Once again, I have finally watched one of those classic feel good movies that comes on every Christmas and realized what I have been missing. It’s a Wonderful Life is full of Jimmy Stewart’s aw-shucks attitude, Christmas spirit and Frank Capra’s simple wholesome movie magic.
The movie starts with everything looking like Christmas time and prayers going out. They are received by some cosmic masses, who discuss sending an angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), to go convince this George (Stewart) from taking his own life. This is Clarence’s big chance to finally earn his wings, but first ,he needs to learn a bit more about George.
From here on, we’re shown the major events in George’s life, beginning with his episode as a boy saving his younger brother when he fell through some ice. This incident left George deaf in one ear. As he grows older, all he dreams of is traveling, getting an education and building the next great things in the world. But all that is sacrificed when his father suddenly dies and to prevent the heartless, money driven Henry f. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) from taking the business and ruining the good people in town, George takes over. From then on, George marries his sweetheart, Mary (Donna Reed), and lives an honest and happy life never having much money.
But this day, this Christmas Eve, his business partner Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) has accidentally lost eight thousand dollars. In 1946, that’s enough to ruin the business and if George can’t find the money he’ll be arrested, thrown in jail and his family will go hungry. The most valuable thing he has is his life insurance and he realizes that he’s worth more money dead than alive.
When Clarence intervenes, George is no less morose, and wishes he had never been born. So Clarence shows George exactly what his town would be like today if he had never been born. It’s enough to shock George to realizing that no matter how bad his life gets, he has done a lot of good for his world and he just wants to live.
Capra loves to play on the idea of giving rather than receiving, no better setting to put one of his films than Christmas. Throughout the film we see so many examples of this, George sacrificing his travels, his education even his honeymoon for the sake of others. Under a portrait of George’s father in the office is the caption “All you can take with you is what you’ve given away.” Wonderful words to live by.
Through generations we have upheld It’s a Wonderful Life, and every December you’ll find it airing on a few channels. I can finally understand how this film warrants this honor, its message warms the heart and make us all see and appreciate the wonderful life we have. No matter how little we have, we should cherish and be grateful for the live we are given.
“Each man’s life touches so many other lives.”