Saturday, December 27, 2008

James Stewart and Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life'? It's a Miserable Life! - NY Times, 12/19/08:
Lots of people love this movie of course. But I’m convinced it’s for the wrong reasons.
I love it for the right reasons, I assure you ...
Here’s the thing about Pottersville that struck me when I was 15: It looks like much more fun than stultifying Bedford Falls — the women are hot, the music swings, and the fun times go on all night. If anything, Pottersville captures just the type of excitement George had long been seeking.
And how ironic that he didn't want it once he actually experienced it.
I checked my theory with Frank J. Clark, the district attorney for Erie County upstate, where, as far as I can tell, the fictional Bedford Falls is set. He thought it over, and then agreed: George would still face prosecution and possible prison time.
It's actually likely Seneca Falls, so Finger Lakes, not Great Lakes, region. We swam at Bedford Beach as kids before it dried up.

I don't see how he can be prosecuted when the sheriff tears up the arrest warrant. He might not be much, but he's still sheriff of Macomb County, and Bob Yule fell on his knife Bedford Falls and that's his contribution to the collection.
Not only is Pottersville cooler and more fun than Bedford Falls, it also would have had a much, much stronger future. Think about it: In one scene George helps bring manufacturing to Bedford Falls. But since the era of “It’s a Wonderful Life” manufacturing in upstate New York has suffered terribly.

On the other hand, Pottersville, with its nightclubs and gambling halls, would almost certainly be in much better financial shape today. It might well be thriving.

I checked my theory with the oft-quoted Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban policy at New York University, and he agreed, pointing out that, of all the upstate counties, the only one that has seen growth in recent years has been Saratoga.

“The reason is that it is a resort, and it has built an economy around that,” he said. “Meanwhile the great industrial cities have declined terrifically. Look at Connecticut: where is the growth? It’s in casinos; they are constantly expanding.”
I don't want an economy based on sin entertainment. Whenever I return to upstate NY for a visit, I'm shocked by how much gambling has seeped into everyday life there.

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