It’s a Wonderful Life, Is(n’t) It?

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is no way of telling how life would have turned out, had we not been born. And it is most likely that every person has at least once in their lifetime preferred not being born, since life is not the greatest gift ever given – some prefer Xbox. The choice to be or not to be – though with somewhat less of a dawdle – is given to George Bailey (James Stewart) by a second-class wingless angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) in Frank Capra’s 1946 Hollywood classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

The movie starts with a droll, awkwardly static representation of heaven at a meeting. A number of urgent prayers concerning George Bailey are sent by the heavenly registered post and it is decided that Clarence Oddbody should get a chance to solve the conundrum, although he may only have the intelligence quotient of a rabbit. Furthermore, when Clarence arrives on Earth he does not seem to fit the general description of an angel; an elderly, slightly overweight man without a hint of fashion sense is not what one would expect an angel to be.

Curious George is understandably disappointed; heaven could have at least afforded him first-rate winged help. Clarence is sent to prevent George from committing suicide, but the odd-body angel also wants to win his wings and move up an angel-class. It all comes down to politics, it seems. Nevertheless, having received a crash course about George’s life up until his uncharacteristic contemplation of suicide, Clarence helps the otherwise persevering George in moments of utter despair, thus leading him back to a fervent desire to live again.

Besides the quirky angelic presence, George’s childhood and later adult age provides for a number of wonderfully romantic and genuinely funny events. For example, Mary Hatch-not-so-soon-to-be-Bailey (Donna Reed) expresses her most tender feelings for George when they are both merely children but George misses this revelation since she whispers it into his bad ear: “George Bailey, I’ll love you ’til the day I die.” This precious disclosure of a darling little girl wins the affection of viewers all the while foreshadowing the happy ending in the slightly predictable plotline.

Life for George Bailey is rather wonderful, for want of a better word, in spite of him having to repeatedly postpone his lifelong dreams of doing “something big and […] important” each time a crisis occurs in the family company or in the community of Bedford Falls. George is a loyal, kind and generous man who continues to see the good in people. The hodgepodge of his life, albeit a trifle sugary, is just the Sweet’n low for a pessimistic heart which will either restore one’s faith in humanity or send one running with disgust.