“What’s your favourite movie?”
The question was on a list for a social media quiz. None of the movies presented were on my radar. I hadn’t even heard of them. The google machine confirmed each one had, unbeknownst to me, actually made it into theatres. I guess I don’t get out much.
Do you have a favourite movie? I’m torn between two. Neither has seen recent release, but I have them both on VHS. Yeah, I definitely don’t get out much.
For the longest time, or so it seemed when I was under twenty-five, my top pick was the 1967 movie version of Lerner & Lowe’s Camelot. The songs were earworms, and easy to sing along or alone. Camelot is a tale of hope and of human frailty. No matter how many times I watch it, I find myself hoping that Queen Guenevere and Sir Lancelot will stay loyal to the vows each had made to King Arthur.
I still get a little something in my eye when Arthur, having sent Guenevere to a convent for her protection, reprises a melody he had shared earlier as enticement for then Lady Guenevere to become his queen. He reprises the theme in order to give a hopeful challenge to a young squire, Tom, before engaging the final battle with Lancelot:
Each evening, from December to December,
Before you drift to sleep upon your cot,
Think back on all the tales that you remember
Ask ev’ry person if he’s heard the story,
And tell it strong and clear if he has not,
That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
Mournful, yet hopeful. Set to the life tune of human frailty.
I encountered my second top pick on the north coast of British Columbia one Christmas Eve on our 13” black and white tv. Growing a bit weary of Ebenezer Scrooge, I switched channels (back in the day it was necessary to stand at the television, rotate the dial, and adjust the antenna). The late discovery was Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, It’s A Wonderful Life.
Camelot remains a great escape from reality. But Jimmy Stewart filled the shoes of George Bailey in a way that captured my heart. Stewart conveyed with eyes, facial features, and necessary words only, the dreams of youth, and the adult reality of letting them go to fight the daily battle of Bedford Falls.
George watched friends and family fulfill their dreams while he steadily held together “the old Building and Loan,” an independent credit union, all the while not realizing he was actually holding together the whole town. George Bailey was more everyman than Arthur of the Round Table. The similar theme of hope and human frailty pervades, but the Capra-corn movie ends on a higher note than the musical. The closing scene in Bedford Falls reveals that even the by-the-book bank examiner’s heart has been warmed by George’s worth to those whose lives he touches. The crusty examiner contributes from his own pocket to the effort to spare George the long prison term that would accompany evidence of missing Building and Loan funds, the same missing funds that had driven hope out of George’s life on Christmas Eve in my living room.
Hope. To possess it requires more than our human frailty has on offer. For Arthur it was rediscovered in young Tom, a messenger to carry the story of “a fleeting wisp of glory” that was known as Camelot. For George it was realised through the presence of Clarence Odbody, wingless guardian angel, second class. Clarence arrived in Bedford Falls as answer to a suicidal George’s desperate prayer, “Dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way… show me the way.”
There are echoes of some of my own prayers in George’s words.
Do you have a favourite movie? Is it pure escapism or does it speak to you? About you?
Both of these movies speak to me. And both speak about me.
Neither Arthur nor George arrived where the dreams of their youth would have landed them. Still, by the end of each movie, both found that where they were was where they needed to be, for their own sake and for the good of others.
Camelot offered the appeal that someone – Merlin, who lived time in reverse from future to past – had glimpses of how Arthur’s life would unfold. It’s A Wonderful Life presented assurance that Someone – Our Father in heaven – understood the plan for George’s life, the tragedies, trials and joys that stitched together a tapestry to display the importance of George’s life – each life – to individual, family and community.
As a friend of mine says, “It’s about the journey.” You needn’t necessarily set aside your dreams, but you can seek the joie de vivre – the very real joy of life – where you are right now. Seeking necessarily involves more than a glance. Your life is significant, whether you can see it or not. Earnestly seek and you will find.