It's a Wonderful Life: The accidental Christmas classic
What can you say about a movie that's been seen by about 115% of the population? Granted that's a bit of an exageration, but the sentiment is real.
In 1946, Frank Capra released a movie that, as I pointed out in my previous hub, he never actually perceived as a Christmas movie at all. It follows one George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) as he grows up in the small town of Bedford Falls. He has big dreams, but one thing after another keeps upsetting his plans and he never even leaves to go to school. He gets a wife, Mary (Donna Reed), and children, and he gets stuck running the Bailey Building and Loan, until one terrible day that leads him to state that maybe things would have been better if he'd never even been born. His guardian angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), obliges and George gets a perspective on his life that none ever do.
It was a great story that took the life of one unassuming man and showed just how much difference one man could make in the lives of others. But it was never intended to become the iconic Christmas movie it's become.
It's funny. It's dramatic. It's charming. But it doesn't try too hard.
And perhaps it was that unassuming approach that ultimately helped this movie win the Holiday Heavyweight Title. Capra simply made it to be the best movie he could without trying to force some heavyhanded message on the audience. The characters are real and earnest. The situations are familiar and believeable. And Jimmy Stewart can't seem to do anything without that realistic and unassuming air about him.
Over the years, It's a Wonderful Life has sealed its place in the eyes of the public. It's an American national treasure, not only a classic movie of the season.
That is, of course, assuming you haven't (as a couple of my friends have told me) seen it so often you've become sick of it.
For me, this one gets a 9 / 10.
It's a Wonderful Life is unrated but seriously there's nothing here that requires a warning. (Except maybe the whole naked-girl-in-a-bush scene, but even then, it's charming and tame.)
- Christmas movies - what makes them classic and just how many of them do we need?
Christmas is coming. Which means a whole new batch of movies to tell you how to celebrate it. But what about all those Christmas movies that are already out? What made them Christmasy in the first place.
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