It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t do so well in theatres. Maybe the competition was stiff in 1946. Even with five Oscar nominations, the little movie caused critics to wonder if producer/director, Frank Capra still had what it took to make a box office success.
Isn’t that funny? I mean look at it now. It’s a Christmas movie staple. It actually didn’t even become popular until the ‘70’s when it’s copyright lapsed, and the movie entered into the wonderful world of public domain. TV stations started airing Jimmy Stewart’s tale of woe, and everyone fell in love with Bedford Falls and a certain hapless angel named Clarence (second class).
If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will suggest you see it in black and white and avoid the colorized version at all cost. There’s an art to black and white film making. It’s rich and never simply a bunch of frames strung together, but rather a blending of shadows and light to create another dimension to the story. And this story has many dimensions. There’s the man with his lost dreams, a love story, an example of integrity and courage, a statement on what really matters in life, and a curious observation on how our lives affect others.
Speaking of the effect of one man’s life, allow me to introduce you to Phillip van Doren Stern. In the 1930’s, Stern had a strange dream about this guy on the verge of suicide who was visited by a mysterious stranger. The stranger showed the man what the world would have been like if he’d never been born. Stern wrote the story down creating 4,000 words that no publisher wanted. So he published it himself and sent “The Greatest Gift” to his friends for Christmas. From there, someone showed it to a movie producer, and the seeds were planted to create one of the top ten Christmas movies ever.
Who would have thought? I bet Mr. Stern didn’t see that coming.
Maybe one day someone will tell a story about you, and maybe you’ll never know it, but your life will touch someone else’s and their life will touch someone, and on and on it will go. We don’t get to know the value of our life, the influence of it upon humanity. But we can know that our lives do have value and purpose. It’s part of an eternal design. So don’t allow the bad in life to keep you from putting your story out there. You never know where it might go.
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Clarence, angel—second class
(If you are in the Richmond, VA area, be sure to check out It’s a Wonderful Life on the stage at Glen Allen High School, Saturday, December 8 at 7 pm. It’s wonderful.)