It *is* a Wonderful Life

20 December 2012

**oldie but goodie: first published 12/10**

What is it about this movie? Why do I love it so much? A friend was asking me and it gave me a good chance to think about it.

I can’t even tell you how my heart flip flops every time that opening bell comes on, the orchestral Buffalo Gals music starts,

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and the book pages start turning (by the way, how fabulous is this sleighride print?? I want a big poster of it! I wonder who has it now….)december 2010 016

Maybe it was because I always wanted to be like Mary: mary wallpaper

But I think we can all see ourselves in George Bailey, in one way or another…

When he is telling his Dad: “I couldn't face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office...Oh, I'm sorry Pop, I didn't mean that, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe...I'd go crazy. 
I want to do something big and something important.”

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And later that night, telling Mary about all of his big hopes and dreams as they throw rocks at the old Granville house (320 sycamore!)

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And watching those big dreams fade away as he stays at the Building & Loan and his brother goes to college and then off to work in Buffalo…

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I think his eyes say everything here as he hears the train whistle…december 2010 050   
  Not even getting to go on a honeymoon with his wife, as the Building and Loan faces crisis. He turns to a picture of his father on the wall, and I love the quote underneath it: “All you can take with you is that which you have given away.”

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Turning down a huge job (and saving the Building and Loan in the process) from Mr. Potter, coming home wondering why on earth Mary married him:

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The sting of watching Sam Wainwright drive away to Florida in a fancy new car:december 2010 090 1

and then walking back to his own beat up old cardecember 2010 101 1

and kicking the doordecember 2010 102 1

His fervent prayer when he has reached a breaking point when he can’t find the $8,000 Uncle Billy lost.december 2010 078 1

“God….Oh, God…Dear Father in Heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there, and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. I….show me the way God….” (click here for more background on this prayer!) 

And then he receives an amazing gift from Clarence, his guardian angel: the ability to see what the world would be without him.

"George Bailey's life is wonderful because over the years he makes choices of sacrifice that benefit others, and the gift given by the angel Clarence is one of perspective. Often we overlook the many good things in our life that still outweigh the singular difficult trial we might be going through."

So, why do *I* love It’s a Wonderful Life?

Because we’ve all been there at one point or another…wondering where our life is going, seeing dreams not fulfilled, reaching a breaking point and praying with all of our heart “show me the way,” or having special moments when we really realize what we have. I know that sometimes when we pray, it seems we get a busted lip in an answer to a prayer, but I know God hears them and sometimes the answers come in ways we are least expecting or wanting (like Clarence, the oddball guardian angel). Turn your troubles to Him, and pray to see the blessings you have in your life….and for heavens sake, go watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

I love hearing what others love about this movie…what have you taken away from IAWL?


  1. Thanks for making me cry first thing this morning! Love that movie. These days I feel very much like George, wanting to travel and see the world, continually broke (not really, but it seems that way) taking care of my 6 wonderful gifts from God. 7, if you count my husband.

    It really is one of the most perfect movies ever, and Mary married George not because he would take her places, but because she wanted her children to have a hard-working honest man for a father. And that is not something to take lightly, or overlook when you have one yourself.

  2. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  3. I just love you. :) What a beautiful post. Not only for a fabulous review of an amazing film, but for finding the real meaning and expressing it so eloquently. Lovely!

  4. The very first thing that attracted me to your blog was the name of it. Just knowing that there's someone else out there who always wanted to live in "the old Granville house" was enough to draw me in.

    When I think of IAWL, I see a few pictures in my mind, and they all have to do with the house--the wedding night with the South Seas travel posters, with Bert and Ernie serenading Mary and George. . . Mary wall-papering. . . George kissing the newel post when he realizes he's alive. . . and most of all, the scene of all those folks gathered, drinking a toast to "the richest man in town" and singing Auld Lang Syne. Ever since first seeing this movie many years ago, I've loved to sing Auld Lang Syne.

    My other favorite part is the poignancy of some of the things Clarence shows George, especially "Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn't there to save them, because you weren't there to save Harry" and "She's just closing up down at the library." To think what a difference one life makes is just amazing. Utterly amazing. I thank God for Frank Capra--this movie gives us the best lesson on perspective ever.

    And I thank God for you, for the way you so faithfully point your readers to Him. Every blessing to you, sweet friend!

  5. i got teary eyed just reading about the movie in your post! what a wonderful story! i need to watch it again. :)

  6. Love this! I just wrote about It's a WOnderful Life, too for my blog yesterday. Mine has a different take. It is such a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I have taken away the same exact things! I love all Christmas movies even though my favorite is still Charlie Brown Christmas. Isn't it funny how we make this season all about us...when its not at all! Thanks for the perspective!

  8. "Because we’ve all been there at one point or another…"

    Amen Sister♥


  9. I just love IAWL, how can I count the many ways? I love George Bailey's character. Each time I watch the movie, I am inspired to be a better person. I remember that the more you give away, the richer you become.

    I also love the movie because I see George's dreams & aspirations as the things that we all think that we want, but may not be what we need. The story could be told in another way -- what would have happened if George got all of those things that he thought that he wanted? What if he was a selfish person & didn't stay to run the building & loan when his father died? Or, let it fail during the run on the bank? Or, asked Harry to turn down the job at the glass factory so that he could go to college? Would he have married Mary? At the end of the day, I don't think that he would have been happier, because of his character.

    I also just love what Frank Capra did with the movie, strictly in a film making sense. He really understood real people & portrayed them just like the people you know at home. One of my favorite moments in the film is at the end & it is announced that Sam Wainwright has sent a telegram from Europe and some lady in the background says "OH!". You know that there is one person in every crowd who would say that in real life & he put that in there.

    I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas!

  10. That darn Sam Wainwright!! hee-haw!!

    Thank you for the sweet post. Merry Christmas!

  11. My husband makes me watch this movie every Christmas and we have a great time getting into the real Christmas spirit. I find myself humming "buffalo girls wont you come out tonight ..." and I think he falls in love with me a little more each time I do :) Thanks for the good post today!

  12. Ahhh...I love reading these!
    Sara~right on with what you said about why Mary married George.

    Richella~one life can affect generations and generations. It is amazing.

    Kim~I completely agree with the genius-ness of Frank Capra. Love that you pick out that "oh!" as well.
    A favorite line that showed how well F.C. knew people: "Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about. They do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book, he died a much richer man than you'll ever be."

  13. tamdiego~you have to sing buffalo gals with him and then say, "hot dog! just like an organ..." :)

  14. Haha, I have to second Amanda and say "Hee-Haw!!" Cracks me up. Beautiful post girl, you are right on target with everything you said. :)

  15. Would you believe I've only just seen IAWL for the first time a week ago? I am 35!!!

    It could not have been at a better time, though. In the midst of a horribly grueling time at work, with a small baby at home and pregnant with a second, our jobs in flux, facing major home renovations... just wow. I am so grateful to this movie for reminding me how lucky I am and how wonderful my life really is. My wonderful little family. My own George Bailey who doesn't realize sometimes how much joy and love he brings to our lives. I was so inspired by this movie to make sure he knows. And to just take a moment to take in all our blessings. Best movie. Ever.

  16. I feel like I am in confession right now because I have never seen this movie!

    Our tradition is to always watch a White Christmas while decorating, but this year our Christmas is a little bittersweet and I think watching IWAL this Christmas morning is what we need to realign our perspective in life!

    Thanks for taking the time to write meaningful, creative, and fun posts for all of us to read!

  17. The gift of perspective is an amazing, wonderful thing. Costs nothing, but man is it priceless. I love this movie and will watch it for the second time once my parents get here for the holiday. Merry Christmas!

  18. Boy, ain't it the truth? I love this movie-- I can't believe I haven't watched it yet this season, but I'll rectify that tonight. It really speaks to me at those times when I forget that "no man is a failure who has friends". I have plenty of those!

    Thanks so much for doing this blog, Melissa. I love your wisdom (and your cute decorating tips).

  19. IAWL is one of my most favorites, for all the sentiments you expressed! Thanks for highlighting it as only YOU can!

  20. I remember watching this the first time with my husband after we'd just been married for a couple of years. It was after a very traumatic event happened in our marriage around Christmas.

    After the movie was over we just wept in each others arms and waves of reassurance flooded our hearts. I will forever love this movie in so many ways for so many reasons. It really is "that" kind of a movie.

  21. What a beautiful post. I love this movie, and try to watch it every Christmas. It's just a great "life" movie, as we have at some point, have to lay down some kind of dream. Thanks for sharing such great points. And Merry Christmas to you.

  22. I sent this movie to my niece and her family as a gift after she had married a wonderful man (whose last name was Bailey) who adopted her 2 children and made them a true family. I wished them a wonderful life and told them to "Go and watch it, already!!"

  23. This is my husbands favorite movie, we watch it every year. We love it so much we named our dog Zuzu.

    I do have to confess Uncle Billy makes me soooo mad! I literally have to leave the room when he leaves the money with Potter.

  24. LOL at the confession for not seeing it! Go see it and let us know what you think :)

    Sherri...I want to name our dog (if we ever get one) Zuzu! Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live of IAWL?? Uncle Billy remembers and then they all go and beat up Potter. Funniest thing ever :)

  25. I love the movie. A year or so ago when I first saw your blog, I knew I would like YOU, Melissa, as a person just based on the name you chose for it. (OK, I do love all the tips and tricks and decorating... but I liked the name first.)

    I think it is difficult to really enjoy IAWL without learning the lessons contained therein.

    So far this season we've watched Elf, Scrooged, A Christmas Story, the Rankin Bass cartoons and an SNL Christmas compilation* but are saving IAWL for Christmas Eve.

    *If you have never seen SNL's skit about IAWL's "lost ending", you're missing out. So funny.

  26. I love the movie also, and I like to chuckle when Clarence says something about them not using money in heaven and George says "It certainly comes in handy down here." (or "around here").
    Hollywood could never make a movie like this today.

  27. I love this post, and I love this movie! The first time I saw it I was about 13, and sick in bed with the chicken pox right before Christmas. It made me teary-eyed even then, especially the part where Mr. Gower boxes his ears for not taking the medicine over and George is saying "I know you're unhappy! I know you didn't mean it! Don't hurt my sore ear again!" Gets me every time.
    I read in a newspaper article once that when IAWL was first released to theaters, it really didn't do all that well. It wasn't until its copyright expired in the 70s and it was played on TV that it became the classic it is now.
    My husband and I always wait for the "oh!" in the last scene too :) And you know, it wasn't until I was an adult that I understood what Harry meant when he said "To my big brother George...the richest man in town!". Always makes me tear up.

    I must confess though, that I feel sorry for George to think that the next day, Mr. Potter is going to be the same old crank, and George will still most likely never get to go anywhere.

  28. Thank you for posting this. I had goose bumps as I was reading it in my email tonight. I nice, unexpected little piece of perspective on this harried, crazy busy day!

    I'll be posting a link. And then calling my mother to make sure she still has a copy that I can watch at her house tomorrow! I think it's been a few years for me.

  29. This is one of my top 5 favorite movies and I never *got* the connection with your blog name, not so observant I guess.

    My favorite part of the movie is the very beginning where you hear everyone praying for George Bailey and the flashing stars say, "tonight's his crucial night, you're right."

    Anyway, I the reason I love this movie so much is because George always does the right thing even though it is not in his personal best interest, even if it costs him his dreams, money, or a great job.

    In the end, though, to Potter he is worth more dead than alive, in the reality of Bedford Falls, he is the richest man in town.

  30. i just wrote our "it's a wonderful life" christmas blog... for sure we are empathizing this year!! thanks for the thoughts and the pictures.

  31. So back to confession I go! I was supposed to wait until Christmas morning to watch this movie, but my office is so quiet I popped it into my computer and watched it!

    I am not a person who openly shares feelings, emotions, if anything I am more guilty of sharing my frustration than my joy. After watching the movie it inspired me to write some letters to all the George Bailey's in my life letting them know how much I love and appreciate them.

    This morning I shared the letters with my husband before he had to leave for the fire station. He called me on his drive there and said he was so touched my by random act, that it was so out of the ordinary for me, he wanted to know why or where this came from. I admitted I watched the movie without him and realized that I needed to take some time to share with those I love how much I really appreciate all that they do!

    Sorry for rambling, but thanks again for this post. I don't know if I would have ever watched this movie without reading what everyone including yourself had to say about it!

    Merry Christmas!

  32. IAWL is my favorite Christmas movie and I absolutely have to watch it every year. Sometimes more than once.
    Your post made me cry (as did some of the comments). I'll be posting a link tomorrow. Thanks.
    It really IS a wonderful life!

  33. I haven't seen the SNL skit. Added to the todo list! Thanks for telling me about it.

  34. I just found your blog and I knew right away what 320 Sycamore meant! I also LOVE this movie and have to watch it at least once in the summer and again at Christmas(more than once). My husband and I know most of the lines and can't help but to speak them along during the movie. I have so many favorite parts, I can't even come up with just one, two, or three... haha! Zuzu's petals, "help you down?", Ask Dad, he knows.... =) I have added you to my google reader feed and can't wait to read more of your blog! Happy New Year! Sherry

  35. Jill: thank you for sharing with us..beautiful!

    Sherry: I can always tell fellow IAWL lovers just by telling them the name of my blog. "George! You're not paid to be a canary!"

  36. Karen Hamrick1/8/14, 2:17 PM

    I would love to have a picture of George kissing the newel post. Do you know where I can find one?

  37. Melissa,
    I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life right now & was just about to message you to say that it made me think of you.  And, here is your post on that very subject!  Merriest of Christmas to you & your family!

  38. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 2:17 PM

    Don't know why this was marked as spam?? but thank you very much, Kim! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas as well. Thank you for your kind comments and encouragement.


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