It Really is a Wonderful Life

It really is a Wonderful Life!

I spent the lion’s share of Decembers in the 1970’s and 80s watching It’s a Wonderful Life.  It was during the time when the film had effectively fallen into public domain and was shown on all three (yes I said three) channels we could get before cable TV connected my TV to the world.  Every year, my brother and I would make some hot chocolate, sit at opposite ends of the couch and watch as George Bailey made his existential journey. Before I go any further, if you haven’t watched this film...stop reading and go watch it, I’ll wait.  Ok, now that you’ve used the last of the rationed COVID-19 tissues let’s discuss this masterpiece.  It’s a beautiful story of not realizing your worth, not appreciating the impact you make on others and not fully valuing the things which make you rich in spirit.  It was produced in 1946, the wounds of World War Two still freshly scabbed over and itching as they healed.  Jimmy Stewart himself a combat veteran, brought a performance to the role of George Bailey only achievable by someone who’d gained a new understanding of life, through close proximity to death.  Frank Capra who directed the film said this about it “There’s more to the picture than I put in it…. There’s more to it than we thought we had. It’s the picture I waited all my life to make.”   

The irony of this film is its lack of success at release.  It was not a commercial success.  In fact it lost a whopping $500K for the studio.  It is ironic because it didn’t become a hit for many years and it took its own journey of discovery and redemption and ultimately found its true worth...just like George Bailey.  In 2007 It’s a Wonderful Life was voted number 27 on the American Film Institute’s Greatest Films of All Time list.  Though it wasn’t a commercial success, Frank Capra knew he’d created a story that touched people and he never stopped believing in it, “I thought it was the greatest film I ever made,” said Capra. “Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody ever made. The world didn’t agree.”  Capra died in 1991, and by that time his film and vision had found redemption.  The collective love of this film by people like me and many others who enjoyed it every year swelled his heart with adoration.  It’s a sappy holiday movie, but try to watch and not be grateful to be alive, grateful for the support of those who love you, grateful for the people who have touched your life...I’ll bet you’ll fail!   

Ever year, I still watch this movie, because it reminds me how lucky I am, to be alive, to be loved, to be respected and to have the opportunity to make others feel that way too. It reminds me to give the gift of my time and energy to others that might need it. It's been an incredibly tough year and we could all use a little reminder about accepting and giving love and support. For me, this weekend I’ll be warming up the hot chocolate, dragging my kids onto the couch and enjoying my own wonderful life while watching this movie.