At the beginning and ending of Camelot, we see King Arthur preparing for battle against Lancelot, his dearest friend. In many ways, King Arthur looks a bit like Michael Corleone. He is beaten down and has lost any sense of purpose or meaning in life. With despair Arthur, like Michael, is reflecting on the broken state of his kingdom and, in particular, his round table and code of chivalry: “Right makes might. Not might makes right!” It is only when a young boy is discovered by Arthur and displays his own fervent commitment to the round table and code that Arthur breaks out of his depression. Arthur commands the boy to return home: “Run boy run.” He sends the boy away so that the tales of Camelot “might not be forgot.” The abundant garden that Arthur has tended can now be restored by this representative of the next generation and other young men and women who witnessed this “one, brief shining moment of glory that was known as Camelot!” We can only wish that someone could have redeemed Michael Corleone, for there is very little that is noble or good about his adult life; the deeds he has already done are probably damning him to eternal stagnation.
In the case of Capra’s Wonderful Life, George had sacrificed a fulfilling life to serve his family and community. George never was given a chance to get out into the world. He wasn’t even sure if the other half of his covenant—making a difference to his family and community—was fulfilled. As in the story of King Arthur and many other Capra movies, (e.g., Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Meet John Doe), the principle character in Wonderful Life is a former idealist who is now burned-out and disillusioned.
Like Arthur and perhaps Michael, George was on the edge of turning into a grumpy, discontented and alienated human being. He was becoming of little value to anyone as a parent, spouse, business owner or community leader. Erik Erikson would suggest that George was about to move toward the opposite pole—away from generativity to stagnation and despair. Clarence, the angel-in-training, rescued George at the last minute—just as the little boy rescued Arthur. Clarence showed George that he had made a profound difference, that the lives of people around him in Bedford Falls would not be the same without his sacrifices.Download Article 1K Club