Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life and the FBI December 24, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
The more I see of Christmas the more I think it’s nostalgia for nostalgia, a sort of recursive process or reminding about songs, films, events, weather phenomenon that we don’t or haven’t experienced at first hand for the most part. That’s okay, there’s a value in nostalgia, and time out from the daily grind is good in itself, already I’ve watched Kiss Me Deadly and All About Even this last few days, which in the normal run of things I wouldn’t get the time to, and they were both great in their own way and weirdly from now on will remind me of Christmas, so you make your own traditions.
More seasonally there was the 1990s Miracle on 34th Street with a twinkly Attenborough. Mileage will vary on that, but it sailed close to the wind for some viewers in regard to the is Santa real or not question.
Meanwhile there’s this news here from yesterday Flavorwire about how “It’s a Wonderful Life” had an FBI file. Now I’ve read analyses which see Capra’s film as the epitome of a certain sort of US conservatism so this is a good one and perhaps points up how ideological that time period, the late 1940s, was in cultural and political terms.
According to historian John A. Noakes, who analyzed the FBI’s 13,533-page “Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry” file, the Los Angeles field office pinpointed eight films in general release in 1947 as possible carries of stealthy Commie propaganda. “To determine which films were subversive and to identify the actual subversive content,” Noakes writes, “the Los Angeles field office utilised a report issued by a self-assembled ‘group of motion pictures writers, producers and directors who had been alerted to the common menace within the industry’. This ad-hoc group identified three categories of ‘common devices used to turn non-political pictures into carriers of political propaganda’.”
And look whose name turns up:
That group included Fountainhead writer and future Tea Party pin-up girl Ayn Rand, who had herself, according to her own FBI file, “published a booklet which was designed for furnishing information concerning the type of Communist propaganda used in motion pictures.” Sadly, we have no way of knowing if the dour Rand wrote the hilarious “report” on It’s a Wonderful Life and all of its subversive themes; it may have been her, or she may have been assigned to write up some of the other very dangerous titles on the list, like The Best Years of Our Lives, The Farmer’s Daughter, or (I’m not making this up) Abbott & Costello’s Buck Privates Go Home.
As to the egregious crimes of “It’s a Wonderful Life”? It was ‘written by Communist sympathisers’, it ‘attempted to instigate class warfare’ and…ahem… it ‘demonized bankers’.
How very 2013/14.