How many times did you watch "It's a Wonderful Life" last week?
And who'd have thought it would be mired in so much controversy?
The film has become an American Christmas classic. In case you've never seen it (there might be someone) it stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others. His imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings an intervention from his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born.
The town of Bedford was supposedly based on the town of Seneca Falls-about 180 miles northeast of Jamestown near Syracuse, but it could have been our own good town.
Of course, everyone imagines Bedford Falls to be the place where they grew up, but there is some good evidence to suggest the movie was based on the nearby Finger Lakes town.
Locals celebrate the beloved movie every December, with actors dressed as Clarence the Angel and mean old Mr. Potter parading down the main decorated to look like Bedford Falls. Some of the actors from the movie who are still alive attend the festival every year. There's even a hotel named "The Clarence."
There are physical similarities, too: Seneca Falls has a broad main street like Bedford Falls, and there's a bridge with a plaque dedicated to a man who jumped from the span to save a suicidal woman in 1917 - a theme we see continued in the movie.
Karolyn Grimes - who played George's daughter Zuzu in the movie and never misses the festival - said she is sure that Seneca Falls is the model used for the movie. When she first visited there she shouted, "It's Bedford Falls!"
And you can't ignore all the references to upstate New York cities during the movie: The bank examiner wants to get back to his family in Elmira for Christmas. George's friend Sam Wainwright talks of building a factory outside of Rochester, and his brother is offered a job in Buffalo.
I think not.
And then there's the haircut story: A barber who lived in Seneca Falls his whole life swears he cut Frank Capra's hair once while the director was visiting his aunt.
But Capra went to his grave never admitting what town the movie was based on.
As warm and fuzzy as the movie might be, a report came out this holiday season that the FBI decided the flick was spreading communist propaganda in America back in the Cold War days.
From 1946 to 1956, the film was secretly listed under some recently unearthed FBI documents for allegedly spreading Communist views, according to the Daily Mail. "It's a Wonderful Life" was one of the many films the FBI was suspicious about in their 13,533-page file, titled, "Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry." Although the full report isn't available, a PDF with 2,000 pages of excerpts surfaced when writer John Sbardellati published his 2012 book about the origins of Hollywood's Cold War.
In addition, the PDF revealed that FBI informants believed that the film "maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters."
The report also alleged that the film's writers were closely watched by the FBI and were observed eating lunch daily with other allegedly communist-driven screenwriters.
This would all be kind of humorous if it didn't remind us of the current state of things in America, with the NSA spying on its citizens and other countries and heads of state. The enemies these days are not communists, but terrorists - or so they say.
In a 1946 interview, Capra described the film's theme as "the individual's belief in himself" and that he made it "to combat a modern trend toward atheism."
Capra was worried about a soul-less America.
A critic for the New York Times said this about the movie in 2008: "It's a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife."
So which scenario embodies the truth of our American Christmas classic?
Is it a Hollywood communist plot? A terrifying story about small-minded people? A way to combat atheism?
Or is it a feel good movie based on the town of Seneca Falls?
I'm going with the Seneca Falls story.
I like to think it's a town like ours with people who depend upon and need us.