Sunday, December 11, 2011

George Bailey's Turning Point

Today (although she doesn't know it) I'm linking up to a blogger who I follow and enjoy.  Each week on Sundays, Melissa at 320 Sycamore posts an inspirational thought that she calls Courage For The Week.

Today, she posted a clip from It's A Wonderful Life, where George Bailey prays his famous tavern prayer.  I never knew before that as Jimmy Stewart filmed that scene, he had a very profound experience himself.  I watched the clip, and read Jimmy Stewart's commentary on it, and I am struck by how it resonates with my post yesterday.  Each of us will stand at our own "turning point."  We will realize we must ask for "God's protection and care with complete abandon."  George Bailey is at that place in this scene.

Jimmy Stewart wrote an article for Guideposts magazine about the prayer.  As a film studies major in school, I know how painstaking the editing process is.  Back in the days before digital media, I can't imagine the labor involved.  I am in awe:

“As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.

Frank (Capra, the director), who loved spontaneity in his films, was ecstatic. He wanted a close-up of me saying that prayer, but was sensitive enough to know that my breaking down was real and that repeating it in another take was unlikely. But Frank got his close-up. The following week he worked long hours in the film laboratory, repeatedly enlarging the frames so that eventually it would appear as a close-up on the screen. I believe nothing like this had ever been done before. It involved thousands of enlargements with extra time and money. But he felt it was worth it…” ~Jimmy Stewart, Guideposts.

Stewart goes on to describe how, despite high hopes, the film was a box office flop.  A total failure.  But inexplicably, it "wouldn't die."  It eventually became one of the most beloved films of all time, eventually called an "American cultural phenomenon."  Stewart wraps up the article by saying,

"Well, maybe so, but it seems to me there is nothing phenomenal about the movie itself. It's simply about an ordinary man who discovers that living each ordinary day honorably, with faith in God and a selfless concern for others, can make for a truly wonderful life." 

Thanks, Melissa, for letting me link over to you.

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