From the Quotation of the day mailing list, 2008-06-23:
"Frank Capra's 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life is the American Film Institute's pick for the most inspirational American movie of all time. Set in the fictional New York town of Bedford Falls, the story's grand narrative is about the wondrous gift of human life, but its less lofty plotline is hardly much less grand. It's about the travails of George Bailey and Bailey Brothers' Building & Loan, an institution that is an inseparable part of a stable, prosperous and above all virtuous community, as Capra makes clear by contrast with the evil fat-cat banker, Mr. Potter. At the film's climax, George Bailey's Bedford Falls neighbors and customers merge into a single society, grateful, generous and all pulling together in the face of adversity.
"In an America just emerging from the cauldron of the Great Depression and the Second World War, no one needed to point out to viewers what a building and loan was or why it meant so much to many small and mid-sized American communities. Everyone understood that thrift was socially constructive, for through the accumulation of individual savings everyone benefited from rising prosperity, better education and hope for a brighter future. What war bonds had been for national security, thrift and home-building institutions were for family security. The social capital created through thrift institutions limited social polarization and marginalized the depredations of greed, so the real small towns of America never decayed into Pottervilles. This wasn't just sentimental bunkum from Hollywood; in 1946, this was as real as a social fact could be."
-- Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, from A Nation In Debt: How we killed thrift, enthroned loan sharks and undermined American prosperity.
(submitted to the mailing list by Kathleen Magone)