Director: Frank Capra
Writers:Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra
Producers: Frank Capra
Starring: Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Gloria Grahame
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 130 min
Christmas is finally here and I may’ve saved the best of this Christmas movie watching project for last. Over the past twelve days I’ve watched films on Christmas murders, Christmas wars, Christmas past lives, Christmas ghosts, monsters, the abduction of Santa Claus and even Christmas on another planet. But when all is said and done and Christmas Day is finally here, it turns out that director Frank Capra and a good old fashioned morality tale with the most recognizable of all Christmas symbols, an angel, provides what is really the best of the holiday spirit films. It’s easy to understand why this is the quintessentail Christmas movie that is played in households around the world year after year on this day (though our household prefers Darren McGavin and the Scut Farkus affair).
Everyone pretty much already knows the story of George Bailey and is slow fall from grace after a financial accident. But when an angel appears to show George just what he means to this world and how important he is to everyone who’s ever known him, George changes his tune quickly and is reminded that moeny isn’t the answer to your prayers; it’s friends and family.
Interestingly enough, the movie’s strength really isn’t the final 30 minutes or so in which George is learning his lesson. Sure the climax is touching, but watching George struggle and become the man that he is seemed to me to be the most compelling. Fixing every issue and solving everyone else’s problems and making everyone’s life that much better by fighting off the greed and mean spirit of the local Scrooge. George does all this at the expense of his own happiness. Ironically and unbeknownst to George, helping people is exactly what makes George the happiest. Even if he doesn’t know it yet.
Jimmy Stewart is one of the biggest stars of all time and with It’s a Wonderful Life it’s more proof as to why. Though younger, he exhudes charm and more personality from his left pinky than most stars had in their entire career. Stewart is 90% of what makes this film so captivating and fun to watch. Donna Reed was quite a looker in her day too. Hubba hubba.
Well, it’s Christmas evening and I have my own family to attend to, so I’ll cut this one a bit short. It’s been a long and stressful year, but it’s also been a lot of fun here in the third row. Here’s to another great year and best wishes and Merry Christmas to all of you. Thanks for reading and discussing and debating.