“Look Daddy, Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” – Zuzu Bailey (“It’s A Wonderful Life”)
While serving as a missionary in California, I was assigned to be a Zone Leader for the Santa Rosa Zone. This was the largest geographical zone in our mission. In March 1978, my missionary companion Tom Payne and I began driving to and exploring various locations within the zone. We needed to familiarize ourselves with the communities and people that we were called to serve.
One of the towns that we needed to visit was Bodega Bay. Tom was driving the Ford Pinto when we crested a hill and could see the entire town. Bodega Bay was strangely familiar and the school house in particular caught my attention. As we drove toward the center of town, I vividly recognized a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds.” Much of the iconic movie was indeed filmed in Bodega Bay.
It was quite surreal as we drove past the schoolhouse. I was on the lookout for psychotic seagulls and cranky crows!
A few weeks later, we drove to Petaluma. As I drove through the center of Petaluma, it also seemed strangely familiar. I had seen these stores, parking lots and street lights before. And images of the actors Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard entered into my mind’s eye. George Lucas filmed some scenes for his movie, “American Graffiti” at this exact location.
Movies do indeed transport us to remarkable visual and emotional places which can truly affect and influence our lives. That is why it is so important that you choose to watch only those movies that will have a positive influence upon you. There are two uplifting movies that I humbly suggest you watch during this sacred holiday season.
The first movie is, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It was released on Jan. 7, 1947 and stars Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. I first saw this black and white movie in the early 1960s on our small family rabbit-eared television. I have lost track of how many times I have since watched the movie.
I particularly appreciate the manner in which this film highlights what is and what is not important in acquiring and sustaining a joyful life. The movie teaches us that from an eternal and Christ-like perspective, wealth, power and prestige are of little consequence. “It’s a Wonderful Life” also correctly emphasizes through unforgettable characters, the inherent and undeniable connection between faith, family and joy.
The next movie that I recommend is, Henry Koster’s “The Bishop’s Wife.” This film was released on Feb. 16, 1948 and stars Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young. I also saw this black and white movie for the first time in the early 1960s on our small family television.
Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young provide absolutely superb performances in this movie. I know of no other movie wherein all of the lead actors do a better job of performing their roles. I should also mention that two of the child actors who appear in “The Bishop’s Wife” are also part of the cast in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“The Bishop’s Wife” focuses upon the importance of human kindness and compassion. The film also emphasizes the transcendent need for all of us to truly learn to love one another. What I particularly appreciate about this movie is that many of Dudley’s “miracles” do not require divine power. This movie teaches us that you do not have to be an angel to be attentive to the needs of those around you. Likewise, you do not have to be an angel to reach out and let others know that you have not only been listening to them, but that you truly care about them.
It is no coincidence that both of these movies were made at a time when the citizens of our great nation were both humble and teachable. Having, by the grace of God, just prevailed in World War II, our “Greatest Generation” learned many important life lessons that too many of us have since forgotten.
I hope that you will actually follow through and watch these marvelous movies. Do so, and you will have a better appreciation of this Christmas holiday.
John M. Walker is an attorney and lifelong Wyomingite who lives in Cheyenne. His email address is: email@example.com