Archive for December, 2016


It’s A Wonderful Life

2016.12. Wonderful LifeLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – You can’t have Christmas without Jimmy Stewart. That boyish enthusiasm, that earnest face, and then sweet Clarence in the picture too. Clarence with his old-fashioned underwear, and, alas, no wings. Plus Donna Reed – were actresses really that beautiful back then? It’s A Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra, released December 20, 1946, seventy years ago. A love story of the sweetest kind, dancing by the light of the moon. An unexpected tragedy, father dies, a scary depression begins, a war. And then, a Christmas Eve crisis – the bank examiner is there and $8,000 has mysteriously disappeared. Jimmy Stewart, aka George Bailey, considers suicide, worth more dead than he is alive, he believes. A heavenly intervention, Clarence comes, shows George what the world would be like without him – much worse, of course – Zuzu’s petals back in his pocket then, the whole town shows up at the Bailey home, cash in hand to help, Clarence gets his wings, and that’s when we get our tissues out, and cry. Auld Lang Syne is playing in the background music there, it’s almost time for New Year’s resolutions, so you have to think, what would the world be like if I hadn’t been born? Better, or worse?

I watch the movie every Christmas season, it’s a tradition, and a good reminder to review the year just past, and make a course correction, if necessary. This year, I got a writer’s curiosity, who wrote this story, and why? A little research took me on a crooked path. It began with a man named Philip Van Doren Stern (1900-1984), an author, editor and Civil War historian. Philip wrote 40 books, mostly about the Civil War, and he was an editor at Simon & Schuster, and at Alfred A Knopf. As the story goes, Philip woke up one morning in February 1938 with an idea in mind, inspired by Dickens 1843 A Christmas Carol. His idea wound up as a 4,000-word story he named The Greatest Gift. He began writing it in 1939, but didn’t finish until 1943 (writers sometimes get blocked that way). And then, no one would publish it. So what does a writer do under those circumstances? He printed 200 copies himself and sent them out as Christmas cards! That was December 1943 (follow these dates). » read more