Dear George, Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!
Jimmy Stewart portrays the ambitious George Bailey, the son of Peter Bailey who runs a small Building and Loan business in the quaint town of Bedford Falls. George dreams of traveling the world, going to college, and, in his words, “Shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet.”
George’s younger brother, Harry, is due to take over the Building and Loan after he graduates. However, when Harry returns home from school with a new wife and promising business opportunities, George reluctantly gives up his dreams of travel and takes over the family business.
The film opens with a conversation between God and St. Joseph concerning George Bailey. George has begun to despair due to the imminent failure of his father’s Business and Loan and the burden he feels to support his wife and three children. God and St. Joseph assign an “amateur” angel named Clarence to save George. On the contingency that Clarence is successful in saving George from ultimate despair, he will finally earn his wings.
The journey that unfolds between Clarence and George carries poignant themes of sacrifice, hopelessness, redemption, and friendship. When Clarence comes to George’s aid, George is standing on the edge of a bridge, ready to jump. Instead, Clarence jumps in and yells for help. George jumps in and saves Clarence. As the two talk while getting dry and warm, Clarence tells George that he is his guardian angel. George doesn’t believe him and instead says that he wishes he had never been born. At this, Clarence decides to show George what Bedford Falls would be like without him. The result is a town that is broken, full of crime and vice.
George encounters all of the people from his previous walks of life, and all of them are cold and bitter. He sees his wife as a spinster librarian, his mother as a haggard old widow, his beloved uncle in an insane asylum. The Bedford Falls without George is one without integrity. Clarence explains to George that had he never been born, the world would be a different, and far worse place. George has an epiphany and prays for forgiveness and to live again. The result is that George finds a new love for life. He returns home with irrevocable love for his family and a renewed gratitude for everything he had been taking for granted. At the end of the movie, George finds a gift under his Christmas tree from Clarence. It is a copy of the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” with an inscription saying that no man is a failure who has friends.
This film is a must-see. I have seen it more times than I can count, and with every viewing, I take more away from it. It is a journey of spiritual reconciliation, of sacrifice and struggle, and the realization that life is precious.