Monday, December 22, 2014

It's A Wonderful Town

What is your favorite holiday movie?
Vintage TV and Radio. TV is showing - what else?

For many in the United States, it is a movie starring James Stewart and Donna Reed that was made in 1946 - "It's a Wonderful Life".

This movie takes place in a fictional small town in upstate New York called Bedford Falls, and tells the story of a man, George Bailey.  George owns the Bailey Savings and Loan, inherited from his father.
No, this isn't the Bailey Savings and Loan, but we can imagine
George is an ordinary man leading an ordinary, but, in some ways heroic, life.  When young, he saved the life of his brother who broke through the ice in a sledding accident, but lost his hearing in one ear as a result.

George wants to leave Bedford Falls and see the world, but life decrees otherwise.  George is disqualified from military service due to his deafness -the brother he saved goes, and becomes a war hero and winner of the Medal of Honor.  Meanwhile, George marries and has four children, including a daughter, ZuZu. George sacrifices again and again for the people of Bedford Falls and his family and friends- until he finally became so discouraged by a series of personal downturns that he decides to take his own life by jumping off a bridge.  He feels he is worth more dead than alive.

An angel named Clarence shows him what Bedford Falls would have been like without him, and tries to convince him not to jump off that bridge.  George decides to live, after seeing the impact his life has made on so many people, and the movie has a happy ending, as Clarence earns his angel wings.

Many fans of the movie have asked - is Bedford Falls fictional?

It may just be based on a real place - the small city of Seneca Falls, New York, where, in real life, a hero died in 1917 by jumping off a bridge and saving the life of another, drowning in the process.

Seneca Falls doesn't need the association with the movie to have a place in history - it has a strong place in history for many other reasons, such as being a birthplace of the women's suffrage movement.  But, there are many similarities between Bedford Falls and Seneca Falls.

So many people love this movie, and fans flock to Seneca Falls each December for a festival celebrating this movie. Before they leave, many pick up a bell or two to ring. That's how you know an angel got his or her wings.

One building that I immediately fell in love with was the post office and its Art Deco styling.

The day was foggy, drizzly and miserable, but few seemed to care.

When I look through my photos, I found that Seneca Falls fascinated me for so many reasons other than the movie - and I want to go back, in better weather, to investigate its history further.  I had managed not to take pictures of the historic sites, the mills, the canal or the famous bridge.

But if I ever implement an "obsolete technology" blog feature, I found myself a goldmine.

So, I don't have much to show you of the festival. But I do have a memory, and it's of the daughter, ZuZu, who, in real life is an actress named Karolyn Grimes (she was six when she played ZuZu Bailey).  Karolyn was at this year's festival, signing autographs, along with the daughter of the late Donna Reed (George Bailey's movie wife).

An older woman walked up to me on the street and wished me a Merry Christmas, and when I saw her picture later, I'm certain that woman was Karolyn Grimes.

Maybe not, as there were many people playing characters from the movie interacting with visitors, but I would like to think so.  From what I understand, Karolyn has had a sometimes tragic, but always inspirational life.

Karolyn feels Seneca Falls "might" be Bedford Falls, and invites you to visit to decide for yourself.

Do you have a favorite holiday movie?

4 comments:

  1. What a wonderful place. It looks so Christmassy, Alana!
    -I watched 'A Wonderful Life' ages ago. At the moment, I'm watching 'White Christmas' it isn't my favourite old film, but it's pretty good.
    :D

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  2. Hi Alana,

    Thanks for sharing :) Great post!

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  3. Alana,
    I left another comment, but I see that it's not here! So I'll leave a new one: my favorite Christmas movie is "Scrooge" with Albert Finney: the musical version. We watch it together every year. And I'd completely believe that this town that you visited was Bedford Falls. Charming!

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  4. Oh my family was just discussing which Christmas movie was our favorite. I think it was unanimous for "It's a Wonderful Life". We're saving it to watch tonight when my son will be home and we'll all sit around with popcorn and snacks and laugh "I wish I had a million dollars... Hot dog!" and comment on the characters and just be together all warm and cozy.
    "You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down."
    I never new about the festival in Seneca Falls (I always wondered if it was Bedford) I'll be sharing this with everyone tonight. :) "Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!" Merry Christmas, Alana

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