Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The connection between 'It's a Wonderful Life' & 'The Quiet Man'

File this one under the ever-growing file of "Things I Didn't Know.'

In my Monday print column I talked about my annual holiday mission - to embrace the holiday spirit.

It's a little inside joke I share with my daughter, whose sense of the holidays is second to none.

We call it getting 'imbued,' or instilled with the special spirit of Christmas and the holidays.

She is in charge of alerting me to our ritual of watching holiday movies and TV specials.

That is how I came to be on the couch Saturday night watching 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

A quick confession. I'm not the biggest 'It's a Wonderful Life' fan. Don't hate me. It's just a tad heavy on the schmaltz and syrup for my liking, although I can admit I still get a little misty-eyed at the end as George Bailey hugs his daughter and says, 'Atta boy, Clarence,' content in the knowledge that he has helped his friend "earn his wings."

Actually, I much prefer another Jimmy Stewart holiday movie my wife - the resident old black and white movie expert in the family - turned me on to. It's called 'The Shop Around the Corner.' It was actually on TCM Friday night, the night before we watched 'Wonderful Life' for the millionth time. I highly recommend it.

But I digress.

It was while we were watching 'It's a Wonderful Life,' and me noting that I don't especially care for it, that my wife informed me it something in common with one of my absolute favorite movies ever. If I ever actually sat down and created a Top 5 Favorite Movies list, 'The Quiet Man' would be right up, along with 'High Society.'

What I did not know is that the great John Wayne-Maureen O'Hara Irish epic shares something in common with 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

Any idea what it is?

That would be one Ward Bond.

He played Bert the cop in 'It's a Wonderful Life.' In fact, a lot of people believe they used that name, along with Ernie the cab driver, as the namesakes for Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street.

I've heard that a million times.

Here's something I did not know.

Ward Bond also played Father Peter Lonergan, parish priest, in 'The Quiet Man.'

I still can't believe I never made that connection.

Ward Bond had a prolific career, often teaming with John Wayne, who he met while they were students at USC, and director John Ford. He appeared in 26 Ford films.

He has appeared in seven of The American Film Institute's 100 Greatest American Movies.

But it is his role as Father Lonergan that captures my heart. He was at the center of the plot cooked up to get Will Danaher to allow the marriage of his sister Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara) to Wayne, who had gone home to the town of his birth in Ireland after killing a man in the ring in America, only to make a mortal enemy of Danaher by buying his childhood home, which stood right next to Danaher's property.

For me, it is pure Irish movie magic.

Now if I could just figure out why exactly Bert the cop thought it was a good idea to open fire on George Bailey in the middle of that crowded street in what was by that time Pottersville, instead of Bedford Falls.

Oh, that's right, it's the movies.

I will likely continue to grit my teeth as I sit through 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

But I will do so now with a smile on my face every time I see Bert the cop.

Merry Christmas.

Hope this adds to your sense of being 'imbued.'

I think we all could stand to be a bit more 'imbued' these days.

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