(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
One Sentence Plot Summary: George Bailey learns the value of one man thanks to a guardian angel.
Why It’s on the List:
I can be a cynical person with a very sarcastic sense of humor a lot of the time. People who know me well that I look at everything with a crooked eyebrow and a stink eye. I unapologetically love this movie even though it’s ultimately very conservative and pro-America. People tried to interpret this as communist propaganda. It’s not. What it is is a meditation on the idea of one person’s impact on the lives of the people around them. This is a timeless story and one I’m shocked hasn’t been told more. Mary becoming a spinster is absurd, so the execution isn’t perfect. However, no matter how bad things get, I think it’s important to understand the way we touch others and can impact people.
At a time when we are more distanced than ever thanks to a global pandemic, I think it’s a Wonderful Life is an especially appropriate film to consume this holiday season. I don’t think any of us can ever truly see the way others see us. George Bailey is so frustrated at times, to the point where he’s yelling at people for no reason, and nearly isolates himself from the rest of his family in the third act because he’s so consumed by the perceived failure of his life and having money go missing.
This is very much a showcase for Jimmy Stewart but was a failure at the time it came out in 1946. It fell into the public domain and became a fixture of holiday viewing when there were only a few channels. People of a certain generation probably watched this multiple times in the same season. We live in a time period where multiple cable channels are producing dozens of Christmas movies every year. None of them will have even .000000001% this movie will have. It’s regarded as an all-time Christmas classic. I think the Christmas distinction should be removed. Frank Capra was a great director in his day, but this is the movie that has lived on.
*There are some pretty antiquated thoughts about not leaving a city and the responsibility to one’s family. Not to mention that Mary would be a librarian spinster if not for George rescuing her? Hell no.
*George strips his wife naked while they’re both naked. Some classic non-consensual hijinks!
MVP and Best Performance: Jimmy Stewart did not win an Academy Award for his role as George Bailey, but this is what he will be most remembered for. I read a couple of obits. One alluded to the film in the first sentence and another mentioned it first before any of the storied films in his career. He used some of the legitimately awful things that he saw in World War II to help fuel him and create George Bailey. It can be hard to evaluate actors from this time period because everything is more theatrical and lacks in realism. Even 75 years later, I think this performance still holds up (far better than the really fake snow at least.)
Best Quote: “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” – Clarence
Is there a sequel? There have certainly been a number of movies and shows that have alluded to this movie directly and indirectly. Quite honestly, I’m stunned no one has tried to make a sequel with how popular this became in the 1980s.