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Frank Capra's Wonderful Film Gave America Hope When We Needed it Most
Part 1 of 3: Frank Capra
by Cookie Curci
During the dark decade of the 1930s, Frank Capra's films brought light where there was darkness and hope where there was despair to a nation in desperate need of an uplifting message. If only for a few minutes, in a darkened theatre, Capra's films inspired irrepressible optimism in American audiences and when they left the theater, they left feeling better about themselves and the future of their world.
It's a Wonderful Life is arguably one of Capra's most popular films. The Italian American director emigrated here from Sicily during the great migration As an immigrant himself, who celebrated his 6th birthday while in steerage aboard a ship bound for America, Capra felt a strong kinship for the suppressed and many of his characters symbolized the prejudice that awaited him in his new country, a prejudice that gripped a post war America and threatened the hope that inspired a generation of immigrants.
Few of us can recall every scene from a favorite film. What we do recall are small memorable pieces of time from these films. Frank Capra's Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life (1946) is one of these uniquely enduring films. At the close of the film someone bumps the Christmas tree and a bell shakes and rings and little ZuZu says, "Look Daddy! Teacher says, Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." My generation grew up with ZuZu in our homes each Christmas. To us she represented everything that was still innocent and pure in our lives- the hope of what our world could be.
Actress Karolyn Grimes, who portrayed ZuZu Bailey, was six years old when she delivered that indelible line. Today, the actress has released a book titled, ZuZu's Wonderful Life in the Movies. Anyone who is, was, or will be a fan of classic films will relish this book. Each page is filled with photos and personal side notes on her many films and the actors who starred in them. I recently wrote Karolyn Grimes an email expressing how much I enjoyed her new book and also her work in the Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life. I told her how the film had inspired my own appreciation for my community and how I fancied Willow Glen as my own "Bedford Falls" with its friendly neighbors, soda shops, drug stores and, of course, a friendly savings and loan. I received this thoughtful reply from the actress:
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