It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Six years removed from The Shop Around the Corner and James Stewart (aka Jimmy Stewart) would go on to be in the timeless classic of Christmas that is 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life. The title of ‘holiday classic’ is pretty nice for a film that was a flop at the box office at the time. However, it was vindicated by yearly television airtime around the season due to accidentally winding up in the public domain, making it became a staple of Christmas Eve tradition for many households, well, in the States anyway.
The film is about a man by the name of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) who leaves a quaint life in the small town of Bedford Falls. On christmas Eve, Bailey wants to end it all after years of stress and troubles clouding his mind. He has been worn down by life thanks to the ruthless rich bastard Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) threatening to close down the family loan business with a warrant for George’s arrest. Wishing he was never born, an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) descends from heaven to help him and show him how life would be if he was never born. Before this could happen, Clarence, as well as the audience, see his life so far leading to this point from his childhood days of saving his brother Harry (Todd Karns), his constant romance with Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) and taking over the family business. George sees that the world around him would be miserable if he was not a part of it. He rushes home to find the townspeople ready to help him save the loan building and faith is restored.
Almost anyone who is anyone has seen or heard of the film or seen it spoofed in various television shows. It’s a Wonderful Life is personally my favorite Christmas film and one of my favorite films ever. Here’s an excerpt from Film A Week: 30 Favorite Films in which I discuss why it is a favorite of mine:
Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is a delightful film that holds a very special place in my heart, not only due to the personal struggle of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, but how much I relate to how he feels. Often considered a Christmas classic, this film goes beyond that sub-genre it was pigeonholed into to become timeless. This movie got me through some rough times, like with films soon to follow on part three of this list, by helping me see my own life as more than what it is. I suffered through depression and did have thoughts about offing myself, not realizing how precious life truly is and that one day, every obstacle that came my way would lead to a grander and brighter future. It is also something everyone can see themselves in as down on their luck in the rough patch of their lives and Stewart’s portrayal of the “everyman” is perfect as Bailey’s strives for the perfect life while getting knocked down a couple of pegs. The film provides a great story and a fascinating window into the reality of life, even if the supernatural elements do come into play a little to late in the film.
Every year, I look forward to watching it and I can’t wait to see it again in all it’s glory once more.
As we continue on with the XMAS journey, we are close to disputing the issue of the big man named Santa Claus and determine if Santa Claus, well, exists. It will take a miracle to find out.