I have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas I can remember, but the holiday classic film took on a whole new meaning for me this year.
I knew that the film had been released in 1946, just after both actor Jimmy Stewart and director Frank Capra had returned from war, but I only learned recently the impact that the war had on the finished product.
The movie was Capra’s idea, and he knew from the start that he wanted Stewart to play the iconic role of George Bailey. But Stewart, an Army Air Corps squadron commander who was grounded by PTSD after 20 combat missions over Europe in a B-24, wanted to do a comedy.
Stewart told reporters when he returned to Hollywood that the world had seen enough death and misery, and when Capra approached him with the story of a family man nearly driven to suicide, he balked and left the meeting.
But Stewart, who at the time was sharing an apartment with fellow veteran Henry Fonda, wasn’t getting any other offers. He eventually agreed to take the role.
Army veteran Alex Plitsas told the Daily Caller that it was only after returning from Iraq that he truly understood Stewart’s performance in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I was able to understand the movie and [Stewart’s] performance in particular much better after coming home from Iraq. It’s as much of a war film as ‘Die Hard’ is a Christmas movie,” Plitsas said, adding, “Jimmy Stewart’s performance in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ during the throes of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is recognizable to many veterans. PTS was referred to as “shell shock” back then and wasn’t really spoken about nor was there good treatment available. Stewart appeared to use acting as therapy to get through it, and it’s visible in his performance.”
Intriguing stuff for sure. I thought I knew just about all there was to know about IAWL, but I didn’t know this.
(Via Ed Driscoll)
Update! Don’t believe I’ve ever embedded anything from another of my all-time Christmas faves here, so this seems like a fine time to do it.
BE ADVISED: Only the 1947 original version, in black and white, is acceptable. Do NOT allow yourself to be taken in by any sorry-assed remakes or washed-out “colorized” atrocities. Edmund Gwenn. Maureen O’Hara. John Payne. Natalie Wood. Black. And. White. The genuine item. Nothing else will do.
You have been warned.