‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a wonderful film
Hands down, Christmas Eve is the best night of the year.
The entire day feels special, doesn’t it? Most of us are off work, and even if we’re not, it’s usually a short day. Last-minute shopping, wrapping presents, cookies, church services, a special meal … no matter what you do, it just feels special.
And no matter what you do today, you should probably sit down in front of the TV tonight and watch one of the best Christmas movies of all-time, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched the classic 1946 film every Christmas. When I was a teenager, my family would usually go to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve for dinner. After we’d get home, my Mom would pop in the old VHS tape. We’d watch it in the gameroom into the early hours of Christmas morning. As a parent, I introduced my kids to it during their teen years. We still watch it every single year.
If you’ve never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life,” here’s a taste of the plot: James Stewart stars as small town George Bailey, a man who has given up all of his dreams and aspirations to help others. After his forgetful Uncle Billy loses several thousand dollars on Christmas Eve in 1945, George contemplates suicide. While considering the act high atop a bridge in Bedford Falls, he meets his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence gives George a glimpse of what life would be like in Bedford Falls if he’d never been born.
If it sounds like a great premise, that’s because it is. Think about it — what would the lives of those around you look like if you’d never been born? How might your family and friends act and live if you weren’t in the picture? George quickly realizes that everything in Bedford Falls — including the town’s name — would be different if he weren’t on the planet. Things would be worse. Realizing the massive mistake that suicide would be, George prays atop the bridge and tells God that “he wants to live again.”
The film is a little long at 2 hours and 10 minutes. However, when you consider that Capra re-caps nearly 40 years of George Bailey’s life during that span, it isn’t too bad.
There are lots of folks coming in and out of George’s life, so pay attention — you’ll thank me later.
Donna Reed shines as George’s doting wife, Mary. And for my money, Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter is one of the best villains in the history of film. There are also plenty of memorable lines in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” including the classic, “everytime a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
As hard as it is to believe, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was not a commercial success when it was released. Much like another Christmas classic, “A Christmas Story,” the film found success many years after its original release.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” was filmed in black and white, which actually adds to magic. As someone who didn’t live during that era, it’s fascinating to see just how life was back then, before all of the technological advances that we have today. “It’s a Wonderful Life” could never be made today. That being said, thank goodness no one has tried to remake this classic. It’s great — leave it alone.
A lot of people don’t like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and I’ll never understand that. It is considered one of the greatest films of all time. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. It was No. 11 on the American Film Institute’s 1998 greatest movie list, No. 20 on its 2007 greatest movie list, and No. 1 on its list of the most inspirational American films of all time.
It’s rated PG for some adult themes, but it’s a great film to watch with your family. The film’s final scene will tug at your heartstrings and produce some tears.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” airs tonight and every Christmas Eve on NBC. If you’ve never seen it, 2020 is definitely the year to do it.
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Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.