“It’s a Wonderful Life” is widely recognized as one of the greatest movies of all time. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and took home one Oscar.
The American Film Institute (AFI) includes it on the list of the 100 best American films ever released. And it takes the top spot on AFI’s list of the most inspirational American films of all time.
Believe it or not, the movie was not initially well-received at the box office. But it ultimately became a seasonal must-see across the country, airing every Christmas Eve for decades.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is produced and directed by the great Frank Capra, who considered it the favorite among all of the cinematic works that he had directed.
As a matter of fact, Capra made it a point to screen it for his own family every single Christmas season.
Jimmy Stewart, one of the most beloved film actors in all of history, plays George Bailey, a man who one stark Christmas Eve questions whether his family and friends would have been better off had he never been born.
In his despondent state, he attempts to take his own life. A guardian angel, Clarence, played by Henry Travers, comes to the rescue. The angel shows George the way life would have played out for his wife Mary and for the people of the town of Bedford Falls, without his presence.
It all makes for a magical misty-eyed Christmas movie treasure.
In a 2003 book by Stephen Cox, which is titled “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book,” the legendary filmmaker indicates that he had a higher purpose in mind when he made the movie, which was “to combat a modern trend toward atheism.” Sadly relevant for today’s times.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” will no doubt air multiple times this year. But there will be a bit of an additional twist to the regular television lineup. A group of Hollywood actors will participate in a special table read of the classic script.
The live table read will honor the late Ed Asner, who passed away last summer. Proceeds will benefit The Ed Asner Family Center, which promotes mental health and enrichment programs to children with special needs and their families.
An all-star cast will be featured. Tom Bergeron will host the event. SNL alum Jason Sudeikis will take on the role of George Bailey. And Sudeikis’s real-life uncle, George Wendt (aka Norm on the classic sitcom “Cheers”), will play Bailey’s Uncle Billy.
The cast will also include Martin Sheen, Rosario Dawson, Kathy Bates, Mandy Patinkin, Ed Harris, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jean Smart, and Mark Hamill.
One memorable line that occurs near the end of Capra’s iconic Christmas movie is delivered via angel Clarence.
“Each man’s life touches so many other lives,” Clarence explains. “When he [Bailey] isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
If you or members of your family haven’t connected yet with this precious part of Americana, put this one under the tree for your Christmas viewing pleasure.
Catch the film as it airs this season on TV, streaming, and on your favorite on-demand platforms.
And believe the words of the angel. Each one of our lives matters.