“It’s a Wonderful Life” holds a special place in my heart. It’s one of the rare Christmas films that I watch every Christmas, often on Christmas Eve in between church services (although, if I’m tired, “A Christmas Story” gets popped in to the BlueRay player so I can stay awake).
George Bailey, played wonderfully by Jimmy Stewart, begins the movie in serious trouble. Or at least we’re told that by the angels in heaven (on what appears to be a heavenly intercom). Clarence, an Angel Second Class, is assigned to help George out as he seriously contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve. But before he can intervene, Clarence (and we movie-watchers) need George’s backstory.
George spent his whole life in Bedford Falls. We see him save his brother, Harry, from the icy waters of the local river even though it cost him the hearing in one ear. We watch as he helps Mr. Gower, the local pharmacist, realize he put poison in a prescription accidentally.
George has given his life to Bedford Falls and his family’s business, the Building and Loan. All the while Mr. Potter—the bad guy and local banker who owns everything except the Building and Loan—tries to ruin both George’s dad and the business. All George wants is to leave home and explore the world. After his father’s sudden death, he gets roped in to running the business, and he falls in love with Mary, who has known she would marry George from an early age. Just as they are about to leave on their honeymoon, the market crashes and there’s a run on the bank. People want their cash. George and Mary forego their trip abroad in order to save the Building and Loan.
It all comes down to a Christmas Eve when forgetful Uncle Billy, who has worked at the business forever, accidentally wraps a substantial cash deposit in a newspaper and inadvertently hands it over to Mr. Potter. Potter is too evil to even consider handing it back. Oh yeah, there’s a bank examiner there to check the B&L’s books. George—on one of the happiest days of his life, his brother has just received the Congressional Medal of Honor—sees his life floating away. He’s angry with Mary and their four kids. He storms off, gets into a crash and nearly commits suicide by jumping from the bridge. But it’s Clarence who jumps and George saves him.
George with Clarence’s help sees what life would be like if he had never been around. It’s quite heartbreaking to see, but it leads to a wonderful finale.
I knew this film would get my highest rating before I watched it again. I’m even more sure of it now.
If you’ve never seen this film, you absolutely must. A Christmas classic forever!