Sunday, December 15, 2013

IT’S A TREMENDOUS LIFE


As my X-mas gift to you, I will unravel the true story behind the making of what could have been the greatest holiday picture of all time: Frank Capra’s IT’S A TREMENDOUS LIFE. So sit back, pour yourself a hot cup of cocoa, and follow the tragic tale that hindered my early career in Hollywood.

Brooklyn, 1945.  I was defending my the World Tag Team Championship with my partner Angel Perdido against the hefty Germanic tough man Gunter Gallahad and the foppish Gentleman Monty Armbruster.  Unbeknownst to me, Capra was in attendance scouting my every move for a possible picture. At the time, I had been in negotiations with other directors such as Orson Welles, John Ford, and toddler Martin Scorcese. But I was holding out for the right script.

And the right script turned out to be one Capra has just completed set during X-mas in upstate New York. And nothing screams rural upstate New York than burly Mexicans and wrestling.  Right? 


After the match, Capra met me backstage and showed me this synopsis:

"George Hailey has spent his entire life in Deadford Springs where he has sacrificed a career of travel and study to help taxi drivers, floozies and Italians buy affordable homes. Dragged down by his selfish family, including a senile syphilitic uncle, a mouth-kissing marriage-obsessed mother, and a skirt-chasing Army-guy-saving jerk brother, he becomes trapped in an uneventful small town life.

The remains of pure f*cking brilliance.
Constantly in conflict with the Scrooge-like bowling alley baron Mister Pooter, George is unable to prevent the rich old kingpin from taking over the entire town. All that he has is a moldy old building and loan company, which was founded by his dopey stroke-prone father (deceased).

George eventually marries a pretty hot lady named Mary who turns out to be a baby factory and saddles poor ol' George with five rugrats (including one dangerously obsessed with flowers), a drafty old house, and an ass-load of a mortgage. Also there's this guy who torments him with donkey impressions. 

Blink and you'll miss me in SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS.
One Christmas Eve, George's Uncle Willy drops the company's total assets down a street gutter while on his way to spend it on hookers and lollipops. Pooter retrieves the money and hides it from the Haileys hoping to put them out of business.  George realizes that he will be held responsible, be sent to jail, and lose the business. But at least he'd be away from those caroling posey-sniffing brats. In a whiskey-drenched moment of realization he believes luscious Mary will be better off without him and he contemplates suicide.

George wanders to a nearby bridge and prepares to jump. But the prayers of his loved ones result in the appearance of angel El Tremendo who has been sent help George. Unable to convince George that pills is a quicker alternative to drowning, Tremendo tries a different tactic. He shows George what things would have been like if he had never been born.

MIRACLE ON TREMENDOUS STREET, another unmade dud.
In a well-shot, widescreen vision in which the Pooter-controlled town has efficient trains, milk fountains, and lots of Dunkin Donuts, George discovers that his family and friends are pretty much the same, only with sturdier bones and protruding guts. But George ultimately decides suicide is not the answer when he finds Mister Pooter nailing Mary harder than an Amish barn. 

In the end, El Tremendo transports George to a mystical wrestling ring, trains him in the ways of lucha libre complete with Frank Stallone soundtrack, and returns him to Deadford Falls where he chokes out Mister Pooter, gets the money back, and makes baby #6.”

I was sold. Capra got Jimmy Stewart to play George, but only one scene was shot: the first meeting between El Tremendo and George after his rescue where I try to convince him I'm a otherworldly messenger of a God who still thinks wrestling is real. The next day I was informed that I was out of the picture. They dumped me, re-titled it, hired another guy as the angel, and completely perverted Capra’s initial vision into some nonsense about a spiritual journey to discover the value of familiar love, mapping your own destiny, and the joy of giving to others blah blah blah.

Luckily, the reworked IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE wasn't a big hit and no one has ever heard or seen it multiple times over and over again every frickin' year since. But at least...

... I'll always have my MEAN GIRLS cameo.