The Bedford Falls Sentinel

Friday, August 31, 2012

Special Delivery Bedford Falls Post Office and some doughnuts and coffee with Mary Bailey at the Bedford Falls Diner

   Wrapping up the tour on the Enesco village buildings and their corresponding versions in Bedford Falls we have a couple places again that are not viewable in the film as structures but if we stretch we can find traces of their impact on the town. Every town has a Post Office and practically every town will have a small store or diner to older patrons and townspeople can grab a cup of coffee and sit and chat the time away. Bedford Falls set in the 40's surely would have both of these and diners were probably never more in their element than during this time period. Imagery of a post office will have to come from your imagination or at least until you check out the village piece photos below for the Enesco equivalent. 

    I mentioned stretching and for the post office we have to look hard for footprints. The only comments made that are in reference to any post or post office if from cousin Eustace when he shouts to George from the window as he's preparing to leave on this trip. The comment is:

Eustace: "Parlez-vous francais? Hey, send us some of them picture postcards, will you, George?"

I can already see the eyes rolling , but I'm afraid that's all we have in regards to mentioning any Bedford Falls Post Office. Hey postcards have to go somewhere, and in this case they would be heading to the one in Bedford Falls. Other than that, Capra does use mailboxes pretty frequently in some various shots throughout the film. Here are a few of the most prominent mailboxes in our movie. I'm sure there are others that I missed but hey, we are stretching here remember. 

Clarence talking to George in WoG 

George picketing the Hatch house as Mary watches

Walking by the Moonlight. 

   Likewise not seen, but featured in the village collection is the Bedford Falls Diner. Even more so than the Post Office there must be a diner in the town and likely more than one due to the size of things. Never seen, never mentioned we have no dialog from the script that refers anything related. What we do have is a single scene in which the imagery conjures up a lot of questions that a diner can be linked too. When Mary is mentioned serving in the USO we see a shot where she is handing out doughnuts and coffee to servicemen passing through on trains.

Happy stop in Bedford Falls 

    Now keeping with that stretch, I just make large assumption and think that perhaps they were donated by the local diner for the troops. This seen and these thoughts are worth mentioning as things like that happened in every town across the country as troops and trains shuffled around during the war. None of those events deserve more praise than the efforts of North Platte Nebraska! North Platte is known for two things, one being where Buffalo Bill is from , and the other more significantly is for the North Platte Canteen. Now this canteen was an insanely massive effort that provided a break , rest, food, comfort, and ease for over 6 million men to went through the station! The 12,000 citizens of the town and nearby regions donated, made, baked, served, and cooked everything themselves and completely as volunteer efforts. Basically around the clock, over 20 trains a day, for the entire war the men and women donated their time and works to this amazing work. Thinking of the scene with Mary but on a more massive scale, this is what Mary is a part of as we see her. If you have any interest in the film, in the 40's, or in small town living I suggest you find out as much as you can about the story of North Platte. Please rent, buy or check out a book by Bob Greene titled Once upon a town. The Miracle of the North Platte canteen. Great book, better story. 

Now again, we have no idea where Capra envisioned the coffee and snacks coming from. The idea of a Diner never even came to me before owning the Enesco, but after thinking of it, and of that seen ... it seems to fit perfectly into the idea of the town and what Capra envisioned. A Diner is something that all small towns have yet very few have survived. The atmosphere and imagery they present seems to be very unique. Here is a really neat page that lists diners that are still open in a state by state breakdown. 

   As for the actual village piece, I actually didn't like it at all when I first looked it over. It's from the last and rare sixth series. It seems to be from a slightly cruder mold, but over time I've come to appreciate it's place within the village as it does add that needed small town element it conveys. It's a very unique shape and is smaller than most of the other buildings. Judge the Enesco Bedford Falls Diner for yourself below. 

Enesco Bedford Falls Diner: Box label

Enesco Bedford Falls Diner: Boring brown boxes from sixth series

Enesco Bedford Falls Diner: Front face. Click below on the 'Read more' to view the rest of the pictures and the Post office gallery. 

And just where do you think Ernie parks his car? I'm betting at the Bedford Falls Garage!

Want to come along Bert? 
    Yet again, we are visiting a building that you likely might not think exists and in some respects you are correct. No one ever visits this place while on screen in our film. It's not featured or even mentioned in the script at all. I'm talking about the Bedford Falls garage, the place where either cars could be rented, fixed, or possibly a fill up. I'm stretching it a bit, but since realizing that there is a garage in the town I make the assumption that Ernie is connected to it in some way. It seems possible that he just drives the Taxi home and leaves it there parked, but living in town maybe he helps run or is a partner in the town garage and it houses or serves as a hub for his taxi service.

    Ernie Bishop being one of the largest figures in the film that is not a Bailey is played by Frank Faylen who is best known for this portrayal. Ernie lives in Bedford Falls with his wife and at least one child. Along with Bert and Marty and I guess you could argue Sam Wainwright he completes the cadre of friends George maintains throughout his life. Ernie served as a parachutist during World War 2, jumping into France presumadly  prior to D-Day. We don't see him during the fighting montage, but for whatever reason he's wearing his Army Air Force Patch on George's crucial night.

Larger version of Ernie's patch. 

Angry WoG Ernie  

   Without George Ernie wouldn't have received a loan for his house and likely would have spent his days in Potter's slums. From that we can understand the change in Ernie's life when George meets him while experiences the WoG (Without George) world. Ernie seems to have lost his wife and kid who have ran out on him and like the town, he seems entirely changed.

    Faylen  has been affiliated with some great box office smashes such as uncredited roles in Gone with the Wind and Sergeant York (fun to go look for him if you have or enjoy these movies) and had a habit of playing taxi drivers in films. 19371938, 2 in 1940, 1941, 1942, 194319441946 and of course in 1947  ALL had Frank cast as a cabbie. Quite the streak! If that's not enough there are probably a dozen other early roles that he played various other drivers such as ambulances and whatnot. Over the years he appeared in various films and on many television series when not getting arrested. Fayden passed away in 1985.

Fayden on an episode of Maverick 1958
   Anywhere, onto the slim view we have of the Garage in the movie. Early in the film we can see it behind the group of boys just as George is about to walk into Gower's store.

Bedford Falls Garage

1940's station
    Now the building looks like it has two main front doors and a long upright sign in addition to the writing along the main face. Shape seems more like some kind of old time fire station which oddly enough we don't see something like that on the film but does match what I use for my village collection nicely though. Some of these features match up to the Enesco piece , while some do not. It's not a normal 40's filling station by any means as this is representing an earlier decade but we can at least see that is in indeed there.

1920's filling station and garage
   The Enesco piece looks much more appropriately like a 40's version but I wish they had attempted to  keep the main style of the building to resemble the little of the movie garage as possible. Still, the Enesco Garage is one of my favorite buildings and as mentioned being from the fourth series it's in good company. I love the colors, the details, and the various features. Here is the Enesco Bedford Falls Garage. Unboxing first of course. 

Enesco Bedford Falls Garage:  Box front. Please click below at 'Read More' to continue with all pictures. 

It's a Wonderful infiltration of communist propoganda? Will the deliberately maligned of Bedford Falls please stand up.

   As just a side story, and something many have probably already read or caught a blurb or two about over the past few years, Capra and his film were investigated by the FBI concerning ongoing worries over the COMMUNIST INFILTRATION OF THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY factor through the late 40's and heavily into the next decade. Without getting into politics over the methods or intentions let alone any comments over justification I simply wanted to post images and a transcription of the famous memo that was sent concerning our beloved film. First the memo itself.

Page 1

Page 2

    It's hard to read, so I've linked a story that does type out what is actually mentioned in the note. If you don't feel up to reading the entire thing it can be summed up that the memo has concerns over the film "deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters" and "attempts to discredit bankers" which is listed as "a common trick used by Communists". 

    Now as someone who watched the film well before any such ideology or political hints could have been understood and felt, I feel that I can say that none of those sentiments were in my early feelings concerning the film and certainly not now even though I do actually find myself calling out director or studio cheap shots for some of the modern movies I see (as my wife can attest and is continually is annoyed by I might add). The story is about George, and the only significance money has in the film is to show that ultimately it's not that which makes us rich. The banker might be the bad guy, but he's bad because of his attitude concerning people not because he's rich. George doesn't represent the poor masses or some kind of hints at a populous commune, he represents the all American middle class just as most of the town characters do. For some reason I just don't have a feeling that Bedford Falls was full of Reds. For anyone who enjoys the film, the ending feeling and emotion exudes an experience almost and when Harry raises his hand for that last toast ... the very last thing in your mind is going to be something this memo is talking about. To quote George, that last scene IS the film in a nutshell and forces a feeling that is indescribable every time I watch it. 

"You're talking about something you can't get your fingers on"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Merry CHRISTmas Emporium!!

  Just as George is quick to run by and wish Merry CHRISTmas to the Bedford Falls Emporium, this will likely be a quick post referencing the film building but will be made up mostly of shots and pictures of the Enesco village piece. We only see the Emporium as George does his famous run by in the epic ending of It's a Wonderful Life. Briefly on the screen we see that the light signage flickers on and off and can visualize a few of the items listed for sale.

Bedford Falls Emporium storefront. 

   Located on the main street, the Emporium was probably a place that acted something like a small town CVS or Walgreen's (Irony being the Enesco village seller) if i dare say. Emporiums traditionally just carried various goods and products.  

Emporium with the lighted 'Bedford Falls' on. 

    Selling Lingerie gowns, uniforms, hats, (Nice blog with 1940's interests) and silverware ... we get a sense of the variety of items sold. Speaking of 40's randomness. This might be worth looking through. Was the silverware at the Bailey table purchased here?

The Bailey dinner table. 
  Or was a certain famous hat that was left in a sitting room bought there at some point by George. We don't know what might have happened if that hat wasn't forgotten. Perhaps it was once sitting in the Emporium window.
I love the expression on George's face when he hears the name Sam Wainwright. 

   But without much else to go on, that's about as much information as we can gather about this store. The good news is that Enesco created one of the best buildings for its village in the Emporium. The color and glow of this piece are spot on to draw attention and project warmth when set up. Here are the pictures and thoughts of the Enesco Bedford Falls Emporium. It's from the 5th series of the collection. Enjoy.

Enesco Bedford Falls Emporium: Box side. Click below at 'Read More' to view all pictures. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Movie house from the Movie! The Bedford Falls Bijou Theatre

   Writing about the movie house in Bedford Falls creates a lot of twists concerning movies within a movie, as  there is a lot of things which relate to the Bijou theatre which are reflected in the creation and cast of It's a Wonderful life. The movie house is most prominently presented in George's famous joyful run by it toward the end of the movie as he makes his way past Potter in the bank, past all the famous family sites, and eventually of course back to his family.

Bijou Theatre along main street. 
      This building is a tale of two, or really 3 buildings essentially as it changed over time through the course of the film. As far as we can see, the structure was known earlier as the Bijou theatre, and then at some point after George and Mary's wedding the owners built a classic movie theatre front to it. Seen below earlier in the film without the front we can compare the changes. We get our best look at it as George is walking out some lonely frustration along main street before meeting Violet.

As a single lady walks by George eyes her with possible thoughts of taking her to the Bijou
     Notice how alive the town and theatre seems. Capra really did a great job with the various cars and extras walking around in this scene to create a Bedford Falls we can believe in. Violet runs over away from her two bow tied interests who offer a creepy glimpse at just how Ms. Bick does manage to get by in town.

Losers trying to court Vi:  Bow Tie brothers as I call them.
Bailey in the 60's, is it the same guy?

    One of them, while only listed as an uncredited role, the actor on the left is named Jack Bailey. He can also be found cast in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie 20 years later. Or at least I'm pretty sure that's him. Listen to his voice as he calls after Violet and in the episode as I think the voice matches more than visual recognition can tell us. Bailey, best remembered for his role as host of the popular Queen for a Day show. had a lackluster career before passing away in 1980. Queen for a day intro seen here, is worth taking a look at for its nostalgic 1950's feel.

      Drifting back to the structure, here is what the changes brought to the building as it came to be referred to by George as the "movie house". Earlier when speaking to Ernie, we see that the location sits right beside Mr. Gower's establishment.

Gower runs out soon after this shot

Merry CHRISTmas movie house!!!

    The front section was added to create a famous marquee signage which became popular in the 30's and 40's. The famous Chicago Theatre still holds its famous marquee and was completely restored to it's original look. A great vintage version can be seen during the footage of the Gone with the Wind premiere in 1939.

   On our Bedford Falls marquee we find that in light of the CHRISTmas spirit, the movie showing on this important night is none other than the famous Bing Crosby picture "The Bells of Saint Mary's" along with an unnamed second feature. From what we can see along the side of the marquee the current show also features a cartoon Disney short with Donald Duck as well as some kind of newsreel from RKO Pathe News. You can find an example of just such a newsreel from late 1945 and quite likely the one that might be referred to here at this link. Donald's role on the other hand was featured in 7 films in 1945 so we don't know which one is being shown here but you can see most of those on You Tube if your curious. 

   A great film, that is itself a sequel to the even greater hit "Going My Way", this film also stars the wonderful and beautiful Ingrid Bergman. Also ironically appearing in the film is Henry Travers, and creates an interesting bit of self promotion by RKO in using one of their films inside another one. Travers acting in a film that is being promoted within another film he's acting in is a strange bit of irony too. You can see Clarence ... errr I mean Travers in the clip linked here. The film was the highest grossing movie ever made by RKO pictures, garnering almost seven times what It's a Wonderful Life originally brought. I don't have to tell you who history has chosen as the better film though do I :) 

    The third version of the Bijou theatre is the one that forms in the world without George (WoG on this blog) and Pottersville. As main street is turned into a collection of run down and dirty questionable business and gambling operations, the movie house of course was altered too. Apparently a cast of “gorgeous” girls “sings” as a choir of some sorts. Focusing in on the newly title marquee we can read the advertisement of this musical group. 


  Atomic Energy huh? Quite the change from Father O'Malley. Just another reason we're glad George found his way back home.

   And onto the village piece and unboxing. The Enesco Bedford Falls Bijou movie house is from the second series of the collection. It's one of the better pieces, yet I find myself saying that a lot. There is however one major flaw, or perhaps the word should be defect as I think they really dropped the ball on the mold design. Enjoy the show! 

Enesco Bijou Theatre: Box front. Please click below at 'Read More' to continue with the photos. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Pottersville Library ... and the Bedford Falls version too

Sad reading that isn't it. 
    Like so much of the town, we just don't see enough of it. Everyone loves Bedford Falls, and as stated upon the launch of this blog, its the town that gives the movie a lot of its lasting appeal and soul as a film. Like the travel agency, we do not see the Library in Bedford Falls, only the Pottersville version. George hears from Clarence where the WOG (With Out George) dimension Mary Hatch is. She's closing up the towns library and George apparently know where this is, which tells us that the library location was there before George's birth and has remained in the same place.

Why do they have the same sign posted on each side. No smoking!

    Our limited time seeing the building places it on main street as George watches Mary close it up. Apparently its very close to the court house at the end of main street as after following Mary for a short while and George is forced to run away, you see the end of the street and the town court house in the distance as George runs toward the Pottersville (Bedford Falls) sign area.

   Mary Hatch for some reason never married with out George being in the picture. She must have came home from the university and became the town librarian or something. She's dedicated as we have another example of someone working late on CHRISTmas eve! She either must have spurned Sam Wainwrights advances or perhaps her change in ... well appearance due to her sheltered life may have not kept with Sam's taste.

Example of Wainwright's type. How do you spell floozy! And he even later married a blonde.

Mary as she is without finding George. She looks more like an old bag lady than the lovely Mary Hatch Bailey we know and treasure.

  The difference in Mary is really quite remarkable. The make up artists and wardrobe people really outdid themselves in the simple transformation. We know Mary fell in love with George as a young girl, and without that first love her life must have taken quite the shift.

Mary Hatch without George
Mary Hatch with George in her life. Perfection! 

Can you read the water tower line?
      Of course Mary is absolutely stunning and beautiful and that's not hard to do when she's being played by the ever beautiful Donna Reed. Donna is famous for many films and many things, but like many of this cast she's best and always remembered for her perfect casting as Mary Hatch. It is said that Capra had in mind a few other actresses such as Capra favorite Jean Arthur, and while l love Jean I cringe at the thought of her playing Mary. Reed is the real life example of the perfect small town girl as she's from the tiny Iowan town of Denison which knows just who is their famous patron. (See right). Donna won an academy award in 1953 for her role as a very un Mary like woman in From Here to Eternity. She then had an amazing run on television with the beloved Donna Reed Show which ran for almost a decade. The shows lovely CHRISTmas episode (featuring an older Buster Keaton) can be watched online. She stared in various movies (including one I can't resist another plug at in The Human Comedy!)and took ever decreasing roles in her later years finally ending with a problematic run of episodes on Dallas before retiring but not from performing. Here is her giving a tribute to Frank Capra in 1982. 

Donna Reed passed away not long after from Pancreatic cancer far to young at just 65 in 1986. There is a foundation set up that I would encourage everyone to take a look at at least once. The website is located at RIP Donna, one amazing woman. 

    Returning to the library and Mary, I can't help but use that as just another excuse to love Mary all the more. As a book nut, seeing and assuming that Mary must have been one as well just puts icing on the cake for who my favorite classic actress is. It's unfortunate that we don't see the building but from what the limited shots show I think Enesco simply decided to go with an entirely original design versus following the film. Something they did far too often but in this case results in one of the prettiest buildings of the entire collection. Coming from the 4th and best of all the village series here is the Enesco Bedford Falls Library. 

Enesco Bedford Falls Library: Front face. Click below on 'Read More' to see all the images. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I've been looking all over town for you ... I guess you've been visiting the Bedford Falls Bridge!

   Many things are iconic about our film, and the experience of watching or seeing it unfold conjures many images each and every time you see it. Some stick out more than others though, like bells, or banks, or bridges. We've covered the bank, and we'll get to the bells, so here is the bridge. Bridges feature more prominently than maybe most people even originally think. They represent a lot in George's life and I think Capra wanted them to loom large in George's perspective of escaping Bedford Falls. George himself lists them as what he wants to build when he leaves. He states.

 ". . . and then I'm going to build things. I'm gonna build air fields. I'm gonna buildskyscrapers a hundred stories high. I'm gonna build bridges a mile long . . ."
George's bridge

  Those aspirations or at least inclinations stay with George throughout his life as we see it. We see him actually do some of those things , or at least on a smaller scale as in the Bailey home, George has a desk with many of his wishes represented, including what appears to be a model of the Brooklyn Bridge. The other bridge that is featured in the movies is the famous Remagen bridge which is discussed with Marty Hatch in our visit back to Bedford Falls High

Bridge inside trestle structure

  But it is the Bedford Falls Bridge which we are most interested in. For it represents the staging point for George's divine intervention.

Bridge length compared to truck and George

   Seeing as the town has its definite main street running length wise we are not stretching too much if we assume that people traveling to and from Bedford Falls will drive and pass over the bridge. As George first approaches we see him almost get hit by the truck and then pass over to the side. Here we get a sense of the size of the bridge overall.

Notice the warning reflectors or stripes

   As George stumbles over to the walkway we see him run into some signage that lists a couple warnings for passing traffic. The first states "Trucks over 15 tons prohibited" which was and remains pretty common for that size and type of bridge.

Modern signage
Better version of Bridge sign
The other sign below that states something some might not understand at first. This sign reads "Tractors with lugs prohibited". Lugs where cleat like things that older tractors might have had before rubber tires became most common before World War 2 and universal afterwards. The cleats were metal usually iron and they would do damage to certain road materials including the wood used on many bridge roadways. Rare to see such signage outside an antique store any more.

Example of the type of lugs that Bedford Falls didn't want on their bridge

  The last sign you can see is one that just lists the walkway George is heading to as for "Pedestrians Only". Capra shows off some of his revolutionary snow special effects as George walks and picks out a spot to think.
Snow bridge walkway

  As George stops we can again gauge a bit of the size of this bridge. The structure is of course a steel trestle but as George stops we can get more a sense of scale of the structure. The three beams connect just behind him.

Bedford Falls Bridge

Travers in a very different type of suit. 
   Just before he checks both ways to see if anyone is looking, we get our first look at Clarence Odbody on screen. He standing in front of some of those warnings stripes that appear to be on the inside of the bridge. Clarence is played by the lovable Henry Travers. Travers was an English stage actor who stared some classics like The Yearling and Dark Victory. He was nominated for an academy award for his role in the famous Mrs. Miniver. I think besides It's a Wonderful Life, my favorite role of his is for his part in the 1944 film The Very Thought of You with a very un-Bailey like Beula Blondi. Sadly Travers only lived three more years after playing our beloved Clarence, passing away in 1949.

Watching and waiting. We'll never know if George would have jumped

  Soon after Travers makes his appearance we also first see the brief face of the poor toll keeper of the bridge who is stuck working alone on CHRISTmas eve. The uncredited and unnamed dedicated soul is played by Tom Fadden who if there was such a think as most proliferate uncredited actor award, he might get it. Fadden played in hundreds of roles in films and then televisions series over the years including the bigger series such as Bonanza (episode linked) and Gunsmoke. He had one of his larger roles in a series from the 40's called The Winners of the West in which he played a western sidekick. Screen shot below is blurry but you can make out the friendly features of the toll keeper which hopes out with his flash light on our famous bridge.

Fadden Compare

   Speaking of that flashlight, it's him and that torch which give us our only view at just how far above the water the bridge is.

Quite the jump George! 

   As the unlucky worker of the toll house on this special evening, he's given a front row seat (literally!) to the first exchange between George and Clarence. The little gate house building is off to the side of the bridge and apparently just controls a bar or gate for traffic moving across. Tom Fadden died in 1980. "Cheerio my good man!" Below are some shots of the inside and outside views of the little building. 

Outside of the bridge toll house building. Sign reads a warning to have exact change

Inside of the bridge toll house building. Tom Sawyer drying on the line. 

Amusing street name choice

     It's claimed that Bedford Falls was modeled after the real life Seneca Falls New York. Frankly I think they have a good case, and if you look at their information as well as the bridge there then I think it's hard to disagree with. I have the link on the blog homepage but here is the site listing the real Bedford Falls as well as the real Bedford Falls bridge. Below are some comparing views of the movie versus the Senaca Falls version. Judge for yourself. In the colorized version of It's a Wonderful Life, they bridge is indeed made green.

SF Bridge

The real bedford falls bridge

It's a wonderful bridge

   Now that thoughts on on the real bridge from the movie, and seeing the bridge directly from the film, we'll turn to Enesco's version of recreating it for the village collection. Now perhaps I'm too harsh but I find it one of the worst of the set, but perhaps not for reason that most would care too much about. First of all I don't like how the bridge ... is well not a bridge. Due to the terrible design, the scale is much too small for the vehicles of the collection and it seems they squeezed the bridge to fit in some kind of preset length. The water below seems to go no where so unless Enesco was planning on bringing out additional water features they should have just focused on creating a bridge like structure. The little toll house though quaint looking is far too big compared to how they shaped the "bridge" and effectively doesn't resemble the movie version very much at all. They also stuck an out of proportional George figure on the side which again I think is a terrible addition as it doesn't match the other people and forces someone who doesn't like the figurines of the series to showcase one. I remedied this by creating and building my own bridge to match the movie and my set more accurately but will leave those thoughts for another time. But, leaving my opinions aside below you can find the pictures of the Enesco It's a Wonderful Life Village second series piece, The Bedford Falls Bridge.

Enesco Bedford Falls Bridge: Box angle. Click the 'Read More' below to view all the images.