are certain films that hold a unique place in history… and Hollywood
had better keep their grubby, remaking mitts off of them! While the
trend to “re-imagine” or “re-envision” everything around them has been
going on for some time, these films have so far managed to escape the
fate of some of their less fortunate compatriots. We speak of course
The 25 Movies They’d Better Never Remake.
hearts, they should be considered OFF-LIMITS to those jerks at the
studios. The films on this list were special when they premiered and
continue to be so today, and we’re going to explain why they shouldn’t
be remade – as well as why they can’t be. So enough jabbering, on with
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
DIRECTED BY: Frank Capra
- James Stewart as George Bailey
- Donna Reed as Mary Hatch Bailey
- Lionel Barrymore as Henry F. Potter
- Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy
- Henry Travers as Clarence Odbody
- Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Bailey
- Frank Faylen as Ernie Bishop
- Ward Bond as Bert
- Gloria Grahame as Violet Bick
- H. B. Warner as Mr. Gower
- Todd Karns as Harry Bailey
- Samuel S. Hinds as Peter Bailey
- Lillian Randolph as Annie
- Mary Treen as Cousin Tilly
George Bailey is a small town kid in Bedford Falls who has big dreams. He wants to get out of town, see the world and experience all that life has to offer. He’s always sacrificed for others, including losing the hearing in one ear when he saved the life of his brother, Harry, when he was 12. He took over the family business, Bailey Building and Loan Association, which has been vital to the people of Bedford Falls. He plans to have Harry take over for him in the business, but when Harry graduates college, he returns with a wife and an incredible job offer out of town, further stranding George.
Even when George marries his childhood sweetheart, Mary, he’s prevented from leaving town by an imminent collapse of the Building and Loan, which is under constant threat of termination by crotchety old bastard and the richest man in town, Henry Potter. George has to use his life savings to keep the business afloat, and his dream of traveling the world looks to be gone forever. Years later, on Christmas Eve, a crucial $8,000 goes missing, and Potter finally has the leverage to not only shut down the Building and Loan, but have George arrested for bank fraud. A desperate George contemplates suicide by jumping off of a bridge: a miserable end to a failed life of broken dreams.
Things change in a big way, however, when Clarence, a second class angel looking to get a promotion (i.e. his wings), takes George on a tour of what the lives of everyone else in Bedford Falls would be like if he had never been born.
There’s a reason that It’s A Wonderful Life has been associated with the Holiday season for decades: it’s simply one of the true greats in film history, made by one of the all time great directors and starring one of the all time great actors doing perhaps his signature role. It’s not just the Christmas film, but a wonderfully-made story in its own right, touching upon universal themes of what defines a successful life, what’s truly important in that life and the impact one man can make. Ironically, the film wasn’t all that well-received initially. It took years for it to achieve the beloved status it has today.
But now Life is undeniably one of the few truly timeless classics that hasn’t been spoiled by numerous remakes that can only pale in any comparison. On the flipside, A Christmas Carol has forever been ruined for me. It seems like there’s a new version every couple of years or so, more pedestrian than the version before it. There have been one or two minor remakes of Life, but never a major theatrical one; and it’s probably because everyone knows that, like Citizen Kane or Casablanca, this film is simply untouchable.
My first memory of seeing It’s A Wonderful Life was as a kid, staying up much later than I probably should have. I was channel surfing the three or for stations that existed back then and coming across the film about ten minutes in. I had no concept of what it was, or the legacy it enjoyed. It was simply a story that caught me within a couple of minutes (I think it was the dancing scene over the pool). Even back then, I was grabbed by the earnestness of the story and the appeal of the performances. I doubt I even realized it was a black and white film because a B&W TV was all we had back then. It’s A Wonderful Life isn’t a Christmastime tradition for me; but every once in a while, when it is on, I feel the need to just sit down and be captured by it all over again.
- The spirited Charleston right next to the drink and the crowd reaction. “Hey, we must be pretty good!”
- George Bailey: “I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m
gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then,
I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then
I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build
skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile
- Henry Potter: “Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me “a warped, frustrated, old man!” What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stocks, no bonds. Nothin’ but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. [laughs] You’re worth more dead than alive!”
- Clarence: “Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.”
George Bailey: “That’s a lie! Harry Bailey went to war – he got the Congressional Medal of Honor, he saved the lives of every man on that transport.”
Clarence: “Every man on that transport died! Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.”
- George Bailey: “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.”
Mary: “I’ll take it. Then what?”
George Bailey: “Well, then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve, see… and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair… am I talking too much?”
- George Bailey: “Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!”
- Harry Bailey: “A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.”
- Zuzu Bailey: “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”
A remake would mean this one little fact: replacing Jimmy Stewart. And replacing him in the role for which he’s most beloved. Replacing the emotion, (and again) the earnestness, hope, despair, revelation and jubilation that he brought to George Bailey. How do you do that? Honestly, how do you replace this actor…in this role? And how do you rebuild the atmosphere and spirit captured in the original without it coming off as trite?
Bay’s been producing remakes all over town, using his Platinum Dunes
company as a front. So naturally he’d be the logical choice to spearhead
any attempt at remaking this classic. How would it pan out, you ask?
- George Bailey would have beaten the shit out of Potter and then run from the cops in a hummer, spurring a car chase that destroyed half of Bedford Falls.
- Harry Bailey saving those men on the transport would have been a 45-minute, action-filled opus right in the middle of the film, complete with dogfights and exploding ships.
- Mary would be in love with both George and Harry. At first with Harry, then scooping George up as leftovers after Harry is presumed killed in action. Then Harry returns and, uh oh…George and Harry get into a fight in a hula bar.
- Clarence would be an alien rather than an angel.
- George Bailey’s parents would be hash-brownie-eating dimwits.
- When George referenced how he was going to lasso the moon for Mary, there would have been a demonstration involving models.
- Mary and George wouldn’t have thrown rocks at the old house, they would have blown it up or driven a hummer through it.
- Jon Voight is Old Man Potter.
Ford Fairlane spent half of his only theatrical appearance looking for Zuzu Petals. And a worthy adaptation of this movie was on Married, With Children when Sam Kinison showed Al what his life for his family would be without him. Al was so appalled by his family’s happiness and prosperity that he begged to go back so he could screw them up again. Classic.
Rebuttal: None. We agree!
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