20. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946 )

An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

I thought it was very poetic that my watch day for It’s a Wonderful Life just happened to land on Christmas eve, the night that my father and I would always have a viewing of this film.

For those that have been under a rock for the last 75 years or so, It’s a Wonderful Life is a film written and directed by Frank Capra, with Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett also contributing as screenwriters. Starring James Stewart, Donna Reid, Lionel Barrymore (yes, that Barrymore family), Thomas Mitchell and Henry Travers, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey (Stewart) and what life would be like if he had never been born.

That’s always what the synopsis of this film says. However, the film really is just about George Bailey and his life, as nearly the entire first half of the film is exposition for our soon to be guardian angel, Clarence (Travers). Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a problem with that. I just find it funny that the synopsis for this film is that a guardian angel comes down to show George Bailey what it would have been like had he never been born, when that’s really only about the last 30 minutes or so of the film.

It’s a Wonderful LIfe is one of those films that found its place in film history over time. Upon the films original release, it was not a hit. In fact, it wouldn’t be until television came along and broadcast companies were looking for content to play, that It’s a Wonderful Life became a holiday classic. Which is so strange because I cannot picture my holiday without it.

All the performances in this film feel genuine, but none more so than James Stewart, who was freshly home from war, this being his first film back. Which, honestly, is why I think so many of his emotions feel so raw and real.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a film that truly is a classic. It has continued to age tremendously well, and will always have a place in the holiday season. It’s a good reminder every year that we don’t realize how many lives we touch with ours, and that things would be vastly different without us. “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

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