Pottersville Re-named Shaleopolis

My favorite Christmas movie of all time has to be, It's a Wonderful Life, by the great film director, Frank Capra, (1897-1991). Capra was the grand old master of social commentary. His little cautionary tale of troubled George Bailey, played convincingly by Jimmy Stewart, touches the heart if not a nerve in most everyone.

After watching the film again in 2007 I couldn't help but see parallels in George Bailey's nightmare and what was going on in Fort Worth and the Barnett Shale. George's nightmare, of course, was that rich and greedy, Mr. Potter, would take over Bedford Falls and turn it into an immoral and dangerous place called Pottersville.

Capra movies always have a happy ending, so George Bailey's nightmare finally ends and Bedford Falls is saved. In the real world, however, George Bailey died. Mr. Potter and his cohorts have expanded Pottersville into a giant Shaleopolis that has spread across the country creating horrors that poor George never imagined.

But hey, this is Christmas eve. We all need a break from this dirty business. If, however, you happen to be watching It's a Wonderful Life, tonight, you may be interested in my capsule review of the film viewed through the dark prism of the Barnett Shale. I've included a couple of other Capra chestnuts that often show up on TV this time of year.


from December 24, 2007-

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Frank Capra's masterpiece of morality as seen through the life of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is the all time champion of holiday movies with a message of redemption. Everyman, George Bailey is caught in a no win, desperate situation and given the gift of seeing what the world would be like without his selfless actions. His striving for the moral high ground is something in short supply around the Fort these days. The degenerate vision of a corrupt and greedy world owned and operated by the likes pf Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), is strikingly similar to the one taking shape in an ethically challenged Fort Worth, Texas, circa 2007. Ah, but George Bailey has a guardian angel who helps him see how his decisions and actions contribute to a better world. When Mr. Potter offers to help George out of his financial troubles, but at the price of his soul, George finds the courage to Just Say NO to Urban Gas Drilling. George Bailey serves as a very human symbol of what we can all strive for when the temptations of "Free Money", with strings attached, come knocking at the door. If we aren't careful, Fort Worth could easily turn into Pottersville.


You Can't Take It With You (1938)

This Oscar winning film with a social conscience by Frank Capra combines several of the actors from his later films. This time, Barrymore, is the good guy, the head of a a family of lovable eccentrics. Edward Arnold plays a ruthless banker who uses dirty tricks to force them out of their home. Reminds me of how gas drillers, developers and some realtors work in concert to deceive homeowners. Right now, in Dirty Ol' Town, they are building and selling homes right next to gas wells to unsuspecting families. Despite their low income status, the good guys in this film put a high price on dignity and self esteem. This film also has an important message for folks who are eager to trade their mineral rights and a piece of their soul in pursuit of the almighty dollar. There are higher ideals than bonus payments and mailbox money. Besides, you can't take it with you.


Meet John Doe (1941)

Another oldie directed by Frank Capra that will never go out of style as long as companies like Chesapeake, Devon and XTO are still in business. Gary Cooper stars as an innocent man trying to locate his moral compass after being manipulated by a cynical but well meaning newspaper reporter (Barbara Stanwyck) who is herself manipulated by evil newspaper publisher, D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold in a role not unlike his local counterpart). Norton uses and abuses John Doe as long as he can before Doe gets wise to the corruption and throws a wrench in the works. Old fashioned as it is, this film can be used as a template for how to expose and bring down the corporate and elected officials who have allowed urban gas drilling to take root near our homes, schools, churches and parks. D.B. Norton is a symbol of the enemy who must be defeated.

Just saying NO since 1993.