How It’s a Wonderful Life Seized on an Urbanizing America’s Nostalgia for the Small Town
As Mid-Century Americans Moved to Cities, Capra's Film Helped to Idealize Isolated White Communities
It’s a Wonderful Life can be read through multiple prisms—as a Christmas movie, a family movie, a love story, an existential journey, and a celebration of the everyman. But Frank Capra’s movie invites audiences to consider it, first and foremost, as a small-town film.
The first image seen is a sign welcoming audiences: “YOU ARE NOW IN BEDFORD FALLS.” Even if initial audiences don’t know anything about this specific town, they “know” the community they about to enter: the American small town.
While we think of the small town as a …