The quintessential Christmas classic, It's A Wonderful Life, has dominated the holiday TV landscape with its timeless story of love, friendship, and a kind man’s exceedingly relevant life.
Filmed in 1947, this Frank Capra masterpiece debuted in theaters to what could best be described as a lukewarm reception. Yet it quickly rose in stature following repeated annual television airings in the 1960s, a Christmas tradition that continues to this day.
Centered around the life of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), a likeable, ambitious resident of Bedford Falls who harbors dreams of grandeur, the film sets out to portray a viewpoint of a world in which the Divine’s ultimate plan may be far different from our own. Yet the result of that plan is far better than we could ever imagine.
As the film begins, we gain a glimpse into the life and times of a young George Bailey, an upstanding and studious fellow who manages to avert two potential disasters by the age of ten. Under the employ of neighborhood druggist Mr. Gower, Bailey prevents the delivery of a poison prescription, and while enjoying the boyhood wonders of the local ice pond, he rescues his younger brother from certain death by pulling him from a patch of broken ice.
From these early years, the story jumps several years into the future, where a grown up and infectiously optimistic George harbors wild dreams of world travel, exploration, and the construction of large buildings. But inevitably, he stays in Bedford Falls in order to carry on the family business, the small yet popular Bailey Savings & Loan (the only financial institution in Bedford Falls not owned by the unmerciful tycoon Mr. Potter).
As the years pass, Bailey must deal with his own family problems, his unfulfilled dreams, and the burdens of the Great Depression. Along the way, he’s tempted with offers of vast wealth and travel opportunities by the conniving Potter, but he always turns him down, opting to work for the benefit of the community instead.
However, when a seemingly innocent snafu threatens to bring down Bailey Savings & Loan, George ponders the unthinkable. He questions his very existence and the true worth of his life. Disillusioned by feelings of failure and a pessimistic outlook for the future, he fails to see the true value of his life.