're just a spider, and I'm glad I didn't fall into your scurvy little web") slavishly follows the original except when it would be ridiculous not to notice that its hero is now a woman. In those scenes, the writing calls to mind Samuel Johnson's famous critique, "Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good."
If you are one of the few who have not seen the original "It's a Wonderful Life", please do yourself a favor and watch it first...even if it is in black-and-white. Warning: If you do, you will not be able to endure this one.
The acting, sets and script are fine - the producers & cast owe
everything to Frank Capra as well they owe his family an apology. There
are a growing number of classics being re-imagined from a feminist
perspective - which is great when they are a total reversal. In this
film a total reversal of the original would mean making the Potter
character a woman. The George Baily role is played by a woman as well
as the Clarence Oddbody role - also played by a woman. Where they go
wrong is with the despicable evil Potter role - that character is still
male. The result means rather than the movie being the reverse of the
original movie - it simply makes the protagonist and other pleasant
The original movie is much better for several reasons - the foremost is that it is the way that the original writer and Capra together imagined it to be. Capra did not approve of this movie and was not consulted - he considered it plagaristic. Ratings for the movie were very low - which is why the movie is mostly forgotten.
I look forward to seeing a real reversal where every single character is reversed - not just the nice or good characters but all the unsavory ones as well.
Frank Capra's It's a wonderful life stands on it's own as a classic
film with a timeless message.
Marlo Thomas whom I have never seen before, turns in a superb and dedicated performance in James Stewart's role.
This movie reverses the original roles taken by Donna Reed and James Stewart.
This movie does not have the warmth of the original, or the characterization of the original.
It is solely the acting of Mario Thomas that makes this version stand out on it's own.
Make no mistake: Marlo Thomas is still a most attractive woman; but 35
years ago, she was just the right age for the role of Mary Bailey
Hatch. Probably more damaging than anything else in 1977 was the fact
that "That Girl" was only six years off of network, and likely in wide
syndication, leaving Marlo typecast as the ditzy "Ann Marie," a
character far removed from the young businesswoman in "It Happened One
Christmas." Perhaps that was one of the reasons why Marlo took the
Remaking "It's a Wonderful Life" is kind of like repainting the Mona Lisa: It is doomed to be compared to the original, and inevitably, less than favorably. Having said that, standing on its own, "It Happened One Christmas" simply glows.
It's difficult not to fall in love with Marlo as Mary Bailey Hatch, to cheer for her when she flourishes, and to cry with her when she believes that life isn't worth living.
The supporting cast is adequate. Wayne Rogers likely had the same problem as Marlo, having recently left the cast of "MASH," but in the supporting role of George Hatch--almost a background character--he played well. Cloris Leachman, as the angel Clara, was cute, but succumbed to the temptation to overact. For Orson Welles, it was about the era when he was known for the phrase, "We will sell no wine before its time" (in a popular television commercial for Paul Masson wines), and his performance as villain Henry Potter was almost an extension of that. Doris Roberts as Ma Bailey had yet to find the spark which she would later exude as Ray Romano's mother. And Christopher Guest, as younger brother Harry Bailey, was simply wooden, even in the classic signature line in the final scene.
The biggest strike against "It Happened One Christmas" is that it was what those in the business refer to as a "madefor"--that is, it was a made-for-television movie, putting severe restrictions on length and budget. Many elements of the story were either condensed or eliminated, and it simply has the "look and feel" of a "madefor." If you've seen and loved "It's a Wonderful Life," you will surely say that "It Happened One Christmas" falls short...
But Marlo will steal your heart.
At the time, Ms. Thomas stated that she undertook this pointless remake of a classic as a way of showing that women could be as valuable as men. That point had been proved in 1946 by a woman named Frances Goodrich who coauthored the original screenplay with a man named Albert Hackett. That was a wonderful screenplay and it showed how the value of women is proved by original creative output not by pallid hackwork like "It Happened one Christmas." I really wish Ms. Thomas had spent her considerable resources and the considerable talents of her cast on something original. They had nothing to add but to switch the male and female leads. Curiously, Ms. Thomas did not switch genders in casting Mr. Welles in the Lionel Barrymore role as the evil Mr. Potter. Evidently, Ms. Thomas belief in the potential of women does not extend to villainy. Pity.
I first saw this on TV in the late 1970s. My family and I were curious as to how Marlo Thomas and troupe would handle a genuine film classic. The title of my summary says it all: "Well intended but misfired." All that is different is the gender reversal. Otherwise, it's the same basic story as the movie...same plot line, same characters, same situations, etc. It's hard to knock a nice lady like Marlo Thomas who was so good as "That Girl" and as a feminist actress and activist or a lady like Cloris Leachman who just keeps getting better with age but the story just seems to work better with James Stewart, Donna Reed, etc. ...the reworking just doesn't seem to cut it. Leonard Maltin gave this a lukewarm review in his book of movie reviews saying it was "earnestly made." I would agree saying (again) it was well-intended but ultimately misfired. Everybody seemed to want to do well with the material but it just didn't come through.
I Love It Happened One Christmas movie ever since I saw it as a child
and would love to obtain a copy of it.
It has been years since I have seen it and look every Christmas for it to be seen on TV so I can watch it.
I have seen the original movie It's a Wonderful Life and didn't like it as well as this one.
Marlo Thomas does a great job on acting and she did pull it off as a woman!!!!!!
Any ideas where I can find the It Happened One Night movie please let me know, I would be very interested in having my own copy!
I was 11 when it came out and looked for it on television every year since. I thought it was a nice twist on the original and more up-to-date. If you like one, you'll like the other.. If you didn't like the Jimmy Stewart version, you prob will not like this one either
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