Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jimmy Steward & "It's a Wonderful Life"

SOURCE:  Guideposts Magazine.  Published December 1987.  www.guideposts.org
KEYWORDS:  Christmas, hopelessness, prayer

In one scene, for example, George Bailey is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing were to turn, ends up in a little roadside restaurant.  He is unaware that most of the people in town are arduously praying for him.  In this agony I raised my eyes and, following the script, pled, “God…God…Dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if You’re up there and You can hear me, show me the way.  I’m at the end of my rope.  Show me the way, God…”

As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears.  I broke down sobbing.  This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.

Frank, who loved spontaneity in his films, was ecstatic.  He wanted a close-up of me saying that prayer, but was sensitive enough to know that my breaking down was real and that repeating it in another take was unlikely.  But Frank got his close-up anyway.

The following week he worked long hours in the film laboratory, again and again enlarging the frames of that scene so that eventually it would appear as a close-up on the screen.  I believe nothing like this had ever been done before.  It involved thousands of individual enlargements with extra time and money.  But he felt it was worth it.

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