There are many, many Christmas movies (including this year’s apparently execrable “Bad Santa II”) but this one, over many years, has stood in a class by itself.
The plot: George Bailey is a small-town boy of world-sized ambition, but he passes up many opportunities, choosing instead to do the right thing, the more difficult thing, time after time. He stays in the small town — missing travel, college, even his honeymoon — to maintain the small building and loan that his father founded and that is the town’s only bulwark against a cold-hearted, greedy banker.
After a final dire moment in the Christmas season, it becomes too much for Bailey. God stages an intervention (George is a Christian, which is sort of quaint now, but still) in the person of a quirky angel who shows George how much poorer his world would have been if he never had been born.
The movie was released on Christmas Day in 1946, received mixed reviews and then pretty much disappeared from view until its studio let the copyright lapse in the early 1970s. This had the perverse effect of reviving its popularity as television stations picked it up and aired it, at minimal cost, every Christmas season. Now it’s a classic.
Usually I write about a new film for my MovieMonday feature. This time, my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to watch “Trolls” or the first installment of another multi-movie J.K. Rowling narrative or a bloody movie about pacifism.
I read last week that the Wonderful Life Foundation’s Nashville chapter was showing “It’s a Wonderful Life” as part of its annual fundraiser for childhood cancer patients.
Good timing for me. I am fortunate to have many fine friends, but this year I have encountered more than the usual number of unethical stinkers. It was a pleasure to watch a film that celebrates the power of simple human decency.