In the second instalment of our Advent Calender series, writer Katy Quigley takes a look at the timeless It’s a Wonderful Life, and explores just why it’s message of human kindness is so enduring.
The story of George Bailey’s exasperated plea for help when he finds himself on the verge of suicide has been a Christmas favourite for generations of film fans, despite its rather morose premise. The film details a series of events which stop the heroic and self-sacrificing George from fulfilling his dream of travelling the world and, after a terrible blunder by his uncle, potential imprisonment. Believing his life insurance is worth more than his actual life, George decides to jump off a bridge, but is saved when a guardian angel shows what life in the town would have been like without him and the townspeople themselves show just how much he means to them.
It’s a Wonderful Life embodies the very spirit of Christmas: kindness, generosity of spirit and love, though those messages may have gone flying out of the window in recent years as materialism becomes the new religion. It is well documented that calls to the Samaritans sky rocket during the festive period as people find that family, friends and the bonds you share with the community around you are the most important things in order to make a life complete.
George personifies those ideals as he proves himself to be invaluable to the town, through heroic acts, like saving his brother’s life, to the smaller, like in his role as Manager of the Building and Loan Association giving home loans to the working poor when others refuse. His generosity makes others generous and when the richest man in town, Henry F. Potter, loathed for being the antithesis to George, tries to being George to ruin, it is the very people he has supported in the past who come together to help him in his time of need.
It’s a Wonderful Life has endured the introduction of colour broadcasts, CGI and computer games to remain a Christmas must in many households, and it is easy to see why with its uplifting, powerful message about what it means to be truly rich.