In December 1946, James “Jimmy” Stewart (1908–1997) starred in a movie titled It’s A Wonderful Life. The film was directed by Frank Capra and also starred Donna Reed, Henry Travers, Lionel Barrymore, and Thomas Mitchell.
This movie did not do well at the box-office, but was praised critically and nominated for several Academy and Golden Globe Awards. Its popularity grew over the years as the movie won the favor of new generations through annual airing of the movie and the success of DVD sales.
In the movie, George Bailey (Stewart) has so many problems that he is thinking about ending it all on Christmas! The film shows his life in flashbacks as George’s situation is discussed in heaven. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence (Travers). Clarence then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years.
Clarence says, “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?”
If you have never seen the movie, plan to watch it on NBC on December 3rd or on USA on December 10th. Keep the Kleenex handy and enjoy it with your whole family.
In case you don’t know about Jimmy Stewart, he was an American actor, World War II and Vietnam War veteran, and Brigadier General in the United States Air Force Reserve who appeared in many film roles. From the beginning of his career in 1935 through his final project in 1991, Stewart appeared in more than 92 films, television programs, and short films. In 1999, he was named the third greatest male screen legend of the Golden Age of Hollywood by the American Film Institute. Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant were number one and number two, respectively.
Other family friendly films starring Stewart include Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, also directed by Frank Capra; Harvey, directed by Henry Koster; and my favorite, The Cheyenne Social Club, which also starred Henry Fonda and was directed by Gene Kelly.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is a 1939 American political comedy-drama about a newly appointed United States Senator who fights against a corrupt political system. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was controversial when it was released, but also successful at the box office, and made Stewart a major movie star.
Harvey is a 1950 comedy-drama about a man whose best friend is a “pooka” named Harvey — in the form of a six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall invisible rabbit. A pooka is a creature of Celtic folklore who brings both good and bad fortune. The movie is a lot of fun for the whole family, but it is dated.
The Cheyenne Social Club is a 1970 Western comedy starring James Stewart, Henry Fonda and Shirley Jones. It’s the story about an aging cowboy who inherits a brothel and decides to turn it into a respectable boarding house, against the wishes of both the townspeople and the ladies working there. I have never laughed so hard during a movie.
Stewart did not stop with being an actor. He also published a collection of poems and stories about his everyday life. Jimmy Stewart and His Poems is available at Amazon.com, and you can watch him reading selections on YouTube.
By: Wanda Campbell
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262