censorship

The Extraordinary Censorship of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

With Notes on Its Academy Awards Snub in Favor of The Best Years of Our Lives; and the Film’s Striking Parallels to Another Inspiring Classic


This picture is in the public domain according to Wikimedia Commons.

Although the holiday season is behind us, I believe there are some remarks long overdue concerning the suppression of It’s a Wonderful Life, arguably America’s most beloved Christmas film of all time.

I first became aware of the movie nearly half a century ago when I was around 20. A local station happened to air it, in no connection with Christmas. It’s a Wonderful Life was, at that time, just another piece of forgotten cinema, not regarded as “a holiday classic.”

Yet even though I was a jaded agnostic youth, I found myself weeping uncontrollably as the life of Jimmy Stewart’s character fell apart. And I was a person who almost never cried at the movies. But there was something so endearing about George Bailey, it transcended the emotional barriers of all but the most hardened cynic.

When the movie was over, I knew I had experienced something special, several cuts above “standard Hollywood fare.” For me, the breaking point was when George began kicking and smashing things in full view of his children. It was a display of vulnerability that just wasn’t seen in Hollywood, where heroes were perennial tough guys with none of the everyday human “chinks in the armor” that the rest of us have.

Late in his life, Hollywood paid tribute to Stewart at a special dinner. I’ve been unable to find a video of that televised event, so please pardon me for going on memory here. Dustin Hoffman actually broke down and wept as he recalled Stewart’s performance in It’s a Wonderful life. But the remarks by actor Telly Savalas etched themselves most in my memory.

Savalas had largely grown up as a streetwise New Yorker (a background that would later serve him well when he took on his most famous role, that of Lieutenant Theo Kojak). According to Savalas, he and his buddies entered the theater showing It’s a Wonderful Life in their accustomed manner—sneaking in the side exit without paying. However, the film’s impact was so great, that when it finished they all sheepishly went to the ticket window and paid for their admission. It’s a Wonderful Life had a way of bringing out personal integrity, and personal integrity is something you just don’t mess with.

By the 1980s it seemed like everyone had discovered the film. During the Christmas season, it would air hundreds of times on local television stations. I took my father and sister to see it on the big screen at the famed Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass.

Then, disaster struck. After legal battles over controversial copyright issues, NBC acquired control of the film in 1994. Since then, NBC has twisted the screws tight. Not only is no one else permitted to televise the film, but NBC usually only screens it once a year—on Christmas Eve, riddled with so many commercials that people are discouraged from watching. As the film reaches its climax, ads are inserted with increasing frequency, disrupting the movie’s emotional flow. It got so bad that one year my son turned off NBC and inserted an old VHS tape we had of the movie.

Some will say that permitting only one annual screening makes the film “more special.” That’s kind of like saying you should only hug your children once a year because it makes hugs more special.

The unique restrictions on the film do not make sense from a business or marketing perspective. If you have a product that is in high demand—whether it is sneakers, a smartphone, or an energy drink—you produce more of them, to meet the demand and increase your profits. Because It’s a Wonderful Life is in high demand, NBC could easily increase its advertising revenues by showing it more often, or lease screening rights to other broadcasters. The movie is, in fact, ranked as the number one most inspiring film of all time by the American Film Institute.

I realize that we live in a multimedia world, and that people still have the option to buy a DVD or download. One could argue that is NBC’s marketing strategy. But to market a product, you need to make it visible.

This past Christmas Eve (2018), I was curious to know what was going on with It’s a Wonderful Life. I found it was not airing as usual on NBC. Instead, it had been back-doored onto a secondary channel, NBC10, which most people probably didn’t even know.

In short, It’s a Wonderful Life is being progressively flushed down an Orwellian memory hole until future generations will hardly even know of the film’s existence. Since no business model can logically explain NBC’s antipathy toward its own intellectual property, we must look elsewhere for an explanation. Anyone familiar with the realities of today’s Hollywood knows that ideological agendas, not box-office profits, are the true bottom line.

I suggest that It’s a Wonderful Life has been suppressed for the following reasons:
(1) It contains redeeming values despised by the Luciferian New World Order, such as love, self-sacrifice, traditional family, and the value of human life;
(2) it validates the existence of God, and within a generally Christian framework (heaven, angels, prayer, Christmas caroling); and
(3) the film’s arch-villain is a usurious bankster who oppresses and threatens to destroy the culture around him, just like today’s banksters are actually doing.

Small wonder then that NBC, a mainstream media organ and handmaiden to the oligarchs, is doing its best to send It’s a Wonderful Life into oblivion.

1946: Best Picture? Best Actor?

Another question arises: Why did It’s a Wonderful Life fail to earn the 1946 Best Picture Oscar? I believe the reasons were just as political back then as now.

“Best Picture” went to The Best Years of Our Lives, about the postwar problems of three GIs returning home. While it definitely had strong production values, and a very memorable performance by Harold Russell, a real-life GI who had lost both his hands in an accident during the war, the movie lacked the deep enduring spiritual power of It’s a Wonderful Life. I know the film has admirers to this day, and I don’t wish to “dis” it, but I’d like to point out some probable dynamics that influenced the Oscar choices.

As a writer, I’m aware that it’s often the subtexts, not the main plot, that are a movie’s real reason for existence. I used this tactic myself in the mid-1990s when I penned a screenplay that was optioned twice but never made into a film. The main plot was an action-mystery buddy movie, but one scene included a defense of Christianity, woven into the dialogue so subtly that it never looked like anything but a natural development in the plot. But in reality, that bit of dialogue was the screenplay’s object; everything else was written to accommodate it.

In the case of The Best Years of Our Lives, I believe the subtexts are the likeliest reason for the “Best Picture” Oscar, especially insertion of a little political scene with minimal relevance to the main plot. I, of course, own no rights to The Best Years of Our Lives; the scene was uploaded onto YouTube two years ago by someone else; I include it here solely for purposes of critical review; and for reader convenience, I am embedding it instead of redirecting people offsite to YouTube:

Let’s put this scene in context. In 1947—the same year that seven Oscars were awarded The Best Years of Our Lives—Charles Beard, former President of the American Historical Association, wrote in an editorial for the Saturday Evening Post:

The Rockefeller Foundation and Council on Foreign Relations . . . intend to prevent, if they can, a repetition of what they call “the debunking journalistic campaign following World War I.” Translated into precise English, this means that the Foundation and the Council do not want journalists or any other persons to examine too closely and criticize too freely the official propaganda and statements relative to “our basic aims and activities” during World War II. In short, they hope that the policies and measures of Franklin D. Roosevelt will escape in coming years the critical analysis, evaluation and exposition that befell the policies and measures of President Woodrow Wilson and the Entente Allies after World War I.1

Postwar, World War I was thoroughly debunked: the truth about the Lusitania had been publicly known since Senator Robert La Follette’s 1917 speech; atrocity stories about German soldiers cutting the hands off of Belgian children had turned out to be fabrications; noble speeches about “national self-determination” went up in smoke as Britain seized nearly a million square miles of new territory; in a 21-volume report, the Graham Committee of Congress demonstrated that, while soldiers risked their lives for 30 dollars a month, some $6 billion was looted from American taxpayers by industrialists who never honored their contracts to deliver arms and supplies to the front.2 And all the talk about “the war to end wars” and “making the world safe for democracy” collapsed as wars continued unabated, and the Bolsheviks murdered millions.

The Rockefeller Foundation and Council on Foreign Relations—which, in 1947, represented the highest echelons of oligarchical policy-making—wanted to ensure that World War II was not similarly debunked. This meant that all criticism of the war was to be ruthlessly suppressed; the scene from The Best Years of Our Lives was an early manifestation of that campaign.

The war critic at the drugstore is depicted in the vilest terms: to maximize his nastiness, he gets into a fight with a highly disabled veteran; to portray him as an elitist, he remarks, “Every soda jerk in this country’s got an idea he’s somebody”; he is also physically unattractive.

His explanation of his position is a comic-book version of actual revisionism. Here is what was already known by 1947:
• That Roosevelt and his inner circle had full foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, a fact that had been documented by the Army Pearl Harbor Board and Naval Court of Inquiry in 1944; in testimony before Congress’s Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945-46); and thoroughly vetted in the book Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (1947) by George Morgenstern of the Chicago Tribune. (This establishes who really thought hundreds of men going down in ships were “suckers.”)
• That Roosevelt had moved the Pacific Fleet from its normal safe berthing on the West coast to vulnerable Pearl Harbor against the strident protests of the Navy; a maneuver for which the President had never been held accountable.
• That the attack on Pearl Harbor was provoked after the Roosevelt administration enforced a relentless trade embargo against Japan, and that the specific trigger was an ultimatum to Japan secretly authored by Soviet mole Harry Dexter White, a fact that even mainstream media acknowledges.
• That there was (and is to this day) zero evidence that Germany ever had a plan to conquer the world; that it never would have fought France nor England had not the latter two declared war; that its strike on the Soviet Union was not a manifestation of “world conquest,” but was intended to eradicate communism, a fact verified by its being joined in that effort by the armies of Finland, Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Italy, along with 47,000 volunteers from neutral Spain, as well as thousands of volunteers from Belgium.
(I have discussed these details at great length in an interview with Tim Kelly on Our Interesting Times.)

Of course, by 1948, the United States shifted gears and admitted that Soviet communism was an enemy to be fought. Hollywood’s first major movie in this effort was The Iron Curtain (1948); ironically; its lead actor, Dana Andrews, had thrown that punch in The Best Years of Our Lives.

The basic message of the drugstore scene was: Even though we just fought a war that was supposedly all about freedom, you don’t have the freedom to question your government or its wars. Critical thinking, objective analysis, and the First Amendment are to be trampled underfoot, drowned out by the blare of patriotic music. If you dare question the war, here’s what will happen: You’ll be punched in the face, fly through the air, and your body will lie in fragments of shattered glass.

While I can’t prove it, I believe that not-so-subtle message was the foremost reason Best Years won “Best Picture” over Wonderful Life. True enough, the latter had its own patriotic moments, but nothing designed to suppress and humiliate the war’s critics.

Incidentally, there was a second irony at the 1947 Academy Awards ceremony that merits brief attention. Jimmy Stewart had given the performance of his career in It’s a Wonderful Life, and he did indeed get a “Best Actor” nomination. But the Oscar went instead to Fredric March for The Best Years of Our Lives, even though March’s performance was lackluster when compared to Stewart’s.

I think this Award came down to one element: In both movies Stewart and March play bankers—Stewart running the old Bailey Building and Loan, while March is a loan officer. In both cases, their chief antagonists are also bankers. For Stewart, of course, it’s the notorious Mr. Potter, whose monopolistic greed threatens the town’s entire future; he would have made a suitable participant at the 1910 Jekyll Island meeting. Fredric March’s antagonist is his boss, Mr. Milton (played by Ray Collins, who later became a fixture on Perry Mason as Lieutenant Tragg).

And what is Mr. Milton’s great evil? Simply that he does not want to give too many easy loans to veterans returning from the war, even though the loans are partially guaranteed by the government (taxpayers) under the GI Bill.  In one scene, March grants a loan to a very honorable ex-GI to buy a farm; subsequently Mr. Milton scolds March because the applicant had “no collateral.”

This bit of drama was a total non-starter. The truth is, government-guaranteed loans are a banker’s dream, and the bank had all the “collateral” it needed in the farm itself, because had the GI not made good on his mortgage payments, the bank would have simply seized the foreclosed property. Boiled down, Milton’s real sin is that HE ISN’T SUCKING THE LIFEBLOOD OUT OF ENOUGH GIs BY CHARGING THEM USURY. Now that is a “sin” that any bankster would gleefully like to see condemned on the silver screen!

March had a “big moment” scene in the film (viewable here) where he gets drunk at a company dinner and asks if the war could have been won had it been fought on the basis of having enough collateral. (Watch it yourself and see if you think it transcends James Stewart’s performance.) This “noble” speech, which must have been sweet music to Wall Street ears, very possibly won March his Oscar over Stewart. It may have even surprised March himself, who did not attend the 1947 Academy Awards ceremony.

It’s A Wonderful Life Had an Alter Ego

Before closing, I wish to note that it’s becoming increasingly clearer that the United States, with its debt of $22 trillion (officially), its increasingly Luciferian culture, and the recent disturbing display of sophisticated methods of population control, is heading toward destruction.

I see less and less hope for political solutions, given the oligarchy’s near-monolithic control over government, banking and major media. Now this may sound “defeatist,” and too much talk of defeat can become self-fulfilling. But even in World War II Germany, where “defeatism” was criminalized, there came a point—when the Luftwaffe was but a memory, and enemy tanks were rolling in from all directions—that, for every person, defeat finally had to be acknowledged.

I am certainly not suggesting we are at that point yet in America. Nor am I “defeatist.” I believe we should carry on the fight for truth to the very end, that this is God’s will. But I am increasingly convinced that final victory will only come through God’s intervention.

In that regard, I am a “victorist,” because I am 100 percent certain of God’s victory. On the Day of Judgement, the books will be opened and everyone’s life laid bare. The Luciferian oligarchs, unless they have repented, will face God’s fury, and no bribe will save them (as it does presently).

But as the political window of opportunity lowers, I often wonder if my articles’ focus should turn more from the political toward the spiritual.

If we are reaching a point where the death of our culture, like death itself, will become inevitable, what then should we do?

And why the heck am I bringing all this up in a post about It’s a Wonderful Life? Because that movie has a counterpart, which I believe is perhaps the best theatrical expression of “What then should we do?”

It is the 1951 filming of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol.

The parallels between the two stories are compelling. Both take place, at least climactically, on Christmas Eve; in both, visiting supernatural beings allow a man to view his life through highly revealing lenses; and in both cases, the man’s destiny is dramatically changed by the experience.

The chief distinction between the two seems to be that George Bailey is made to understand how good his life has been; Ebenezer Scrooge, how bad. Of these two perspectives, it may be the latter which most people need to hear today.

I recently re-watched the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol and was struck by how adeptly Dickens wove the Christian message of salvation into his story. A man is compelled to view the sins of his life—very comparable to the books being opened on the Day of Judgement, except for the timing. He is also permitted to see the fate that awaits him if he does not change. Everything, including money and material possessions, comes into true perspective for him. He completely repents, becomes a new man (born again), and receives forgiveness from those he has harmed.

I’m convinced that we all need to be “Scrooged,” and probably on a recurring basis.

For me, there’s one other common denominator between the two films: they both make me cry, and that’s still something very few movies do. The 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (also titled Scrooge), has been praised for its faithfulness to Dickens, its accurate representation of Victorian England, and its quality acting. I’ll link to it, as I believe it explains, in an easy-to-understand way, part of God’s solution—for us personally—to the Luciferian agenda. It can be watched full-length on YouTube here.

NOTES
1. Charles Beard, “Who’s to Write the History of the War?” Saturday Evening Post (October 4, 1947), 172.
2. Ferdinand Lundberg, America’s Sixty Families (New York: Citadel Press, 1937), 189-201.