It was one of my regular holiday traditions until some of my celebrations were scaled back for various reasons, but I can see it back in the holiday spirit again. It would be a regular thing to watch this and other old movies I liked, have popcorn or cookies and visit with relatives or just watch alone late at night.
It’s A Wonderful Life was not a great success for Frank Capra in 1946, penned from an idea off a postcard, it was the story of man who gets a second chance at life, after losing money andis in deep trouble over his loan business, George Bailey contemplates suicide. Suddenly, he finds himself jumping in the river to save a little man from drowning.
Said funny, little, man is Clarence, an angel in training who refers to himself as an angel 2nd class or AS2, he hasn’t saved anyone so he hasn’t earned his wings, explaining to George that he jumped in the river to save him. James Stewart was the perfect choice for the role, though it wasn’t a hit at the box office, it became a Christmas classic.
While this film and others with any faith based in them are classified as fantasy, the film has it’s merits. Not everyone gets to chance to see what life would be like without them. But George does. Although people do not die and become angels as Clarence explains, there are angels working on our behalf as believers.
No doubt, we have been assisted more than we know and a lot times we find out later, after the fact, because the Lord is not about fear, He is about love. George soon realizes he can hear, his lip is not cut, his clothes are dry. He is off to find Mary, his wife, played by Donna Reed. She is a librarian, a spinster and is terrified of him. His mother doesn’t know him.
And his brother, the war hero is also dead, George was not there to save him, when he fell through the ice as a boy. As a result Clarence explains, to a befuddled George who swears, ” Harry saved all the men on that transport. ” that, ” All the men on that transport died, because he wasn’t there to save Harry and Harry wasn’t there to save them. ”
I always thought that was profound. And really, it is the way things work, in the natural and guided by the supernatural as we pray. George, who was 4F, let Harry go to college in his place to run the family business after his father’s death, was feeling very inadequate, left out, but soon finds out that he had made a big difference in his family’s life. His uncle who actually lost the money, was in an asylum. People were without housing. So many things had changed, even the name of his town.
And Mr.Gower whom he had worked for as a boy was in jail for killing someone with the wrong medicine. George had seen the telegram that his son was killed in action, and did not deliver a medicine he knew was poison. It is a terrible scene to watch him be slapped until his ear bleeds, the one he was deaf in from the icy water. He never tells of Mr. Gower’s mistake, as he quickly realizes George was right and hugs him. H.W. Warner, the druggist also played Jesus in a 1926 silent film.
Finally, George repents of being suicidal, and goes back to his wonderful life. Even the petals his daughter Zou Zou gave him are back in his pocket. The miserly banker keeps the money but his friends make it up and Clarence leaves a book and a man donates a watch, ZouZou is holding it. She is Karolyn Grimes. And remembers what her teacher says, ” Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings. ” To which George replies, ” At a boy, Clarence. ”
This is a movie lost on a lot of people for the sentimental reasons, but is a clean if not totally accurate account of an angel helping someone in need. It is fun family entertainment though and I believe will always be a classic. I think it should be shown in theaters and even outdoor screenings, and be on stage, for at least six to eight weeks each year. With so much violence and silly romances taking center stage, it is refreshing to step back into a time when families and friends came together, and celebrated the Christmas spirit.
Without going as far as being suicidal, I hope it makes you think too of the value of your own life and others, how we have the ability to touch each other, through words and deeds and talents and even spiritual gifts, how faith does move mountains and prayer changes things. That you might have helped someone be saved who saves others. There are petals in our pockets also, petals of His peace, may you find that this year, John 14:27. He left His peace, and commands angels to our side, you see, it really is a wonderful life. Rebecca Jones / public domain
Other good holiday movies from the old days, The Bells of St, Mary’s, Come To The Stable, Christmas in Connecticut, Remember Me, The Bishop’s Wife, and the obscure Beyond Tomorrow, the last two about angels but not accurate either but entertaining.