The Bedford Falls Sentinel

Friday, June 8, 2012

Serves hard drinks for men who want to get drunk fast. No atmosphere ... must be Martini's Bar!

   Probably no other building seen in the film serves better to offer us a complete contrast of life in Bedford Falls with George Bailey and life without. The building, the owner, the look, and dare I say the atmosphere changes dramatically in the twist of Clarence's visit. Martini's Bar is one of the most memorable establishments as a lot of crucial scenes and even more crucial dialog happen here.

Desperate George in Martini's Bar
    Martini's Bar is of course owned by Mr. Martini who we meet as Mary and George welcome them into their new home which resides in Bailey Park. We'll visit him and his family , as well as their home later when I showcase that piece/building from the collection. You can't miss the place with it's dramatic signage flashing on the front of what is really a small building. Inside George is attempting to drink an idea into his head, and at first is seen just wracking his brain, then like anyone sane person when they are at the end of their own strength ... look above.

George offers his famous prayer here, then receives a quick reply that is anything but divine. Worth repeating

George's Prayer:
Dear Father in Heaven,
I'm not a praying man, 
but if you're up there and can hear me. 
Show me the way. 
I'm at the end of my rope. 
Show me the way God. 

Andrews as the 'Old Ranger'
George's CHRISTmas eve present from Mr. Welch
     And coincidentally by his fellow bar patron right next to him. This of course is Mr. Welch, the husband of the teach of George's daughter Zuzu. I need not have to explain that due to a certain conversation between the two earlier, each had promised the other an early CHRISTmas gift of sorts. Mr. Welch is played by Stanely Andrews, an actor who had quite the various roles during his career. Andrews was in literally hundreds of films in the 30's and 40's filling in a massive amount of small to medium sized roles in films ranging from Capra's Mr. "Deeds Goes to Town" and "You Can't Take it With You" to just about every early Western series on television. It was from those Western series that he got the job as Host of Death Valley Days to which he was a part of until he died in 1963. He was replaced by a man by the name of Ronald Reagan. Reagan subsequently left Death valley Days to become California's Governor and of course onto greater things. But back to that answered prayer and CHRISTmas presents. Well just study the image and you can see them exchanging gifts. Or rather Mr. Welch giving George something at least.

Snow White?
    One last note. Another thing you might listen for and take notice of is Snow White singing in the background of Martini's when George first enters and while he prays. By Snow White, I mean of course the voice of Disney's Snow White from 1937. Walt Disney specially selected Adriana Caselotti for the voice of his most famous and monumental animated epic. Adriana stayed famous for this prestigious role the rest of her life, but also had uncredited and tiny background musical bits in both The Wizard of Oz, and of course our film It's a Wonderful Life. We can hear hear singing with another uncredited male behind George and if the woman who appears behind him is in fact that singer, has a tiny amount of screen time. Listen close for that high pitched little Snow White voice. 

    As mentioned and as of course realized by good fans of the film. We see two versions of this establishment with much different attributes. Below are some quick snapshots of some WIG (With George) and WOG (Without George) shots of the bar. I suppose the technical contrast would be the Bedford Falls and the Pottersville versions. First, we see that in Bedford Falls they have enough sense to still decorate for CHRISTmas while in Pottersville they are focused only on CHRISTmas spirits ... as in spirits.

With Decorations
Without Decorations

   Next it seems that business is definitely booming for the bars in Pottersville as just the clientel seems to have increased on CHRISTmas eve. The entire place seems to come to George aid and is caught in the shot below but in the WOG shot, I couldn't get everyone in a single frame as there are too many folks in the place. You will notice that some younger woman seem to be working there in the WOG bar which might also have something to do with that. Previously the only women in the place looked to be there with their husbands ... while in the WOG establishment it's more like the men are there to avoid their spouses.
WOG Folks
WIG Folks

WOG crowd and various bar maiden

WOG Music and crowd
   And finally a quick look at the changes to the outside of the building. Namely of course the name signage switching between the ownership. 

  Speaking of the owners, we get to see one special actor playing the famous Nick. Nich as both the bar tender and as the bar owner is played by the famous Sheldon Leonard. Leonard is most famous for ... well everything! He directed , he acted, produced, and worked on innumerable famous tv shows over the decades after It's a Wonderful Life. He is credited with creating such hits as both the Andy Griffith Show and the Dick Van Dyke show. He stared in just about everything from westerns on up an episode of The Cosby Show. (Seen at around the 12:35 mark). Never retiring, Leonard worked and excelled right up to his death in 1997 at age 89. Besides the films main stars and of course Capra himself ... Nick the bartender is by far the one who left his mark on history and entertainment. 
Leonard after IaWL
   Lastly before heading to the village, we need to look at the accessory that comes with this pice. Something that every Bedford Falls needs, a town welcome sign. The welcome to Bedford Falls is more than just a symbol of the movie, it's something that connects the viewer to the surroundings that we come to love in teh film. When you read YOU ARE NOW IN BEDFORD FALLS you shouldn't be able to help yourself smile. Continuing the contrasts that this post relays here are the two signs from the movie. Pay special attention to the scale of the Bedford Falls sign in regards to people, cars, and especially the buildings around it. 

Mentally I don't think I ever leave :) Also notice the bandstand welcoming Harry Bailey in the background for those of you wondering where it belongs in your village placement. Again notice also the scale of the sign.

The sign is a perfect example of Capra trying to dramatically show the changes between WIG and WOG worlds. Again for village owners, notice the placement of where George is in relation to the main street and see where the soldiers statue is located. 

      Yet onto the buildings and the village piece. It's from the first series of buildings and is proportionally smaller than the other buildings. Judging from the film I believe they got the scale right as it does seem to just be a small pub/bar in relation to a lot of the other structures in town. Saying that, it boggles my mind how they managed to misrepresent the scale and size of the sign that comes with this piece. I suppose they wanted it to be easily readable but I find that it just seems totally too large and is almost distracting. I have noticed that one some of the re-releases of this building by Enesco the sign is even larger than first issued. I'm not sure why this is the case. But anyway, grab a drink and more on for some pictures of the unboxing and gallery for Martini's Bar from Enesco. 

Enesco Martini Bar and Bedford Falls Sign: Front.
To continue with the rest of the gallery just click the 'Read More' Below

Enesco Martini Bar and Bedford Falls Sign: Side

Enesco Martini Bar and Bedford Falls Sign: Rear

Enesco Martini Bar and Bedford Falls Sign: Top

Enesco  Bedford Falls Sign: 

Enesco Martini Bar and Bedford Falls Sign: 

Enesco Martini Bar and Bedford Falls Sign: Snow cover

Enesco Martini Bar and Bedford Falls Sign: Rear

  This building has a lot of details that I like. The size gives it a nice feel and breaks up the large rectangular format most of the other buildings have.

Enesco Martini Bar:  Sign underside

Enesco Martini Bar: Front

Enesco Martini Bar: Front Angle

Enesco Martini Bar: Side

Enesco Martini Bar: Rear. Love the CHRISTmas decor

Enesco Martini Bar: Other side. 

Enesco Martini Bar: Distance

Enesco Martini Bar: Angle

Enesco Martini Bar: Reverse Angle Front

Enesco Martini Bar:Roof

Enesco Martini Bar: Name sign, that I wish Enesco would have allowed light to shine through or have it's own light source. 

Enesco Martini Bar: Front CHRISTmas decorations. 

Enesco Martini Bar: Porch

Enesco Martini Bar:

Enesco Martini Bar: Nice tree's with building wood color

Enesco Martini Bar: Example of the scale issues. 

   And now of course, as lit up. 

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