Not Born Yesterday

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"It's a Wonderful Life" (The Sequel)

The copycat syndrome

Really, is nothing sacred anymore? Frank Capra, the extraordinarily talented movie director of the last century, must be rolling over in his grave with the news that a sequel to his iconic Holiday film, "It's a Wonderful Life" is now in the works. 

I may be out of step in today's world, but in my opinion there are some things that just shouldn't be tolerated. One is a Shakespeare play done in modern dress. Another is a sequel or remake of a classic movie. Both should be outlawed as being, if not illegal, at the very least unethical and maybe immoral!

We've all seen the original "It's a Wonderful Life" a hundred times over the years, in theaters and on television, especially around the Holidays. By now, everyone knows the story of poor George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), a resident of fictional small town Bedford Falls, who becomes so despondent over a series of bad breaks that he contemplates suicide. I first saw the movie in 1946, the year it came out, but I was only a kid in Junior High School, and didn't really see what all the fuss was about. Since then, I've gained a more adult understanding of people who are driven in desperation to do away with themselves, and some appreciation of what they must be going through. It's called growing up. 

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But, back to the movie and a desperate George Bailey about to commit suicide. Enter an elderly angel, just in the nick of time, to conduct George back through his life, much as the Ghost of Christmas Past did for Ebenezer Scrooge, and show him what Bedford Falls and the people in it would be like without him. It is this alternative reality that convinces George that life is really worth living, as long as you have friends and family who love you and need you. 

End of story. End of the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." Or so we thought. But as noted above, there is a sequel in the works. The people responsible have to be afflicted with something called a "copycat syndrome." (The dictionary defines "copycats" as people who imitate others' behavior, dress or ideas. In its more sinister form it can pertain to an action or crime, as in copycat killings.)

While not as grievous as murder, making copycat movies shows an appalling lack of originality, not to mention respect for the work of masters in their field. These people have no ideas of their own, so they work from someone else's script. And I have read that what the makers of the sequel to this film have done is to twist everything around to make it fit our jaded, 21st century society. The leading character is not George Bailey, but his grandson. And he is not a nice fellow. In fact, he is a jerk. In this version the angel doesn't show him how much worse  life in Bedford Falls would be without him, but how much better!  I suppose you could call that an original idea, of sorts. Incidentally, the movie in production now is scheduled for release in 2015, just in time for Christmas.   

What's next, I wonder? A copycat remake or sequel to "It Happened One Night," another Frank Capra classic? Now, that would be a crime!  

At this point I am reminded of another old movie, "Love in the Afternoon," in which Gary Cooper says to a young Audrey Hepburn, "When you've got a winning combination, why mess around with it?"  

My sentiments exactly. And when you've got great classic films, why mess around with them?

E. E. Smith is a playwright and book author. Her new series of murder mysteries debuted in 2013. The first is titled Death by Misadventure. 

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