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Wishing we had never existed instead because our life is a total failure in its current form? That is the premise of the movie “Its a Wonderful Life” by Frank Capra.
First released in 1946, this Christmas drama was originally based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Phillip Van Doren. The movie starred James Stewart as George Bailey, a self-sacrificing man who is willing to put his own dreams on hold in order to help those in his town achieve theirs. He inherited a money lending business from his father that, due to the economic depression caused by the war, was on the verge of bankruptcy.
In order to prevent a bank run, George tried to commit suicide but is prevented from doing so by his guardian angel Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Influenced by A Christmas Carol themes, Clarence sets about saving George by showing him how the town would have turned out much differently if he and his business had never become a part of the lives of the townsfolk. In the end, George realizes that his life has not been a complete failure and that his life is “wonderful” just as it is, specially with the town residents coming to the aid of his failing bank by contributing more money to save it.
The movie in itself is a study of the history of the banking history. With no real banking system existing at the end of the 19th century, small money lenders helped the town business by accepting cash deposits from clients that could then be lent out to business owners. This lending institution known as the savings and loan system would become the bedrock of the great American dream. However, it came at a great price.
Remember the term “Bank Run”? It was first used in this movie to explain how the antagonist, Mr. Potter refused to open up the coffers of the town bank to the people in order to help them survive to their next paycheck by giving them loans or allowing them to withdraw their deposits. He is the representation of everything that is
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